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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

Sheryl Crow: All She Wants To Do is Have Some Lunch
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.

Just about once a day, I roll my eyes as someone asks about Almost Famous. It's been almost two years since that movie came out, but the curiosity about my being a character in the film rolls on. Whether it's by e-mail or in person; whether it's friends I run into at social gatherings or complete strangers, it never fails: "So, what'd you think? Did you like it? What was it like being in the movie?" My eyes roll and I unreel my stock answer: Loved the movie; it perfectly caught what it was like falling in love with rock and roll in the early Seventies. As for my character and Rolling Stone, and how we treated the kid writer -- that's Hollywood. I was a plot device, and I'm happy to have been of service.

So, one of the most recent inquisitors was none other than Sheryl Crow. We'd just met, for an interview for Parade magazine, and, since we were, uh, almost famished, decided to grab lunch. As we settled into a banquette at the Grand Café in downtown San Francisco, and as I set up my recording equipment, she popped the question. I could've slapped her, but I didn't. She'd also said that she used to read my work in Rolling Stone. "When I was a kid, I wanted to be like the people that I read about."

And when I pulled out a copy of Not Fade Away, my compilation of old articles, to give her, she shrieked: "Oh my god! We were just talking about this the other day. Will you sign it for me?"

So I lost a book sale, but I gained a friend. At least for an hour or so.

Over a scrumptious pesto pasta with rock shrimp (what other kind of shrimp would you expect Sheryl Crow to order?), she talked freely and winningly about how a girl from a tiny town in Missouri, who was once a schoolteacher engaged to a religious young man, became a rock star.

For that story, you'll have to check your Sunday paperweight.

Oh, stop your whining. Here -- I'll give you a sneak peek. What subject shall we explore? How about…say, how hot she looks, at age 40, and how she's dealt with the issue of her sex appeal while trying to build a career as a serious artist?

"It's more fun for me now," she said. "It used to feel like a nuisance, 'cause I always felt it would rob me of my ability to be credible." It's gotten to be so much fun that Sheryl posed, in brief briefs and other enticing bits of clothing, for Stuff magazine.

"I loved the photos," she said. "They were really gymnastic looking. I enjoyed it; I loved the photographer, I liked the playfulness of it, even though rock 'n' roll, for me, is based on sexual energy, not overt sexualness. But it was fun!"

For more, watch for Parade.

FROM RAVES TO RANTS

Last time out, I broke out in a mini-screed about people who refer to September 11th as "Nine-one-one," reducing that event to another shortcut nickname. I'd heard someone saying "9-1-1" on CNBC. The other day, I heard it from another person on the air: Paul Harvey. The outright legendary newscaster-commentator on ABC Radio was doing it. Aargh. But that's only one of several things that are bugging me on this unusually warm summer day in San Francisco.

Viruses are a part of computing life. We're constantly warned about not opening e-mail containing attachments unless you're pretty certain you know who's sent it. (Even then, you can't be sure, since hackers are robbing people's e-mail addresses and sending out infected attachments to everyone on their victims' address books.)

So why do so many people send out e-mails, often with attachments, without identifying themselves, and with no explanatory message? When, on top of that, their e-mail address doesn't offer a clue to their identity, you should trash it. I get letters from people who, for all their good intentions, leave me stunned by their lack of manners. No greeting - or a misspelled name. A quick comment, perhaps a request for information or an opinion. A call for my opinion, or help, or advice. And out. No thanks, no signature, no idea where they're writing from.

What's going on? Besides having no patience or use for common courtesy, people are leaving their kids in their cars or out in the front yards, subjecting them to all sorts of danger. They are racing to get onto television to act stupid or to humiliate one another. They are running red lights and driving as if they were in a video game. People are killing, kidnapping, raping, abusing, lying and thieving as never before. They are, in short, behaving badly and, invariably, in denial.

Shortly after last September 11, there was all this talk about how the world had changed; how people were becoming kinder to one another. That lasted for, pardon the expression, a New York minute.

Now, as we approach the anniversary of the terrorist attacks, this country will fall silent, respectful, and thoughtful. We will once again feel unified, united in memories of the past and wariness about what lies ahead. We will be a kinder, gentler nation, albeit one with resolve.

For another minute, anyway.

Whether we gather for the commemoration, at events like AURA (Asians United to Raise Awareness)'s fundraiser at the Manhattan Center in New York (www.aurafund.org for info), or observe the anniversary with a silent prayer - whatever we do, let's try and turn that minute into a moment, a moment that lasts a lifetime.

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


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