I just read Andrew Morton’s book titled Madonna. He’s the man who wrote the best sellers on Princess Diana and Monica Lewinsky. I was quite surprised at the number of people I know who have played an important part in Madonna’s life, including Tim Rice who wrote the lyrics for “Evita” and Alan Parker who directed the film version of the musical.
I got to know Rosanna Arquette, her co-star in “Desperately Seeking Susan,” and Willem Defoe, her co-star in “Body of Evidence,” when they were in town for the Tokyo International Film Festivals. Another time I spent two evenings showing around Roppongi one of her long time lovers, Jellybean Benitez (deejay, composer, producer). I also met her “lesbian lover,” stand-up comedienne Sandra Bernhard, in New York City. Now, there’s a character.
I first met Madonna about 20 years ago when she came to Tokyo to promote her CD for Warner Pioneer. My late and great friend, Tokugen Yamamoto, was president of the record company at that time and, as always with the visiting artists, they booked a heavy schedule of interviews, TV appearances and the like for Madonna. In her initial meeting with Tokugen and his staff, she read through the schedule, looked up and said, “I’ll do half.” Needless to say, the music company was not happy and had to do a lot of fast rearranging and apologizing. Madonna, as usual, knew and got what she wanted.
She dropped by the Lexington one evening on a weekday when it was not all that busy, so she got on the dance floor and danced by herself. I made a few phone calls and was able to get a few interesting people to come by. These included actor Mayo Kawasaki and Ken Kishida, the nephew of designer Kansai Yamamoto. Mayo’s a tall, good-looking guy who speaks English and often stars in Japanese versions of Broadway shows. Ken was a real groupie who had showered people such as Janet Jackson with Kansai creations. I learned later he had ripped off most of these from the Kansai warehouse without his uncle knowing what was going on. Mayo had an early rehearsal the next morning, so could not accept Madonna’s invitation to her hotel room. He’s got to be one of the few who ever turned her down. Ken did make it. I don’t know what happened but saw Madonna in a Kansai sweater a few days later. Ken, by the way, went on to marry pop singer Anri and, from what I heard, he took her for a considerable amount of money during their short-lived marriage, and he also disappeared from the fashion, social and showbiz scenes. Rumors had it some bad guys were looking for him to pay off some long overdue debts.
According to Morton’s book, Madonna, even with her talent and wealth, has had some big problems in her life. She has brought a lot of good entertainment to people all over the world, and I hope she stays happy in her marriage to film director Guy Ritchey. The book Madonna is now in paperback, so check it out. I’m sure you will enjoy it.
I first got to know native American filmmaker Chris Eyre when he was here to promote his 1998 film, “Smoke Signals,” at the Tokyo Film Festival. The 33-yearold Cheyenne-Arapaho has just finished his latest film, “Skins,” and is taking it on the road via an air conditioned, JOO-seat mobile cinema vehicle. Eyre will be showing his film (with popcorn) free of charge on Indian reservations across the U.S. Good going, Chris. Hope I have the opportunity to see “Skins” myself before too long.
Over at the Shadan Hojin Tokyo American Club, President Fred Harris and the Board of Governors hosted the annual celebration on the occasion of the 226th Independence Day of the United States of America and the founding of TAC.
Thanks to Fred, the board and the celebration organizing committee, I was invited to the VIP room where I had the opportunity to chat with, and take photos of, dignitaries, including Prince and Princess Hitachi, U.S. Ambassador Howard Baker Jr. and his wife Nancy, and Grand Master of Ceremonies, Imperial Household, Yoshio Karita, and his wife Yoshiko.
It was also nice chatting with members of the TAC Board of Governors and top U.S. military officers stationed in Japan. When one of the ladies tied a corsage to Princess Hitachi’s wrist, I said, “You look like you’re going to the prom.” After I explained the American high school custom, she laughed and said, “That would have been a long time ago.” She is really a nice lady.
After about 30 minutes guests moved to the ballroom for the program. There were welcome remarks by the emcee, Dr. Timothy Pierce, a welcome speech by Fred Harris, a toast and greeting by Ambassador Baker and a toast by Prince Hitachi. This was followed by the traditional cake-cutting ceremony. and drill performance by the Silver Wings Precision Drill Team and Yokota Air Force Base Honor Guard were, to say the least, inspiring. Music, including “America the Beautiful,” the Japanese national anthem “Kimi Ga Yo” and “The Star Spangled Banner,” was provided by the Tokyo Metropolitan Fire Department Band. As Lee Greenwood’s country-western song goes, I, like all the U.S. citizens there, am “Proud to Be an American.”
On the occasion of the National Day of the Republic of Iceland, Ambassador Ingimundur Sigfusson and his wife Valgedur Valsdottir hosted a well-attended mid-day reception at their Takanawa residence. The hosting couple have made many friends and become very popular during their relatively short time here. If you know them, it is easy to see why. I actually got to know them well when they showed up at the Hilton Tokyo to help with my orphans party last December. They loved the kids-and the kids really loved them. Guests at the reception included Japanese politicians, diplomats, business leaders and familiar faces from the fashion and art worlds. It was a pleasant and relaxed reception, perfect for the occasion. Our congratulations. I hope to see lngimundur and Valgedur at the orphans party this Christmas.
Roland Voss, President-Europe, Africa and Middle East of the fast-growing Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, was back in Tokyo recently and, during his busy stay, he joined Starwood’s man in-Japan Akio Hirao to host a European Culinary Extravaganza at the Westin Tokyo. I got there a bit late and regrettably missed what Sandi Mori told me was an exciting and dynamic visual presentation of Starwood’s many hotels and resorts. Italy was well represented by Italian Chamber of Commerce President Romano Mazzucco, Alitalia’s Area Managing Director Asia Pacific Livio Rotta Dotto Loria and his son Johannes visiting from school in Switzerland, and the airline’s Commercial Manager Asia-Pacific Fabio Fantini. The food at the Starwood happening was excellent. I especially enjoyed two of my favorites, magi (eel) and risotto. Looking through the Starwood promo kit, I was amazed to see how many great properties they have all over the world, and that number is growing all the time.
During the World Cup Soccer, a group of very important people from travel and tourism organizations in Ecuador visited Japan. After the seminar, there was a reception and buffet dinner at the Imperial Hotel, and the special guest was Makoto Washizu, Director General, Tourism Department, Policy Bureau, Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. Washizu-san was really surprised when Ecuadorean Ambassador Marcelo Avila presented him with a beautiful Ecuador World Cup 2002 jacket. I enjoyed talking with many of Ecuador’s leaders in the travel and tourism business, and it sure brought back a lot of great memories of my two weeks in that beautiful little country several years ago.
The opening of the Hana Matsuri in the Okura, their third World Gardening Festival. The exhibition of gardens and gardening styles from around the world was quite spectacular. Ten countries participated: Greece, Ecuador, Mexico, Austria, Malaysia, Poland, Tunisia, Russia, the Netherlands and Korea. The ladies from each embassy worked with top Japanese landscape designer Nobuo Shirasuna in creating large and beautiful gardens that reflected their country’s nature and culture. I just wish I had space for photos and a description of each garden. Kudos to all who participated and to the Okura on this great international cultural event. Everyone involved can be proud.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender