Several friends of Enrico joined me and several Warner Brothers’ execs when we took award-winning Italian director Nanni Moretti to the Kingyo Show Club in Roppongi during his visit here to promote the film “The Son’s Room.”
Lots of friends leaving Japan to retire, for new jobs and, for some, “a new life.” These include Swiss businessman Franz Stark. After 25 years here, he’s returning to Switzerland, and we wish him (and all the others) the best.
Tokyo-based Filipina singer Marlene Lim is working a lot, and l recently ran into her at Narita on her way to Hong Kong for a three-day gig.
Got a phone call recently from former Tokyoite James With. James, an actor and film producer (he has a studio in Phuket, Thailand), was in Shanghai working on a film called “Flatlands” with Dennis Hopper.
I got to know the thrash metal band Anthrax members John Bush and Scott Ian when they partied at the Lex a few times. Nice guys in spite of the public image they display. Now, after 20 years, they’re thinking about changing the band’s name which “used to sound metal but now sounds scary.” Quoting Jim Muller in his Hot Sheet column in Entertainment Magazine, 19-year-old pop idol Brittney Spears could not decide whether to title her latest album “Me Me Me” or “Boobs, I Did Them Again.”
I thought veteran English actor Richard Harris was great as Albus Dumbledore in “Harry Potter.” I also thought he was great as King Arthur in the Broadway musical “Camelot” which l saw in New York City many years ago. I had coffee with Richard after the show, and he said he had high hopes of bringing the production to Japan.
“Ship ahoy.” And what a magnificent ship it is. I’m talking about the Chilean training ship Esmeralda, docked at Tokyo’s Harumi Port for four days during its around-the-world training cruise. One evening the commanding officer of the ship, along with Chilean Ambassador Demetria Infante and his wife Angela, hosted a glittering reception for several hundred guests. The four-mast ship was beautifully illuminated with strings of lights, its wooden floors and brass fixtures had been polished to perfection. Young naval cadets in white dress uniforms kept busy helping guests on the ship, showing people around and later, dancing to the Latin beat of the ship’s orchestra. They were really good, and Prince and Princess Takamado love to dance and are good as well. The prince and princess were special guests, and it was impressive to see them “piped aboard.” The food, the mood, the music and the people made it a night to remember. Many of the cadets hung out at the Lexington every night they were in Tokyo, and they were a nice, well-behaved group of young men. Ambassador Infante tells me the Esmeralda will be back to Japan in 2002. That’s something to look forward to.
It was a beautiful evening for the reception hosted by Spanish Ambassador Juan Lena and his wife Carmen to celebrate their country’s National Day. The Lenas are a popular couple, and 30 minutes into the party, it was wall-to-wall people in the residence, a butt-bumping crowd on the patio and pretty crowded in the garden as well.
As I came in, Louis Vigden and his wife Kimiko were on their way out. “It’s her birthday, and we’re going out to celebrate with friends,” Louis told me. “Don’t ask,” she said. The Spanish food served in the residence, on the patio and in the lantern-illuminated garden was excellent, and it was a special in every way. Perfect for the evening occasion.
Pakistani Ambassador Touqir Pakistan’s Hussain and visiting Economic Minister of Shaukat Finance Aziz and hosted Affairs a reception at the Hussain residence. The relaxed evening gave the visiting minister the opportunity to meet business leaders, politicians, bankers on a personal level. It was a real privilege talking with the visiting minister, Ambassador Hussain and former Japanese Prime Minister Tsutomu Hata about the Afghanistan situation and future prospects for that part of the world. When “the war” is over, I really hope the U.S. and its allies will help the Afghan people recover and make their lives better.
There was a large turnout for the mid-day reception hosted by Czech Republic Ambassador Karel Zebrakovsky and his wife Marcela on the occasion of their country’s National Day. Marcel recently arrived in Japan, and she’s a very energetic and outgoing lady who, I’m sure along with the ambassador, will be very popular in Tokyo. Once guests congratulated the hosting couple, they moved down the stairway to the huge reception room for a buffet of the Czech specialties. The weather was beautiful and many people moved out onto the patio for more food. Czech beer and Czech wines.
I would like say a few personal comments about the Dec. 11 orphan’s Christmas party at Hilton Tokyo. My thanks to so many who donated so much. Santa Claus (Paraguayan Ambassador Miguel Solanos Lopez) handed out Kit Kats and Crunch bars from Nestles, Konishiki gave out T-shirts donated by Gene Pelc and also brought Konishiki dolls for each child.
Charo Ireton kept busy making sure everyone received some “Cats and Dogs” (a Warner Brothers’ film) stationery, Warner cartoon character ballpoint pens and some “Harry Potter” key chains. Princess Takamado presented each of the children with a History Channel canvas book bag. Our thanks to Banjiro Uemura of Tokokushinsha and History Channel G.M. Asia Ireton for this.
Big-hearted Steve Haynes brought candy canes for all, and a half-dozen Guardian Angels came to help. Dutch clown Rene Bosman entertained with his antics, and Pylon Club owner Phil Miller was really helpful. Dancer Merissa (Mrs. Santa Claus) also helped a great deal.
ln addition to the many ambassadors’ wives, several ambassadors were there. Iceland Ambassador Ingimundur Sigfusson, Venezuelan Ambassador Carlos Bivero and Norwegian Ambassador Odd Fosseidbraten went all-out to make sure the children were having a good time. Guatemalan Ambassador Antonio R. Castellanos represented his wife Vera who was out of Japan. It was also nice having the Fosseidbratens’ personable 14- year-old son Alexander lending a hand.
If I could, I’d like to give CNN’s Ultimate Service Award to the department heads, chefs, waiters and waitresses at Hilton Tokyo. They went all-out to make sure the party was a success. Thanks. I would also like to thank Jane Scolinos, Ron and Maria Anderson, Grace Saito and Chichan Plessner for help on another of my projects. The yen they contributed will buy four TVs and four CVD/DVD players for four families in a rural area of the Philippines–-Pagsanjan.
I’m insanely jealous of Fred Harris. Not really, but what I wouldn’t give to be able to paint like that. Since I can’t, I’m glad he can. It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.
Fred recently opened an exhibition of his latest work in the Genkan Gallery at the Tokyo American Club and, I tell you, the paintings of scenery and life in Vietnam he did during several visits to that country really make one want to go there.
United Airlines Vice President Pacific North Mark Schwab was there with his father Philip, visiting from Texas. When I met him, I called over another Texan, Corky Alexander, and they really got along well.
It was also nice seeing one of Japan’s top artists, Toko Shinoda, who took time out of her busy schedule to see the work of “one of my best friends.” In addition to his painting, Fred is President of the Tokyo American Club and heads The Design Studio, one of Japan’s top architectural interior design companies.
Still on the art scene, Canadian Minister Paul Meyer was host at a reception at his embassy to make the opening of a retrospective exhibition by Canadian sculptor Claude Descoteaux. I couldn’t stay, but the people with whom I talked later felt Claude is a very talented and dynamic sculptor. I agree.
It’s not easy, but I wish publishers of leading guide books about Japan, such as Fodor and Frommer, would make last-minute checks before they go into printing. Fodor 2000 lists Gas Panic in Roppongi as a “dance club.” It is not, and it never was. In fact, the club manager spent a week in jail for letting customers dance there. Clubs need a special license for dancing, and the police do, from time to time, enforce this law. The book also listed Showboat in Hilton Tokyo as a “show revue club.” Showboat closed two years ago. With taxi rates here as high as they are, I would hate to read about a place in a book, take a cab there, and find out it’s been closed for years.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender