December 4, 2009

Bill's People, Parties, Places - December 4th, 2009

Parties, People and Places

with Bill Hersey
It’s that time of the year when there are so many worthwhile charity events, as well as our Weekender special on several of the great organizations and individuals involved in charity work. I do fell this is a good time to open my column by giving credit and thanks to many caring and giving people out there who do so much to help so many. Over the years many of these friends have given me clothing, toys, and even medical supplies to send to the needy in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and other places. Others have helped me with postage to send those huge boxes which make so many people happy.

Prime supporters of getting the big boxes of useful donated items to families overseas include Maria Anderson, who lives in New York now but still helps me, Jane Scolinos, Grace Saito, Koichi and Daniele Yoshikoshi, Chichan Plessner, Jane Yonamine, Phil Miller, Cristiano Scognamiglio, Mick Lay, the good people at RayBan sunglasses, Gene Pelc and his family, my neighbor Alef Saraie and wonderful lady from Finland, and British fashion model Tina Bingham.

I’m busy working with the public relations girls at Hilton Tokyo on our 11th annual Christmas party to benefit orphans, that will take place at the hotel. It’s always fun, and once again, I have so many good friends who include HIH Princess Takamado, her mother Fumiko Tottori, former sumo champs Konishiki and Akebono, dozens of ambassadors’ wives, entertainers Steven Haynes and Rene Bosman, the Guardian Angels, and so many other leaders in both the local and international communities here who helped make it all happen.

Friends in the film business have really gone all-out every year to help out with various causes. These include Bill and Charo Ireton of Warner Brothers, Dick Sano of Sony Pictures, Hiro Matsuoka of Toho Towa, Ichiro Okazaki of Paramount, Hiro Suzuki of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, and Jesse Lee of Twentieth Century Fox. Others always willing to lend a helping hand include Tohokushinsha’s Banjiro and Hisako Uemura (he also owns National Azabu supermarket). I also want to thank Atul Parekh and Kazuo Ogawa, the hard-working jewelry team who set up five annual gala dinner shows at Hilton Tokyo to benefit Birdlife International. One of their more recent projects was the glittering dinner at Meiji Gajoen, where they produced Dewi Sukarno’s annual charity event (to benefit the Red Cross). Princess Takamado, the honorary president of Birdlife International, is one of the most charitable people I’ve ever met. Her charm, intelligence and generosity have earned her fans and friends all over the world. I remember a few years back, when I helped Warner Brothers arrange for her to go on stage at the Roppongi Hills arena to accept a check from WB for the tsunami victims in Thailand and Sri Lanka. The actors who presented her with the check (George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon) were all very impressed by this great lady. She’s recently proven how popular she is and what a following she and her mother have thanks to their efforts and those of Birdlife International. Over 400 people attended Ron Brown’s project, the Birdlife International wine party at the Grand Hyatt a few months ago, and about the same number attended the Birdlife gala dinner at the same hotel more recently. Kudos to all involved.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of the many people who have helped me in some of my charity work over the years. Sorry about that, but I do hope they know how much the many people they helped appreciated it all, and I hope they continue with their kindness and generosity. Times were tough as I was growing up in Perrysburg, Ohio, but I’ll always remember my mom and grandma, tow of the most thoughtful and kind ladies ever, reminding my brother Chris and I that “it’s better to give than to receive.” There are so many people out there who need help, and fortunately many organizations to make sure they get that help. Please choose the causes you’re interested in and continue to do what you can for others—I guarantee you’ll be glad you did.

Opening of the New Omani Embassy

Oman’s secretary general of the ministry of foreign affairs, H.E. Sayyid Bahr Bin Amood Albu Said, and his delegation flew in to join Oman’s Ambassador Khalid Al-Muslahi and his wife Abber A. Aisha for the opening ceremony of Oman’s majestic new embassy building in Hiroo. The seven-story white building with the huge gold emblem showing Oman’s traditional khanjar dagger in a sheath superimposed over two crossed swords is truly impressive. The design, by Yasui Architects and Engineers and done under the careful guidance of the Omani ambassador and his staff reflects Oman’s heritage, culture and tradition. In addition to diplomats’ offices and residences, there’s a large banquet hall on the first floor. The ambassador’s wife Abeer selected most of the furniture, which she had made in China. She did a fantastic job. Special guests that evening included former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, diplomats, Japanese government officials, and business leaders. Kudos to the embassy chef—the bountiful buffet of Japanese, Western and Arabic foods was outstanding. Khalid and Abeer are really enjoying their new embassy and home. They are also, I might add, making good use of and sharing their joy. On Halloween I was invited to a party they had for handicapped children. It was a beautiful and moving evening for the kids, their parents and me.

Singaporean National Day Celebration

The huge crowd at the Imperial Hotel for the Singaporean national day reception was proof positive of the popularity of the host couple, Ambassador and Mrs. Tan Chin Tiong, and the strong relations between Japan and Singapore. Powerful business friends I saw there included honorary Sony chairman Norio Ohga and his wife Midori, and Mori Building’s chairman and CEO Minoru Mori and his wife Yoshiko. There were also, of course, many diplomats, business leaders, and Japanese government officials. The hotel venue was brightly decorated in bright red, and the superb buffet included Chinese, Japanese and Western favorites. As always, the Singaporean embassy had contacted several of the best Singaporean restaurants in Tokyo, and they had set up food stalls serving delicious satay, dim sum, and the best Hainan chicken I’ve ever had. My sincerest congratulations to the people of Singapore. It was a great evening, perfect for the location.

Hilton Tokyo’s New Ballroom

My relationship with Hilton Tokyo goes back a long way, and it’s really been nice seeing the marvelous changes during the three-year, multimillion-dollar renovation. Following the refurbishment of the guest rooms, the executive lounge, lobby and fitness center, the general manager Christian Baudat (one of the most charitable men I know) has implemented the next stage with the new ballroom, the Kiku, and the banquet lobby. The new ballroom, which can accommodate up to 600 for a sit-down dinner and 1200 in theater style, has taken on a bright, warm, spacious look and feeling with a Japanese essence. The opening reception featured a fabulous buffet of highly rated Hilton food and a lively song and dance show. I enjoyed talking with the newly arrived head of the Malaysian tourist office, Noor Azlan, and enjoyed telling him about the Malaysian national days, fashion and culture shows I’ve attended at the Hilton. I wish him all the best in promoting his fantastic country here in Japan. At the same time, Hilton Tokyo recently celebrated its 25th anniversary. My sincerest congratulations to all concerned.

Mariza’s Fado Concert

Fado singer Mariza wowed her fans at her first Tokyo concert. It was the tall, chic Portuguese-Mozambican’s first visit to Japan, and the lady really won over the crowd at Hibiya Hall, which was filled to capacity. She just did one show for Kyodo Tokyo in Japan, but after they audience’s reaction with several standing ovations, I’m sure they’ll bring the talented entertainer back. Her stage presence and performance were dynamic. My thanks to Portuguese Ambassador Joao Pedro Zanatti and his wife Madalena for an entertaining evening of fado at its very best.

Congratulations to…

• Mexican cultural attache Alejandro Basanez and his fiance Kazumi Hudono on their recent engagement

• The people responsible for the Wien Gold Coin Harmony (the philharmonic). I’m sorry I couldn’t get to the party Kurt Meyer of the Austrian mint and Hideya Okamoto, president of the Tanaka Kikinzoku hosted for the 20th anniversary of this beautiful gold coin.
• James Ashley of Ashley Associates for their recent presentation of the international theater company’s London musical production of A Christmas Carol. James has been producing the theatrical group’s Japan tour for over 16 years.
• Former sumo champ and now entertainment personality Konishiki on his latest venture, the launch of his new coconut liqueur. I’m not into alcohol at all, but I did try it and it’s good. Several columns back I wrote about the many health benefits of coconut milk, oil, etc. I know a lot of people who swear by coconut products. Give Konishiki’s a try.
• Segafredo Zanetti’s president and managing director, Japan and Asia, Mitsuru Sakuraba and his kind and helpful staff on the 10th anniversary of the popular establishment. As many of you know, it’s one of my all-time favorite hangouts. The coffee’s great, the staff exceptional, and the clientele a good mix of Japanese and international trend-setters. See you there. Sakuraba-san just got back from a business trip to Mongolia and told me that he really enjoyed the country and its people. I’ve heard the same thing from others who have traveled there.
• Art dealer Norman Tolman’s son-in-law Patrice Martineau. When the thoughtful Brad Pitt had dinner at the Peninsula Hotel’s P restaurant, he asked to meet Patrice and told him it was the best dinner he ever had in Tokyo.