By Deems Tsutakawa For The North American Post
A couple years ago, I ran into Clarence Moriwaki at a fundraiser and he told me a funny story about having been a DJ at a gig that was a country and western venue. Mr. Moriwaki is, of course, Japanese American and when he showed up with his equipment, the owner asked him when the DJ was planning to arrive. Clarence replied that he was the DJ and the owner was taken aback because he was expecting a white guy. Clarence then told him that as it is a radio broadcast, none of the listeners would ever know if he was white or not.
He also said, “I’ll announce myself as Clancy Moore.”
By the way, the gig was actually on St. Paddy’s Day and the club owner thought he was hiring Seattle’s only Irish DJ.
Back in the day, I remember playing several venues that were not exactly my cup of tea, so to speak. Although they weren’t mis-bookings, the clientele at these places were not used to having people of color on stage nor at the piano. We played a huge bar just south of Fife, Washington that has steer-riding contests every Saturday night. They never turned on the stage lights or spotlights that night. I have also played many times for conventions where there are thousands of attendees yet no microphone on the piano. No one including myself could hear the piano at all.
One time I picked up my sax player, drove to a wedding reception, and the venue was locked up. No one ever showed up and there was no notice nor any indication why. Fortunately, I had gotten a deposit check to hold the date but we never found out exactly what the story was. My guess is that the bride and groom had a rough falling out and didn’t care to contact us.
Then there was a concert at Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery when my quartet opened for a Celtic band from Nova Scotia. It was a last-minute booking and the guys I called happened to be all Asian Americans. There were thousands of people sitting on the lawn while we performed, all with their backs to the stage. They apparently did not want to look at us.
The educational part of these experiences is that wherever one goes to perform as an artist, one must be himself. Bring the professionalism and have stage presence every time, no matter who is in the audience.