Fong-Torres was born in Alameda, California, in 1945, and raised
in Oakland's Chinatown, where his parents owned a restaurant. He
attended San Francisco State College from 1962 through 1966, majored
in Radio-TV-Film and served as a reporter and editor of the campus
began writing for Rolling Stone magazine in 1968, in its
eighth issue. He had a full-time job at another publication: Pacific
Telephone’s employee magazine. By night, he was a volunteer editor
at East West, a bilingual Chinatown newspaper. In May, 1969,
Ben joined Rolling Stone as news editor. His interview subjects
included Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, Ray Charles, Paul McCartney,
Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, the Jackson 5, Linda Ronstadt,
Neil Diamond, Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, the Grateful Dead, Ike &
Tina Turner, Diane Keaton, and Steve Martin. The Ray Charles interview
won the Deems Taylor Award for Magazine Writing in 1974.
was also a weekend DJ on KSAN from 1970 to 1979. He wrote and narrated
a syndicated radio special, San Francisco: What a Long, Strange
Trip It’s Been, which won a Billboard Award for Broadcast Excellence.
He was the host of KQED-FM's live, weekly arts show, Fog City Radio,
and has co-anchored KTVU-TV’s coverage of the Chinese New Year Parades
since the Year of the Ox–or 1997.
on television, Ben did profiles on Evening Magazine in 1977;
an interview with Steve Martin helped the program win a Northern
California Emmy. In 1982, he went to China as scriptwriter for a
special, Cycling Through China, which was broadcast in Asia,
Europe, and the United States. His most unique TV credit was his
1993 appearance on Wheel of Fortune. Over three nights, he
won some $99,000 in cash and fabulous prizes. He also appeared on
the nationally syndicated Your Big Break in spring of 2000,
doing an impersonation of Bob Dylan.
left Rolling Stone in 1981 and has since written for dozens
of magazines, including Esquire, GQ (where he was
pop music columnist for three years), Parade, Playboy,
Sports Illustrated, Travel & Leisure, American
Film, TV Guide, Harper’s Bazaar and California
Business. He wrote the main biographies for People magazine’s
tributes to Jerry Garcia and Frank Sinatra, and he is a contributor
to two books published in 1998: Rolling Stone: The Seventies
and The Encyclopedia of Country Music.
1983, Fong-Torres joined the San Francisco Chronicle, where
he was a feature writer and radio columnist until 1992, when he
left to write his memoirs, The Rice Room: From Number Two Son
to Rock and Roll, published in 1994 by Hyperion (and in softcover
by Plume/Dutton), which reached the San Francisco Chronicle’s
also edited several anthologies while at Rolling Stone, wrote
the main text for The Motown Album: The Sound of Young America
(St. Martin’s Press). In 1991, he published Hickory Wind: The
Life and Times of Gram Parsons (Pocket/Simon & Schuster). The
book was nominated for the Ralph J. Gleason Book Award, and St.
Martin’s Press published an updated version of it in fall of 1998.
has been anthologized in numerous books, including Garcia;
The Rolling Stone Film Reader; The American’s Search for
Identity; Chink!: Studies in Ethnic Prejudice, and two
college textbooks. He has contributed pieces to The Encyclopedia
of Country Music, to Country on Compact Disc, and to the CD-ROM
version of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica.
1993, on completion of The Rice Room, Ben joined Gavin, the
San Francisco-based trade weekly for the radio and recording industries,
as managing editor. He vacated that post in late 1997 to work on
The Hits Just Keep On Coming: The History of Top 40 Radio,
which was published by Miller Freeman Books in fall of 1998. [A
long-time lover of radio, Ben has also written the script for the
Radio Hall of Fame’s induction ceremonies since 1998. The inductions,
hosted by Casey Kasem, take place in Chicago and are nationally
most recent book is Not Fade Away: A Backstage Pass to 20 Years
of Rock & Roll, a compilation of past articles published by
Miller Freeman in 1999. That year, Ben joined myplay.com, a music
site on the Internet, as Editorial Director. He also began contributing
articles to AsianConnections.com.
Ben is now VP of Content at Collabrys, Inc.
is frequently called on to emcee community events, and to conduct
on-stage interviews, most recently at the Mill Valley Film Festival,
with Robin Williams, William H. Macy, and Dianne Wiest. He is also
known for his impressions of, among others, Elvis Presley and Bob
Dylan. Both are featured in one song, “Rainy Day Bookstores,” on
a CD entitled Stranger Than Fiction, featuring writers performing
music. He is a real-life character in Almost Famous, the film by
director-writer Cameron (Jerry Maguire) Crowe.