Like a Rolling Stone

Anatomy of a Session: Inside the Studio with Larry Ching

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Friday, 27 June 2003

As a writer at Rolling Stone, I have done a lot of time in recording studios. Crosby Stills and Nashs first album; Sly and the Family Stone; Ray Charles running his own control board; Fleetwood Mac; Jefferson Airplane. Richard Perry producing Carly Simon, Leo Sayer, and others. That is a lot of time. Rehearsing, recording, endless retakes, and lots of sitting around.

The Larry Ching session was completely different. We jumped back a few generations to the way records used to be cut.

AsianConnections is proud to present the adventures of Ben Fong-Torres, our very own Renaissance man: author, broadcaster, and former senior editor at Rolling Stone. Ben recently produced a CD featuring the golden voice of Larry Ching, one of the featured performers at the famous San Francisco nightclub, Forbidden City.

LARRY CHING 1920 - 2003

Larry Ching passed away on July 5, 2003 in San Francisco. He was 82, and is survived by wife Jane Seid, six sons and stepsons, and 11 grandchildren.

Larry had just been toasted at a party for his debut CD at the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum, where he received a proclamation from San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown declaring June 28 "Larry Ching Day."

The following column was written in mid-June. My next one will report on the CD party, a celebration of a life filled with fun, family and music.

-- Ben Fong-Torres

Kimberlye Gold, a singing, songwriting buddy, wrote a piece for SF Weekly about the Larry Ching CD I produced. Her editor, she told me,...

Remembering Larry Ching, 'Till the End of Time

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Wednesday, 16 July 2003

It was typical Larry Ching.

As producer of his CD, I had just presented him with a dinky Plexiglas plaque that displayed his CD cover and the disk itself, both showing him as the star he was back in the 1940s at the Forbidden City nightclub in San Francisco. Then, George Yamasaki, his pianist, lauded Larry and presented him with a proclamation from Mayor Willie L. Brown, declaring that day, June 28, as "Larry Ching Day" in San Francisco.

It was typical Larry Ching.

As producer of his CD, I'd just presented him with a dinky Plexiglas plaque that displayed his CD cover and the disk itself, both showing him as the star he was back in the 1940s at the Forbidden City nightclub in San Francisco. Then, George Yamasaki, his pianist, lauded Larry and presented him with a proclamation from Mayor Willie L. Brown, declaring that day, June 28, as "Larry Ching Day" in San Francisco.

In front of him, some 150 family members, fans and friends, among them a number of women who had performed with him at Forbidden City, cheered. Here at the Chinese Historical Society of America Museum in Chinatown, they had been buzzing about Larry, delighted with his latest accomplishment: recording a debut album at the age of 82. He had been showered with media attention. That very day, the San Jose Mercury News ran a long profile, written by Marian Liu and featuring a large photo of Larry back in the day, surrounded by four Forbidden beauties. My own article about the project, in the San Francisco...

Asians in the Outfield and an Attorney on the Rotisserie

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Thursday, 04 September 2003

Can you be Chinese American ... AND a baseball fan? Plus, a highly regarded civil rights lawyer, Dale Minami, gets royally roasted.

When I'm sworn in as Governor of California oh, you didnt know I was running? I'm going to try and do something about the stupid people.

It's been several weeks now, and my sunburns just about peeled off, but I'm still smarting from a comment I got as I was walking toward Pacific Bell Park for a San Francisco Giants baseball game. Alongside, I had Richard, a brother-in-law visiting from Los Angeles. Thanks to Larry Baer, the Giants' executive VP, I'd been able to buy a pair of tickets right behind the backstop, about eight rows back from the Giants' on-deck circle.

So we were feeling pretty reet petite this Sunny San Francisco Saturday, heading up Third Street to Pac Bell, when, all of a sudden, a man standing on the street, not heading toward the ballpark, looked at my Giants baseball cap, and then at me, and yelled, "Hey, you cant be for the Giants. You Chinese!" I ignored the man, and Richard didn't hear him, but I couldn't believe it. The man was African American, and he'd unleashed a remark that hurt more than a 90 mph fast ball to the head would have.

And here we were, heading off to see a game that has, in recent years, become a true melting pot of not only African American and Latin players, but also numerous Asians, including Ichiro Suzuki, Shigetoshi Hasegawa and Kazuhiro Sasaki of the Seattle Mariners, Byung Hyun Kim of Boston,...

We Love New York, v. 2003

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Saturday, 22 November 2003

As my regular readersboth of youknow, Dianne, my wife, and I like to hit New York City every year.

AsianConnections is proud to present the adventures of Ben Fong-Torres, our very own Renaissance man: author, broadcaster, and former senior editor and writer at Rolling Stone Magazine. This guy's our hero! Ben was a featured character and immortalized in the movie "Almost Famous," the Oscar and Golden Globe-winning film by Cameron Crowe.

As my regular readersboth of youknow, Dianne, my wife, and I like to hit New York City every year. We got around to it in early October and had a blast, courtesy of the Carlyle, which put us up in one of their grandest suites (in fact, it included a baby grand piano in the living room), and of several restaurateurs and chefs, who helped us secure some of the hottest tickets in Manhattan: namely, reservations at their restaurants.

I won't bore you with culinary details. Suffice it to say that we had a blast. We werent weight-watching; we were just waiting for the next amazing course at Babbo, Aureole, Gramercy Tavern, Tribeca Grill, and the Biltmore Room. The reason we got into those hotspotsnot to mention Icon for a lunchwas that I did a story in the October issue of Gourmet magazine, on chefs who are also musicians and manage, amidst their 24/7 schedules, to rehearse and play at various gigs and fundraisers.

And when we weren't busy with our four-star meals, Dianne could shop to her closet's content, and I visited various friends,...

The Art of Rock - and of Chinese Restaurant Take-Out Menus

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Sunday, 23 November 2003

Art is on my mind these days.

Art is on my mind these days. I dropped in on an exhibit of paintings and drawings by Grace Slick at the Hotel Monaco in downtown San Francisco the other evening. Yes, that Grace Slick -- the so-called "acid queen" of the Sixties rock scene, who soared with Jefferson Airplane with such hits as "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit." Nowadays, she paints white rabbits -- and many other subjects, including fellow icons like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison. The work ranges from amusing to amazing, and Grace draws and paints in numerous styles. "I get bored easy," she told me. "I can't imagine being stuck in one style." She isn't, and her work is stunning, funny, and true. Check out her paintings of Jerry Garcia and of herself, back in the day. Caustic as she could be, she was -- and is -- a true beauty.

Grace isn't the only rocker who's gone from the stage to the canvas. At the San Francisco Art Exchange downtown, I saw several excellent paintings by Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones ?mainly of fellow Stones. His work is a reminder that many rockers started out with pens and brushes before picking up guitars and drumsticks. When I first met Joni Mitchell in the late Sixties, she'd done not only a new album (Ladies of the Canyon), but had painted the album cover herself. Jerry Garcia was also an accomplished visual artist, and his work is being seen, today, in everything from paintings to neckties.

Art is also on my mind because of...