People often say that Japan is years behind the United States in just about everything. I don't agree; Japan, in many aspects of society, is years ahead of America. From living here, I have seen glimpses of America's future. And it's not pretty.
Yep, America's future is here; Japan has a very docile populace. The public seem to rarely question the news. People do and think as they are told. People do not question the government or corporate line; because the nail that sticks out, gets pounded down. Could America be far behind?
The Japanese mass media is completely and totally run by a handful of corporations. A good example of this is Japanese Top 40 music. The top music charts here are all run by a few companies who decide for you what "artist" is going to be famous next. It's great for all involved; Don't think, be like everyone else! Everyone else is buying this new record. You should too! (You'd hate to lose friends by listening to something different.) The American Pop Music Industry aspires to become all that Japanese pop music already is: Corporate state swill shoved down the throats of the masses.
I used to do a lot of "Stadium Announcing" in Japan. Being a stadium announcer is a pretty "gravy" job. Especially here in Japan, where the average person doesn't have a clue as to what you are saying; the Japanese public like the "atmosphere" of an American sports event. So, perhaps I should say that, instead of a stadium announcer, I was very good at doing imitations of announcers.
Working in Japan is often kind of like working in a real life Fantasy-land; It's very safe, nothing seems real, and the whole world is as cute as hell.
I've done stadium announcing for all sorts of companies; fashion, cars, baseball games, boxing, you name it, I've done it. I used to do this kind of announcing every year for Amway too. For all of Amway's first big conventions in Japan, I was the announcer. And, from doing "Amway Conventions," I have met some of the most interesting people and been to some of the most bizarre promotional events I have ever heard of in my life.
Lots of people in Japan try to get rich selling Amway. I think I am one of four people I know who have ever made any money off of Amway I have ever heard of. No one makes money off selling Amway. Except Amway. And you know how Amway makes money don't you? They get people to be salesmen for no pay! That's right; people will spend their time and money selling Amway in the slim hopes that they can get "rich."
If you really thought about it, you'd realize that if you put in as much of an effort in your regular job as you did working for free for Amway, you could probably get yourself promoted real fast. So no-one really makes any money off Amway. Except Amway, me, and my three "friends."
When say I made money off of Amway, I mean; I have been paid a lot of money to make Amway look good. The only people I know who have made money off of Amway are; the president of Amway Japan; Former US President George Herbert Walker Bush; pop star Diana Ross; and me. A pretty strange group of four people to be sure.
From Tower Records “Pulse!” magazine of April 1995: Bush League: Diana Ross and the former president surreally hawk cleaning products Meeting of the Minds: Diana Ross and George H.W. Bush were both on hand at the 50,000 seat Tokyo Dome late last year for a convention held Dec. 910 by Amway. The packed-to-the-gills affair was “hosted” by Mike Rogers, call-in correspondent for L.A.'s Mark and Brian show and former singer for the 70's punk band The Rotters (of “Sit On My Face Stevie Nicks” fame). In her half hour set, Ross, (who incidentally had tighter security than the former president), performed several old hits, including “Theme From Mahogany,” “Upside Down,” “Touch Me In The Morning” and “I Wanna Thank You,” plus a medley of Supremes classics and several newer tunes. Quite strange however, was the commentary by Bush, who reiterated that “The Cold War is over” but neglected to mention anything about an Amway product. Keith Cahoon (President Tower Records, Asia)
At the time I was announcing Amway conventions, a foreigner was the president of Amway Japan. He was a very nice man. He was one of the typical foreigners who had been in Japan for over ten years yet knew nothing of the country (thus he would have been perfect as a CNN reporter on Japan!) He and his wife had somehow found themselves in Japan. Foreigners like these folks basically knew nothing of Japan because they couldn't speak the language. And if you can't speak the language, you'll never understand the culture. Don't get me wrong, they were nice folks, but they weren't in love with Japan. They were in love with what they "thought" Japan was. Or the Japan that their English-speaking rich bourgeois Japanese friends wanted them to see. I'm sure they went to see Kabuki, Sumo, and the usual fare for the rich, old, and jaded. But, I don't think that is the real Japan. I don't think they ever saw the real Japan. And, if they are still here, which I doubt, they probably still haven't. Japan is their "real life Disneyland."
These folks were the president and vice-president of Tupper-ware just a few years before I had met them at the Amway conventions. This I found a bit absurd. If you've ever sold Amway, you'd know that you are supposed to buy Amway products and "sell them down line" to your group. As your group gets bigger and bigger, you sell more and more product, thereby you make more and more money. Well that's how it is supposed to work in theory. In reality, I have never met anyone who has made money from Amway that way.
So this couple were the "big cheese" of this fabulous money making scheme. Fine. But wait a minute! If they were selling Amway now, and they were selling Tupperware just a few years ago, how did they become the president and vice president of Amway Japan? You would think they would have had to work their way "Up the ladder" so to speak. They would have had to have been some of the first people in Japan to get involved with the Amway scheme, right? Wrong. I asked the husband personally about this and he told me, "We were selling Tupper-ware, but when we were shown Amway, we thought this was better."
"So you didn't actually sell any Amway products before?" I asked.
"Nope. We were u2018head-hunted' to run Amway." He proudly announced.
What!? Here I was at this silly Amway convention doing the announcement for a company that was "scamming" people.
Oh well, it was okay. I was making a lot of money for a couple of hours work a day announcing their stupid event at the Tokyo Dome, I rationalized.
The guests lined up for this Amway event were the usual Amway fare; some guys who claim to be a "triple-double-Diamond-chocolate chip cookie," as well as the foreign president speaking, with, unbelievably, (are you ready for this?) special guests; the former President of the United States George Herbert Walker Bush and former Supremes lead vocalist Diana Ross.
The Tokyo Dome event took place over the span of two days. From all over Japan, new Amway recruits came flooding to Tokyo to witness the glory and greatness of Amway (The American Way?) You'd think that since all these people were Amway "sales people," that anyone involved could get in for free, but no way. I think people paid about $80.00 per ticket to go to this event. It was a sales motivational event and the "sales people" had to pay to get in! Like I said, Amway was making a lot of money off a lot of stupid people. Not only were they getting people to voluntarily sell and distribute their soap; they were making money off promotional events too!
From backstage I looked out at the entire Tokyo Dome. Fifty thousand people were going to be there. Fifty thousand! And of all those people, there was only a handful of us making any money on this event and I was one of the few.
Before the Dome started to fill up, since I had an "All Areas Security Pass," I decided to check out the various places at the Tokyo Dome that most people will never get a chance to see in their entire lives; I sat in the dugout that the Tokyo Giants used. I looked out from the dugout and could hear the cheers of tens of thousands of people as the Giants won the pennant again for the umpteenth time; I walked around the Giants dressing room. I could imagine the cheers of joy of the players after the Giants won and were pouring champagne on top of each other. I could feel the history. I could, "hear" the celebrations.
I walked down the hall. As the deafening shouts of the crowds in my imagination died down. I walked the silent empty hallways and found a dressing room. On the dressing room was a large shiny silver star. And underneath the star it said, “Dressing Room — Miss Diana Ross. Absolutely no entry!”
It was at least four hours before the event was to start. We had already done our sound checks and the Amway people were going through their motions on stage. I knocked on the door of Diana Ross' room. There was no answer. I knocked again, louder. Still no answer. I reached down and turned the door handle. I couldn't believe it! It was unlocked! I peeked in.
I don't know what I expected to see really. I mean, I had never been in a Superstar's dressing room before. It was a western style room, about 40 feet by 40 feet. The floor was carpeted and the walls at opposite sides of the room were all mirrors. There was a sofa that sat about four people and two nice comfy chairs. Of course below the mirrored walls there was a counter for applying makeup along with the big round "make-up" lights, just like you see in the movies.
I sat down at every chair. I lay down on the sofa. So I could say that Diana Ross and I have sat in the same room, in the very same chair before.
"Should have brought a camera. Tomorrow I definitely will." I thought. I figured I could get my picture taken with Diana Ross for sure. Maybe President Bush won't be so easy. But I sure was gonna try.
I wandered out of Diana Ross' dressing room, and back to the event. We were getting ready to start. The Dome was pretty much filled up with people by then. When my "cue" came, I stood to my feet and boomed out,
"Ladies and gentlemen, Welcome to this years Amway Japan Convention!" the music started up and then they had some lame "Las Vegas style" dancers come out on stage and start the "exciting" show.
It was a weird audience. The entire Dome was filled with what looked like "church people." Everyone there was wearing a business suit. I continued to introduce different people. They all came up on the stage and did their speeches and gave out awards. Whatever. Then came the highlight I was really looking forward to; Former US President George H.W. Bush. Once again I made the speakers boom with excitement, “And now ladies and gentlemen, won't you give a warm Amway welcome to the former President of the United States. The one, the only, George Herbert Walker Bush!” The crowd applauded wildly.
There was this "black-walled corridor" built from the back room up to the stage. No one could see what was behind this corridor. Even with my "all areas pass" I couldn't get there. I figured that's where Bush was going to come walking out of. But no! They threw everyone a "curve," and Bush, along with about 50 secret service agents came walking out from one of the side doors, in a phalanx formation, to the stage. I wondered why they didn't use the special corridor they had built? But I thought, "Maybe they are using different plans in case somebody might want to assassinate Bush." But then again, "Who would even want to assassinate this guy? He's actually no-body anymore. And what a waste of U.S. taxpayers money! Not only does the US taxpayer have to pay the bill for his football-teamsized bodyguards, but he's getting paid mega-bucks (probably $1 million dollars at least Reagan got $2 million for a different event in Japan) to speak at this event. What a rip-off of US taxpayers money!"
So Bush gets up on stage. He gets a standing ovation from the audience. Next to Bush is a Japanese translator. I was wondering what Bush was going to talk about at an Amway convention? Surely he wasn't selling Amway now. Or was he?
About three or four minutes into Bush's speech I realized what was going on; even the former president didn't know what kind of event this was. All he knew was this was the Tokyo Dome and there were 50,000 people there to see him speak. He stamped his fist on the podium and said to a roaring applause, "The cold war is over!" He then went on for the next 40 minutes talking about the demise of the old Soviet Union and how, "We have won!" The audience probably couldn't understand what the hell Bush was talking about really. When Bush meant; "The Soviet Union has fallen. The capitalist system has succeeded. We have won!" The audience probably understood,
"The communist system doesn't work. Free enterprise like Amway is the best. Amway has won!" This nonsense went on for a while. Around me in the announcers booth there stood a few secret service agents. I smiled and nodded at one. He smiled and nodded back.
Bush finished his speech and got a two or three minute standing ovation from the suits in the crowd. Red, white and blue balloons fell from the ceiling and Bush waved good-bye. Then, in military precision, his army of secret service bodyguards walked him briskly to a different exit than the one he walked in. And they were gone. The former President of the United States had finished his speech in front of a packed stadium of people. And I'm sure to this day, that he had no idea he was speaking in front of an Amway convention!
Then came the big event of the evening; Miss Diana Ross! (Pretty pathetic, eh? Bush has to "open" for Diana Ross!) I strained to see which entrance she would hit the stage from. But I couldn't see her. I announced her to the audience. Then she just "popped out" onto the stage! The "black corridor" was not built for the former president! It was built for Diana Ross for chrissakes!
Diana sang all her many hit songs. The crowd loved it. Then after a few songs she said, “I'd like to thank you all for coming to my 30th anniversary tour of Japan! Thank you all!”
"Oh my God!" I thought, "Even Diana Ross doesn't know this is an Amway convention. She thinks it's just part of her "World tour!" So I guess, back in the States, Bush and Diana Ross could brag to all their friends that they had, "Just come back from Tokyo, where they "performed" in front of a packed Tokyo Dome." It was too surreal.
Diana finished her set and disappeared again behind the black corridor. I knew then that it would be very difficult to get my picture taken with her. But tomorrow I was going to do my damnedest to get my picture taken with President Bush.
The next day I showed up at the Dome with my then girlfriend. Before the show I took her around to all my "regular spots"; the Giants dugout, backstage, and, of course to Diana Ross' dressing room. I figured I couldn't get my picture taken with Diana so I had my girlfriend take a picture of me looking out of Diana's door. I looked like I was "surprised" to have my photo taken. Kind of like a u2018paparazzi' photo. Who knows what kind of hi-jinks was going on between Mike Rogers and Diana Ross? Could this photo mean that I was having an affair with Diana? Well, I don't want to start any scandalous rumors, but I will say that I was lying down on Diana's sofa! You let your imagination take it from there.
The second day of the event was pretty much like the first; boring. Bush and Diana Ross both not having the slightest clue that they were at an Amway convention.
After I introduced President Bush, he and his secret service army entered from a different door than the first day! During Bush's speech, the same secret service guy was standing behind me that was there the day before. We talked for a while. I asked him what it was like being a secret service goon and he told me it was, "Alright," then he added, "But what I'd really like to do is move to Japan and teach English!" I am not making this up! That's what he said! So help me God! I was very surprised.
"Well maybe I could help you out. I know a lot of people here." Then we exchanged business cards. I asked him, “Do you think President Bush will let me take my picture with him?”
“I don't know. Why don't you ask him?” Mr. Spy told me.
"Which exit are they going out of today?" I inquired. He pointed to my left (stage right) and said,
"Right there!" It was perfect! Right after Bush's speech was over, he was going to walk right behind my announcer’s booth. I got my camera ready.
Bush made the exact same speech he had made the day before. After it was over, the President and his men walked off the stage, behind the curtain, they all turned sharply towards where I was standing. I tried to get close to the President. These secret service goons were walking right into me, body-slamming me! They were all walking really fast. It was like I was being tackled by the bodyguards. I couldn't get closer than thirty yards. I shouted, “Mister Bush! Mister Bush! Can I take my picture with you?” The secret service agents were staring at me like they wanted to kill me. Then President Bush said in his country drawl, “Ya, got a camera?” I answered, "I sure do!" As I pulled out this stupid "disposable" camera. I walked quickly to where Bush was. But no one was stopping. They kept walking! I said to anyone around, “Can you take our picture? Can you take our picture?” But they were all ignoring me.
Then this short, blonde, very mean looking, spy lady said, “We are not allowed to touch cameras.”
"What!?" I thought. Then the translator girl volunteered to take the picture. President Bush and I stopped for a moment. The girl grabbed the camera. I said, “Count to three!” She pointed the camera at us and counted, "One…Two…Three!" As soon as she said u2018three' I wrapped my arm around Bush's shoulders like we were u2018drinking buddies'. He got really stiff and seemed quite surprised.
Picture taken. Mission accomplished. I shook Bush's hand and said, "I voted for you! I voted for you!" Which was a lie. I didn't. Bush got his butt beat by Bill Clinton. But I didn't care, I got my picture with my "buddy" Bush.
Sure, it was easy to get my picture taken with a former president, but there was no way anyone could get their picture taken with Diana Ross. No one could get within 100 yards of her!
There was one more bizarre thing about this Amway event that I have to tell you about though. Of course the Amway management wanted a big Las Vegas style event to get all their brain-dead sales people excited about selling soap. So they had to hire professional dancers. There was this large group of professional dancers in Tokyo. Just about all of them were foreigners. And the best dancers of all of them were three or four black guys. These guys were great!
Japan changes so fast it's amazing. Back then, black people had a hard time getting jobs in Japan. It might still be that way, I don't know. But since Amway Japan wanted a "clean image," they would not let the black guys dance on stage! Hey! Don't get mad at me! This wasn't my dumb idea. So the black guys were the guys who had to wear these silly costumes that made them look like idiotic bottles of Amway soap! The best dancers for a company event, a company that started in America and was growing well in Japan, would not allow blacks on the stage!
Right! Think about it: They don't want blacks dancing on the stage because they want a "clean image." And they think because someone has dark skin that they are not "clean." But then they hire Diana Ross, a black singer, to sing at their event! Amway Japan: what a bunch of racist jerks.
The things that happen here in Japan are hard to believe sometimes. But every word I have written here for you is true. I even have a picture of me and George to prove it. But, then again, if you folks in America don't wish to, or can't believe this story, I would understand. Because of what I've seen of what's been going on in the American mass media recently and the absurdist claims being made (even though they are all "technically correct"), even a photo proves nothing anymore.
Like I said, Japan is a real-life fantasyland. And the way the United States seems to be going now, I really wonder if it's far behind.
December 27, 2003