Like a Rolling Stone

A New High: Getting Organized!

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Tuesday, 14 September 2004

Is your room a mess? You are not alone. Here's how Ben Fong-Torres cleared away 30 years of clutter. It's a neat article.

We are a nation of clutter. Just look at your closet. Your kitchen drawers. Your bathroom ca- binet. Your CD col- lection. The trunk of your car. Your home office. Your garage. Were a massive mess, and were always telling ourselves, Next weekend. Ill get to it next weekend, when I get a couple of hours. But those hours never come.

They are, how- ever, closer than you think. Armies of professional organizers have formed, all around the country, and theyre ready to force you to take that time and make that effort to get organized. You see them on the Home and Gardens network, and all the other channels that are doing home decorating shows. You get the ads in the mail for custom closets. You see the books on how to de-clutter your life. You are tempted. You know you should do it. And you think, Next weekend.

Well, my weekend arrived not long ago. Actually, it was a whole week, split up into parts of two weeks. It was a substantial investment of both time and money, and it required doing something brutally difficult letting go of pieces of my past but I did it, and Im glad I did.

The proof is in the photos. Before, my office at home was almost painful for my wife, Dianne, to walk into. Not for me; I knew where everything was, and, amidst the mess, things like CDs, DVDs and videotapes were actually alphabetized. My books were in categories. My receipts were...

A Super Day in Hollywood, Impersonating an Impersonator

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Tuesday, 16 June 2009

A Super Day in Hollywood, Impersonating an Impersonator

Showbiz, like life, is unfair.

This rather obvious fact was brought home as I made my way around a studio in Hollywood one recent day, getting made up as an "Asian Elvis Impersonator" for a new series on Spike TV, and then wander - ing around, in big wig, Elvis shades, a caped red, bejeweled jump - suit, and high-heeled silver boots.

Makeup artists, crew members, fellow cast members would ask, "Where do you do your Elvis act?"

Nowhere. I don't have an Elvis act. I'm not an impersonator.

"How long have you been singing?"

I'm not a professional singer.

"Have you acted long?"

I'm not an actor. A couple of bits here and there, but, no...

And yet, here I am on a show starring "Super Dave," the faux daredevil superstar (created and portrayed by Bob Einstein). Others on this particular episode include Larry David, creator of Seinfeld and star of my favorite show, Curb Your Enthusiasm ; Bob Saget, Carrot Top, Jimmy Kimmel, and a bevy of beautiful girls in scanty bikinis (as if there are any other kind).

How dare me? In this business called show, where hundreds of actors line up to audition for any one tiny bit of work, here I am, wobbling around, set to portray the King of Rock and Roll. And I did nothing to get the part.

Just a couple of days before-on a Saturday morning-I got an e-mail. It was from Julie, a casting director, asking if I might be available Tuesday to play an Asian Elvis impersonator. I thought I was being...

'Ching-Chong' and 'Flied-Lice' On the Air: Enough Is Enough

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Wednesday, 23 May 2007

Ben gets tired of shock talk and picks up an Emmy.

JV and Elvis , who hosted the raunchy Dog House morning show in the San Francisco area before getting fired, moved their act to New York early last year. Now, after a crank call to a Chinese restaurant generated protests from the OCA (Organization of Chinese Americans) and other groups, theyve been fired again.

Before that happened, I wrote about the incident in my radio column (Radio Waves), which runs every other Sunday in the S.F. Chronicle. To save you a trip to, where all my columns are archived, here it is:

CHINESE TAKEOUT: After JV and Elvis (Jeff Vandergrift and Dan Lay ) got suspended from their station, WFNY in New York, for a prank call to a Chinese restaurant, I got some calls of my own, from local radio and television stations, asking for comment. It was partly because of the timing. The stunt, in which JV harassed several restaurant employees with racist and sexist remarks and taunts, took place right after the Don Imus implosion. It was partly because of the local angle. JV and Elvis did the morning show on KYLD (Wild 94.9) until they were fired in April, 2005; they re-emerged later that year on CBS Radios new talk station KIFR (Free FM), where they held down the morning slot while the station waited for the Adam Carolla show to hit the air. They then took their act to KIFRs sister station in Manhattan, to take the slot following Corollas.

While they were here, they told me theyd matured beyond...

A Few Words about Burton Fong-Torres 1949-2012 by Ben Fong-Torres

Posted by AC Team on Saturday, 01 December 2012

Photo: Burton Fong-Torres with mother Connie Fong-Torres

San Francisco

Burton, My Brother

by Ben Fong-Torres

The hardest part about losing a sibling – or anyone close to you, come to think of it – is having to go out and see friends and hear those most innocent of questions: “What’s new with you?” or “How’re you doing?”

Depending on who’s asking, I’ve been saying, “All right, thanks, and you?” or “Not so great. My younger brother died.” And then you gird yourself for the questions and sympathy, and you let out a couple of details, and try to figure out a transition to another subject; any other subject.

That’s how it’s been since November 11th, the Sunday of Thanksgiving week. Burton, who was 63 and the youngest of us five children, died after several years of living with a weak heart, helped not at all by kidney dialysis.  Since childhood, Burton was slow, and did not advance far, in school or in life. Later in life, he had no friends. And so, when he passed away, we, his family, chose not to have a service. Our mother, 91, is in nursing care and in no shape, physical or mental, to be attending a funeral for the third child she has lost.

So, no obituary, no service, no facebook page, as we had for my sister Shirley, who died in June of last year. She was a public person, constantly in the media. Burt was the flip side.

But he was vitally important in our family. As a close friend wrote, “Looking back, Burton was a blessing for your family. He was the one who kept your parents company.”...

Prejudice, Pride and Perseverance

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Wednesday, 04 January 2006

From the Japanese internment camps came art. Beautiful art.

I am, as always, watching The Daily Show . The headlines are about George W. Bush approving the National Security Agencys wire- tapping of private citizens. We begin tonight, Jon Stewart shouts, as he is wont to do, with the war on terrorism! You know how sometimes during war time civil liberties take a back seat to national security? Nervous laughter from the studio audience.

Well, Ive got good news and bad news! The good news is this: No Japanese people are being sent to camps The bad news, of course, was a joke, about some horrible indiscretion of yours having been captured by the government.

Amazing. Just days before, Id visited a long-time friend, Delphine Hirasuna , to chat about her latest book, The Art of Gaman: Arts and Crafts from the Japanese American Internment Camps 1942-1946. (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, California.)

To set the stage for her presentation of items created by internees who were being guarded by fellow Americans (Gaman is a Japanese word meaning enduring the unbearable with patience and dignity), Delphine tells how the government decided to relocate 120,000 Japanese Americans to ten hastily-constructed camps, in remote regions stretching from California to Arkansas.

If you take the premise that all of this had to be done out of military necessity, by June of 1942, after the Battle of Midway, the government knew there was no danger of a Japanese attack on the coast, says Delphine. But by...