Congratulations to actor and friend Hiroyuki Sanada who recently received an honorary MBE (Member of the British Empire) at the British Embassy in Tokyo. Hiroyuki played the fool in an English-language production of “King Lear” with members of the Royal Shakespeare Co. British Ambassador Sir S.J. Gomersall presented the award. I got to know Hiroyuki when he was playing Huckleberry Finn in the Japanese version of the Broadway musical “Big River.” My friend, the late, great Ron Richardson, came to Japan, learned Japanese and recreated the role for which he had won awards in “Big River” on Broadway. Ron and Hiroyuki really worked well together. Now Hiroyuki is off on another international project. He has one of the lead Japanese roles in Warner Brothers’ “The Last Samurai” which stars Tom Cruise and shoots on location in Japan about a week, before going to New Zealand to complete fuming.
Walai Sukrtanawong and Shoji Miura who were married on Sunday, Sept. 15. Thai Ambassador Kasit Piromya and his wife Chintana hosted a lunch after the wedding. The ceremony took place at the Piromyas’ beautiful residence.
World-renown fashion designer Jun Ashida and his designing daughter Tae on the feature story written about them by Suzy Menkes in the International Herald Tribune on Aug. 20.
I really enjoyed a Warner Brothers dinner at Inakaya for director Simon Wells and his wife Wendy. Simon, the great-grandson of the famous British author H.G. Wells, was here to promote the Warner Brothers film adaptation of his great-grandfather’s classic, “The Time Machine.” In addition to a press conference, TV appearances and interviews, he and Wendy were special guests at a premiere screening at the Budokan.
Still on the film scene, sorry I missed producer Lawrence (Larry) Bender when he stopped by the Lex to say hello. I first met Larry (producer of “Pulp Fiction”) when he was here with Richard Rodriquez to promote the film, “Desperado.” He’s doing very well.
I was browsing through magazines at the book shop on the seventh floor of Tower Records in Shibuya, when former 20th Century Fox boss for Japan Geoffrey Boissiere called me from Paris. It was surprising my cheap little Do-Co-Mo even received the call. Anyway, Geoff works with Revolution Studios and called to tell me actor Vin Diesel was coming to Japan for TohoTowa to promote the action picture “XXX” (Triple X) and asked if I would help the new star. The write-up on Vin in Entertainment sort-of left me with the impression the man had a super ego, but I’m happy to report that wasn’t the case at all-at least during his promo tour here. Vin, who did security work at a New York club for eight years, spent some time at the Lex. He was fun, friendly and outgoing and made a lot of new friends. I also felt he did a great job at his one-man press conference at the Park Hyatt.
Just read where pop singer Cyndi Lauper fell off the stage during one of her concerts in the States. That seems to be a habit of hers, as she did the same thing here in Tokyo about five years ago. Well, the show must go on and Cyndi, a real trooper, did the next two performances in a wheelchair, and her manager asked me if I might be able to get CNN to cover “the story.” CNN’s sort-of-uptight Andrea Koppel showed no interest whatsoever.
Our French friends, Ambassador Maurice Gourdault-Montagne and his super-chic wife Saline, hosted a huge and colorful reception at their spacious home and garden to celebrate La Pete Nationale (Bastille Day). The guest list numbered more than 1,000, so Maurice and Soline actually hosted a wave of parties that day. France, as you know, is famous for fashion and food, and there was an abundance of both at the reception. The embassy’s chief chef, Herve Guillaume, and his staff did a masterful job of providing the best French cuisine to the huge (and apparently hungry) crowd. It was a red, white and blue (French-style) celebration. Word has it Maurice and Saline will be leaving in the not-too-distant future. They’ve done a marvelous job for France here, and rumors are Maurice will receive a well-deserved promotion. More on this later.
Gabonese Ambassador Jean Christian Obame and his staff, with the support of JETRO, organized an Economic and Investment Seminar, and Deputy Prime Minister Emmanuel Ondo-Methogo flew to Japan with a group of key ministers (economic department) and top businessmen to meet with their Japanese counterparts. During their stay, the Deputy Prime Minister and Ambassador Obame hosted a reception and Gabonese cultural evening at the Akasaka Prince Hotel. Guests were interesting and the buffet excellent, but the highlight of the evening was performances by two of Gabon’s top singers, Hilarion Nguema and Stephanie Afene, and the colorful Tandima Dance Group.
On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Japan and Slovenia, the hard-working and personable Charge d’ Affaires Bernard Srajner and his wife Doris Fida were hosts at a reception at the Imperial Hotel. It was an elegant event with a good turnout. Unfortunately, there were several other important happenings around town that evening and, like many of the guests, I could not stay nearly as long as I would have liked. Our sincerest congratulations to our Slovenian friends on this very special occasion.
At the New Otani, Djibouti Ambassador Rachad Farah and his wife Tazuko Hala hosted a glittering reception to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Djibouti’s Independence. Rachad and Tazuko Hala are a very active and popular couple, and the affair was wall-to-wall people. Guests included top Japanese government officials, diplomats and businessmen and leaders in the Japanese and foreign social worlds. I had the privilege of visiting Djibouti in 1992 (where does the time go?) and wrote a cover story on my trip for the June 19, 1992, issue of the Weekender. Djibouti is an interesting and colorful blend of the cultures of east Africa, the Arab peninsula and the Indian sub-continent.
Sorry I had to miss the reception given by Mexican Ambassador Carlos A. De Icaza Gonzalez and his wife Luisa at the Hotel Meriden Grand Pacific to open Fiesta Mexicana 2002 at Odaiba. That same evening, I was busy setting up a last-night-inTokyo party for the officers, midshipmen and crew of Mexico’s magnificent training sail ship, the Cuauhtemoc. That turned out to be a great all-nighter.
Adrian Hidaka, a Japanese Irish student who attends the University of Notre Dame and plays on the school’s tennis team, told me an interesting story. Tennis legend John McEnroe visited Notre Dame to give a seminar for the tennis team. The first thing he did was ask each of the team members where they were from. When Adrian told him Tokyo, McEnroe said, “That’s great. Do you hang out at the Lexington?” The tennis superstar always drops by the club when he’s in town. You can’t buy publicity like that.
As you know the Lex, still brings in celebs from all walks of life, and visitors the last few months have included stars Vin Diesel and Joaquin Phoenix, here to promote “Signs.” What a fun guy. From the music scene, there have been Gwen Stefani (love that lady), with No Doubt, P.O.D., Libertine, Guns N’ Roses, The Disturbed, 13 Cats (original members of the Stray Cats), John Oates (just released his first single), the Lost Prophets and, yes, the Toilet Boys. The beat goes on. Oates and I were talking outside in front of the club when I mentioned I had just sent a group of Sony Entertainment people to the club Private Eyes. “Hey, that’s my song,” John exclaimed. “Private Eyes,” as you probably know, was one of the biggest hits for (Daryl) Hall and Oates.
I invited our new friends from Gabon to the Lex to relax and enjoy. In addition to really getting down to the latest disco sounds, they brought a CD of Gabon music and asked if I’d like them to do a Gabonese dance. Needless to say, I thought that would be great, and it was. The energetic young dancers, as the saying goes, brought down the house. They enjoyed performing so much to the appreciative crowd and came back the following night for the Lex’s 22nd anniversary party and did the same thing. Those outgoing young Gabonese made a lot of friends at the club for themselves and their country.
Roppongi, as many of you know, is always in a state of change. Currently the Don Q discount store is going into “Stage 2” with a new annex and a new TGIF (Thank God It’s Friday) is to open soon where the short-lived Craighton Cafe stood on Roppongi’s main drag. I just hope they come close to the menu and ambiance of the TGIF at Robinson Mall in Manila where I always have at least one meal when I’m in the Philippines.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender