By Michelle Woo
Photographs by Chiuling Chen, Erik Ginn, Eric Sueyoshi and Ho J. Yun
It was beginning to look a lot like a star-studded Christmas at KoreAm Journal’s sixth annual gala, “Unforgettable.” As 470 guests swept through the golden doors of Los Angeles’ historic Park Plaza Hotel on Dec. 15, there was a swirl of giddy excitement. Partygoers stargazed as John Cho walked the red carpet, Bobby Lee posed for cameras, Joseph Hahn entertained reporters and Margaret Cho arrived with her entourage.
“Hey, there’s Rex Lee!” said “American Idol” contestant Paul Kim. “I’ve seen that guy on TV.”
After mixing and mingling during the cocktail hour featuring Crown Royal Cask No. 16 (a new premium blend!), guests made their way up the dramatic staircase to the ethereal Terrace Ballroom, where they were greeted by wintry floral centerpieces, garland decked with holiday lights and an open bar. On each table sat a cluster of elegantly wrapped gifts, courtesy of Hanmi Bank, Disney/ABC Television, Intertrend, Ra Beauty Core, Kabuki, Korean Air, Hannah Koo and FHI Heat.
News reporter Lee Ann Kim and actor Leonardo Nam emceed the black-tie event while guests savored the dinner that included sake marinated Chilean sea bass and marinated rib-eye roulade.
The night, title-sponsored by CJ Entertainment, was fueled by a jam-packed lineup of musical performances and awards. Soulful singers Lola Fair & Baby J and Paul Kim belted pop numbers, while k-pop sensation Tim, who journeyed all the way from Korea, left female audience members swooning with his sweet, heartfelt ballads.
But the showstopper of the evening was when actress/comedian Margaret Cho took the stage. Dressed in a retro striped dress, she gave a special surprise performance that set off roars of laughter.
As a nod to the strides KAs have made in Hollywood and beyond, KoreAm used the night to honor three individuals with Entertainment Achievement Awards. The first went to Rex Lee of HBO’s “Entourage.” During his acceptance speech, the loveable actor confessed a little secret: His parents wanted him to be a doctor.
The second awardee was Keli Lee, executive vice president of casting at Disney-ABC Television Group, who has advocated for diverse casts on shows such as “Lost,” “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Ugly Betty.”
Funnygal Margaret Cho accepted the final award of the night. She thanked her parents, who were sitting in the audience, and gave a special shout-out to her mother, the woman behind the comedian’s famous imitations.
“This is wonderful,” said a wide-eyed Kae Whang, a contestant on NBC’s weight-loss reality show “TheBiggest Loser.” “Seeing all these Korean Americans making a difference is so empowering.”
Of course, the evening wouldn’t have happened without the event’s additional silver and corporate sponsors: Helio, 011 Communications, Cygnus International Corporation, Crown Royal, Enhance Plastic Surgery, Le Cercle, MDB Capital – Ray Kim, Mindlinq, Paramount Pictures, Park Plaza, Premiere Plastic Surgery, Sherin’s Bridal and Ten Communications.
The soiree continued at a bumping after-party hosted by Jinro and Hite. With DJ Shy spinning the tunes, guests showed off their moves on the dance floor.
In the end, all walked out into the night filled with stars.
How unforgettable it was.