Ronstadt: Dust drove me away

She sounds off on city's failings, keeps home here
2007-06-02T00:00:00Z Ronstadt: Dust drove me awayBy Cathalena E. Burch Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

It wasn't an abundance of strip malls that pushed Linda Ronstadt to leave her native Tucson almost two years ago:

It was the dust, she said.

"The ecosystem's so fragile once you start ripping up the soil. It's liberated in the air so all this real estate is blowing in the air, literally," Ronstadt said.

"The dust is tough for me. I got asthma after moving back to Tucson, which was really a drag. I never had asthma before. Tucson is … a bad place for asthma sufferers to be, which is surprising."

Here's her thought process: The dust could be traced to our fragile ecosystem, which in turn impacts the overall level of erosion on the desert floor. The culprit, she surmised: developers building on land whose natural resources are stretched beyond realistic limits.

OK, so maybe it was the strip malls.

Ronstadt now splits her time between San Francisco and Tucson. Her children attend school in California and she travels between her two homes "when I feel like it," she said during a phone interview Friday.

During the conversation, Ronstadt got a lot off her chest. She talked about her concert next Friday at Casino del Sol's AVA — her biggest hometown show in a couple of years — and her overall disdain for playing casinos. Remember her 2004 casino show at the Las Vegas Aladdin, one of only four Vegas shows she said she has ever done? She was reportedly booed when she praised Michael Moore's documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11."

But mostly, Ronstadt talked about her hometown and why she can't come to grips with how it's changed.

No, I didn't leave in a huff:

"First of all, I didn't leave. I got another place over there (San Francisco), which is nice in the summer. Anybody who could leave in the summer would. Second of all, it occurred to me that four blocks away was a really nice school. So I put my kids in that school.

"It's just so silly. People are silly. There are some deep problems with Tucson. I did not cause them, and my presence there or absence thereof is not going to make them better or worse. It's just a fact: The air is dirty (and) there's a lot of noise over the center of Tucson."

If I were mayor, I would:

"Look very seriously at trying to survive without having the full support of the developers. They are doing a great deal of thoughtless harm in Tucson … considering we have no water and considering we have a very fragile ecosystem and considering they're creating erosion at such a ferocious scale.

"There's a lot of things that I love about Tucson, but it just seems like there's a huge collusion with financial interests with the government to make sure those things I love are taken away."

The jets were the final straw:

"That was so clearly a sellout by the City Council, that they were going to allow developers to develop the land south of (Davis-Monthan Air Force Base) that was open. The base was put there for a good reason — because it's surrounded by a lot of open land. We don't want those jets crashing in the middle of the city, on the University of Arizona, on Mansfeld Middle School.

"Also the noise is tremendous. It's very bad for schoolchildren; it's frightening for little kids. They rezoned the neighborhood right next to me … so that it was not suitable for neighborhood use. … People when they want to add on to their houses have to put on all this noise fortification."

We screamed, we got nowhere:

"They (city officials) just said, well, that's too bad. They said we weren't patriotic. It had nothing to do with patriotism. It had to do with the fact that the developers don't want the planes flying over there because then they won't be able to develop that land that's empty."

I feel like I'm selling out:

"I could get in trouble, but I really don't like playing casinos. I feel like I'm shilling. … It's a bit troubling to me because they don't give fair odds in casinos. They really exist only to relieve you of your money. It doesn't matter if they're on Indian land or not, they're making money for some corporation somewhere. I wonder how much of it actually trickles down. … They just want people to come so that they will gamble. I always tell them not to gamble.

"It's like there used to be a lot of locally owned restaurants in Tucson and locally owned stores. Then the chains come in ... and they make it so that they eventually become ubiquitous and everybody has to play there. Nobody else can compete with the money."

Did you know ...

Linda Ronstadt, a Tucson native and Catalina High School alum who comes from a pioneer German-Mexican family, started her career gigging on Fourth Avenue with her sisters in a band called the Three Ronstadts. She got her Los Angeles start in a folk band called the Stone Poneys.

She went solo in 1968, with a backup band of musicians including Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon and Randy Meisner — who eventually struck out on their own as the Eagles.

Ronstadt was known as the glamour girl of the '70s Los Angeles music scene, romantically linked with then-Gov. Jerry Brown and filmmaker George Lucas, and hot on the charts with such pop-rock songs as "You're No Good" and "When Will I Be Loved."

Her brother, Peter Ronstadt, is a former Tucson police chief. He has sung on some of her recordings, including 1987's "Canciones de Mi Padre," featuring songs the Ronstadt children grew up hearing in their Old Pueblo home.

Source: Star archives

● Read more about Ronstadt's AVA concert in Thursday's Caliente.

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