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 the movie "Almost
Famous," the Oscar and Golden Globe-winning film by Cameron
was about halfway
through my onstage interview with Quincy Jones, the walking, talking
history of pop, jazz and soul music, when I got a scoop.
From a CD I'd
burned of bits of his music, ranging from bebop in the 50s to hip-hop
in the 90's, I punched up "Soul = Bossa Nova," recorded in 1962
and given new life a few years ago when it was used as the opening
theme for Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me. As they recognized
the sassy, brassy tune, the audience broke into laughter and applause,
and Q, as he's known, rocked happily in his chair.
"Dad," he recalled
one of his kids telling him, "That's the hippest thing you ever
did." Jones said he'd met Mike Myers, the creator and star of the
two Austin Powers films, but never learned how his 40 year-old tune
got into 1999's biggest comedy.
with Jones, which took place at the Marin County Jewish Community
Center in San Rafael, Calif., was part of his promotional tour for
his excellent memoirs, Q: The Autobiography Of Quincy Jones, and
its companion CD box set from Rhino.
I am told that
he asked for me to serve as his interviewer, although we'd never
met. We'd been separated by one degree over the years. I'd interviewed
numerous artists with whom he'd worked, including Ray Charles (back
in the Forties in Seattle), Michael Jackson (Q produced Thriller),
Marvin Gaye, Bob Dylan (Q produced "We Are the World"), and others.
I'd written the bio for People magazine's tribute to Frank Sinatra;
Jones was his arranger on "Fly Me to the Moon" and other tunes.
Gold wrote in the San Francisco Herald, "The vibe was mutual admiration
and easy camaraderie, with Quincy interjecting things like 'Rolling
Stone wouldn't have happened without Ben!'"
Well, a lot
of popular culture wouldn't have happened without Quincy Delight
Jones. And, with the understanding that this interview was for a
paying audience in a nightclub/theatrical setting, I was happy to
play the part of a genial host, and leave my journalist's hardhat
at the door. Bottom line: we had fun. Jones spoke eloquently about
his horrific childhood in Chicago, his passion for music and for
the mentors who taught him how to write and arrange it, and his
mind-numbing achievements, from pop hits like "It's My Party" to
music for Roots; from producing The Color Purple (which introduced
the public to Oprah Winfrey) to creating VIBE magazine. For all
his accomplishments, Jones never mentioned that he was on the eve
of receiving a tribute and award at the Kennedy Center Honors.
As we left the
JCC, we passed through a long line of audience members now waiting
for their chance to get their book autographed, and to say hello
to the charming Q for themselves. They were in for a long wait.
But they would be amply rewarded.
UP: An interview with Robbie Robertson, lead guitarist of The
Band and producer of The Last Waltz, the film of the band's 1976
farewell concert, which is being remembered by way of a special
edition DVD and four-CD box set. We'll mix it up at the South By
Southwest (SXSW) conference in Austin, Texas, in mid-March. Robertson,
by the way, can be seen in the Gap commercial with various artists
singing "Give a Little Bit"....Before that, I get to co-anchor
the telecast of the San Francisco Chinese New Year Parade for the
sixth year on KTVU (February 23, repeated the next day on both KTVU
and KICU). For the second year, Julie Haener of Fox 2 News is alongside,
giving the broadcast some actual professionalism. And you can bet
I'll be thinking of Willie Kee, the pioneer KTVU camera operator,
Victor Wong, the writer and character actor, and other losses we
witnessed last year. As Time's person of the year put it, too many
My book about the history of Top 40 radio, The Hits Just Keep On
Coming, is out in paperback, including a CD of classic DJ airchecks.
If you love either radio or me, check it out....If you love women
singers the way I do, hunt down Telegraph, a CD from Laura Allan,
a singer-songwriter whose recordings have scored well in Japan and
China, as well as domestically. It may be because Allan loves Asian
instruments, and plays the Chinese string instrument, jin (or qin),
along with flute, kalimba, and dulcimer, on the title tune. Or it
may be because her voice is stunning; a blend of Joni Mitchell,
Sarah MacLachlan, Rickie Lee Jones, and that other underrated vocalist,
Valerie Carter. You can dig her for yourself by grabbing one of
her disks at CDstreet.com¡¦Congratulations to hip-hop mixmasters
Gorillaz, featuring San Francisco's Dan "The Automator" Nakamura,
who got a Grammy nomination (for rap performance by a duo or group).
Go get 'em!