Being Ben Fong-Torres

Posted by Ben Fong-Torres

Our Renaissance Man is innocently visiting an open house. Next thing he knows, he's in a stranger's blog! Crazy...

Maybe its just me, but I dont get this whole blogging phenomenon. People writing anything from diary entries to political rants and posting them; other people trolling the Internet and stumbling into them. And thenand this is what gets metaking the time to read the stuff.

Yeah, I know. There are professional writers blogging away. Brian Williams , the NBC anchor and managing editor, writes one on www.dailynightly.msnbc.com. The San Jose Mercury's fine young pop music critic, Marian Liu , offers backstage info on the myriad shows she catches: The Roots, Black Eyed Peas , the hip-hop violinist Miri Ben-Ari , and Japan Girls Nite with Red Bacteria Vacuum --and that's all in one night, just about. The girl never sleeps. She even says as much on her blog, which is at http://blogs.mercurynews.com/aei/marian_liu/index.html.

And, yeah, Im aware that this little column is, in essence, a (too-) long running blog, only housed in an established portal. But most bloggers are no more interesting than anyone who writes letters to the editor, or who goes onto an Internet site and posts reviews of books and movies, or joins a bulletin board, where they can rant and rave, hoping to draw a commentthat is, another ranter and raver out there.

Obviously, people are into it, as we now have the audio version, called Podcasting.

So, anyway, I was Googling myself one late night and ran right into this unbelievable blog, this reminder that youve always got to be on your best behavior. Or decent, anyway. You never know when someones gonna do a blog about you.

Heres what I found. It was posted back in July of 2004. (Hey, I dont Google myself all that often.)

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Jan and I are house hunting. Sick and pretty damn tired of suburbia, we think we're heading for San Francisco. Or course, house prices here are insane so we're trying not to break the bank.

Still, we saw a place in the Glen Park district on Diamond St. - an incredible Victorian with 9 rooms, spectacular views, and other goodies. There were some oddities ala Winchester Mystery House, like a bathroom at the bottom of a staircase..." oh, excuse me, don't get up ...I was just looking for the garage...". Still, very, VERY nice and pretty freakin' expensive to boot. $1.3 million ... sigh.

So we're ogling the place and I hear the realtor introducing someone..."oh, this is Ben Fong-Torres and his wife...". And this is as I round the corner to where the Man himself is standing.

(For those who don't already know, Ben Fong-Torres is a pretty famous guy, at least rock radio and rock critic-wise ... and especially in San Francisco. He's written for Rolling Stone and a bunch of other publications, I think he's written a couple of books and whatnot... )

So, I got all fan-boy right at that moment and said something stupid like "wow, are you REALLY Ben Fong-Torres???! !" And it was true. Introductions all around ... mentioned that I used to listen to him on KSAN (legendary 70's SF rock radio station) and he said..., "well, that was about 32 years ago...". Damn, I AM that old. Sigh.

So, I'm still not sure if it was Mr. Fong-Torres who owned this fine piece of property (in which case I wanted to ask him what was up with the bathroom at the bottom of the staircase...) or if he and his wife were house hunting too. In which case, he probably is way more qualified (financially) to buy the house.

We beat a hasty retreat out of there if only to avoid me embarrassing myself further ... wow, it really WAS Ben Fong-Torres...

Posted by wjc

* * *
I did track down wjc and let him know that I enjoyed his posting, that the property belonged to the esteemed playwright, Philip Kan Gotanda and his wife, the actor-director Diane Takei , and that we were only visiting. Im not sure what the final sale price was on their home, but they are now happily settled into a new, self-designed house in Berkeley.

Maybe well visit it and post a blog

* * *
SING A SONG: Its crazy, but it seems like Im doing more singing than writing these days. Last column, I mentioned being one of the performers at a huge wedding party in late October (for Dale Minami and Ai Mori ). And how, just two nights before, Kyle Tatsumoto, Maeley Tom and I had sung at a political fundraiser at the Far East Caf in Chinatown. And how Kyle and I also sang there in July, at a birthday roast of Congressman Mike Honda (who, I hear, does a mean Elvis himself). Oh, and there was a first anniversary party for comedian Mark Pitta s Tuesday night comedy jams at 142 Throckmorton St. in Mill Valley, in Marin County, and, along with Bob Sarlatte , my pal Kimberlye Gold , and Pitta himself, I did a number with maestro Dick Bright and his band: Bobby Darin s Beyond the Sea.

Thats a lot of singing, especially combined with my regular visits to Yet Wah and to a new discovery, Encore, on California Street here in San Francisco. But, then, I got a call from George Yamasaki , who played piano and led the band behind Larry Ching for the CD I produced almost two years ago. Yamasaki is an immigration attorney who for 30 years has served as president of the Human Services Commission, overseeing a wide range of organizations that help the needy. To honor his 30 years, a foster youth scholarship had been established in his name, and he was being feted in City Hall with a fundraising dinner.

He asked if I would drop by and sing. Sounds like an odd request, but I had done a customized version of Bob Hopes Thanks for the Memory for Georges 70th birthday last year at the cabaret, the Plush Room. He wanted an encore. I redid a few lines, and, just like that, I was set to sing in City Hall.

I had a hard act to follow. All of us did. Mayor Gavin Newsom , the handsome young rising star of the Democratic party, showed up and, given his packed schedule, went first, praising George and proclaiming November 10th to be "George Yamasaki Day" in the city.

A few speeches later, I did my number, with pianist Stuart Yasaki tickling the ivories. But by then, the Mayor was long gone, off to attend another event, to offer praise to another person or group. But wherever he was, it was still George Yamasaki Day.

* * *
R.I.P. : Pat Morita, the comic and actor who made his mark in two roles--as the owner of a diner on "Happy Days" and as Mr. Miyagi in the Karate Kid movies, died on Thanksgiving Day in Las Vegas at age 73.

In the obituaries, he was properly recognized as a gifted comedian who had to play off his ethnicity--he called himself "the Hip Nip" in the pre-PC Sixties--and as a versatile actor who had to take roles as Japanese or Chinese characters. For Asian Americans, work was--and is--hard to come by, and you take what you've got a chance to get.

But, having played too many thankless roles, including a character named Ah Chew (in Sanford and Son ), Pat is leaving on a high note. He plays a Buddhist priest in Only the Brave , a film by Lane Nishikawa about Japanese-American soldiers in the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, one of World War II's most decorated units. The film, which features Tamlyn Tomita and Jason Lee along with Pat Morita, is seeking a distributor.

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THE QUESTION: But Can They Sing? Thats the show on VH1, featuring B- and C-list celebrities including the scaringly vivacious Bai Ling . The answer: No. Embarrassingly no. With the exception of Morgan Fairchild , across-the-board no. Compared with Ling and the others, William Hung soundswell, still terrible.

P.S.: Hung has released his third CD. We are doomed.

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IS THIS AN ITEM? : At Encore, the aforementioned karaoke bar, Eric Henry did John Mellencamp's "Jack and Diane" so convincingly that the DJ, Patrick Kack-Brice , asked, "Are you from the midwest?" "No," Henry replied, "but I play one on TV."

Didnt think so.

Ben plays host on his own home page. It's loaded with celeb photos, articles and goodies, all at www.benfongtorres.com.