Like a Rolling Stone

Pass the Catch-Up

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Thursday, 25 October 2007

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; 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...

What It's Really Like Up There On Stage

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Saturday, 16 July 2005

Our Ben Fong-Torres sings with music legends, then joins Tamlyn Tomita to say 'Happy Birthday' to Mike Honda.

After I did my three Elvis Presley tunes at chef Dean Fearings fund-raising BBQ Bash in Dallas, keyboard player Tony Brown , who was Presleys last onstage pianist, leaned into a microphone and intoned: Elvis has left the building. All around the Mansion on Turtle Creek, the luxury hotel and site of the BBQ, guests called me Elvis, and one man told me, I wasn't into Elvis before, 'till I heard you singing Elvis."

But I dont think Elvis ever sat, a half hour before a gig, in a hotel lounge, listening to his songs over a headset, still trying to memorize Dont Be Cruel and Teddy Bear.

But thats what I had to do, after realizing that just because Ive known a song for most of my life doesnt mean I can perform it with a live band and get it just right.

Ive had that awareness beforelike, say, every time Ive sung in publicbut its especially challenging when the band includes such pros as Brown, who also heads a record label in Nashville and has worked with dozens of country greats, including George Strait, Reba McEntire , and Trisha Yearwood . On sax is Johnny Reno , whos worked with Chris Isaak and many others. Also on board: Richie Furay , of Buffalo Springfield and Poco fame, along with Holly Williams , singer-songwriter daughter of Hank Williams, Jr. And last years guest stars included Jim Messina (of the recenty reformed Loggins and) and Mickey Raphael, Willie Nelsons...

Suddenly, I Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Sunday, 04 September 2005

What did Ben Fong-Torres love about New Orleans? Everything and everyone.

"The moonlight on the bayou, Louis Armstrong sang in Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans." A creole tune that fills the air. I dream about magnolias in bloom, and Im wishin I was there.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Im prepared to miss New Orleans for a long, long time. What a wonderful city it waswith a sad emphasis on the past tense, as it can never fully be restored to its carefree days and ways, of a street called Bourbon and a drink dubbed Hurricane. The classic architecture, borne of its French and Spanish roots; the soulful Cajun cuisine; the life-is-short motif of the natives, who operated voodoo shops, gave tours of haunted houses, and told about the citys history of fighting floods and canes.

I visited the Crescent City several times, including once in 1995, when Gavin , a radio and record industry magazine where I worked, hosted a music biz seminar there. On the eve of that trip, I wrote:

Frankly, my dear, I don't remember much about the last and only other time I was in New Orleans. According to my calendar, it was in mid-March of 1978, and I was there for a vacation and to pop in on the NARM (National Association of Record Manufacturers) convention at the Hyatt. There was a big midnight bash at the Superdome hosted by Rolling Stone magazine, where I worked. But my notes say that Dianne and I spent most of our time at clubs and restaurants. Let's see: The Bon Ton, Cafe...

You're Reading an Award-Winning Column!

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Saturday, 03 April 2004

Our Renaissance Man wins an Emmy for his work on the Chinese New Year Parade broadcast. And he honors winners of the Women Warrior Awards.

I wont lie to you. It feels good to win an Emmy. Thats what happened the other night at the Northern California Emmy Awards in San Francisco, when the Chinese New Year Parade broadcast, which Julie Haener and I co-host on KTVU (Fox 2), won a bunch of the gold-plated statuettes. As one KTVU anchor kidded afterwards, Jeez, you work part-time and you win one!

Part-time is right. Each February, I go into the stations offices for two script-reading sessions, and then we do the parade from our perch in Union Square, and then we pick up our Emmys. Easy as custard tarts.

Other big winners: Wendy Tokuda of KRON, who got two Emmys for Students Rising Above , a series of reports on low-income, at-risk kids who nonetheless strive to get into college, and Emerald Yeh, formerly of KRON, who won her ninth Emmy, this time for Lost Childhood: Growing Up in an Alcoholic Family. The win was redemption, of sorts, for Emerald, who fought hard to get the show produced and aired, and whose dismissal from KRON last year (owing, the station said, to budget cuts) caused a local stir. But she proved, once more, that shes a winner.

Sydnie Kohara of CBS 5 co-hosted the event with Frank Somerville of KTVU, and offered her usual blend of glamour, professionalism and good humor, while Tokuda and Kristen Tze of ABC 7 were among the presenters. Before the ceremonies,...

Remembering Shirley Fong-Torres by Ben Fong-Torres

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Monday, 12 September 2011

Remembering Shirley Fong-Torres by Ben Fong-Torres

My sister, Shirley Fong-Torres, who died June 18, 2011, was celebrated at a private memorial event on July 24, 2011 at one of her favorite restaurants, Yank Sing in San Francisco.

During the evening, I introduced eight speakers, including family members, good friends, a tour guide at her Chinatown tour company, Wok Wiz, chef Martin Yan, and CBS5 (KPIX-TV)’s Liam Mayclem, representing her many friends in the media.

The following are my remarks, which were interspersed with the various speakers.

Welcome, friends and family. We are here to remember our dear friend, sister, aunt, mother, grandmother: Shirley. On behalf of our family – Fong-Torres, Watkins, Pavao, Berlinsky – I thank you for joining us.

… I had a dream about Shirley last night. She was guiding a tour group around Heaven. And at the end of the tour, they all bought copies of her book. Pretty sweet.

Well, one sympathy card said it all: It’s always too soon.

And one word said it all, about Shirley. It came up in the CBS 5 news report of her passing. She was, the anchor said, a Bay Area “treasure.” In facebook messages and emails, the word kept popping up. She WAS a treasure, of Chinatown, the Bay Area, and around the country and the world, wherever people enjoyed learning about Chinese food and culture.

The first report on SF, by Jeanne Cooper, spoke of her love of all things Hawaiian. One of our speakers today, Martin Yan, may tell you about adventures in Hong Kong.

My friend Tom Gericke...