You're Reading an Award-Winning Column!
Our Renaissance Man wins an Emmy for his work on the Chinese New Year Parade broadcast. And he honors winners of the Women Warrior Awards.
I wont lie to you. It feels good to win an Emmy. Thats what happened the other night at the Northern California Emmy Awards in San Francisco, when the Chinese New Year Parade broadcast, which Julie Haener and I co-host on KTVU (Fox 2), won a bunch of the gold-plated statuettes. As one KTVU anchor kidded afterwards, Jeez, you work part-time and you win one!
Part-time is right. Each February, I go into the stations offices for two script-reading sessions, and then we do the parade from our perch in Union Square, and then we pick up our Emmys. Easy as custard tarts.
Other big winners: Wendy Tokuda of KRON, who got two Emmys for Students Rising Above , a series of reports on low-income, at-risk kids who nonetheless strive to get into college, and Emerald Yeh, formerly of KRON, who won her ninth Emmy, this time for Lost Childhood: Growing Up in an Alcoholic Family. The win was redemption, of sorts, for Emerald, who fought hard to get the show produced and aired, and whose dismissal from KRON last year (owing, the station said, to budget cuts) caused a local stir. But she proved, once more, that shes a winner.
Sydnie Kohara of CBS 5 co-hosted the event with Frank Somerville of KTVU, and offered her usual blend of glamour, professionalism and good humor, while Tokuda and Kristen Tze of ABC 7 were among the presenters. Before the ceremonies, Kristen told me she wasnt up for any awards. I was busy having a baby, she said. She now has a ten-month-young cutie pie at homeMeantime, Lisa Kim of NBC 3 is expecting her second child, a fact apparent to everyone as she strode onstage to accept one of two awards the judges decided to give out for best news anchor. The other winner in that category: Julie Haener. Yeah , Baby!
So Julies got two Emmys, and Ive got oneand about a half, sorta. Way back in the late 70s, I did interviews for Evening Magazine , and the show got an Emmy for the program that featured my visit with Steve Martin. Im guessing the producer and hosts got the Emmys. I got nada until now.
On stage, Jim Haman, producer of the parade broadcast, dominated the mike. Given that he recently produced a show called Gimme the Mike! , a local version of American Idol , it seemed right. So we, the cast and crew, lined up behind him, waving our statuettes and smiling into the spotlights, but didn't get to talk. If Id had a moment, I wouldve said something like this:
Crazy. Well, Id like to thank, first, Rosy Chu, KTVUs director of community affairs, who first suggested me as a co-host, eight or nine years ago. I dont know how she thought a rock journalist could do parades, although some of those floats do take me back to Grateful Dead concerts. Thank you. Please, sit down. Also, thanks to Kenny Wardell and everyone at KTVU who work so hard behind the scenes at every paradeespecially the crew. Thanks to the wonderful Julie Haener, and to David Lei, our cultural guru. To our on-the-street reporters, Faith Fancher, whose memory you honored earlier tonight, and Robert Handa, and Lloyd LaCuesta. And, most of all, to my wife Dianne. This is the Year of the Monkey, and Im a Monkey. What a coincidence, what a year, what an honor, and what a set of remarks that I never got to deliver. Thank you!
PS: I was particularly excited about getting an Emmy because Ive just wrapped my profile of Ellen DeGeneres, which will run in Parade magazine in September. In her first season as a talk show host, she and her exhilarating show got 12 nominations for daytime Emmys. The show wound up with only three or four, but they included the one for Best Talk Show. If you havent caught it yet, set your VCR, your TiVo, your Replay, your computerwhatever. Youll be glad you did.
Can an American be put on trial for claiming to be an American? In Christine Toy Johnson's short film, All American Eyes , the answer is yesif the American is of Asian descent. Any American whos been made to feel like a foreigner because of his or her appearance, accent, or name will identify with Grace Lau, an actress played by Johnson. In real life, Christine is well-known as an actress on daytime TV, in films, and on Broadway, and she recently starred in the touring production of David Henry Hwang's The Flower Drum Song . She's also a vocal and articulate champion of non-traditional casting, and a proponent of diversity and inclusion. She gets her points across with good-hearted humor in this small gem of a film. To learn more about this engaging, thought-provoking work, produced by Christine and Bruce Johnson, visit Christine's Web site at www.christinetoyjohnson.com.
A few weeks before the Emmy ceremonies, I was honorednot with an award, but with an invitation to MC the Woman Warrior Awards, which are presented every other year by the Pacific Asian American Women Bay Area Coalition. At the dinner (at Gold Mountain restaurant in Chinatown San Francisco), I learned I was the first male to host the proceedings since they began in 1983. Dunno why; all I know is that it was event co-chair Ellen Kiyomizu's idea, after she'd seen me MC another event. Said one PAAWBAC member, "It's time for some testosterone!" Whatev. Anyway, even with my manly presence, the evening went swimmingly, with the awards going to eight extraordinary women. They were recognized for career achievements and for contributions to fellow Asian American women, and to the community at large. They were:
Loni Ding, pioneer documentary filmmaker and teacher
Ginny Poon Yamate, television public affairs executive
Mona Lisa Yuchengco, publisher of Filipinas magazine
Helen Zia, co-author with Wen Ho Lee of My Country Versus Me
Lydia Tanji, pioneer costume designer for film and theater productions
Pearl Wong, founder of the nightclub, Jazz at Pearls
Christine Hiroshima, assistant superintendent, SF Unified School District
Patricia Lee, managing attorney of the Public Defenders juvenile office
These eight greats join 86 women whove been honored by PAAWBAC, whose dinner raised money for its Catalyst Fund, which is used, the group says, to build leadership and self-determination among Asian and Pacific Islander young women, refugee and immigrant women, at-risk teens and women in transition. You can join in paw-backs efforts by visiting their site, www.paawbac.org.
And speaking of Pearl Wong: I met her before the awards. I knew that shed hosted jazz jam sessions since the 70s in the basement banquet room of her family restaurant, the Great Eastern, before opening up her own club on the North Beach/Chinatown border. I asked if she played any instruments. She shook her head, then added: Well, I did have a butterfly harp. Shes given the vintage Chinese instrument to her daughter, jazz singer Cookie Wong. Cookie and I will be teaming up on October 6th for a tribute to Chinatown dance bands ranging from the 30s to the 70s, for the Chinese Historical Society of America. I sense some swingin times ahead
There are winners galore over at Ben Fong-Torres' home page, at www.benfongtorres.com. Swing by sometime.