Ben Fong-Torres
Ben Fong-Torres with Donald Sutherland at the Mill Valley Film Festival, 2005.
Ben Fong-Torres with Donald Sutherland at the Mill Valley Film Festival, 2005.
BornFong Chan Ho
(1945-01-07) January 7, 1945 (age 79)
Alameda, California, US
Occupationrock journalist, author, and broadcaster
Alma materSan Francisco State University
Notable awardsDeems Taylor Award for Magazine Writing, 1974, N. Calif. Emmy Awards, 2004, 2007, 2008, 2017, 2019.
SpouseDianne Sweet
Website
www.benfongtorres.com
Ben Fong-Torres
Fong Chan Ho
Chinese方振豪
JyutpingFong1 Zan3hou4
Cantonese YaleFōng Janhoùh
Hanyu PinyinFāng Zhènháo
[fáŋ ʈʂə̂nxǎʊ]

Benjamin Fong-Torres (; Cantonese: Fong Chan Ho; born January 7, 1945) is an American rock journalist best known for his association with Rolling Stone magazine[1] (until 1981) and the San Francisco Chronicle (from around 1982).

Biography

Due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, Fong-Torres's father Ricardo (born Fong Kwok Seung), changed his surname to Torres and posed as a Filipino in order to immigrate to the United States. The family later adopted the hyphenated surname, Fong-Torres. Ben is the brother of the late Shirley Fong-Torres.[2][3]

He grew up in Oakland, California, where he served as student body president at Westlake Junior High as well as a newspaper reporter/columnist and commissioner of assemblies at Oakland High School.[2]

Fong-Torres, who graduated from San Francisco State University in 1966 with a B.A. in radio-TV-film, was a writer and senior editor of Rolling Stone[4] nearly from the magazine's inception.[5]

In 1972, Ben's older brother, Barry, a probation officer and community worker, was murdered. Barry had been passionate about working with the Chinese community. In the Netflix documentary about Ben's work with Rolling Stone, Ben states that some may have wrongly thought his brother was with law enforcement.[6]

He conducted interviews for Rolling Stone of entertainment figures including Bob Dylan,[4] the Rolling Stones, comedian Steve Martin and Linda Ronstadt's first cover story in 1975. He also profiled Marvin Gaye, Sly and the Family Stone, Bonnie Raitt, Paul McCartney and Rodney Dangerfield. A Fong-Torres interview with Ray Charles was awarded the Deems Taylor Award for Magazine Writing in 1974.[7]

Fong-Torres was also a rock DJ for San Francisco radio station KSAN-FM in the 1970s. He later hosted a live, weekly entertainment and talk show, Fog City Radio, on NPR affiliate KQED-FM. On television, he is the five-time Emmy Award-winning co-anchor of the Chinese New Year Parade broadcast on KTVU (Fox) in San Francisco.[8]

Fong-Torres was a contestant on the game show Wheel of Fortune in 1993.[9]

He has published several books, including: Hickory Wind, a biography of Gram Parsons; The Rice Room, a memoir; The Hits Just Keep on Coming, a history of Top 40 radio, and two compilations of past articles, Not Fade Away and Becoming Almost Famous (published in May 2006). His book with The Doors (The Doors By The Doors) was published by Hyperion in November 2006, and he published The Grateful Dead Scrapbook (Chronicle Books) in 2009.[10][11] The Rice Room was reprinted, with additional material and photographs, by the University of California Press in 2011. That year, Fong-Torres published Eagles: Taking It to the Limit (Running Press). In November 2013, Willin': The Story of Little Feat (Da Capo Press), was released. In 2020, Welbeck published an updated version of his Eagles book, and he signed with Audible to narrate his memoirs and his book on Little Feat. From July 2005 to April 2019, Fong-Torres wrote the bi-weekly column "Radio Waves" in the San Francisco Chronicle's Sunday Datebook. He has been a contributing editor to Parade magazine, and has served as Senior Editor for Qello, an app and site that streams music concerts and documentaries. In 2007 to 2008, he hosted Backstage Sundays on San Francisco's KFRC-FM, and he was a DJ on BossBossRadio.com until 2016, when he became program director and DJ for Moonalice Radio.[12]

He was portrayed in the 2000 film Almost Famous by actor Terry Chen.[2] The fictional version of Fong-Torres is the lead character William Miller's editor at Rolling Stone. He is depicted on a mural on the side of a building at Haight and Clayton Streets in San Francisco.

Fong-Torres was inducted into the SF State Alumni Hall of Fame in 2004 and delivered the commencement address in 2005. Frequently called upon to MC community events, Fong-Torres has also sung at senior facilities, Broadcast Legends luncheons and weddings. As an officiant, he has married some 30 couples. Fong-Torres was also a judge for the 7th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists' careers.[13]

In 2010, Suzanne Joe Kai,[4] founder of production company StudioLA.TV, co-founder of the website AsianConnections.com, and a television and film producer, began work on a documentary on Fong-Torres titled Like a Rolling Stone: The Life and Times of Ben Fong-Torres.[14][3] The film was licensed to Netflix and released for streaming on May 6, 2022, to English speaking countries.[15][7]

References

  1. ^ Abele, Robert (November 26, 2021). "Review: 'Like a Rolling Stone: The Life & Times of Ben Fong-Torres' spotlights music scribe". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on November 26, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Todd Inoue (October 10, 2021). "Documentary shows how an Oakland Chinatown kid became a more than 'Almost Famous' rock journalist". San Francisco Chronicle | Datebook. Retrieved 2022-02-02.
  3. ^ a b Ambroff-Tahan, James (October 6, 2021). "Ben Fong-Torres, SF's famed music journalist, gets movie treatment". San Francisco Examiner. Clint Reilly Communications. ISSN 2574-593X. ProQuest 2581883453. Archived from the original on 2021-10-08. Retrieved 2022-02-02.
  4. ^ a b c Hiatt, Brian (June 2022). "A rock star of new journalism gets his due". Rolling Stone. No. 1364. New York: Penske Media Corporation. ProQuest Central. p. 16. ISSN 0035-791X. ProQuest 2674055333.
  5. ^ "Ben Fong-Torres Joined Rolling Stone in 1968 After Serving as Editor for SF State Student Newspaper". College of Liberal & Creative Arts, San Francisco State University. Retrieved 2022-02-02.
  6. ^ "The Rice Room by Ben Fong-Torres". Kirkus Reviews. February 15, 1994.
  7. ^ a b Carey, Matthew (2021-11-26). "'Like A Rolling Stone: The Life And Times Of Ben Fong-Torres' Trailer: Pioneering Asian-American Rock Journalist Takes Center Stage". Deadline. Retrieved 2022-02-02.
  8. ^ "Documentary on Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres, an Asian American trailblazer, at Mill Valley Film Festival". Marin Independent Journal. 2021-10-07. Retrieved 2022-02-02.
  9. ^ Anderson, Tomikka (30 December 2015). "Nomination Panelist: Ben Fong-Torres". SFGATE.
  10. ^ "The Doors With Ben Fong-Torres..." pastemagazine.com. 2008-06-30. Retrieved 2022-02-02.
  11. ^ "The Grateful Dead Scrapbook by Ben Fong-Torres, PopMatters". PopMatters. 2010-01-26. Retrieved 2022-02-02.
  12. ^ Moonalice Radio. He is director of content for Music City Hit Factory in San Francisco. Retrieved 21 August 2016
  13. ^ Independent Music Awards - 7th Annual Judges Archived March 6, 2014, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ Liao, Min (2021-11-18). "A Rock Star Boswell Becomes a Doc Star". Alta Online. Retrieved 2022-02-02.
  15. ^ Meek, Andy (May 10, 2022). "New On Netflix: A Rolling Stone Music Journalist Gets A Documentary About His Life And Times". Forbes. Archived from the original on May 10, 2022.