Meeting an icon

Everyone has fifteen minutes of fame, so the saying goes, and long-time islander Carol Maas’s fifteen minutes were captured in perpetuity in the documentary “Like a Rolling Stone: The Life and Times of Ben Fong-Torress,” now out on Netflix.

“I have no idea how he stood out in my mind,” Maas said, discussing a chance meeting with Fong-Torres and the documentary at Candlestick Park’s last concert in 2014. “I recognized his voice first.”

Fong-Torress is most well known for his work as a journalist for Rolling Stones during the sixties as the magazine became established. He interviewed Marvin Gaye, the Beatles, Jim Morrison and the Doors, Stevie Wonder, Tina Turner and Bonnie Raitt, just to name a few. These musicians trusted Fong-Torres, writer and director of “Almost Famous” Cameron Crowe says in the documentary, because he was without ego, honest and a genuine music lover who often got what the artists were trying to say.

Fong-Torres, the documentary explains, was the son of Chinese immigrants who came to the United States under the Chinese Exclusion Act which remained in effect from 18821 to 1943. Fong-Torres grew up in China Town, in San Fransisco, and states in the documentary that he felt he never quite fit in until he discovered music.

Maas also has a passion for music and began following his articles in Rolling Stone.

“I always thought it was a really cool way to get to know the band,” Maas said. “It was the only magazine I read back then.”

Rolling Stone was based out of San Fransico in those early years, where Maas spent her teens.

“San Fransisco had a lot going on,” she said, as did the nation as a whole. “We did a lot of growth then, and music was a large part of that.”

Candlestick Park, she continued, was a huge part of the San Francisco scene. She went to a number of concerts there and has boxes of t-shirts to prove it.

The Beatles held their last concert in the United States in Candlestick. When it was determined the venue was going to be closed, Paul McCartney was scheduled to hold the last performance, August 14, 2014. Her friend Evan Popaduke bought tickets, Maas did not need arm twisting to join him.

She and Popaduke had a tailgate party in the parking lot before walking across the street when she heard his voice. “Is that Ben? Ben Fong-Torres?” She asked. Maas’ voice can be heard off-camera in the documentary, and they kept the cameras rolling. The two shake hands and have a sweet exchange on screen. “They cut a lot of it out, we actually talked a little more,” Maas said. “He was very gracious. I was a little star-struck, so excited, like a little kid,” she laughed.

Meanwhile, McCartney gave an amazing concert, gave a shout-out to photographer Jim Marshall who photographed the Beatles’ last performance in Candlestick and even had a slide show running of his images.

Maas tucked the memory away and continued with her life back in the San Juans not realizing her encounter with Fong-Torres was on tape.

“A while later I received a phone call at work from a woman working on the documentary wanting me to sign some release forms,” Maas said. Then, in 2021 the documentary was released and she was thrilled to discover they actually used some of the footage.

“The whole thing felt synchronistic,” Maas said, adding “It was a very colorful generation and it was a historical time. Ben encapsulated that. He is definitely an icon and groundbreaking in so many ways.”