There’s no business like show business, and that’s even truer in tough times like these, when movies, concerts, the theater and dance offer an enjoyable escape from the trials and tribulations just about everyone’s going through right now. In keeping with this, I’d like to devote much of this column to showbiz events here in Tokyo the last few months.
Warner Brothers Japan co-hosted a Thai food and cultural evening with outgoing Thai Ambassador Sakthip Krairiksh and his wife Benchapa at their beautiful home in Shinagawa for actor Steven Segal. He was in town to promote his action film, “Exit Wounds.” Steven, as you may know, is very much into Buddhism and “loves all things Thai.” There was a big turnout, and the house and spacious garden were full of colorful and interesting people. Guests included former sumo ozeki and now showbiz superstar Konishiki, actor Hiroshi Fujioka, Miss Universe Japan Misao Arauchi, several of her runnersup, members of the Guardian Angels, diplomats and familiar faces from the sports world.
Steven’s two children from his marriage in Japan were also there. His daughter Aya, 20, has been in several TV dramas and commercials. His son Kentaro, 25, is a radio D.J. There were brief welcome speeches by Ambassador Krairiksh and Bill Ireton, then Steven took the mike, thanked the hosts and went over a few of his “many wonderful experiences in Thailand.”Booths had been set up in the garden, each serving a Thai speciality. The program that evening included classic Thai dancing and a demonstration of Thai kickboxing (Muaythai).
At a small party following the reception, Benchapa who has a great voice and style, sang a couple of pop songs. Steven is into music now, plans to put out a CD next year and said he couldn’t get over what a great voice she has. Steven is also into fashion, and his Tibetan collection was shown at the “Bollywood” Indian film awards in New York City earlier this year.
I was really sorry I had to miss the open rehearsal and, later, the performance of the musical “Thillana Thillana-Love Forever.” This was the first of its kind in Tokyo, sponsored by Min-On Concert Association. The production featured a huge cast from the Masala Musical Co.
I was out of Japan for all three sayonara parties for Irish Ambassador Declan O’Donovan and missed several dinners hosted in his honor as well. Declan made many friends during his six years here and was really a good friend to me. He’ll be missed, and we wish him all the best in his new posting in Madrid as Irish Ambassador to Spain.
Had to pass on the Sept. 25 press conference for the 14th Tokyo International Film Festival to be held in the Shibuya area, mostly at Bunkamura, from Saturday, Oct. 27, to Sunday, Nov. 4. TIFF has appointed Michiyasu Kawauchi, Chairman and CEO of Nippon Broadcasting System, Inc., Director General of this year’s festival.
There are 140 films from 24 countries this year, and it is well worth checking into. UIP’s animated film “Shrek” will open the event, and Buena Vista international’s animated film “Atlantis the Lost Empire” is the closing film.
I was to be in Manila Oct. 14-20 so had to miss a few very important events here in Tokyo. Both were on Thursday, Oct. 18. At noon, the Apostolic Nuncio hosted a reception of the 23rd Anniversary of the Inauguration of the Pontificate of His Holiness Pope John Paul II. Our sincerest congratulations to Archbishop Ambrose B. De Paoli and the millions of Catholics around he world on this very special day.
That same evening Austrian Ambassador Hans Dietmar Schweisgut and his wife Kaoru hosted a reception at their Moto Azabu home in honor of Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Federal Minister of Foreign Affairs, here on an official visit.
At the same time, guests had the opportunity to meet the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra which was performing in Japan.
Kudos to Bill Ireton of Warner Brothers and his staff whose hard work and masterful marketing made the Steven Spielberg film “A.I.” one of the biggest box office hits ever here in Japan.
Most of the friends I was able to invite to the premiere of “Pearl Harbor” at Tokyo Dome really enjoyed the Jerry Bruckheimer epic and, as always, a few did not. Whatever, I’m happy to report it did very well for Buena Vista here in Japan.
Thanks to B.V. Japan’s Managing Director Dick Sanno and long time friend Teri Ritzer Meyer, Senior Vice President, International Publicity, for Buena Vista International, I was able to set up a party at the Lex for producer Bruckheimer, director Michael Bay and superstar and super nice guy Ben Affleck.
The club was wall-to-wall beautiful people (models, Japan showbiz) that night, and the Hollywood group partied until 4 a.m. Happy to report success has not spoiled Affleck. He, as you’ve probably read, is having a drinking problem and spent some time in a rehab center. I’m sure, with his strength, character and the support of his friends, he’ll solve it.
A week or so later, I was walking in Roppongi when a couple of guys approached me and said, “We’ve been looking for you. We heard you had a party for Ben Affleck, and People Magazine would like a few comments.”
I told them the truth: he was just as great as a few years ago when he was here to promote “Armageddon.” He had a couple of beers-that’s what most people do at parties, and he didn’t even get close to getting drunk. He was really down-to-earth, nice to everyone and obligingly signed autographs and posed for photos with some of his many fans there. I read the article in People later, and they didn’t use my comments but quoted a silly-ass 21-year-old lapdancer at another club. According to her, “He was pretty drunk and walked around to the club’s different stages, wanting to be noticed.”
I’ve spent some time with Ben and, believe me, he doesn’t have to try to be noticed. He is noticed wherever he goes. I can safely say he didn’t notice or pay any attention to the one who made those statements. Oh, well, what would you expect from that kind of “lady.”
I recently met with Rolling Stone Magazine musical editor Misha Anderson and, when I told her the story, she said, “Unfortunately that’s what sells magazines.”
Another evening, I sat by one of Hollywood’s hottest producers, Jerry Bruckheimer, at a “Pearl Harbor” dinner at Nobu’s. It was a great opportunity to get to know this dynamic and talented man. Jerry told me he was involved in three new productions, including “Black Hawk Down,” about the U.S. military tragedy in Somalia, directed by Ridley Scott and shot on location in Morocco. After the World Trade Center attack, release has been put on hold.
“Bourne Identity,” directed by Joel Schumacher, is currently shooting on location in Prague, and the third is a comedy being shot on location in Australia. Jerry’s also producer of the popular TV series “CS! (Crime Scene Investigation).” The man keeps busy.
It’s really heartening during these troubled times to see friends who (of course) grieve over what’s happening but don’t let terrorists change their way of living. This, as you know, is a tough time for the airlines, but fear of flying just should not happen.
The airlines really need your support and, with all the new security measures, flying is sure to be safer than ever. There are some really bad auto accidents everywhere, every day, and I’m sure those don’t keep you from driving. Friends who are flying include:
AIG Chairman Ron Anderson who flew back from Hong Kong via Singapore in time to take his wife Maria to Dewi Sukarno’s glittering ball.
Bill and Charo Ireton who took United Airlines big bird to Seattle, hoping to see an American League Championship Baseball Series between the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees.
Ecuadorian Ambassador Marcelo Avila and his wife Maria, over to the Philippines, where he presented his credentials in Manila before spending a few days of R & R on the beautiful island of Boracay.
I’ve met a lot of good people in my lifetime but, like Corky and Mary, I feel that former U.S. Ambassador Mike Mansfield was right there at the top. We’ve lost a good friend, the U.S. has lost a great man, and the human race has lost a very special human being.
Mike, and his late wonderful wife Maureen, always made me feel like family, and I have thousands of good memories, and about as many photos, of them. One was Mike’s setting up and serving coffee early in the morning for friends of mine who include Famous Amos Cookies founder Wally Amos and the legendary late break-dancer Oz Rock
Mike never got upset, and I really appreciated this on many occasions. Once, Kirk Douglas’ black sheep son Eric, whom Mike let me invite to a party, came late and was caught trying to climb over the embassy wall. Mike’s daughter Anne wasn’t happy about it, but Mike just laughed it off. That’s the way he was.
I know, if I’m allowed in, I’ll see Mike and Maureen in that Great Place in the Sky. Hopefully, that won’t be for a while, though.
For Halloween, check out Club Citta’s “Rocky Horror Picture Show” presentation at Pylon, Friday, Oct. 26.
Also, the Lex is having its big Halloween blast on Saturday, Oct. 27. Prizes for the best costumes and spooky (and kind of sexy) show by French dancer “Florence.”
Polly Ferman and Daniel Binelli will appear in a concert playing tango and classical music at STB I 39 in Roppongi on Friday, Nov. 2. Doors open at 6 p.m.; the show starts at 8. Tickets are 6,000. Call 5474-0139 for reservations. Polly is married to the former Argentine Ambassador to Japan.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender