Victor Bergeron was a friend since his modest bar called Hinky Dink's in Oakland at 65th and San Pablo Avenues became Trader Vic's. From that time on, his success and fame skyrocketed as he expanded to major cities in the United States and abroad to London and Munich.

Although minuscule in comparison, I'd had success in Japan. From our first shop in Tokyo, we'd opened in Osaka and Yokohama. "Come on, Vic," I'd say, "open one of your joints in Japan." He'd shake his head and use some rather strong language in reply. World War II had turned him off Japan. For that matter, he'd serve no vodka in his restaurants -- he didn't like the Russians -- nor was French wine available. Vic was a man of strong opinions.

For over two years, I needled him on the subject. Finally, he said, "Okay. Okay. See what you can do, but I'm not promising to go to that goddamned country."

I hadn't realized this was going to be my responsibility, but I knew I'd enjoy trying. From the pattern of his expansion, I'd have to find a location in a hotel.

In Japan, perhaps more than in the United States, it is important to start a negotiation at the top rather than move up through the ranks. While my hotel of personal choice was the Okura, I'd never met Iwajiro Noda, the CEO. However, the senior partner of the law firm representing us, Kyozo Yuasa, knew him. As a former Supreme Court Justice, his contacts proved to be invaluable.

I met with Iwajiro, Noda. Following tradition, we spent some time discussing the weather, cherry blossoms and Tokyo traffic problems. Finally, he asked, "Mr. Jackson, what is it you want to see me about?" Of course, he knew very well. Kyozo Yuasa had arranged the appointment.

I said, "I have a friend in America who is considering opening a restaurant in Tokyo. I've told him the Okura would be a very suitable location."

He smiled in recognition of this compliment, then asked, "What is the name of your friend?"

"Victor Bergeron," I said, "professionally known as Trader Vic."

Noda-san said, "I know those restaurants very well. They're the ones in the railroad stations."

Realizing this conversation was not going anywhere, I formally excused myself. When I returned to San Francisco and told Vic the CEO of the Okura thought he had restaurants in railroad stations ... well, I won't even try to quote his reaction.

Because Vic was in no hurry, and I traveled to Japan every two or three months, negotiations were spread over an extended length of time.

My next appointment was with the Imperial Hotel where the conversation with Ichiro Inumaru was much more satisfactory than my Okura experience. Inumaru-san had spent some time in San Francisco working at the Mark Hopkins Hotel, so he knew Trader Vic's very well.

He explained, although they'd recently completed a major addition, all suitable restaurant space had been committed. He was truly sorry to miss out on the opportunity to have Trader Vic's at the Imperial.

As I got up to leave, he asked if I could stay on a bit. He made a telephone call, and shortly an assistant delivered a large book containing detailed information on all major Tokyo hotel operations. As with departments stores, all secrets are happily shared.

Inumaru-san leafed through the report, occasionally stopping to spend a moment scanning a page. Then he studied a report for almost five minutes. He said, "I think I've got the hotel for you. It's the New Otani. I certainly wish it could have been us."

The New Otani had a thousand-room wing nearing completion; and, as far as he knew, suitable space was still available. It would now be the largest hotel in Tokyo appealing to a broad clientele. While not as chic as his or the Okura, Inumaru-san was certain it could support a profitable Trader Vic's.

Profusely thanking him for the help he'd been, I started to leave and once again he delayed me. "I've a suggestion," he said. "Go see Noda-san at the Okura once more. I'm sure by now he's got this railroad station bit straightened out, and the Okura is the best hotel in Tokyo."

This was a surprising statement by an executive of a hotel considered by many as one of the best in the world. The original building was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and the survivor of the devastating 1923 earthquake and the fire-bombings of World War II. I'd find many who would disagree with him and consider the Imperial the best.

However, I followed his suggestion and asked Kyozo Yuasa to arrange an appointment. It turned out to be another frustrating experience. As Inumaru-san had thought, Noda-san had revised his railroad station story. Now he remembered Trader Vic had restaurants at the airports in the United States. Again, I cannot repeat what Vic said when I made this report.

Kyozo Yuasa then made an appointment for me with Suemitsu Kadowaki, CEO of the New Otani. All went well, and Trader Vic's opened at the New Otani in September of 1974. Lulu and I joined Vic and Helen Bergeron for the occasion. This has proven to be one of his most profitable operations. As the New Otani entered new markets, Trader Vic's was included. They now have restaurants in Osaka, Singapore, Taipei and Bangkok.

As an interesting sidelight, Kadowaki-san and a group of his executives came to San Francisco to sign the formal agreement. Vic had them all for dinner in the Captain's Cabin, and one asked him if they could celebrate in the Japanese manner. While I shook my head, Vic smiled in agreement.

The Japanese then stood abruptly, clapped their hands, and shouted loudly in unison "HO." There was complete silence from the other diners in the room except for the clatter of dropped silverware. Vic's regulars had gone through a startling Japanese experience.

Lulu and I had flown with Vic and Helen in his plane down to Las Cruces in Baja California. I looked forward to marlin fishing. Vic, because of his wooden leg, couldn't maneuver well enough to handle this big a fish. He settled for something more modest.

A group of us were having pre-dinner cocktails, and Vic was engaged in a serious conversation with a younger man. He was explaining how to catch marlin and Helen was lightly tugging at his sleeve trying to get him to stop. It turned out Vic, who'd had never fished for marlin, was explaining the intricacies of this specialty to the man who had written the definitive book on the subject.

Vic Bergeron was a kind and sensitive man. On that trip to Las Cruces, he visited a girl - just a youngster - in nearby La Paz. Her leg had to be amputated, just as his had to be when he was even younger than she.

She, of course, was frightened; and Vic was concerned the local hospital might not do a proper job. He had his pilot fly the girl to the San Francisco Bay Area where the amputation was performed. He also invited the girl's best friend to make the trip with her so she'd have someone close nearby who also spoke Spanish. He paid all expenses and absolutely refused any publicity for what he'd done.

During World War II, Monday was servicemen night at Trader Vic's. One of the rooms was filled with ambulatory patients from nearby military hospitals. They were his guests and again, he refused any publicity.