Tet Parade Post-mortem: What next, and grading the Politicians’ Performances.


As promised, I’ve got a lot to say in retrospect about the Tet Parade of two weeks ago which jumped the shark by excluding gays, and how the various OC politicians dealt with the situation, and what it shows about their characters. And that’s gonna be a lot of fun, I promise – grading west OC’s politicians from kick-ass to craven to loathsome.  And you can scroll down a bit to get to that part…

Picture by Laura Kanter of “The Center Orange County”

But first I want to look at what’s been going on since the debacle, in the effort to make sure this never happens again, this inexcusable exclusion of the Viet LGBT community from the Tet Parade.  And our Viet LGBT friends, along with their allies on the Westminster Council (which appears to be completely on their side) have not been idle!  Presuming a deadline of MAY 1, which is roughly the time that a homophobe group could conceivably come back to ask for permission to run next year’s parade, they are looking at several options, the first and most essential of which is to add a non-discrimination clause to the city’s Special Events Permit Ordinance Ch 9.61.

What we’re talking about, as suggested by activist and Liberal OC blogger Chris Prevatt, would be:

“…legislative action at the City Council level to ensure that those seeking permits to use public spaces in Westminster are not allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex (gender), sexual orientation, marital status, national origin (including language use restrictions), ancestry, mental and physical disability, medical condition (cancer/genetic characteristics), age (40 and above), pregnancy, denial of medical and family care leave, or pregnancy disability leave (Government Code sections 12940,12945, 12945.2) and/or retaliation for protesting illegal discrimination related to one of these categories.”

And it appears the Westminster Council – not just the majority but possibly the entire council – is open to adding this clause to the Ordinance, which will take at least two council meetings, so could be accomplished in March or April at the latest.  [Updates to come….]


OK, that’s what’s happening so far, going forward.  Now the fun part…

 Grading West Orange County’s Politicians!

José gets out of his parade car to support the gays.    Pic by Prevatt.

1. José Solorio – A!

The ambitious Democratic politician, termed-out Assemblyman for Santa Ana, current school official, and State Senate hopeful for the same district the parade is held in,  pulled off the best political theater in support of the excluded gays – as first reported by Prevatt, he stopped his parade car when he got to the LGBT rally, got out of the car, and joined them in support, as you see below:

(this pic uncredited from Facebook, there’s another bigger one at the bottom of this post)

… But that’s not all – he then sent his car, the Solorio car, on without him, causing great embarrassment to the parade organizers who called out his name later as the car passed but he was nowhere to be seen!  The confounded Pedroza took a few pictures of the Solorio-less Solorio car:

So once again, for the second time in three years or so, we have to cry out, ¡Qué Viva Solorio!

Bao Nguyen – A!

As my colleague Diamond reported, the charismatic and trilingual Garden Grove School Board trustee pulled off a difficult feat and publicity coup when he convinced the rest of his Board – Republican-dominated, from gay-hating Garden Grove – to pull out of the parade on account of the gays’ exclusion.

It’s not clear to what degree Bao’s colleagues were acting in sympathy with gays or were merely swayed by Bao’s sensible legal argument that as a public entity under the sway of anti-discrimination language, they would be unwise to participate in an event that DISCRIMINATED.

Shortly before the parade, I called Bao and relayed to him the Viet LGBTs’ preference that rather than boycott himself, he would come down, stand with them and support them.  He answered sadly that he would love to, but that once he had decided to boycott he’d made some plans with his family that morning which he couldn’t change.  But he said he would be there with them in spirit, so I’m sure he was!

Diana Lee Carey – A!  ok… A minus.

The very glamorous Carey photographed by the very unmoored Pedroza.

The minus is in deference to Prevatt, who does have a point – that rainbow flag is pretty easy to miss.  But the brand new Westminster Councilwoman (and good friend of mine) entered the council and found this stink bomb waiting for her – her and fellow newbie Sergio Contreras both – sort of like how JFK entered office and found the Bay of Pigs bequeathed to him by Ike.

But Diana still gets an A, because:

  • Like me, and unlike most of these politicians, she actually met with the Viet gays in question, and did what they encouraged her to do – march with a US flag, a Viet flag, and a RAINBOW flag.  And thus she did.
  • She had spent the preceding months in council trying to fight this discrimination;  and
  • She continues to do so, and will be the gays’ best ally in enacting the non-discrimination clause so this doesn’t happen again!


B + C = BoyCott

Okay, here’s what happened.  A few days before the Parade, I heard through the grapevine that there was going to be a court hearing with the LGBT Viets, suing to get back into the parade.  Drawn to conflict and drama like a bee to pollen, I attended.  The suit was unsuccessful, but I fell in love with this young optimistic crowd.  And the following day I was the only non-Asian to attend their Little Saigon press conference.  (Well, besides one of their German boyfriends who took photos.)  And they made it clear that they DIDN’T WANT ANYONE BOYCOTTING THE PARADE, but rather wanted people to come and show their support any way they could.  (At this point they thought they could march along with other folks who supported them – such as Carey, and the Vietnamese Student Union, but on Saturday the organizers started threatening to have everyone arrested.)

So I appointed myself their spokesman in the blogosphere, wrote this story loudly relaying their anti-boycott message, and then made some phone calls to some politicians to let them know they shouldn’t be boycotting, that that is not what the local gay Viets want.  As you can see in the comments section to my story, I was met with quick and strong disagreement from what I’d (with no disrespect) call the “establishment gay activists” – mainly Prevatt and Jeff LeTourneau – who insisted on the boycott option, which they’d been pushing for weeks or months.  They were all, like, “We’ve been fighting this fight for thirty years, Vern, we know what works.”

And I was all, like, “Hey, this is a new generation here, let them try things their own way, why don’t you?  Plus, they’re from a different culture, the Vietnamese-American culture, which you guys understand no better than I do, so maybe they know what might work?”

But the boycotters’ arguments won the day for most pro-gay politicians.  After all, what sort of cachet do *I* have against Prevatt and LeTourneau – me, a notorious BREEDER who had just jumped into this fight at the last minute?

Still I say, not showing up is the easiest thing, and how much does a crowd really think about someone who’s not there?  AT LEAST if you’re going to not show up you should make a STRONG PUBLIC STATEMENT about why you’re not, and a lot of these politicians did NOT.  I’m generally giving a B to those boycotters who did release a strong message, and a C to those whose messages were weak and ambiguous or non-existent.  That latter tack just smacks of not wanting to offend either side, as though there were a moral equivalence between us.

Lowenthal, Contreras, and Correa – Not There.


Damn!  I had been under the impression that at least a couple of these politicians that didn’t come to the Tet Parade had released strong public statements about why they didn’t.  But I can’t really find anything beyond a brief cryptic e-mail from Loretta Sanchez to The Register.  IF I’M MISSING ANYTHING, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!

But I still say,

Sergio Contreras, new Westminster Councilman, gets a B.

…both because staying away from such a big Westminster event had to have been a big sacrifice for a brand new Westminster City Councilman, AND because, just like Diana Carey, he’d been a strong ally to the Viet gays before the event and continues to be now.

State Senator Lou Correa – C.

New Congressman Alan Lowenthal – C.

Because they both opted not to attend the Tet Festival, but decided not to let the world know why.  (Again, let me know if I’m missing anything, but if I am, probably nearly everybody also missed it.)

Then there’s Janet Nguyen…

I suppose it’s remarkable that the Supervisor for the area, the County’s highest Vietnamese-American elected, the lady who used to fashion herself Queen of Little Saigon, the first Republican we’re looking at here, and yet another aspirant to the area’s state senate seat next year, couldn’t be bothered to make it…although like Lou, Loretta and Lowenthal, she also couldn’t be bothered to tell us why she didn’t.

Should we grade Republicans a little easier here than we grade Democrats?  Democrats are EXPECTED to stick up for minorities, whereas the GOP is just coming – hopefully coming out of – a long history of gay-bashing.  Any sign of progress from a Republican is especially welcome.  This makes me want to give her a C-PLUS for ducking out.

A year or two ago we were starting to think Janet was viscerally homophobic, because she would walk away from the Supervisors’ dais every time gay activists came to urge them to instate a Harvey Milk Day.  Later, she claimed that she was only leaving because she needed to breastfeed her new baby, leading some of us to wonder if the word “Milk” carried a subliminal charge for her. (Just kidding.)

We still don’t know why she didn’t come to the Tet Parade – was she really offended at the exclusion of her gay fellow Viets?  Or did she maybe just have to breastfeed again?  (Just kidding.)

[UPDATE on Janet – see this comment below]

City Councils…

Members of the Santa Ana Council, who usually show up, did not.  Here we had much confusion.  I know both Sal Tinajero and David Benavides to be great LGBT supporters, Sal being particularly proud of his gay son, David being the only politician I saw at the 2010 celebration for Prop 8 first being ruled unconstitutional.

Before being contacted by me, both of them AND Michele Martinez were planning to boycott the parade.  Then when I called Sal on Friday after meeting with the LGBT contingent and told him they would prefer him to show up and stand with them, he enthusiastically agreed and said he’d try to talk David and Michele into coming as well.  And I reported that on Friday.

But something must have happened to change Sal’s mind.  Did he notice me and Prevatt arguing on this blog?  Did he get a call from LeTourneau?  Did Dave Benavides yell “Are you crazy?  Why are you listening to that drunken breeder Vern?”  In any case nobody from Santa Ana showed.

That includes Mayor Miguel Pulido, who’d been planning to come till the last minute and changed his mind.  And no statement I can find from any of these Santa Ana politicians.  Sorry, guys, C for all of ustedes.

Then we’ve got two Westminster Council Republicans, the new Mayor Tri Ta and the Grand Dame Margie Rice, who did march in the parade, but I’m going to give them a C-minus instead of an F because they did make a point of waving and giving a thumbs up to the gay protesters, AND, just like their colleagues Diana and Sergio, they’ve been on the right side on council before the parade and now.  In fact, as was attested to above, the entire Westminster council is going to do the right thing and make sure this never happens again.

Loretta Sanchez Gets a C.

Lo doing her thing at an earlier, happier Tet…

It makes me sad to give Loretta a C.  I like Loretta, I played for her wedding, and I usually like how she votes.  As The Bolsavik says, she is probably the most popular politician in Little Saigon.  Her energy and theatrical sense have made her a mainstay of the Tet Parade for many years.

But that just means we should have a little higher expectations for her.  When SHE didn’t show up, her absence was certainly noticed.  But people needed to know, WHY wasn’t Loretta there?  Is it because the parade is no longer in her district?  Was she busy in Washington?  Or did it maybe have something to do with the gay thing?

And the explanation she made – in an e-mail to the Register, no less – was so damn weak:

“I will not be participating in the Tet parade this year. I’m aware that there is a conflict being worked out and hopefully the organizing committee can get this resolved soon so that all who would like to participate in the Tet festivities may do so.”

Really.  Like it’s all just a little misunderstanding that needs to be straightened out, not a determined effort to discriminate against people for their sexuality.  There’s not even a “because” between those two sentences – she could just be busy this year.  And remember, this wasn’t even a press release – from a Congresswoman who puts out two or three press releases a week.

Imagine if instead Loretta put out a press release to the world reading something like:

“For many years I have been honored and overjoyed to participate in the Tet Parade.  This year, however, I refuse to have anything to do with an event that discriminates and excludes people because of their sexuality. 

“I suggest this year’s parade organizers –  the Vietnamese-American Federation of Southern California and the Interfaith Alliance – need to learn what it means to be an American.   This is not Communist Vietnam;  this is a tolerant nation where we CELEBRATE DIVERSITY.”

And/or – what if she’d released that, and then shown up but hung out the whole time with the protesters, lending them her charisma, star power, and buoyant energy – that would have been something!

Or even better – what if Loretta had pulled a Solorio, and sent the Loretta car up ahead of her, with no Loretta?  THAT would have made me proud to be her friend.

D is for Daly

Tom Daly, that is, new Assemblyman from Santa Ana and Anaheim.  As he rode up to the gay rally, he had his car stop and he got out, and gladhanded with the LGBT, much as Solorio did later, making them very happy to get some visible support from a politician.

But then, UNLIKE Solorio, he got back into his car and waved to the audience for the entire parade route, showing no signs at all that he had any problem with the gays being excluded – 90% of the people there would have had no idea he’d gotten out earlier.

So, Prevatt got a shot of Tom making the gays happy, and Pedroza got a shot of him making the bigots happy.  Just like a politician.  Daly gets a D.  I guess I do judge Democrats by a higher standard.

Tale of Two Tom Dalys – pleasin’ Vandemeir and the LGBTs, and later pleasin’ the crowd and the bigots. Shots by Prevatt and Pedroza, respectively.

E is for simply absEnt.

Debbie and Loretta, 2008.

Andy Quach – the once-wunderkind of the Westminster Council, now the mystery member.  Nobody is really sure if he was at the parade or not.  He hasn’t really said anything on the dais about the issue, although the other members seem sure he’s on their side against the bigots.  IS ANDY DRINKING AGAIN?  Oh well, as long as he stays out of his car, Westminster’s power grid should be safe.  (Just kidding.)

Nobody really missed famous Republican Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher and Ed Royce, because they never come anyway.  And that is probably because neither gentleman cares much for minorities in general.  So their absence this year meant nothing.

Well, there was one exception, in 2008.  Funny story.  That was the year that the brilliant and attractive Debbie Cook ran against Dana, giving him the scare of his career-politician life!  And that year, Loretta got Debbie all dolled up and took her to the Tet Parade with her.  Debbie told me later that day that Dana came for the first time in his life, and followed them around like a worried puppy dog.


F is for homoFobe.

Mansoor, Harper, Rackauckas, and Allen – Republican “honey badgers” who JUST DON’T CARE.  Photos by the newly gay-hating Pedroza.

Pedroza has given us a rundown of all the local Republican politicians who had no problem appearing at a gay-excluding parade.  Maybe they supported the discrimination.  Maybe they didn’t care much one way or another.  Maybe they were stupidly oblivious and would have looked at you with glazed-over eyes and said What discrimination?  He names off, among others, Assemblymen Allan Mansoor and Travis Allen, Huntington Beach Mayor Pro-tem Matt Harper, and useless District Attorney and servant to the powerful and wealthy, Tony Rackauckas.  Of those, I’m only really disappointed in Travis Allen, who had presented himself as “a new kind of Republican” in his rowdy campaign against Troy Edgar last year.  Not THAT new, I guess.

Pedroza reports that all or nearly all of the Garden Grove City Council made it – including their loathsome Mayor Bruce Broadwater, the Mormom faux-Democrat who donated gobs of money to Proposition 8 so that gays couldn’t marry like the rest of us.  See how proud of himself he looks up there, in another Pedroza shot:


Garden Grove City Council and hangers-on, the very picture of moral decay. The loathsome Mayor Broadwater is in the hat. Picture by Pedroza.

Dina and Joe, caught by Prevatt.

THE BOTTOM OF THE BARREL would have to be Garden Grove Mayor Pro-Tem Dina Nguyen, who, along with former Garden Grove councilman (and fake Democrat) Mark Rosen, represented the bigot organizers in court, using such innovative arguments as:  Garish photos of gyrating men in G-strings taken from God knows what gay bacchanalia somewhere on the globe.  Judge Glass, fully aware that the intent was to disgust him with the photos, was instead disgusted with their attempt to disgust him.

Dina marched through the parade accompanied proudly by her husband Joe Dovinh, a man who has run for every office he can smell, and has pretended to be a Democrat for several years, as well as pretending to be pro-LGBT.  He bristles self-righteously when he gets criticism like this and will go on for paragraph after pompous fatuous paragraph, but it seems like his words bear no relation to any reality.

It’s hard for me to imagine having a wife that would use such sleazy tactics to further the discrimination of any minority, but the least I’m sure of is that if she were marching in such a parade, I would have told her, “I’m staying home today, dear.”  Or better yet, stood with the gays!

F, F, F, to all of y’all!

And finally,

A Special Dishonorable Mention to Erratic and Sold-out Blogger Art Pedroza.

Around the time this fellow founded the blog you’re reading, he repented from a life as a gay-bashing Republican-Latino operative, and became a “friend” to gays and other minorities, albeit a generally self-righteous and insufferable one.  But in his recent years of moral decline, running the OC Politics blog and New Santa Ana, his religion has become whatever serves Santa Ana Mayor-for-Life Miguel Pulido – there have been financial benefits that we know of, and no doubt much that we don’t.

SO.  When Mayor Pulido informed Art offhandedly that he would be attending the Tet Parade, Art the erstwhile defender of gays flew into damage-control mode:  Poor Miguel would be sure to be lambasted for attending a parade that controversially excluded gays!  Art knew what he had to do – just become the old Art again, and work overtime discrediting those gays!

To start with, he wrote several pieces and blog comments that repeated over and over the lame arguments of the homophobic parade organizers.  And what were those arguments?  (Yes, this is the proper place to list and debunk those arguments, here at the “bottom of the barrel” of this post) :

Dr. Newton to you.

  • He tiresomely repeated that “gay activists” were trying to “hijack” the parade.  (It’s not very well “hijacking” when they’ve been in the last three parades with no problems!)
  • He echoed the organizers’ claims that the LGBT float was inappropriately “political” in nature, using the example that a few participants had signs or shirts calling for marriage equality.  (My buddy Dr. Natalie Newton [surname anglicized by her parents from “Nguyen”] responds:  “Several floats in the parade advanced a political agenda related to the Paracel Islands in Vietnam, which are under dispute with Chinese ownership.   But also, hello, politicians are invited to the parade:   how is this not political?”)
  • He echoed their complaint that, three years earlier, a couple of guys had kissed.  (Answer:  “Oh, boo hoo.”  And also, “Cry me a river.”)
  • He speculated that these gays “probably hadn’t contributed or fundraised for the parade.”  (Answer – Neither had about 90% of the participants.)

Beyond that, he appointed himself expert on what the meaning of the Tet Festival was, and gave the exotic Viet culture extra latitude for homophobia – a sort of racism in many of our books.  Disgustingly, he gave extra kudos to the vile legal work of Mark Rosen and Dina Nguyen.  He repeatedly attacked Prevatt on really lame-ass irrelevant grounds, just because he was defending the gays.  When he read my mistaken report that Tinajero and his council allies would be there protesting, he saw a chance to attack Miguel’s political rivals and quickly churned out this churro.

(The fact that all this was intended as pre-emptive defense of Pulido is underscored by the fact that he published these pieces not on his OC Politics Blog but his New Santa Ana blog, even though the parade’s not in Santa Ana but Westminster.)

And then he showed up at the parade, stuck himself in one place with determined tunnel vision, and triumphally announced that there were “NO GAY ACTIVISTS” present and everything went wonderfully without them!  (He only missed over 500 gays and their supporters, as you can see above and below.)

All propaganda done for the love and protection of the dear Mayor Miguel Pulido.  Punch line?  PULIDO DIDN’T EVEN SHOW UP!  What a pathetic, propagandizing chump.  Let’s see some more of what Art missed…

About Vern Nelson

Greatest pianist/composer in Orange County, and official troubador of both Anaheim and Huntington Beach (the two ends of the Santa Ana Aquifer.) Performs regularly both solo, and with his savage-jazz quintet The Vern Nelson Problem. Reach at vernpnelson@gmail.com, or 714-235-VERN.