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  • Catching Up: Santana, Taj Mahal and a déjà vu ‘Blue Christmas’

    Posted by Ben Fong-Torres

    By Ben Fong-Torres It’s short shrift time. I have a life that’s ripe (and slightly wrinkled) for blogs and tweeting; for facebooking and updating. I’m just no good at it. My last column here on AsianConnections was about the memorial in late July for my sister Shirley. My last posting on the authors’ site, Redroom, was about a radio promo tour I did (20 stops, all on the phone...

Pass the Catch-Up

Ben Fong-Torres

Fresh 'n' frazzled from a Rolling Stone reunion, and with a new radio show, Ben Fong-Torres comes out of hiding.

I have not been on vacation. Au con- traire .

Actually, for a few months there, I felt like I wasn't doing much of anything. But, then, those few months slid by, and I realized I hadnt written anything for Asian Connections sinceI dont even want to know.

What I do know is that, now that I've just agreed to do a couple of major projects, I'd better write before I have to hunker down to work on the new assignments.

They're nice gigs, actually. One is already underway. I'm doing a radio show on KFRC here in San Francisco (It's at 106.9 FM hereabouts; kfrc.com on your computer). It's a two-hour show on Sundays, airing from 7 to 9 a.m. (Pacific time) and repeating at 7 p.m. Its called "Backstage," and, essentially, I do whatever I want, in the disguise of a DJ show. KFRC, a legendary set of call letters in these parts, is a "classic hits" station, playing rock mostly from the '70s, but with some '60s and early 80s as well. In my second show, I played a baseball song from the '40s, and in an upcoming program, a guest, Judy Collins , names Sheryl Crow as a fave rave, so I'll spin a modern-day tune and pray that I'll keep my brand-new job. But I think I will. CBS Radio's put out a press release and everything.

The other thing is another book. I think its my seventh or eighth. I hadn't planned on tackling another long-term writing project, so soon after the two books that came out last year (Becoming Almost Famous and The Doors By the Doors ). But how do you say no to a book that centers on Quincy Jones ? (You youngsters can Google him; everybody else knows that he's the legendary music arranger, composer, orchestra leader, and producer of records ranging from be-bop to hip-hop.) I interviewed him on stage a half-dozen years ago, when he published his memoirs, and we got along PUR-ty good, as Larry David would say on "Curb Your Enthusiasm." And, so, we meet again, as Q looks to impart his knowledge about the importance of music through the generations.

Just before that call cameand that was just days agoI was still in recovery from the biggest event of my year: the Rolling Stone Reunion. This is not to be confused with the 40th anniversary of the magazine, which has been celebrated by various shiny issues out of New York City these past six or seven months. The reunion was put together by and for people who worked during the magazines first ten years, in San Francisco, from 1967 to 1977, when it pulled up stakes and split to Manhattan, home to Tom Wolfe and all the ad agencies.

The organizers called it RSX, meaning either that it was for Rolling Stones first ten years, or for ex-employees only. Whatever; on the last weekend of September, more than 100 former staffers convened in San Francisco for four events spread out over three days, beginning with a reception in the building we used to occupy. (Its now the home of Ubi Soft, a video game company.) With spousal units, partners, or family members, we had maybe 150 or 200 people at the biggest gatherings. Not exactly Woodstock, but just as mind-blowing.

You could compare it with your high school or college reunion30 years after graduation. You get the picture. Lots less hair; lots more girth. Plenty of shock, along with hugs and emotional cries of, Now, who the hell ARE you?

It was a private affair. We kept outside media out, even though we knew full well that we were mostly media types ourselves, and some of us were taking mental, if not photographic or stenographic notes. I took no notes, but shot some video of most of the goings-on, for a Web site that will, we hope, keep us all together, post-reunion.

But I will say this: After years of dreams involving being back in the old office, of somehow being rehired, and of the staff for some reason returning to San Francisco, it was an odd sensation that overcame me the day after our initial reunion-reception. Id be brushing by a former fellow staffer at the Roxie Theater in the Mission District, or, later, at the No Talent Show and dinner at a bar called Sweeties. The face was slightly different, but it was Valerie; it was Vicki; it was Tim; it was Smokestack. After a while, I didnt have to greet, and hug, and catch up. It was as if we were back at work, facing that perennial deadline. It felt unreal; even surreal. But it felt good.

Well, now Im about out of space. But I do want you to know that my music blog is still going on at TV Lands Web site, www.tvland.com. You have to find the radio and music section to get to me. The TV Land people first asked me to do a bunch of pieces about Elvis Presley , as they were ramping up for a big on-air tribute to him in August, on the 30th anniversary of his death. And, now, the beat goes on.

I also did my annual thing at the Mill Valley Film Festival, which celebrates indie films and filmmakers. (The opening film was Lust, Caution , from Ang Lee , who attended and received the full "tribute" treatment. I didn't get the honor of meeting Lee, but was occupied with double-duty, emceeing a concert following a screening of Im Not There, the film thats based on the storyand mythsof Bob Dylan ; then conducting an onstage interview with that brave, tough and sexy actress, Jennifer Jason Leigh . Jennifer declined a full "tribute," but received one, anyway, under the category of a "Spotlight." Leigh first came to prominence in Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982yikes!), the first movie from the typewriter of Cameron Crowe . I told Jennifer that she owed her career to me, since I was the editor who gave Cameron his first work at Rolling Stone, which led to Fast Times, which gave her her breakout role, at age 20, playing a high school student who finds love in all the wrong places. I was hoping that she'd whip out her checkbook and enrich me by, say, ten grand. But she only smiled, with just the merest hint of gratitude. That was enough for me.

And, since shes far lovelier than most of the Rolling Stone alumni at our reunion, thats her up atop the column.

Finally, I did some TV interviews that are popping up just about now, including a documentary on the death of Jim Morrison and an interview about John Lennon . That one was for Link TV, with station manager and program host Wendy Hanamura . It's a good and important network. Check it out. After all, you can't, like me, spend all your time on America's Next Great Band ...