Bill Hersey, who wrote for Weekender since its launch in 1970, died this morning at the age of 87.
Bill was a glittering fixture in Tokyo’s social scene for decades. Born in Perrysburg, Ohio, he arrived in Japan in 1962 on a freighter that came over from Long Beach, California, and after a stint working at Chuo University and NHK as an English instructor, he began working in the fashion industry, as a model, a publicist, and eventually leading photo shoots for Japanese magazines overseas. He worked as a fashion editor and travel writer for two Japanese weekly magazines, Shukan Playboy and Heibon Punch, and also ran his own fashion boutique. During the 70s, he wrote a men’s fashion column for The Japan Times, and his work could also be found in the Far East Traveler, The Hollywood Reporter and the Weekender, where he first started out writing a fashion column. He also wrote for the Japanese publications Men’s Club, Shukan Holiday, Travel in the Philippines, and Zen Tokyo Shimbun.
An inveterate traveler, Bill’s journeys took him all around the world, including Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Thailand, New Guinea, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, many countries in Europe, and throughout the US. For a time, he worked as a travel consultant for the Japanese travel company H.I.S., and he wrote a book, Passport to Pleasure, which was meant as a general guide for Japanese people going abroad and was reprinted multiple times.
Later in his time in Japan, Bill began working in PR for the company A-Project, where he planned and carried out Japanese promotions for celebrities, designers, and performance groups, including Liza Minelli, Prince, Thierry Mugler, The Dance Theater of Harlem, and Rudolf Nureyev. Perhaps one of his best known clients was Roppongi’s Lexington Queen, which he helped establish as the go-to club for visiting rock stars, models, and celebrities for a few decades running.
Bill was also active in social work, having arranged concerts with Rotary International, parties for the Japan Red Cross, and a series of annual Christmas events in support of children at orphanages around Japan.
The many different circles that Bill traveled in all featured in the society column that he started writing for Weekender more than 40 years ago, in which he would entertain readers with anecdotes drawn from life among Tokyo’s diplomats, business leaders, and celebrities. For many long time readers of the magazine, Bill’s column was one of the first places they would turn to when they picked up a new issue.
Among Bill’s many roles, he was a beloved member of the Weekender team – where he was writing his column until January – and of Tokyo’s expat community. Weekender will be publishing a tribute to Bill in our April issue, and we’d like to include comments from Bill’s many fans and friends in our piece. If you’ve got a Bill Hersey story to tell or you’d like to share a message with us, please send an email to [email protected].