Your Man in Saigon

By , Columnist
A few years ago Vanity Fair published a story called "Our Man in Saigon," written by Brian McNally. McNally, an old friend of VF editor Graydon Carter had decamped from New York to Saigon, and somehow, Carter found this interesting - probably because he's never been much outside the Waverly Grill or the Hamptons in his free time.

In any case, the Vanity Fair story caused a reasonable stir - mostly from people wondering what kind of rubbish that magazine had reduced itself to printing. Whilst McNally is certainly an interesting guy, and a former "I host the who's who of New York cool" restauranteur, it would not be unfair to say his star had reasonably faded on arrival in Saigon and his moving from fine dining to late night emails to his old mate Carter.

Upon his first story, I received the following note from a woman named Rhona, a blog reader I didn't even know  had.

I fell on your WWED page by accident very recently and of course I got hooked. Then, in the same week, up pops the Brian McNally piece in Vanity Fair (April 08 issue). And Graydon Carter says 'I am hoping this is the first of many such reports from Our Man in Saigon.' Ha! But to your readers, you are Our Man in Saigon. So of course I wondered if you had read it and what you thought of it.

And so I read the hell out of it, and put myself on the trail to meet Mr. McNally and discover how I could have readers that trumped Vanity Fair and he could get paid a NY periodicals rate while I got squat. Excellent question.

Fast forward and McNally posts a second story - one so full of, "I'm just a dude with not enough money for New York but too much for Saigon," intellect that makes you wonder if barber shops that give blow jobs are really a big idea. I've seen them in Asia for sixteen years so obviously McNally earned his newbie card for that bit of investigative reporting.

VF prints it. Scandalous! Go Graydon! Now that's some Spy Magazine on ya! Fast forward again and I finally meet Brian McNally, outside a bar on a normal street in Saigon. No big deal. He's a nice guy and we talk in the rain a bit whilst enjoying a smoke. Yes, you can still smoke without police intervention in Asia, so give communism a couple of points for that. Commies love to smoke about as much as Obama but we don't talk about that, do we?

These days, I am covering world media, entertainment, BS, and general news from a distinctly Wild Wild Eastern perspective - duh, because I live here? Let me tell you - one of the worst things I ever did was to show my Korean girlfriend the American '70s movie MASH, which had probably no actual Koreans in it. It was embarrassingly American, viewed out of country. Suffice to say, things look different from here. An English mate of mine illuminated recently, that here, at least propaganda is clearly defined as propaganda. But in America, he said, "That's called the movies."

I will now do my best, to be a New Yorker cum Chicago, Dallas, D.C., Seoul and Saigon with some time in Paris, Mali Africa and Munich to throw a light on what's up culturally, from the far Far East. Ask yourself what America's largest export is, and although you might guess computers or software, the answer is actually cultural product: movies and music. And Asia is now the largest market for that, legal or not. Let's see how that works from a Wild Wild East perspective.

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David has spent most of his career in advertising. That alone should call his writing skills into question. David currently writes the Wild Wild East Dailies from Saigon but has trouble seeing the forest for the trees because it's a jungle out there.

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