This week on "Shanghai Famous," we've got Bromme Hamtpon Cole. Author, entrepreneur, senior care expert, screenwriter, and newly minted owner magazine-across-the way of City Weekend and their associated brands — the soul patch everyone's talking about. He's made a bit of a splash in Shanghai's expat world almost overnight, with zany ideas, talkin' expat media revolution. But what's he really like? We asked him to tell us. That's what you're reading now.
I am Bromme! I am a 56-year-old businessman by day, 26-year-old artist and writer by night. Recently, I became the owner of City Weekend, ShanghaiExpat, Shanghai Family and Parents & Kids. I've lived in Shanghai for 8 years and 2 in Beijing. It was a sense of adventure that brought me here in the first place, as well as an indefatigable interest in senior health care, but I've always held a deep love and respect for China.
I live along the Xiangyang Lu corridor. It's a great area, full of an exciting mix of locals and expats. Xuhui is my favorite part of the city, I love it for its history, the lives I can imagine that lived in that house or down that alley. Old Shanghai meets the Occident, again and again and again. These two peoples remain separate, but also connected by virtue of their proximity in a way that is frictionless. It’s exciting, impulsive and spontaneous. There is nothing bad about the area except for maybe the occasional plumbing issue! But that isn’t so bad in the end. Shanghai is without a doubt the most exciting city in the world.
I love to walk in the city's older quarters as dawn breaks and Shanghai awakens. It's a very introspective thing to do. It gives me an insight into the locals. I feel privileged to live here and in different ways, I feel a real kinship with the Chinese people. I have an especially deep compassion for the Chinese elderly. They have witnessed and participated in a very tumultuous century, and now, as the 21st century dawns and their lives come to a close, they live in a country that bears little resemblance to the one in which they grew up. They have lived lives full of transformation and survived and even thrived. That says a lot. I respect that fact.
It's the city's extraordinary history combined with the modern vibe that appeals to me, the way Shanghai leans fearlessly into the future but has a long tail. Almost as long as the drive to PVG. Probably my least favorite aspect, but even then it's exciting to see how much Pudong has developed since I first moved to the city.
Many places have come and gone in that time, but there are a few I keep coming back to. When I want to go dancing I like Myst and Fusion. For drinks and dance, I go to Unico. When I'm looking for fancy food, I go to Robuchon and Da Ivo. If I'm craving a steak, always Shanghai Slim's and Morton's. I love wine, too, so a place like Pudao Wine in Ferguson Lane is awesome, as well as Bin 74 on Fuxing. Anything red works there!
L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon
For now I'm embarking on a new journey. The media assets I've recently purchased attracted me for a number of reasons: First, City Weekend and its sister platforms are excellent, well-conceived and firmly established. Ringier did an outstanding job with their development and was a good shepherd for them during their tenure. With that said, markets are never static and there is an undeniable transformation underway that requires a new approach.
Although I am not an expert in media, I do have a keen eye for realignment and opportunity. I firmly believe I can enable and empower the people I have hired to effect the change required to reestablish these assets as preeminent. We will adapt and reposition the brands to the realities of Shanghai’s consumer. And this means a more inclusive publication, integrating the local and expat population within a media that promotes a multicultural lifestyle. I want to make what these assets offer best--lifestyle, events, F&B--more exciting, more accessible, more impulsive and of course, more profitable. Second, I am a writer at heart and after 3 books and with a screenplay in progress, I have begun to identify, personally and professionally, with the media industry. For me, this project is an exciting way for me to participate in something I love.
I am a Freemason, but I never intended for my involvement with Masonry to become such a focus here. I fully understand it, though. Masonry is simple at its core. It exists so that good men can strive to become better men, better gentlemen, and dedicate themselves to enriching the lives of those less fortunate. No secret here and no mystery with this mission. It is not a religion, it's not a cult and it's not associated with politics. Masonry has brought me a better way to communicate and understand others in a sincere, mindful way.
Hollywood and the media has kidnapped the idea of Masonry and made it sensational and cult-like. It's unfortunate, but I understand it. Ancient rites in the context of a brotherhood along with many famous past members can produce whispers of mystery and therefore often attracts the worst assumptions. In some way it is amusing and maybe a bit ironic to think that, with a Hollywood screenplay in the works and my purchase of City Weekend, I am now a Mason in an industry that finds Masons so mysterious!
If immortality were in the cards for me (not even the Freemasons can guarantee that!), I would live in Shanghai forever. But I have well-founded doubts that's going to happen, nevertheless I love this city, and the people in it.