Live Event

Pennie Lane and Rolling Stone Editor Ben Fong-Torres Talk 20 Years of Almost Famous

The two join up for a one-night-only conversation to raise funds for Portland Center Stage.

By Eden Dawn October 26, 2020

A behind the scenes shot from Almost Famous with actor Terry Chen (playing the Ben Fong-Torres character), real life Fong-Torres, Rainn Wilson (playing Rolling Stone editor David Felton), and the real Felton.

“It’s all happening.” Twenty years ago, Kate Hudson, playing real-life Portlander Pennie Lane Trumbull, sprang onto screens uttering that iconic line in Cameron Crowe’s Almost Famous. The film’s plot follows child prodigy William Miller as he goes out on the road with the band Stillwater and Lane’s famous crew of Band Aids trying to nail his first big assignment from Rolling Stone editor Ben Fong-Torres.

The all-star cast included Hudson, Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Jason Lee, Patrick Fugit, Zooey Deschanel, Jimmy Fallon, and Philip Seymour Hoffman in notable, often quotable, roles. It was a critical success praised for its detailed look at touring life, Bohemian 1970s aesthetics, and charming central relationship between William and Pennie. That’s in part because the details were real, with Crowe drawing upon his actual friendship with Trumbull and his years writing for Fong-Torres at Rolling Stone as a teenager. And you can hear Trumbull and Fong-Torres talk about their rock-and-roll filled youth in a one-night fundraiser for Portland Center Stage called Almost Quarantined on October 29.

In the live event, the moderator (which happens to be me, hello!) will talk to Fong-Torres about being a rock journalist in this seminal age of the craft and going out on tour with the big guns like Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Paul McCartney and, of course, The Rolling Stones. Then we’ll bring out Trumbull for the two to share what it’s like having film characters based on them before the digital audience gets a chance to submit their Qs for As.

Cameron Crowe, Pennie Lane Trumbull and Joni Mitchell, at the premiere of  the Almost Famous Musical on September 24, 2019 at the Old Globe Theater, San Diego California.

Though we are living in an age of Reunion Zooms, this event came together in an atypical way compared to your average fundraiser. Serial Portland entrepreneur Mark Grimes said he ran into Trumbull early this year when she was recording interviews for the five-part Origins podcast series on the film’s big anniversary. There was supposed to be a lot of pomp and circumstance around the July release, but in a familiar tale, COVID shelved the in-person party action. At the same time, COVID had also prompted a wild idea from Grimes: What if he attempted to do 31 Startups in 31 days getting each to cashflow positive status? That concept has since birthed projects like an ax-throwing target as well as a tiny home at the coast which would act as a free artist’s retreat, and now, Almost Quarantined.

“All our local theaters here in Portland from Artists Rep to Portland Center Stage ... have shut down with no easy path to reopening,” he says about making it a benefit. “So, I reached out to Pennie because she was the impetus for, in some ways, the whole idea. And we kind of brainstormed what we could do.”

Grimes got to work tracking down Fong-Torres and pulling the tech aspects together. His aim is small, just 100 tickets for the Thursday event are up for grabs with two-thirds of the money from each ticket going to support the theater. Maybe one of them will even shout, “I am a golden god!”

Almost Quarantined

7 p.m. Thurs, Oct 29,, $15 

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