Googling and Monkeying Around
Mickey Newbury, the late, absolutely great singer-songwriter, and I were chatting one night a couple of years ago when he mentioned that he had "Googled" himself and was amazed to find several hundreds of mentions of him on various Web sites.
Mickey Newbury, the late, absolutely great singer-songwriter, and I were chatting one night a couple of years ago when he mentioned that he had "Googled" himself and was amazed to find several hundreds of mentions of him on various Web sites. (Today, it's up to almost 9000!) Since then, I've also checked in on myself now and again. Let me go over right now and see. OKI'm just under 4000. It's astounding. Try it out sometime, at google.com. Anytime anyone's written anything about you online, you wind up in most search engines. Just about anything you publish yourself pops up, too. And for me, the surprises are endless. Articles I wrote 25, 30 years ago have been typed up or scanned and placed on various fan sites, usually without my knowledge or permission. It is, as Johnny Carson used to say, "wild, wacky stuff."
Now, a variation of Googling is on Amazon.com. I entered my name the other day and stumbled into a stream of titles of books not just the four or five books I've published, but every book they've got in which I've been quoted, praised and vilified. Unbeknownst to me, numerous authors have lifted material from interviews I've conducted for their own books, crediting, but rarely informing me.
It was a strange feeling rolling through the list: We Gotta Get Out of This Place: The True , Tough Story of Women in Rock ; Dugout Days: Untold Tales of Billy Martin?Radio Reader: Essays in the Cultural History of Radio ... Pearl: The Obsessions and Passions of Janis Joplin ... Legacies: The Story of the Immigrant Second Generation ... Dancing With Demons: The Authorized Biography of Dusty Springfield ... Roger Ebert's Movie Yearbook 2003 ... Fear and Loathing in America: The Brutal Odyssey of an Outlaw Journalist , by Hunter S. Thompson. And 1000 Great Guitarists , with the oddest excerpt of them all: " Alice in Chains benefited considerably from an appearance in the Ben Fong-Torres movie Singles..." My only connections to that Cameron Crowe film are: I saw it and got it on DVD ...
There were also books I actually knew about, like the excellent Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White , by Frank H. Wu, and In Their Own Write: Adventures in the Music Press , by Paul Gorman, for which I was interviewed by the authors. And, just out, there's 4 Way Street: The Crosby , Stills, Nash & Young Reader (edited by Dave Zimmer), which includes a couple of my articles on the band, and Food That Rocks (by Margie Lapanja), for which I tossed in a recipe for Bul Kogi.
I just went back to Amazon to nose around, and ran across an out-of-print comic novel, Dugan Under Ground , in which Tom De Haven, the author, refers to "Rolling Stone , the issue with Captain Beefheart on the cover: 'Roy Looby Hunkers Down.' According to the story by Ben Fong-Torres, Roy's been staying in the Haight, on Waller Street, occupying the top floor of a ramshackle Victorian mansion..."
So now I'm a in a novel. Too much. And yes, we did have Captain Beefheart on the cover once. It was when he was starring in my movie, Singles ...
Happy Monkey Year
I just co-hosted my eighth Chinese New Year Parade broadcast (on KTVU, Foxs station in San Francisco-Oakland). For the fourth time, my better half was the unflappable Julie Haener. The Chinese believe that 8 is a lucky number, and we did luck into beautiful weather, which drew more than 500,000 people lining the streets from downtown through Chinatown. Which meant fewer people watching at home. So much for good luck!
Besides the usual highlightsthe lions, dragons, and the St. Mary's Chinese Girls Drum & Bell Corps, its drill team, and its Day School marchersI enjoyed seeing evidence of the continuing rise of Asian women to political power in San Francisco, riding in cars and waving happily to the throngs: Supervisor Fiona Ma, Assessor Mabel Teng, District Attorney Kamala Harris, and newly-appointed Acting Police Chief Heather Fong among them. You go, girls
Ever since working with Casey Kasem, the legendary announcer, on the Radio Hall of Fame induction broadcasts (I wrote the scripts; he MCd the events) and witnessing his work ethic he went over his material repeatedly, until he had every word and sentence rehearsed and mastered Ive tried to be equally dedicated in my public gigs.
So, to supplement the parade script, I got material from books like Vivienne Tam's China Chic and from a short story I'd seen in the SF Chronicle, "Fortune Cookies," by Barbara Villanova. Dianne, my wife, and I also went out to several events, including a reception to celebrate the issuing of the 12th Chinese New Year postage stamp. In the Crown Room atop the Fairmont Hotel, the Yau Kung Moon martial arts troupe livened things up with lion dancers and drummers. We enjoyed a New Year banquet at the Mandarin in Ghirardelli Square, where Leung's White Crane Lion and Dragon Dance Association, which performs the parades grand finale, opened things up with some amazing young lion dancers. On the table, it was seafood galore and Mandarins classic Peking Duck. Research has rarely been this tasty
Sam Chu Lin, the veteran TV reporter and freelance writer, called for an interview about the Chinese New Year Parade and opened by saying that his son loved that movie I was portrayed in, "Absolute Whatever It Is ." He didn't even come almost close to the title: Almost Famous But his story, published in Asian Week and Nichi Bei Times , was almost perfect
Rest in peace, Noel Toy. One of the best-remembered entertainers at the Forbidden City, the legendary all-Chinese nightclub of the 40s and 50s, died recently. She was a "Bubble Dancer," working nude behind a large ball. She told Arthur Dong, who made the documentary, Forbidden City USA , that her parents were "broad-minded" and didn't object to her working as a nude model and dancer. But, onstage at the DVD release party at SF State in late 2002, when I asked whether her parents were upset about her chosen work, she replied, "No." And when I asked why not, she responded, "They didn't know!"
For more of Ben's random notes, and photos and other fun stuff, check out www.benfongtorres.com.