by Bill Hersey
Looking Back The last few days have been beautiful. It was raining this morning, but things cleared up for a warm, sunny afternoon. I hope it stays this way but Mother Nature, as we all know, is pretty unpredictable. I’m actually doing more reminiscing than working, and like most of us do from time to time, sort of looking back and thinking about how I would have done some things differently if I had the opportunity to do them over again. I feel I can honestly say I’d be a millionaire today if I was more of a businessman and made the right moves way back when. A good example was meeting and getting to know pop artist Andy Warhol before he really became famous. Whenever I visited New York I spent some time at Andy’s factory (art studio, film studio, dining room, kitchen, etc.), where there was always an abundance of his paintings sitting around everywhere and even a few unfinished works still on easels. I do feel that at that time I could have bought just about anything for less then $500, but didn’t know enough about art or business to do what I should have done. Needless to say, I feel like kicking myself in the butt every time I read that another Warhol painting just sold for millions. I just read that actor Hugh Grant sold a Warhol for 23 million dollars! Time to retire.
Another time I lost what I’m sure would have been a luxurious lifestyle was when I visited Polo fashion founder and boss Ralph Lauren. Polo wasn’t that well known in Japan at the time and I approached the man with the idea of finding a fashion company here to import, distribute, and even manufacture his line in Japan. He was interested and I felt our meeting was really worthwhile and positive. About a week after I returned Tokyo I heard that a big Japanese company with big bucks had gone to Polo and signed to represent him here. I’ve never been a businessman, hadn’t gotten a written agreement, and learned the hard way that oral agreements don’t really mean a lot, especially where there are big bucks or yen involved. I guess I’ll never have a home like Polo’s plush flagship store on Omotesando. Oh well, who needs all that space anyway? I know now that I should have collected autographs of all the celebs that have partied at the former Lexington Queen, now the New Lex club, in the last 29 years. I did do OK on this, but just didn’t pursue it like I should have. People are nice and I can’t remember anyone I asked for an autograph turning me down. My collection includes many members of the Imperial family and prime ministers here, presidents Nixon, Carter, and Ford, dancers Nureyev, Gudunov, and Fonteyn, Robert De Niro, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, and endless other film and music celebs. I do have a lot but if I had been a bit more serious about it I would have a huge and probably valuable collection by now. Once again, oh well, as Sinatra sang, “That’s life.” I didn’t, by the way, get his autograph when I had the chance to hang out with him in Cairo when he was doing a big charity concert there.
Other regrets include that I didn’t really get into the Japanese language and give Dave Spector a run for his money, and I wish I would have studied one of the martial arts…probably karate. I really can’t complain—for a guy who grew up in a struggling but really marvelous family in the town of Perrysburg, Ohio (population 4,800), I’ve had and am still having, thanks to someone up there and a lot of good friends down here, one hell of a great life.
Maruyama Chinese dinner at Hilton Tokyo
Just about everyone I know loves Chinese food, and believe me, the 40 or so guests at Mitsuo, Lilo, and their son Helge’s annual Chinese dinner party enjoyed course after course of the very best. The venue, for the third year in a row, was Hilton Tokyo’s popular Dynasty Chinese restaurant. The chefs made sure we had a huge variety of the classic favorites and the staff, as always, provided the ultimate in service. It was a wonderful, laid-back evening with a lot of interesting people, the Maruyamas’ legendary hospitality, and the warm ambiance of that very special evening. It was a very special evening as well over at the New Otani when newly arrived Bruneian Ambassador Alias Serbini hosted a glittering reception on the occasion of his country’s national day. I first met Alias when he was here as an embassy staff member several years ago. It’s nice to have him back. It was wall-to-wall people at the reception with everyone enjoying the festive mood and the food…especially the Bruneian specialities. The only downer was hearing that good friends Maidin Mahadi and his wife Mahani would be leaving soon. After a little over three years here as minister counsellor, he is returning to Brunei for his new government assignment. We wish them all the best.
Happy Birthday, Paris
I’m well aware there are people out there who don’t like Paris Hilton, but all I can say is the more time I get to spend with and get to know Paris, the better I like her. This is not based on her marketing image, in which her behavior pretty much reflects on what she, and probably her management, feel is what her fans expect and probably enjoy seeing. There’s no denying she does like to party and be the center of attention. Frankly, most people I know would love to do the same when and if they had the opportunity. I feel fortunate that I’ve been able to see another side of this world celebrity where she’s kind, considerate, and yes, nice, charming, and down to earth. A perfect example was when I had the chance to throw a birthday party for her at the New Lex recently. As always she was the center of attention and as always, everyone wanted to meet her, shake her hand, and have a photo taken with her. This, of course, is impossible when there are several hundred people in the club. Like anyone, she wanted to be with, for the most part, people she came with. These included her current squeeze, former Baltimore Orioles baseball player Doug Reinhart, who’s also acted on the TV series The Hills, one of her Japan sponsors, Samantha Thavasa president Kazumasa Terada, and her security. Once the party got started, a young American sailor came over to me and said “I can’t believe I’m in the same club as Paris Hilton,” and went on to tell me how she had visited his small town in Florida while shooting her reality show The Simple Life. He never got to meet her but saw the show later and remembers her dressed as a mermaid. Then he asked me if I thought there was any possibility she would take a photo with him. I told him to wait a bit and that I’d check it out with her and her security. I explained the situation to Paris and she said, “I remember that shooting, bring him over and let’s do it.” The kid got his picture and I can’t tell you how excited and happy he was. The same thing happened when she was leaving and I was able to get the photo you see in the column of her and a group of her young French fans. Believe me, she really is thoughtful. She was also very excited about getting her little dog out of quarantine at Narita the next morning. Think what you want, but as the song goes, “I love Paris.”
Happy Birthday Dan
More than 350 people showed up for television/film director Dan Smith’s birthday party, thrown by FOX Japan at their Harajuku office. The event was also to celebrate Dan’s new weekly Backstage Pass show. The 30 minute program can be seen on FOX, FOX Life, and the new FOX11 programming block on BS11. Our sincerest congratulations to Dan and all involved.