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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...

A New York Minute with the High-Flying Eagles

Ben Fong-Torres

Ben Fong-Torres flies with the Eagles and Al Green, and addresses 21,000 at his alma mater.

Okay, first of all, its the rock band, the Eagles, and not the Philadelphia Eagles. Seems like a lot of people, especially younger ones, dont know about the band from the 70s, the one with all those hits: Hotel California, Lyin Eyes, Best of My Love, Take It Easy, New Kid in Town, The Long Run, Take It to the Limit, Tequila Sunrise, and, take my word for it, tons more.

And thats just the band. As solo artists, Don Henley has had his own library of hits, like Boys of Summer, Dirty Laundry, All She Wants to Do Is Dance, and The End of the Innocence. Glenn Frey, who co-founded the Eagles with Henley, had The Heat is On, You Belong to the City, and Smugglers Blues, which was featured in that slick cop show, Miami Vice. Glenn also did an acting stint on that series. And then theres Joe Walsh, a rocker through and through, who came to the Eagles from his own band and, before that, from the James Gang. Rocky Mountain Way, Life Is Good, Funk 49

In other words, the hits just keep on coming.

Anyway, I interviewed them for TV Guide , for the issue that came out just before their NBC special in early June 1, based on concerts they played late last year in Melbourne, Australia. (The full concert, and more, is available now on DVD.)

The interviews were hit-and-run. I flew from San Francisco to New York just in time to get to Madison Square Garden to say some hellos, have some dinner, and see their show30 songs, 3 hours. These guys may be in the mid- to late 50s, but theyve given up life in the fast lane, stay in shape, work hard, and deliver. The multi-generational audience went crazy for them.

The next day, I interviewed them all and grabbed the next flight back. I think the whole thing took only 36 hours, from leaving my home to returning to the nest. I didnt even have time to buy a fake Rolex on Canal Street.

But even in that tiny time frame, I had a transcendent experience. No, it wasnt the Eagles performance, although they were great, and the packed house, of not only baby boomers, but also their kids, testified to their place in rock history, singing along to just about every song, and stomping their way through three or four encore calls.

The high came from arriving at Madison Square Garden, and going through the caverns and corridors that led to the backstage dressing rooms, and breezing past security guards eyeing the laminated all-access pass Id just been accorded, like a lei on arrival in Hawaii, and walking straight into my past. I used to do this, I thought. Endless tours and concerts with Linda Ronstadt, Bonnie Raitt, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Santana.

And it struck me. I felt like I was on the set of Almost Famous . I may be 60 now, but, for the moment, I was The Kid, assigned to a story on a big rock band, trying to ingratiate myself while staying in the background, taking notes and looking for that hook that would make this more than just a short piece for a national magazine.

That film, written and directed by Cameron Crowe, was about his early days at Rolling Stone , where I was his editor. Im portrayed in it by Terry Chen, and although its been four years since its been out, I still hear about it all the time. And since the Eagles were one of the bands Crowe covered, and since they served as inspiration for his script, we couldnt avoid the subject.

I really enjoyed it, said Frey. And if you remember the poker game scene, youll enjoy this. The only thing he called me up about was, he wanted to talk about Eagle poker, Frey said. He said he had a card game scene. I said it wont be good on film cause everybodys got a closed hand. But you could play the game where everybody gets one card and puts it on their forehead so they cant see their own. Itd look a little better. And he took it from there.

EVERYTHINGS OK: Just before jetting off to see the Eagles, I popped down to Los Angeles to interview Al Green for Parade magazine. I had 40 minutes with him. Hey, this is how it works these days. No more week-long bus rides or traveling on private jets with the rock stars. Still, the session, at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills, worked out fine. Especially since Terry Chen happened to be in town from Vancouver, and staying with buddies in an apartment across the street from the hotel. So after my time with the Rev. Mr. Green, I met with Chen and a couple of his friends in the lounge. Chen has wrapped his latest film, Memore , a psychological thriller in which he has the second biggest speaking role, alongside Billy Zane. Supporting actors include Dennis Hopper and Ann-Margret. This could be a good one, and just might make Chenalmost famous. Its due out in October from Lions Gate.

Before the LA visit with Al Green, I saw him in Memphis, at his church, the Gospel Tabernacle. In the lobby of his office, I spotted two doors, one marked Love and the other, Happinessin Chinese characters. Thats where I posed us for the photo above.

RANDOM NOTES: Congrats to Alice Wu, spunky young writer and director of Saving Face, which has scored excellent reviews coast to coast, from the San Francisco Chronicle to the New York Times. Joan Chen, its said, stole the film, which is Wus first feature, but Lynn Chen and Michelle Krusiec, who play young lovers, are also excellent More than 20,000 people attended San Francisco State Universitys 104th commencement exercises, where I was the main speaker. My opening line to the class of 2005: All right, you punks, turn down your iPods. And it worked. A shout-out to the College of Ethnic Studies (requested by Lorraine Dong of the Asian American Studies dept.) also got a huge response. An exciting day, all around My radio show, Moonlight Groove Highway, is streaming online. Im on Saturday nights midnight to 3, part of an all-night package out of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and you can usually hear my show on Sundays, all day, at www.moonlightgrooveradio.com

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