Mistress of Ceremonies

This weekend I emcee'd the first awards gala dinner for the Vietnamese American Community Center of the East Bay. It's sort of a fringe effect of my job--being asked to host or emcee various programs as a 'local celebrity.' I use that term looooosely. Organizers often assume that people who work in TV are great public speakers and comfortable in front of hundreds of people. Usually that's true. We like to meet people and make connections and thank our viewers for tuning in.

But there are the odd TV types too. The super introverted, cold as ice, socially awkward people who go for years without saying so much as 5 words to their fellow co-workers who share the same make up room and stand next to them night after night in a weird, unnatural silence. I may or may not have worked with those types.

Anyway, I spoke briefly in Vietnamese during the introduction, because while I understand conversational Vietnamese as well as I understand English, without having to translate it in my head like I do with Spanish, I definitely could not carry on a formal adult conversation without sounding linguistically special needs. I wish I had not been such a brat about going to Vietnamese language classes in San Jose when I was 7. But it would've been moot when we moved to Whiteville Santa Rosa. On my to do list: improve my formal Vietnamese. 

But Saturday night, the audience was so welcoming and they enthusiastically applauded my short Vietnamese opener, and then we got down to business: Introducing the special guests, the award winners, and recognizing the volunteers and contributors to VACCEB. 

The Good Doctor was my plus one. He is a sport, that one. Usually the tallest, whitest person there, and often at our table by himself, with 9 strangers, accompanied by my coat and purse. If that doesn't sound fun, I don't know what does!

So after my portion of the event was over, I joined him for the ten course meal, complete with standard lazy Susan and 7-UP on every table. The dishes always include something involving bones embedded in flesh. Which can be tricky to maneuver with chopsticks on a good day, let alone when you're at a table with strangers trying to chit chat and not fling oyster sauce onto their silk dresses. Our meal included ginger steamed chicken, the dish arriving with the chopped off head of the bird on the plate, alongside the chopped up pieces of its body. The Good Doctor's absolute favorite.

We were surprised at just how much entertainment was booked. Usually these are pretty stodgy events, a lot of networking and politeness and pleasant pleasantries. But this was a Vietnamese fundraiser in the most classic sense. Meaning: we give you bang for your buck and while you're eating that 10 course meal, there will be martial arts, and dance teams, and teen singers, and an adorable senior choir with their chorus books, and two brothers who held world records in solving Rubik's cubes. Two handed, one handed, and behind their backs. 

The headliners were the talented and very friendly Cong Thanh and his wife Lynn. Australian imports now living in Orange County. They sing in English and Vietnamese. Lynn was totally channeling Olivia Newton-John in the traditional Vietnamese ao dai. And they call Cong Thanh the Vietnamese Wayne Newton. The hair, the charm, it's all there.

I had no idea these flyers were being circulated prior to the event. That's me, in between Vietnamese Wayne Newton and his wife Lynn! Now that's what I mean by 'local celebrity.'