is proud to present the adventures of Ben
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.
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.
“Just see this
film,” he implored. “That is your vote.”
I saw it, and
am happy to report that BLT deserves the grass-roots PR blitz.
It also deserves the rave reviews it’s piled up since its showings
last year at various film festivals, including Sundance. With its
mid-April release, the raves have become a mini-avalanche. And I
am happy to say that the theater was packed at the 5:30 p.m. showing
Dianne and I attended, and that a long line awaited the next screening.
pleased for Parry, who first wrote me about three years ago, saying
he was up for a role, portraying me in Almost Famous, and
could he get some tips on how I spoke. We had several pleasant exchanges,
and, even after he (and a couple hundred others) lost the part to
Terry Chen, he kept me apprised of his career. It was mostly small
parts, until Better Luck Tomorrow.
he plays a guy named Ben, a high school brainiac who does all the
right things -- scoring excellent grades, making the basketball
team, joining in extracurricular and community activities -- and
allows himself to drift into all the wrong things, too: money-making
scams, heists, drug sales, and, ultimately, worse. It’s true, as
a few critics have said, that Ben Manibag and his gang turn Asian
American stereotypes not only on their heads, but are also as amoral
and debased as they are driven to excellence and success. It’s a
conflict with which many Americans are saddled.
I think it’s
fine that these kids, model minorities on the surface, show and
even flaunt their dark sides. Haven’t we had enough of the stereotypes?
Isn’t there room for at least one film that takes those clichés
and messes them up? Especially when it’s done as skillfully and
entertainingly as director Justin Lin, his co-writers, and his cast
and crew do here?
With what he’s
accomplished on a reported $250,000 budget, much of it acquired
with a fistful of credit cards, Lin is set for the future. I’m hoping
the same holds true for other Asian American filmmakers and actors.
my wife, thought Parry was excellent -- “but he wouldn’t have been
a good Ben Fong-Torres.” I agree. Terry looked and sounded closer
to me. But Parry made a great Ben Manibag, and his future looks
to be full of better luck. Just keep those e-mails coming…
My alma mater,
San Francisco State University, has seen fit to induct me into its
Alumni Hall of Fame. Or, as it should be called in my case, the
Hall of Almost Fame … I’m honored, and a little flabbergasted. After
all, I basically got booted off campus back in ’67 or ’68, when
I was editing the school paper when it was discovered that I had
not officially registered for classes that semester. If, after that
scandal, I can be inducted, there’s gotta be hope for Pete Rose
… Had dim sum the other afternoon with quite a gang, including Amy
Tan, Lizzie Spender (a writer and the wife of Barry Humphries, better
known as Dame Edna), and conductor George Daugherty (he’s part of
the creative team behind Sagwa, the children’s show on PBS based
on one of Amy’s books). Amy, you’ll be happy to know, is wrapping
up a collection of her shorter pieces, and then diving into her
next novel … I got an e-mail the other day from a young man in Taiwan,
asking how I felt about the producers of Almost Famous turning me
into a Caucasian and having a white actor play me. What? Terry Chen
is white? That’ll be news to him—and his parents. A few days later,
the correspondent admitted that he’d seen only the first part of
the film, and thought Philip Seymour Hoffman was portraying me,
and not the legendary rock critic Lester Bangs. I have heard rumors,
however, that Hoffman is actually Chinese ...
A Good Boy
think it’s silly when people grieve over the death of a pet as if
it were a human being. Most of us know better, especially those
of us who’ve been pet owners. Dianne and I just lost Buster, and,
just as it was in the early Eighties, when Puppy, our Pekingese
poodle, died, we were almost unable to speak about it for several
days, especially to family and friends. Unlike most family and friends,
a pet dog is with you 24/7, requires your constant attention, is
focused on you (even if it’s for selfish reasons).
In return, you
get companionship and devotion. Buster, a long-haired Shih-Tzu,
didn’t look like a “Buster” when we gave him that name 15 years
ago, but he came to earn it. He was very much his own dog. But he
was also our little boy. At 15 pounds, he was easy to carry, which
added to the feeling I’d have of being with a baby -- one that would
never grow. Near the end, we knew his time was about up, but there’s
no way to prepare for the loss. Just as there’s no way not to grieve,
to shed tears, to be distracted at all hours by thoughts and memories.
As the song says, thanks for the memories. Thanks, Buster. Good