Bill Hersey’s Partyline December 20th, 2002

Austrian Embassy 2002

PEOPLE

Twentieth Century Fox brought in actor Richard Gere to promote the film “Unfaithful.” I recall years ago partying at the Lex with Richard and a very exotic Brazilian artist along with him. This time he brought his wife and child and pretty much stuck to his hotel, the Park Hyatt. I am happy to see Diane Lane who co-stars with Richard, got such good reviews for her acting. I first met Diane when she did commercials for Revlon here in Japan as a teenager, and she has been like my little sister ever since. While she was still married to French actor Christopher Lambert, I used to hang out with the handsome couple whenever I was in  L.A. Diane co-starred with Richard 18 years ago, when she was just 18, in Francis Ford Coppola’s “Cotton Club,” she was great in the mini-series “Lonesome Dove” and Warner Brothers’ box office hit “Perfect Storm.” Richard comes from a “musical family” and is in the soon-to-be-released musical film adaptation of the red hot Broadway show “Chicago.” I first saw it in that city with showbiz superstars Chita Rivera and Gwen Verdon, and it is one of my all-time favorite musicals.

Congratulations to Hilton Tokyo’s Tomoko Kotani on her birthday Dec. 18. Tomoko and the two girls working with her, Momoko Gonohe and Mihoko Kobayashi, are good and really helpful friends. I certainly appreciate all they do for me.

Congratulations to Roberta Ireton who turned 15 on Dec. 8, and her brothers Thomas who turned 11 on Dec. 17, and William whose 14th birthday is Dec. 21. Their parents, Bill and Charo, have a lot of which to be proud; not only in these three kids, but also their other two sons.

Congratulations to P.R. guru Nacio (Skip) Cronin on his designing of the French-Vietnamese­style villa that houses a Chinese restaurant, an Italian restaurant and four private banquet rooms.

Noted restaurateur Soho Tsukikawa on the opening of Le Dragon Bleu Ginza. The beautifully designed restaurant has a spacious dining hall, a lounge and a bar area, all in Asian antique decor. The menu features food from China, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia, and prices are very reasonable. Le Dragon Bleu Ginza is on the sixth floor of the Namikidori Building;

PARTIES

It was back to the Westin where outgoing Austrian Commercial Counselor Wolfgang Penzias hosted a reception in the hotel’s Star Room to say sayonara and to welcome his successor, Ernst Laschan. At the same time, Wolf­gang’s Deputy Commercial Attache, Karl Hartleb, bid sayonara. He’s now posted in Tehran as Commercial Counselor. Wolfgang went back to Vienna where he’ll work out of the Austrian Chamber of Commerce and Industry headquarters. It was sayonara as well to two more Austrian friends, Helmuth and Gerlinde Bruneder. After six years in Tokyo for his job as Austrian Airlines’ Area Manager for Japan and the Far East, the Bruneders will be returning to their home in beautiful Vienna. Thanks to Helmuth and his predecessor, Peter Blaha, I have made nine trips to Vienna and other cities on Austrian Air’s vast network. Great trips all. Gerlinde has always volun­teered and helped on my children’s charity projects. The couple are real adventure travelers, and it was always fun to exchange travel experiences over cappuccino at the Hibiya Starbucks near the Austrian Air­lines offices.

In addition to the many lunches and dinners held in honor of the popular couple, Austrian Ambassador Hans ­Dietmar Schweisgut and his wife Kaoru hosted an elegant sayonara at their home for Helmuth and Gerlinde. At the same time, Helmuth introduced his successor, Georg Illichmann. Dr. Josef Burger, A.A.’s chief commercial officer, flew in from Vienna and made an excellent and meaningful speech, commending Helmuth for his work in promoting the airline here and really building up a Japanese client base flying to Europe (Vienna) on Austrian Airlines. The bountiful buffet menu was printed on an Austrian Airlines Grand Class menu cover, and there was a great selection of the best Austrian food. In addition to an ice-carving of an Austrian Airlines 737, noted pastry chef Minoru Kayanuma created a cake depicting a land­ing strip with a just-landed chocolate A.A. plane on the runway. Helmuth’s abilities and accomplishments are so valued by his boss back in Vienna, he was asked to run the airline’s offices in Australia for a few months before returning to Austria. My sincerest thanks to Helmuth and Gerlinde for their support and friendship, and I certainly wish them all the best back home. At the same time, I’d like to wish Georg all the best in his new assignment here in Tokyo.

Icelandic Ambassador Ingimundur Sigfusson and his wife Valgerdurwere busy with a. visit of their former president, Vigdis Fimmbogodottir. She was here to promote a Research Institute of Foreign Languages which bears her name, at the University of Iceland, and guests appreciated the chance to meet the exceptional lady at a reception lngimundur and Valgerdur hosted in her honor at their home. Also at the embassy, there was an excellent exhibition of photos, “Iceland Blue,” by photographer Elina Yamasaki.

Czech Ambassador Karel Zebrakovsky and his wife Marcela invited friends to their home for a concert by violinist Miroslav Vilirnec and a trio from the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. I wasn’t able to be there but heard it was the music of the masters at its best.

There was more excellent classical music at a piano recital-reception hosted by Min-On Concert Association President Hiroyasu Kobayashi at the Min-On Culture Center. The occasion was to commemorate Romania’s National Day.

Bulgarian Ambassador Petar Andonov, Lithuanian Ambassador Algirdas Kudzys, Romanian Ambassador Ion Pascu, Slovak Republic Ambassador Julius Hauser, Slovenian Ambassador Bernard Srajner and Estonian Charge d’affaires Peeler Miller hosted a mid-day reception at  Petar’s residence on Dec. 9. The occasion was to commemorate the enlargement decision by NATO’s summit in Prague.

PLACES

Here are a few ideas for last-minute Christmas shopping and a few fantastic places to take the kids. Check out National Azabu Supermarket for all the special food items you’ll need to prepare the traditional holiday feasts. You’ll also find a great selection of Christmas decorations, cards, candles and other small gifts on the second floor. The staff of Sun Florists in the parking lot of the market (next to Baskin-Robbins) have created a variety of original and beautiful Christmas wreathes, door decorations and other ornaments.

Over Roppongi way at Don Quixote, plan for an hour or two just looking at and, I’m sure, buying some of their huge inventory of anything and everything. I just bought a half-dozen trendy shirts for ¥500 each for “my family” in Papua New Guinea. Bargains galore. The recently enlarged and renovated store looks a bit (quite a bit) kitsch, with its bright red front and huge yellow-lettered sign. There are also large aquariums with interesting fish (the idea of Guam D.J. Paul De Guzman), tons of plastic ivy, a jungle oasis snack bar and big reclining Buddha with a moving arm that beckons you to come in and shop. It’s fun, and I guarantee once you’re in there, you’ll buy something you probably don’t even need.

I spend a considerable amount of time at Hilton Tokyo (the Lounge coffee shop, the gym, the pool) and am really impressed with their holiday decorations this year. The lobby tree is seven meters high, there are tall, colorful Santa Claus dolls from all over the world and a life-size moving Santa that sings Christ­mas songs. Hilton International Vice President Japan and Micronesia and Hilton Tokyo General Manager Michael Nigitsch is from Austria, and Regional Director, Food and Beverage Japan and Guam and Hilton Tokyo Manager Thomas Hoeborn is from Germany, and they have brought in the color and mood of the marvelous and traditional Christmas fairs in their countries. Kudos to the Hilton staff who worked so hard one night on into the a.m. to change the lobby, and the hotel, into a magical holiday experience. Other hotels I have seen and also worth visiting during this special time of the year are the Park Hyatt and the Westin, both “winter wonderlands.”

*First published at the Tokyo Weekender