AsianConnections is proud to present the adventures of Ben Fong-Torres, who, in turn, is proud to present Sheryl Crow.
Just about once a day, I roll my eyes as someone asks about Almost Famous. It's been almost two years since that movie came out, but the curiosity about my being a character in the film rolls on. Whether it's by e-mail or in person; whether it's friends I run into at social gatherings or complete strangers, it never fails: "So, what'd you think? Did you like it? What was it like being in the movie?" My eyes roll and I unreel my stock answer: Loved the movie; it perfectly caught what it was like falling in love with rock and roll in the early Seventies. As for my character and Rolling Stone, and how we treated the kid writer -- that's Hollywood. I was a plot device, and I'm happy to have been of service.
So, one of the most recent inquisitors was none other than Sheryl Crow. We'd just met, for an interview for Parade magazine, and, since we were, uh, almost famished, decided to grab lunch. As we settled into a banquette at the Grand Caf in downtown San Francisco, and as I set up my recording equipment, she popped the question. I could've slapped her, but I didn't. She'd also said that she used to read my work in Rolling Stone. "When I was a kid, I wanted to be like the people that I read about."
And when I pulled out a copy of Not Fade Away, my compilation of old articles, to give her, she shrieked: "Oh my god! We were just talking about this the other day. Will you sign it for me?"
So I lost a book sale, but I gained a friend. At least for an hour or so.
Over a scrumptious pesto pasta with rock shrimp (what other kind of shrimp would you expect Sheryl Crow to order?), she talked freely and winningly about how a girl from a tiny town in Missouri, who was once a schoolteacher engaged to a religious young man, became a rock star.
For that story, you'll have to check your Sunday paperweight.
Ben Fong-Torres, our very own Renaissance man -- author, broadcaster, and former senior editor and writer at Rolling Stone Magazine -- still gets called to be a TV talking head. Especially when the subject is pop music, and stars like The Boss, Bruce Springsteen.
For a moment there, I thought Bruce Springsteen had died. Back at my home office after a lunch in San Francisco, I had messages from a TV network and a local station, wanting to interview me about the Boss.
That's usually a bad sign. Previously, I've been called to weigh in on the deaths of George Harrison, John Lennon, John Entwistle, Waylon Jennings, Bill Graham, John Belushi you get the idea. A pop figure dies; my phone starts ringing.
But no. They wanted to talk about Bruce because he'd just released a new CD, The Rising, and it was getting the royal media treatment. The cover of Time. A five-star review in Rolling Stone, which offered "the gospel according to Bruce." A live mini-concert on the Today show, broadcast from his troubled but fabled hometown, Asbury Park, New Jersey.
This is the way it is these days with acts from the Baby Boomer generation. Because boomers now run the controls at media outlets, stories that were sniffed at years ago are now Page One: McCartney weds; the Who plows on, and, of course, anything Elvis.
But Springsteen does give good hype. His recording truly is significant, inspired, as it is, mostly by September 11 [and can we PLEASE stop calling it "9-1-1," as someone on CNBC just did? Isn't this tragedy worthy of more than a shortcut nickname? I've come to accept "9/11," but barely. I mean, have some respect!].
And besides being one of the best songwriters ever to come along, he's one of our most engaging performers. Plus, The Rising marks the E Street Band's first time in the studio with the Boss since about a million years ago, it seems.
So I go to a studio downtown and fix my gaze on a lone camera and am suddenly...
Ben Fong-Torres, our very own Renaissance man -- author, broadcaster, and former senior editor and writer at Rolling Stone Magazine -- wishes you a happy year of the ram. Or is that goat? Black sheep, anybody? Also, he confesses to being a TiVo-maniac.
Happy Year of the...What?
Its the Year of the Ram. Or is it? Weve had a minor controversy recently at KTVU, the station that broadcasts the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade. One sponsor insists that its the Year of the Sheep. As the co-host (with Julie Haener), and as a guy whos been around the Lunar cycle a few times, I resisted. But then I went online, where InfoPlease.com says its the Year of the Sheep, or, alternately, the Year of the Goat. To make matters even Ram-tougher, I happened onto a Chinese New Year site out of Scotland, where the year 4701 is called the Year of the Black Sheep.
Now Im totally confused. I already cant wait for it to be the Year of the Monkey. Or is that Chimp? Gibbon? Ape? Primate?
You Are Cordially Invited
It was my birthday, and there was a party, but it was NOT my birthday party. You know what Im sayin?
Of course not. Im just bitching and moaning about being an item in a recent San Francisco Chronicle gossip column, called The In Crowd:
Kimberlye Gold reports that when "A Whiter Shade of Pale" played at Ben Fong-Torres' karaoke birthday party at Yet Wah in Diamond Heights, the birthday man called it "Trent Lott's favorite song."
Immediately, the calls and e-mails started coming in. Not Oh! Happy Birthday, or Hey, good line, but You had a birthday party? Why wasnt I invited?
Uhbecause it wasnt a birthday party? Which brings us back to the first graf, as newspaper people would call the opening paragraph. (See? You learned something already.)
Tuesday, which is my regular biweekly night at the Yet Wah. Since it was my birthday, Dianne, my wife, joined me. Kimberlye, a singer-songwriter and columnist for a...