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Ben Fong-Torres
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

Taking a Q from Quincy Jones: It's His Party
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 the movie "Almost Famous," the Oscar and Golden Globe-winning film by Cameron Crowe.

Ben and Q.

It 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.

The session 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.

As Kimberlye 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.

NEXT 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 to bear¡¦

RANDOM NOTES: 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!

 

 

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


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