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