Just too many sayonara events for good friends and special people this summer, and there are many more coming up. After just a little more than two years in Japan, Argentine Ambassador Alfredo V. Chiaradia and his wife Ercilia have returned to Buenos Aires. Prior to their departure, they hosted a sayonara in their residence.
Alfred is a highly respected politician in South America, and Ercilia was very active in the International Ladies Benevolent Society (ILBS) and other worthwhile community activities. As expected, it was wall-to-wall people as their many friends came to wish them all the best.
The evening also gave me the opportunity to meet Mark Schwab, a man with whom I had talked over the phone but had not as yet met. Mark is Vice President, Pacific North Region, for United Airlines. His wife, Yone, is from Venezuela.
Mark’s been super busy. In addition to his many administrative duties and meeting Japanese government officials and other airline execs, he’s been right in the middle of the peak travel season.
It was a casual, laid-back evening with interesting people and a superb buffet, a perfect sendoff for Alfredo and Ercelia. He’s now the Argentina trade representative out of Buenos Aires.
Another popular couple from South America, Brazilian Ambassador Fernando Guimaraes Reis and his wife Maria Edileuza said goodbye to many of their friends a cocktailbuffet dinner they hosted at their home before returning to Rio for a holiday prior to Fernando’s new posting.
I got there early so had a chance to really check out the unique and very Brazilian art and architecture. It’s a beautiful residence.
Fernando and Maria are exceptional people who made many friends for themselves and Brazil during the five-year stay here. In addition to her duties as an ambassador’s wife, Maria studied, wrote some very interesting papers on Brazilians living in Japan, was acting consulgeneral at the embassy and, from what I heard, a very good mother.
Two young Brazilian brothers, Kuni and Takia Azuma, are sumo wrestlers who came by to say sayonara. These good guys are Lex regulars and have been special guests at parties I’ve helped set up. It was also nice seeing former Minister of Foreign Affairs and quite controversial Yohei Kono. He told me his suntan was from campaigning, not playing golf.
Fernando and Maria are getting settled in Rome where he’s Brazil’s consul-general. I hope to see them on my next trip that way but, meanwhile, plan to introduce them to two wonderful Italian friends, Heitor, the son-in-law, and Gioia, the daughter of the late and great Italian fashion designer Savini Brioni.
They run the big elegant Brioni boutique on Via Barberini near the American Embassy. I just know these two couples will become good friends.
On the occasion of the National Day of Portugal, Ambassador Dr. Manuel Gervasio de Almeida Leite hosted a mid-day reception at his Roppongi home. The gathering also gave guests the opportunity to bid farewell to Portuguese Commercial Counsellor Camilo Martins de Oliveira and his wife Isabel Maria. It was a nice break with many friends who came by to congratulate Manuel.
“It’s going to be our biggest culinary and cultural festival yet,” I was told by Hilton Tokyo’s Thomas Hoeborn. Hilton staged the South African Experience with the full support of South African Ambassador Karamchund Mackerdhuj and his wife Suminthra, and South African Airways, TAJ Enterprises and Cathay Pacific.
In the lobby a lady from the Nolebela Tribe was painting murals on a traditional mud hut and doing beadwork as well. Hand-crafted pols were for sale, with proceeds going to the Nelson Mandela Child Fund.
The gala dinner to open the South African promotion was held in the Hilton Tokyo’s Kiku Ballroom. HIH Prince and Princess Takamado were there, as were about 500 VIP guests from the diplomatic, business, fashion and showbiz worlds.
Thanks lo TAJ Enterprises’ Managing Director Atul Parekh, I had the privilege of sitting at one of the VIP tables. Interesting people at my table included Dewi Sukarno, fashion designer Junko Koshino, Miss Universe Japan Director Ines Ligron and Miss Universe Japan 2001 Misao Arauchi.
It was also great seeing the multi-talented Steve Haynes there with his parents, Oliver and Clare. Those two commute from San Francisco to Tokyo as well as other exotic places in this old world of ours, and they make friends wherever they go.
The dinner started out with ostrich pate, followed by consomme of Guinea fowl, salmon and roast veal. During dinner guests were entertained by South African jazz diva Sylvia Mdunyelwa. Her blend of traditional Xhosa and classic jazz really makes for easy listening. You can check it out on her CD Ingoma on the Blue Note label.
The after-dinner fashion show featured a group of goodlooking African and Afro-Americans in a lively and well choreographed show featuring the jewelry designs of Kazuo Ogawa and fashions of Junko Koshino.
There were some original fashions and jewelry from South Africa as well. In talking with Karamchund, I was surprised to learn his country is the world’s largest supplier of gold, platinum and diamonds.
It was a very special evening in which Hilton International Vice President Japan and Micronesia Michael Nigitsch and all involved really saw “sunshine from South Africa.”
On the cultural scene, Austrian Ambassador Hans Dietmar Schweisgut, his wife Kaoru and Rainer Zoubek, Representative of the Wien Office in Tokyo, held a reception for the presentation of the Museums Quartier Wien.
A high-ranking delegation flew in from Vienna to introduce yet another reason to visit one of the world’s most beautiful cities. The new museum complex (the 10th largest in the world) has been set up in a tasteful blend of old and new buildings. It’s already a showcase of art from ancient to contemporary and is sure to become one of the major cultural centers of the world.
I got caught up in sit-down dinners, movie promotions, musical festivals and “Fosse” performances, so missed some interesting and worthwhile happenings.
First, there was Polish Ambassador Jerzy Pomianowski’s reception al his new embassy to meet Prof. Andrzej Zielinski, the Minister of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland. If you would really like to sec Polish history and culture, visit the university city of Krakow. You’ll be glad you did.
Also had to miss the Starwood Expo reception at the Westin Hotel held by Akio Hirao, Vice President and Area Managing Director, Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Sorry about that.
It was a busy summer at the club with many old friends and lots of first-timers dropping by. Producer Jerry Bruckheimer, director Michael Bay, actor Ben Affleck and their entourage were there for a Buena Vista party after the local premiere of “Pearl Harbor” at Tokyo Dome.
“Planet of the Apes” director Tim Burton and actor Cary Hiroyuki Togawa, here for 20th Century Fox, dropped by to say hello, promoting “Driven.”
Sylvester usually has several security men with him, but I learned the hard way he didn’t have any on this trip. I asked one man with the group of four (Stallone, two from Nippon Herald Films and this guy) if he was Sly’s security. ‘I’m an actor in the film,” he told me.
He also told me his name, Til Schweiger. Later, a few German students at the club told me he was one of Germany’s most popular actors. Oh well, we all make mistakes.
Steven Seagal, here for Warner Brothers to promote “Exit Wounds,” dropped by the club after a huge party Thai Ambassador Sakthip Krairiksh and his wife Benchapa, along with Warner Brothers, hosted for him at the Thai Embassy. A rundown and photos on this later.
More summer music festivals meant more musicians at the club. From the Fuji Rock Festival there were Hothouse Flowers, New Order, Echo and the Bunnymen, and Manic Street Preachers.
From the Summer Sonic Festival, Marilyn Manson, Zebrahead Cult, Air and Primal Scream. From the late August Beast Feast, members of Caliban, SoLient Green, One Minute Silence, Biohazard and Slayer hung out at the Lex nightly while they were in town.
Slayer, as you might know, has big problems back home. There are allegations Slayer’s music, especially the song “Act of Sacrifice,” inspired three teenage boys in San Luis Obispo, California, to brutally murder a I5-year-old girl.
“The Practice,” has to be one of the best looking ladies around. It was a shock seeing a photo of her, in Entertainment magazine, at a sports event with her current squeeze, actor Jack Nicholson. Overweight Jack looked much like Yoda in the “Starwars” series. He is, of course, a great actor.
Speaking of Yoda, I ran into an old interview with Tom Yoda, the top man at Avex (records, discos, clubs), where he said, “Young Japanese don’t do drugs.” I’m sure the man who was often referred to as “The Emperor” has changed his opinion as times changed. If not, he should check out one of the rave parties at the Avex’s Velfarre disco.
The look, health and happiness of several friends into yoga is proof of the positive effects and results of the exercise. As soon as I can work it into my schedule, I plan to try getting into it myself.
Charo Ireton hasn’t changed all that much during her 16-year marriage to Bill and has had five kids since her modeling days in Manila. She takes regular classes at the Tokyo American Club and swears by them.
At a party recently, someone asked me, “Don’t you get tired of going to the Lexington club in Roppongi all the time?” Actually, I don’t go there all the time; I’m usually there weekends and when we have celebrity guests or special events.
I do find it difficult to realize I’ve been working with the Lex for more than 20 years, though. Where does the time go? I’m well aware the funky Little club is badly in need of a facelift, but the economic situation, at least for now, discourages this.
Even so, the club continues to bring in a wide variety of film stars, directors, producers, well-known and not-so-wellknown musicians, sports figures, fashion designers, race car drivers and a horde of interesting and fun people from all walks of Life and from all over the world. People, after all, are what it’s all about.
The Lex has long been the hangout for fashion models, both male and female, from all over the world. There’s an occasional pain in the butt but, for the most part, they are young people enjoying life and trying to make a living off their looks for as long as possible.
We also have a lot of really nice U.S. Navy, Marines and Air Force members who are regulars. It’s sad, but it’s the few bad apples you read about. Most are nice people who, like anyone their age, like to get out, see the country, meet people and enjoy their free time.
Our friends at the embassies help as well. We’ve had parties for naval officers and crews of training ships in Japan from Mexico, Chile, France and Italy, and a few weeks ago almost all of a group of 30 Mexican university students boogied at the Lex the four nights they were in Tokyo.
Recently, I sat outside the club and really enjoyed rapping with about 10 Russian students who gave me insight on life in contemporary Russia.
That same evening I was talking to a young Yugoslavian girl visiting relatives here. I had heard the cute 18-year-old was No. I in her weight class in judo in her country. When I asked her about this, she said, “Oh no. I’m No. 2 because the judge did the screw to me.”
She, of course, meant the judge did not make a good decision. As Hiroko Kubota used to say on FEN Radio, “A rittle ranguage go a rong way.”
As you can see, the Lex for me, like life itself, is people – all kinds of people. When I get tired of it all, which I occasionally do, I hop on a plane and head out for a week or so in some exotic destination. It all works very well.
Enroll in the National Azabu Supermarket Point Card membership. Your points add up to shopping coupons, there are special membership prices on selected items, and there will be special sales for members only. No membership fees; just fill out the application next time you’ re there.
You should also check out the second floor of National Azabu. They just reopened it after a makeover, and they have a good variety of books, magazines, greeting cards, gift wrapping items, party supplies, kitchen and bathroom cleaners and accessories, plus a lot more.
*First published at the Tokyo Weekender