Like a Rolling Stone

Bruce Springsteen: He's Still the Boss

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres on Tuesday, 17 June 2003

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...

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,...