The Big Four-Oh!

Events - January 15th, 2009
40

-by Ian de Stains OBE

So the Weekender is 40. Congratulations! That’s quite an achievement in this town and I hope the champagne will flow and the candles will be blown out. I imagine, too, a tear or two will fall, for isn’t that the way at such milestones?

I haven’t been around (in Tokyo at least) quite as long as the Weekender, but from my earliest days here in the mid 70s it has been a part of my life. Like the Vivienne Kenrick and Jean Pearce pieces in the Japan Times, it was required reading in those days when there was no bilingual television, no internet and to be a foreigner here was to really feel foreign.

In my earlier days here I was heavily involved in Tokyo International Players as actor, director, board member and more, and we could always count on the Weekender to give us the right sort of promotion. In those days, the old gang—Miranda, Ivan, David, Barbara, Judy, Joe, Tom (oldies will know who I mean)—played a well-intentioned game. Whoever was picked up by Bill Hersey in his Weekender column in any given week would buy the rest of us drinks. Bill was always able to capture the party scene, even in those more innocent times. How he manages to keep doing so today and resist the less attractive elements of it is a great credit to him. He must hold the record for a continuous English language column in Japan, and I hope he’s the one they pick to blow out the candles.

My diary reminds me that I was first invited to write for the Weekender in the early 1980s. I use the word ‘invite’ loosely. The founder and publisher, Corky Alexander, suggested we meet in one of his favorite haunts in Roppongi (then a much more decorous place than now), and though it was only 4.30 in the afternoon, he insisted that I have a gin and tonic made with Boodles gin. We talked about all manner of things and then—after the fourth Boodle, I suppose—he said something like, “So, it’s agreed you’ll do a column, then?” I hadn’t been aware we’d discussed such a possibility. But with Corky, it was like that. You simply couldn’t refuse him.

I wrote for several years, initially under the heading “Theater Piece” and then, branching out somewhat, “All the World’s a Stage.” I tried to convince Corky that we should do a books page (at that time I was reviewing books for the then Asahi Evening News), but for some reason he always resisted.

In the case of my current column, I am very fortunate to have a most supportive editor, but I must confess that with each piece I write, I feel Corky’s ghost at my shoulder. He usually urges a Boodles and tonic.