aha - Morten at Lex Tokyo

Bill Hersey’s Partyline, July 1986

We’re about to head into September which means the return from holidays for many, the end of school vacations for many more and cooler weather — but usually not until the latter part of the month — for all of us. On the U.S. calendar, Mon­day the 1st is Labor Day and that means a long weekend for Americans. Here in Japan there are two National Holi­days, the first is Monday the 15th, Respect for the Aged Day or Keiro no Hi, and that means a long weekend for many of our Japanese friends. The second is Tuesday the 23rd, Shubun no Hi or Au­tumn Equinox. Many of the Japanese I know will be taking four or five days off at that time. If you’re traveling over either of the holidays, book your flights and hotels ahead. Let’s have a look at the August highlights.

Baryshnikov & Company in Tokyo

I was able to get together with Mikhail Baryshnikov and some of the dancers here with him for a series of sold-out performances. The group included many of the world’s top ballet dancers. Leslie Browne (who I had the opportunity to show around Tokyo several years back when she was here to promote the film “The Turning Point”) was with “Misha’s” company and we talked about some of the funny experiences she had during her first trip.

Baryshnikov has never been much of a friend to the press and it was quite obvious he wasn’t really comfortable at his press conference here. As sometimes happens, the interpreters — who seem more afraid to offend the star than to make a mistake — changed the questions completely or softened them somewhat when translating. When one journalist asked Misha how he felt about the English slogan printed on one of the sponsor’s (Alpha Cubic) pamphlet which read “Nijinsky, Nureyev, then Baryshnikov inherited legitism of beauty,” he told her he hadn’t seen it.

I did talk with Mikhail a few times during his visit and certainly feel he’s one of the most talented and versatile dancers in the world. The highlight for me of his company’s visit, however, was meeting Elaine Kudo, a beautiful half-Japanese, half-American dancer whose performance with Mikhail in the Sinatra Suite really excels. The Japan tour was a sort of comeback for Elaine as she hasn’t danced for a year since she had a baby.

One of the world’s great ballet dancers Mikhail Baryshnikov greets HIII Prince Takamado at the Capitol Tokyu Hotel with Haruo Shikanai, President of Fuji TV, in the center. Mrs. Shikanai is at left. At left: “Misha” Baryshnikov with ballerina Leslie Browne; they appeared together in the film “The Turning Point.” Below: At the reception honoring the troupe: Mitsugi Nakajim a, Capitol Tokyu Hotel General Manager; U.S. Ambassador to Japan Mike Mansfield; his daughter Anne Marris, visiting from London, and Karl Hoermann, the hotel’s executive chef.

Jim Henson, Kermit, the Henson kids and chums visit Tokyo

Super talent, super creative Jim Henson of Muppets fame, here to open his exhibition at Ginza Seibu. I had the opportunity to spend some time with Muppetcreator Jim Henson while he was here, and can’t tell you what a really interesting man he is. My timing was right and the first day we got together he was with his children John and Cheryl and 15-year-old actress Jennifer Connelly and her mother Eileen. Jennifer’s in the Columbia film “Labyrinth” for which Jim created many of the him another day before he left for Indonesia where he was going to do a TV show, and will be talking more about what Jim and his Japanese partner have hopes and plans for in Japan in the next column.

I also enjoyed the time I was able to spend with German producer-director Wolf Vollmar. Wolf was back again to continue negotiations with poten’ of Hans Helimut Kirst’s bestselling book, “The Officer Factory.” Wolf, headquartered in Munich, said the film will be shot on location in Austria early next year.

Aug. 1 was especially busy with a reception and premiere showing of the Broadway musical “42nd Street” at NHK Hall; a reception at Ginza Seibu for Jim Henson, the man behind the Muppets and thousands of other creations and critters, and the Antonio Carlos Jobim dinner show at the Capitol Tokyu Hotel.

 Back in Tokyo, I was lucky again to be able to spend some time with the creator of some of the world’s best known and most lovable critters-including Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and those great little guys you can see on the program “Frag­gle Rock” NHK has been running here – Jim Henson. Jim feels his reception here this time has really been posi­tive and is looking forward to doing more and more in Japan.

A marvelous thank you letter from Muppet creator Jim Henson and a book titled “Miss Piggy’s Treasury of Art Masterpieces” that features a bevy of Jim’s critters doing their thing standing in for the world’s best-known paintings.

Above, left: Master puppeteer Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy and countless other world-class wonders in in the center above, surrounded by friends, family and admirers.From left: promoter Yoji Yamamoto, Jim’s son John, his daughter Cheryl, the Master Puppeteer himself, young actress Jennifer  Connelly (she starred in Henson’s news smash

French Embassy celebrate Bastille Day

July 14, French Am­bassador and Mme. Gilbert Perol were hosts at a huge reception at their residence on the occasion of France’s nation­al celebration, Bastille Day. From the looks of the long line waiting to congratulate the Perols when we arrived — and still there an hour or so later when we were leaving — the host and hostess must have shaken thousands of hands that day. While in line to congratulate the Perols, I talked with Air. France’s General Manager for Japan, Jean-Claude Baumgar­ten who will be transferring to New York City soon. More on this after the Baumgartens’ sayonara parties.

Japan’s popular Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tsutomu Hatta was in black tie and just leaving for another party when we spoke. He, as you can see, did return to the garden and obligingly posed for a photo with some of his diplomatic and business col­leagues. I really enjoyed meet­ing another popular politician, Shinichiro Shimojo from Naga­no-ken.

I envy his ability to switch from English to Japa­nese to French, fluent in all. NHK’s well-known newscast­er Hisanori Isomura was talk­ing with Japanese artist Toshi­mitsu Imai; rumor has it that Isomura-san may someday be­come president of NHK.  whose work sells very well in France — told me he’ll be staging an exhibition in San Francisco next September.

There were so many interest­ing people at the French Em­bassy, I wish I’ could have stayed on, but I also wanted to get to Australian Ambassador Sir Neil and Lady (Geraldine) Curries’ sayonara (which we covered last week), Too bad they were being held the same day but, as I said, this is a busy town in a busy season

Iraqi Celebrations at New Otani

On July 17 Iraqi Ambassador Mohammed Amin Al-Taff was host at a huge reception at the Hotel New Otani. The occasion was to celebrate the 18th Anniversary of the July Revolution. At the same time, the Ambassador bade sayonara to the many, many friends he made during his tour of duty here. He’s back in Iraq now spending some holidays with his family before going to Beijing to serve as his country’s Ambassador to China. U.S. Ambassador Mike Mansfield, acting dean of the Diplomatic Corps, on behalf of his colleagues made a meaningful and moving sayonara speech and presented Ambassador Al-Jaff with a gift from the corps. Ambassador Al-Jaff’s speech thanking his many friends and colleagues for making his tour of duty here successful and pleasant was excellent. The more than 500 guests there that evening included diplomats, Japanese government officials, business leaders from both the foreign and Japanese communities and personalities from the arts and entertainment world. I was happy to meet newly arrived Romanian Ambassador Constantin Vlad, and we wish him and his family a long, happy and successful tour of duty here

Egypt National Day Celebration

Our Egyptian friends celebrated their National Day on July 23. For the occasion Ambassador M. Samy Sabet hosted a reception at his residence. I was in the Philippines at the time, but one of my business associates, Hans Shiga, did attend and helped with the photos in this week’s column. Egypt, as you know if you follow this column, is one on my all-time favorite countries and the Egyptians, one of my all-time favorite people. Our congratulations on that very special day.

The Japanese, by the way, are taking more and more interest in Egypt and their will be a big cultural exchange later this year between Japan and that country. We’ll give you details on that as it develops. I’d also like to express my thanks to Esmat Gammal for his support and help over the years and wish him the best in his new business, Egypt Travel. No one knows his country better than he does.


Pop heart-throb Morten Harket of a-ha—the popular rock group so large here joined a few of his Japanese fans in a boogie at the Lex Tokyo.

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