People, Parties, Places

Bill's People, Parties, Places - April 2nd, 2013
Junko and Family

Pictured above are Yoriyuki Suzuki (Junko Koshino’s son) with TBS’s Kishi, Junko, Imumi Yoshimatsu (Miss International 2012) and business tycoon Yasuyuki Nambu

So much has been happening in this great city of ours since my last column I hardly know where to start. I’ve finally decided to go back a few weeks to when by accident I turned on AXN channel and really got involved in watching the Hollywood Press’s 70th Golden Globe Awards.

This made me realize even more how lucky I am, thanks to many friends, for how many celebs, superstars, royalty and really good people I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know over the years.

First there was Ben Affleck. I spent considerable time with this great guy whenever he visited Tokyo. On one of his visits I had a big bonus – Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler’s actress daughter, Liv, who’s not only beautiful and talented but also fun and really nice. She partied with us every night she and Ben were here on a promotional visit.

Jodie Foster was a special guest at the Globes. She looked wonderful and I had a hard time believing she’s 50. Her speech on her life and love of her work was really moving. I’ve spent a lot of time with her and even got to introduce her to many Tokyoites at a party in her honor at the US Embassy. She’s so intelligent and has a great sense of humor.

George Clooney’s fun as well. I was in Osaka with him and a few of his friends on an Oceans’ film campaign. We were in a van when we got stuck in traffic so he started singing “The Sun Will Come out Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie”. I hummed the tune a bit, and he said “let’s sing it together.” We did, and his entourage applauded and laughed. George, by the way, has a great voice as did his aunt, popular vocalist Rosemary “This Old House” Clooney.

When Arnold Schwarzenegger was here to promote Batman and Robin, I flew to Kyushu with him, director Joel Schumacher, Arnold’s small group of assistants and a group of local media people. After take-off we were brought a big Austrian style birthday cake and I really enjoyed joining “Mr. Freeze” (his character in the film) to celebrate his birthday high in the sky over Japan.

In Kyushu we went to watch the Yomiuri Giants practice. One of the players – Sadaharu Oh – came up to our box, met the celebs and gave Arnold and Joel a ball to throw-in to start the practice session. This gave Arnold the chance to use one of his favorite expressions: “Joel, don’t throw it like a girlie boy.” Joel, secure in his success, couldn’t care less and did things his own way. He, by the way, will head the Jury at the Okinawa International Film Festival, this year from March 23 to 31.

Other Golden Club Nominees I’ve hung out with include one of my favorite actresses, British superstar Helen Mirren, who’s really fun, Joaquin Phoenix and the truly cool Denzel Washington, who’s been in Japan recently to promote “Flight” for Paramount.

I could go on and on, but time to move off memory lane onto our city’s busy social scene. By the way, I am working on a book about people I’ve met as there’s so much to say, and if all goes as planned I’ll get it out this year.

There have been lots of 15th Anniversary events the last few months for some reason. Let’s start at the beautiful Meguro Gajoen venue where Lady Ratna Sari Dewi Sukarno hosted her magnificent 15th Grand Imperial Charity Banquet. Over 500 people attended the NPO, Earth Aid Society’s gala evening and the night was first class all the way. Major supporters included Dupont Japan K.K., Garuda Indonesia, Moët Hennessy and Lladro Japan. Proceeds went to the Japan Red Cross Society and the Association for Aid and Relief Japan.

The multi-course dinner was excellent. Dewi’s so talented in so many ways and her show was entertainment at its best. The opening was by a tall, very striking young actor – Naomichi Hanazono – who could really sing, dance and play the shamisen. This was followed by a dynamic performance of enka hits as well as good imitations in English of Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and a few other legendary American singers by Hiroshi Itsuki. Clear Tone’s Orchestra, as well as MCs Greg Irwin and Noriko Kawachi, did a great job, as did Bahrain Ambassador Khalid Hassan in his opening speech.

One of the highlights of the evening for me was meeting the late and great singer/actor Kyu Sakamoto’s wife Yukiko Kashiwagi. I first met Kyu when I was on his TV show with English actress Olivia Hussey. He, as many of you know, died quite young in a plane crash. My brother Chris (God bless his soul) got a CD of Kyu’s hit “Ue o Muite Aruko” when he was doing a concert tour here in Japan. Unlike me, Chris was really talented. Dewi’s charity event was really special, perfect for the occasion.

Diplomats’ Photo Exhibition a big success

It was the 15th year as well for the annual Japan Through Diplomatic Eyes photo contest and exhibition. This year’s event was subtitled “Hope and Renewal” and the venue, the Roppongi Hills Cafe Space, was wall to wall with people. VIPs there included HiH Princess Takamado, who’s honorary president, Colombian ambassador Patricia Cardenas, the chairperson, and Diet member Nobutaka Machimura, head of the jury.

The opening program included significant speeches by two of the major sponsors, Canon inc.’s executive officer Kazuhiko Noguchi and BMW executive Sven Straub. It was nice seeing long time friend, Latvian ambassador Peteris Vaivars, win the grand prize and a young lady from Lithuania, Asta Slavinskaite, take the Prince Takamado Memorial Prize. My congratulations to each and every one of the entries for the thought, time and effort they put into making their photo creations interesting and original.

Glittering Oman National Day celebration

Oman is one of the few Arab countries I haven’t had the opportunity to visit but good friends, and two of the world’s top travelers, Mitsuo and Lilo Maruyama, tell me it’s really a magical destination in every way. I have had the privilege of getting to know the country’s top representatives, ambassador Mohammed al-Muslahi, his wife Abeer and their special children.

Mohammed is really good at his work and has a warm, laid back sense of humour. Abeer is full of energy, a great planner and organizer and is always involved in worthwhile projects that help others. I’ve worked with her on a few things including Halloween parties for handicapped kids and she really goes all out to make her events for others fun and special.

Thanks for the memories… and God bless

Its never easy losing relatives and friends we really care for and really miss. Seems like there are so many who have left us these last few months.

We lost a lady that I and so many loved when Steven Haynes’ wonderful mom Clara passed away over the holidays while visiting here from San Francisco. She was so cool, so chic, so intelligent, so much fun and so loving, just like my mom and grandmother were back in Perrysburg, Ohio. Steve was so lucky to have Clara and his late, great father Oliver as loving parents and they were lucky as well to have such a loving devoted and giving son.

Sorry to hear about his wife Keiko and two daughters Ute and Madelene’s losing Gerd Knapper recently. Gerd, who came from Germany many years ago, gained international fame as a creative ceramics artist. He lived with his family in the countryside here and I had the opportunity to see some of his work at an exhibition Audi did at their Meiji-Dori showroom a few years ago.

It’s been a long time since I last saw Hal Drake, the legendary Pacific Stars and Stripes journalist. I do remember what a fun man he was, calling everyone “pops” and always knowing the latest jokes from the US. Hal retired in the late 90s and he and his wife moved to the Gold Coast in Australia, where he continued to write. Hal passed away in January. He’s survived by Koz, his wife of 37 years, and several children from former marriages.

I and the world have recently lost some really good Japanese friends as well. These included business tycoon Reijiro Hattori, the President of Seiko. I often ran into Reijiro in Bangkok – he was very international and I really enjoyed the Thai meals we shared. Reijiro is survived by his wife Etsuko, a lady who’s very involved in many worthwhile charities. I was also sad over the loss of one of Japan’s best-known film directors, Nagisa Oshima. He was an interesting man who gained international fame through controversial films like “Woman of the Dunes” and “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence.” Another great director, Akira Kurosawa, first introduced me to Nagisa and I’ll always remember that.

I also remember Tokyo’s governor Suzuki introducing me to New York’s great mayor, Ed Koch, who passed away in his favorite city recently. When Ed was in Tokyo as a guest of governor Suzuki I had fun trying to teach him how to use chopsticks at the mayor’s welcome party. I remember him saying, “The hell with it, I’m using my fingers.”

I had hoped to put one or two lovely and meaningful poems in the column but have run out of space by now so I’ll use them next time. Both came from dear friends when I lost my beloved brother and believe me they did and still do mean a lot to me.

by Bill Hersey