Category Archives: general

Best to stay quiet sometimes

As a fearless supporter of equal rights for East Asian actors and an advocate of positive representation, I was presented with a dilemma the other day:  I turned up to provide the entertainment at a 20th wedding anniversary affair for a lovely (white) couple somewhere in a rural location.

It transpired that I had been hired because the 20th anniversary is “china” – as in the material (cf: gold, silver etc..) and the hosts had decided that the theme would be China – the country – hence Chinese Elvis!  The place, a social club hired privately for this event, had been decorated with chinoiserie and guests had been encouraged to wear costumes in keeping with the theme, most of whom did so very enthusiastically.  And the topper was that the local Chinese takeaway had been given a humungous order to cater the event, which when it arrived filled two trestle tables.

The party went extremely well and the host even texted me the next day to tell me he “could not have been happier”.

I was happy to get this text and was not surprised.  I had been in quite good voice (the teenage audio technician made me sound, to my surprise, more or less OK) and the guests had all been dancing and singing along, eating and drinking happily –  and it seemed like a jolly great party.

Job done!

However, if any photos emerge of this event, they might cause some brow-furrowing.   People might ask themselves,  “Who are those white women wearing cheongsams?  Why is that guy wearing a Fu-Manchu moustache ? Why is Chinese Elvis posing with a white guy in a sumo suit?  And isn’t a samurai sword Japanese?.”

In their zeal to go to town on the theme, everyone had been to their fancy dress place and ordered a “Chinese” costume.  These included in some cases, Fu-Manchu moustaches, goatee beards, queues, robes with big sleeves, not to mention Emperor hats, long fingernails, and kamikaze headbands.  The “Chinese” costumes on show also extended to Samurai swordsmen, Sumo wrestlers and Karate outfits, as a tribute to the Chinese occupation of Manchuria, I imagine.  Though it is possible it was because the shop had run out of Chinese costumes and Japanese was close enough!

As the only one with a mic, I could have easily mocked them for this casual racism and taught them a lesson using the tools of wit and humour.   Made the whole thing awkward.  They would think twice before doing that again.  A lesson learned.  Racial & cultural ignorance lessened by a small degree.

I reasoned, though, that it would be the wrong way to go.  Crucially, perhaps, no one had worn make-up or done anything to their eyes.

It was not meant disrespectfully to Chinese people or culture.  In fact they could not have been more respectful to me personally.  They were just doing their best to have a good time.

It reminded me of a time when I was in Leeds in the early 90s returning from the bar with a round of drinks clasped in my hands.  I was gently pushing my way through to my group’s table when the guy I was pushing past, moved out of the way, saying, “Sorry mate!  I don’t want you to give me a kung-fu chop”.   My friends, sat at the table, were outraged and said they would say something to this guy on my behalf – they  kind of knew him from drinking here, as it was their local I was visiting.  I said to not worry about it, because I knew: 1. It was not meant maliciously 2. Now was not the time. 3. There was no offence taken. 4. The only possible outcome by calling them on their inadvertent racism is to make things worse with no one learning anything positive.

The same applied to this anniversary party.

Not that I advocate this in the majority of cases.  In fact, I can’t think of another case in the 25 years between these incidents, in which I have remained silent.

Sometimes it is better to pick your battles.

Seth and Pearl

I became an uncle yesterday to Seth and Pearl.  Lovely twins.  Born in Blackburn, Lancashire, they are the offspring of my other half’s brother and his partner.  Both were 4 lbs and a bit and are today in an incubator, doing well.

It is nice to be an uncle, because you get to do the nice part (playing and having fun) without the shitty part (staying awake and going crazy).

When I think of my own uncles, I have a few on my Dad’s side.  One in particular, Keith (a typical Chinese name, I know), is a big karaoke fan and like a lot of Chinese in Canada, goes out until the early hours to croon his favourites. Which may explain why I became an Elvis.  Its in the blood..!

Keith is here, front row, left, next to his sister, (my auntie) Sandie, with my dad, front row right.

an ethnic mix in two generations
Yes they are all related to me!

Behind my dad is his brother (half brother, but still my uncle) Henry, back row middle is my cousin, Stephen (son of Sandy (and my uncle Ormond, Guyanese via Asian subcontinent not pictured)) and the lady in pink is someone I met once (who is also related somehow) but can’t remember.  They all look the same to me.

If you are thinking that is a healthily mixed ethnic looking, mostly Chinese family, you would not be wrong.   Lots of Caribbean families look like this and my dad and his family grew up in Guyana .   A long way from mainland China, which kind of explains why I don’t speak Chinese and am different to the majority of the Chinese in the UK.  They don’t have a black uncle!  And they don’t know about cricket.

Which brings me back to Seth and Pearl, in the north of England.   Blackburn is known as a racial hotbed in England, rightly or wrongly (ahem, rightly).  My mate, Richard, lives and works there, buying and managing properties.  He is the only black man within a 12 mile radius.

It is funny to think that my one day old, very English and white northern niece and nephew have a Chinese Elvis for an uncle, a black great uncle and an Indian 2nd uncle.  Welcome to the world!


Facebook & Twitter

What better place to start an angry middle aged rant than the two things I don’t really understand?

I literally have no idea what Twitter is all about. I managed to get the username ChineseElvis but I have never used it knowingly. And by that I mean when I have used it, I have no idea what the hell is going on. It also means that I have also willfully avoided using it. I resent my inability to use it.

Facebook is quite useful for organising school reunions, I have found.

Under peer pressure, I started a page for ChineseElvis, but it is rather pathetic, I will admit. I don’t know what to say there because I dont like or understand people that use the site.

The last post there has a good gag, which to save you having to click, I repeat here:

This lady was doing her act at a gig I was headlining and allowed me to take a picture of her:

2013-07-25 21.29.04

“If you look long enough, eventually you can see a snake.”

Apart from this schoolboy gag, the rest of the page is, as you can see, mostly a waste of pixels and time, which is frankly what I find Facebook to be full stop. I have turned off the alerts for so many of my “friend’s” posts that I have literally no idea what they are all on about when they email me to ask why I am not engaging in some protest they are all against. Or for. All these people assume that I follow the feed as frantically as they do and this assumption only makes me want to avoid Facebook (and them) all the more.

Yet I am too chicken to delete my account. I am like a kid who hates being at a party, but doesn’t dare leave in case anybody has a good time without him.