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Ben's Other Columns
The Facts on Larry Ching
May 2003

'Better Luck' This Weekend
April 2003

Old Memories, a New Museum
March 2003

'Twixt Teen and Michael Jackson
February 2003

In a Confused State of Mind
January 2003

In the Trenches with Trent, Jon Lovitz, and Johnny Rivers
December 2002

The Pioneering Performers of The Forbidden City
November 2002

A Letter to Writers, and How the Wiest was Won
October 2002

A Singing Career? I Think Not.
September 2002

Sheryl Crow: All She Wants to Do is Have Some Lunch
August 2002

Bruce Springsteen: Still the Boss
July 2002

Commencement Speech at Thurgood Marshall College
July 2002

A Senior Moment and a Reunion with a Pop Star
June 2002

We Love New York, Part 2002
May 2002

A Flick, a Rock Fantasy, and An Alternative to the Laptop
Apr 2002

March Madness, the Musical, and a Joint Effort with Willie Nelson
Mar 2002

Bringing in 4700 with a Parade of Wild Horses
Feb 2002

Taking a Q from Quincy Jones - It's His Party
Feb 2002

Asian American Males on TV: Old News is Bad News
Dec, 2001

Life's Lessons from a DJ and a Songwriter
May 2001

Gawk and Roll at the Hall of Fame
Apr 2001

Shakin' It Up at Harvard
Mar 2001

Creole Ladies and Crazy Times Down in New Orleans
Feb 23, 2001

A Parade of Dragons, Lions, Serpents -- and Strippers?
Feb 5, 2001

Like a Rolling Stone
by Ben Fong-Torres

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 in "Almost Famous," the Oscar and Golden Globe-winning film by Cameron Crowe.

This month Ben writes:

To help promote Better Luck Tomorrow, Parry Shen, who plays one of the central characters, simply went to his computer and sent out scads of e-mails, telling friends and acquaintances how crucial the opening weekend would be for the film. How this Asian-American teenage-wasteland social satire did in New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco would determine how its distributor, Paramount, would treat the movie in other markets. And how BLT did might well determine whether other Asian-American-focused films would get green-lighted.

[Read More]

AsianConnections columnist Ben Fong-Torres receives so much inspiring and heartfelt fan mail worldwide that we are launching a new feature called Ben's Mail Bag so that some of these gems can be shared with our viewers. Read the latest from Ben's Mail Bag!

Mr. Fong-Torres, Hi! I'm a senior in high school at Taipei American School and I'm in the middle of reading your autobiography, The Rice Room.

[Read More]


About Ben Fong Torres:

Ben Fong-Torres was born in Alameda, California, in 1945, and raised in Oakland's Chinatown, where his parents owned a restaurant. He attended San Francisco State College from 1962 through 1966, majored in Radio-TV-Film and served as a reporter and editor of the campus daily.

He began writing for Rolling Stone magazine in 1968, in its eighth issue. He had a full-time job at another publication: Pacific Telephone’s employee magazine. By night, he was a volunteer editor at East West, a bilingual Chinatown newspaper. In May, 1969, Ben joined Rolling Stone as news editor. His interview subjects included Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, Paul McCartney, Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, the Jackson 5, Linda Ronstadt, Neil Diamond, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, the Grateful Dead, Ike & Tina Turner, Diane Keaton, and Steve Martin. The Ray Charles interview won the Deems Taylor Award for Magazine Writing in 1974.

Ben was also a weekend DJ on KSAN from 1970 to 1979. He wrote and narrated a syndicated radio special, San Francisco: What a Long, Strange Trip It’s Been, which won a Billboard Award for Broadcast Excellence. He was the host of KQED-FM's live, weekly arts show, Fog City Radio, and has co-anchored KTVU-TV’s coverage of the Chinese New Year Parades since the Year of the Ox–or 1997.

Also on television, Ben did profiles on Evening Magazine in 1977; an interview with Steve Martin helped the program win a Northern California Emmy. In 1982, he went to China as scriptwriter for a special, Cycling Through China, which was broadcast in Asia, Europe, and the United States. His most unique TV credit was his 1993 appearance on Wheel of Fortune. Over three nights, he won some $99,000 in cash and fabulous prizes. He also appeared on the nationally syndicated Your Big Break in spring of 2000, doing an impersonation of Bob Dylan.

Ben left Rolling Stone in 1981 and has since written for dozens of magazines, including Esquire, GQ (where he was pop music columnist for three years), Parade, Playboy, Sports Illustrated, Travel & Leisure, American Film, TV Guide, Harper’s Bazaar and California Business. He wrote the main biographies for People magazine’s tributes to Jerry Garcia and Frank Sinatra, and he is a contributor to two books published in 1998: Rolling Stone: The Seventies and The Encyclopedia of Country Music.

In 1983, Fong-Torres joined the San Francisco Chronicle, where he was a feature writer and radio columnist until 1992, when he left to write his memoirs, The Rice Room: From Number Two Son to Rock and Roll, published in 1994 by Hyperion (and in softcover by Plume/Dutton), which reached the San Francisco Chronicle’s best-sellers list.

Ben also edited several anthologies while at Rolling Stone, wrote the main text for The Motown Album: The Sound of Young America (St. Martin’s Press). In 1991, he published Hickory Wind: The Life and Times of Gram Parsons (Pocket/Simon & Schuster). The book was nominated for the Ralph J. Gleason Book Award, and St. Martin’s Press published an updated version of it in fall of 1998.

Fong-Torres has been anthologized in numerous books, including Garcia; The Rolling Stone Film Reader; The American’s Search for Identity; Chink!: Studies in Ethnic Prejudice, and two college textbooks. He has contributed pieces to The Encyclopedia of Country Music, to Country on Compact Disc, and to the CD-ROM version of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

In 1993, on completion of The Rice Room, Ben joined Gavin, the San Francisco-based trade weekly for the radio and recording industries, as managing editor. He vacated that post in late 1997 to work on The Hits Just Keep On Coming: The History of Top 40 Radio, which was published by Miller Freeman Books in fall of 1998. [A long-time lover of radio, Ben has also written the script for the Radio Hall of Fame’s induction ceremonies since 1998. The inductions, hosted by Casey Kasem, take place in Chicago and are nationally broadcast.]

Ben’s most recent book is Not Fade Away: A Backstage Pass to 20 Years of Rock & Roll, a compilation of past articles published by Miller Freeman in 1999. That year, Ben joined myplay.com, a music site on the Internet, as Editorial Director. He also began contributing articles to AsianConnections.com. Fong-Torres is frequently called on to emcee community events, and to conduct on-stage interviews, most recently at the Mill Valley Film Festival, with Robin Williams. He is also known for his impressions of, among others, Elvis Presley and Bob Dylan. Both are featured in one song, “Rainy Day Bookstores,” on a CD entitled Stranger Than Fiction, featuring writers performing music. He is a real-life character in Almost Famous, the popular film by director-writer Cameron (Jerry Maguire, Vanilla Sky) Crowe.

 

For more insights by Ben, visit his official website at www.benfongtorres.com


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