Baby, It’s Cool Inside

Photographs by Tada Chae, Albert Chau, Na Young Ma and Eric Sueyoshi

LOS ANGELES — Rain had been threatening to fall all day on Dec. 16, and then it did, just as partygoers began to gather at Raleigh Studios on Melrose. Staff and volunteers were sent scrambling to prepare for the near-500 crowd expected. When the masses began arriving, the long line of cars waiting to valet was slow going. And the horse and carriage that was supposed to be available for rides around the studio lot showed up late. For a while it appeared that KoreAm Journal’s fifth “Unforgettable” might not end with the picture-perfect Hollywood ending the event’s planners had hoped. Especially when guests entered the cavernous soundstage and had to endure the icy chill in the air from the shortage of heaters.

But all was not lost for the magazine’s annual party. The soundstage, decked out in a wintry Central Park in New York City theme, drew gasps of delight from Southern California natives. While the fake snow added ambience, it was the temperature that actually ended up making the coastal change seem authentic. “It’s really cold. It really feels like Christmas,” said Mindy Chun, a brand manager for Helio, one of the sponsors for this year’s event.

Eventually, the room was aglow with the rosy cheeks of those who took advantage of the open bars sponsored by Macallan and Jinro, where Scotch whiskey and soju were handed out aplenty. Celebs like actors Grace Park, Leonardo Nam, singer Susie Suh and athletes Dr. Sammy Lee and Pearl Sinn began to arrive. Tables buzzed over the wrapped gifts strewn in front of them, courtesy of CJ Entertainment, Hyundai, Korean Air, Hanmi Bank, Kabuki, Amore, Intertrend, Skingenic and Macallan. With flashbulbs popping every few seconds and celebrity sightings at each turn, it began to feel like a real Hollywood affair.

Comedian Dr. Ken Jeong, who performed at last year’s event, and MTV personality SuChin Pak emceed the official proceedings, which began with a speech by Ted Kim of CJ Entertainment, the South Korea-based movie production and distribution company that was the title sponsor for “Unforgettable” 2006. Meanwhile, the catered dinner by Saketini, the Brentwood restaurant owned by actor Sung Kang, began to appear. After lingering over miso marinated white fish with spicy chili sauce and grilled skirt steak with sweet soy glaze, guests indulged in apple napoleons a la mode. But the true treat of the night was watching the honorees who had been handpicked by KoreAm to receive honors in their respective fields.

Toby Dawson, who won a bronze medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics, accepted the Sports Achievement Award for his accomplishments in freestyle skiing, and spoke earnestly about what the magazine means to him. Linkin Park DJ Joseph Hahn, who is also making a name for himself as a filmmaker, was recognized for his contributions to the band’s success. And since Linkin Park is a regular on MTV, it just seemed natural Hahn would do a Q-and-A with SuChin Pak onstage. “It’s a great honor,” said Hahn, on receiving the Music Achievement Award, earlier in the evening. “I think it’s a great magazine [as it lets] people know about people going through stuff — their struggles, but also the success stories as well. It’s cool to be a part of that.”

And Sandra Oh, while unable to attend, sent a video from the set of her show “Grey’s Anatomy,” giving a heartfelt speech expressing her gratitude for her Acting Achievement Award. In addition, the video montages by Choice Entertainment on each honoree made for an inspiring night, which never could have happened without “Unforgettable’s” additional sponsors: Forever 21, AZN Television, California Market, Enhance Medical Center/ Dr. Charles Lee, Issi Griffin, KAC Orange County, Kollaboration, Korea Times, Mars Entertainment, MDB Capital/Ray Kim, Pasadena Advanced Surgical Institute/Dr. Howard Nam and Sherin’s Bridal.

The entertainment that wove throughout the night was a mixture of a cappella, comedy and R&B. At Last performed an original song, “Greatest Gift,” in perfect harmony, while comedian Henry Cho got the crowd laughing with his jokes about fatherhood. Lola Fair and Baby J’s soulful voices did a finger-tapping version of “All I Want For Christmas is You,” complete with snow falling onto the stage. When the evening’s performances came to a close, DJ MK began spinning the tunes, and the remaining partygoers showed off their best dance moves, albeit some of them alcohol-induced.

Ah, a happy ending, after all.