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; kfrc.com 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 that came out last year (Becoming Almost Famous and The Doors By the Doors ). But how do you say no to a book that centers on Quincy Jones ? (You youngsters can Google him; everybody else knows that he's the legendary music arranger, composer, orchestra leader, and producer of records ranging from be-bop to hip-hop.) I interviewed him on stage a half-dozen years ago, when he published his memoirs, and we got along PUR-ty good, as Larry David would say on...
Manhattan: Chow, Ciao and TV Land.
NEW YORK, NEW YORK:
Another year, another trip to the Big Apple.
This time, Dianne and I hit Manhattan in June, when the city was weathering days in the high 80's, with occasional thunderstorms.
For us spoiled Californians, thats pretty darned hot but manageable, especially with AC in our apartment in the West Village, and in most shops. When its really hot, you spend a lot of time loitering in bank lobbies.
As always, we spent a lot of time in great restaurants. This year, they included Porter House New York, where Michael Lomonaco has rebounded. He was the chef at Windows on the World, atop one of the World Trade Center towers. Now, hes overseeing a steakhouse at the Time Warner Center on Columbus Circle. And, in a town thats pretty exacting about steaks, Lomonaco has a winner. Perfect steaks and an amazing array of starters and side dishes. The service is well-done, too. Plus, Michael plays rock guitar. What more could you want from a chef?
Because we have a friend high up in the Danny Meyer collection of restaurants, we can get tablesand didat such stellar spots as 11 Madison Parkone of New Yorks very best restaurants, according to the New York Timesand the bar caf at the Museum of Modern Art. One was fashionable; the other, fast (we were going from the Modern to see "Frost/Nixon"); both were superb. So was Craftbar, owned by top chef--and one of the stars of TV's Top Chef, Tom Collichio . Its a casual jewel of a spot. And, just around the corner from where we were staying, we discovered a new restaurant, Caf Cluny, open from breakfast through dinner. Look for a hostess named Coco. We also loved two Italian places, Gusto, just around the bend from Cluny, on Greenwich St., and BellaVitae, in the South Village.
For a meeting with a couple of fellow Rolling Stone alumnus (who are planning a reunion in San Francisco in September), I went to a Burmese spot, Caf Mingala....
Supervisor Ed Jew gets into trouble; our Ben Fong-Torres gets into People magazine.
One of the biggest political stories in San Francisco is also one of the saddest especially for Asian Americans.
The subject is Ed Jew , who was elected late last year to the city's Board of Supervisors and is its lone Asian American member. He beat out two strong fellow Asian Americans in the district election, and represents the Sunset District, which includes, among other mini-communities, the so-called Second Chinatown, centered on Clement Street.
The problem is, Jew, who is also one of the Board's most conservative members, is required to live in the district he represents, and, it appears, he does not. And if he doesn't, then he's not qualified to have run for his office, or to occupy it. Investigations by the City Attorney and the District Attorney have resulted in reports that Jew has failed to provide proof that he lives in a house, owned by his father, in the district. Jew's wife and children live out of town, in the suburb of Burlingame, and Jew operates a flower shop in Chinatown. Investigators, checking utility bills and talking with neighbors and mail carriers, believe that he has been living in Burlingame since 2003. (However, they say, Jew used that address for voting in recent years, and stated that he lived there when he filed his candidacy papers last year. That would be a violation of election laws.) Jew has claimed that he splits his time among all three locations. And when a look at water bills for the Sunset residence showed almost no usage, he claimed that he showered at his flower shop. Responding to reports that numerous neighbors said they hadn't seen him at the house in years, he said that he was often out attending to his supervisorial duties.
Like his story about showering in his flower shop, it doesn't wash. But that's not even Jew's main problem. The questions about his residence began with an FBI investigation into...
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 sfgate.com, 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 hip-hop and its audience. We want to expand that, Vandergrift said. This is the type of format thats more meant for us. Its open, and were free to talk about everything.
We all know what everything means these days. From Michael Savage and Tom Leykis to Howard Stern and Imus, from politics to porn, there are no holds barred, except for certain words still verboten to the FCC.
Thats as it should be, in a society built on freedom of speech and...
AC's Ben Fong-Torres meets Bill Clinton and remembers Don Ho.
It was an offer that doesnt come around every day, or even every Administration. Sing Elvis with our band, and maybe Bill Clinton will join in on saxophone.
I, of course, said Yes. Thank you. Thank you very much.
The band is the Eyewitness Blues Band, a collection of anchors, reporters and videographers from KCBS, the all-news radio station here in San Francisco, and CBS 5, its sister TV station. Since forming late last year for a story one of them did about a music school, theyve played company parties and a couple of small gigs.
Now, they had a big one. KCBS was producing Health Etc., an all-day expo at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, on April 14th. Former president Clinton had signed on as keynote speaker. And, somehow, the band got booked to play before and after the speech.
Clinton, an Elvis fan from his youth, famously played the sax on Heartbreak Hotel on Arsenio Halls late-night show in 1992, when then-Gov. Clinton was a presidential candidate. It made perfect sense to think that, 15 years later, hed want to pick up the horn again.
So, when Stan Bunger, the KCBS morning co-anchor (and guitarist) called to tell me about the group, and learned that Ive sung Elvis songs with bands here and there, he asked if I knew Heartbreak Hotel. I didnt, but, hey, its not exactly Shakespeare. I agreed to do Elvis and another song the band knew, Johnny Cashs Ring of Fire. The bands regular lead singer, CBS5 reporter and part-time anchor, Joe Vazquez, specializes in blues and R&B oldies like Midnight Hour and Rock Me Baby, while Melissa Culross, a KCBS reporter/anchor, does Different Drum and Band of Gold. Mike Sugerman, a reporter on both KCBS and CBS5, plays guitar, writes parody lyrics and growls his way through Eyewitness Blues, a song that pokes fun at people in the news. Led by videographer Patrick Sedillo (late of the Arizona-based alt-rock band, the...