It's the Right Place,
and the Wong Song!
by Wayman Wong
Roz and Wally might seem all Wong for cabaret, but when this dynamite duo was Dunn making its club debut in New York City, they were all right. Who knew? Roz Dunn is an 83-year-old, Jewish great-grandma, and Wally Wong is a 78-year-old, three-time Chinese divorcee. They've been a couple for 11 years now, and last April, they did a soldout show called "She Dunn Him Wong." And it was such a hit that they're bringing it back on Tuesday, July 9, at 7 p.m. at Danny's Skylight Room. Since that show looks like another sellout, too, they're planning to return in September.
Wittily written and delightfully directed by Norman Roth, this Catskills-meets-Canton act celebrates the cultural clash and collusion between this happy couple. Dunn, looking like your "Yiddishe mama," is first-rate singing "Second Hand Rose." And Wong (who isn't directly related to me), in a robust baritone, chimes in with "Chinatown, My Chinatown" in Chinese. They couldn't be more adorable. When he sings, "I may be Wong, but I think you're wonderful," she friskily responds, "I may be Dunn, but I'm not done with you yet!"
So Dunn loves chopped liver and Wong loves chop suey, but food isn't the only thing they've got an appetite for. Dunn croons to her guy, "He is my own Crouching Tiger; his Dragon isn't hidden from me." Not that age doesn't take its toll. Later when Dunn suggests, "Let's go upstairs and make love," Wong moans, "Honey, do we have to do both?" Then they sing a parody of Lerner & Loewe's "I'm Glad I'm Not Young Anymore" ("How lovely to sit here in the shade, with nary a thought of getting laid").
And how did these two meet? In 1991, Wong took a class at HB Studios, egged on by his sister and legendary talent agent, Jadin. There, he met Dunn, who was there because she was egged on by her son, Jeffrey. Dunn recalls, "I saw Wally and thought, 'Who's that strange-looking guy? All the girls are flocking all over him, but I'll play it cool.' " A couple months later, Dunn got sick and didn't show up for class, so Wong got her address and showed up on her doorstep with Chinese chicken-noodle soup. They've been canoodling ever since.
Neither are strangers to the stage. Dunn grew up in Brooklyn as a child performer and even went to summer camp with Lauren Bacall. She later became a teacher, training future talents such as Lainie Kazan. She has appeared Off-Broadway and in the 1980s she hosted radio programs such as "Rap With Roz" and "Staying Young in New York" for WOR-AM. Wong, on the other hand, grew up in Stockton, California, and served a stint in the U.S. Army, performing in USO shows (once singing with Johnny Mathis). Out of the service, he wound up doing P.R. and putting on shows for United Airlines; at one time, he produced a revue starring Phyllis Diller. Wong even appeared as a Chinatown boss in the 1994 movie "The Professional."
And they've got something else in common: Both have kids in the arts. Dunn has two sons: Monte, a guitarist, and Jeffrey, a director (he came up with the title for their nightclub show). And Wong has three daughters: Jadin, a dancer; Lisa, a poet and lyricist, and Paula, an award-winning trainer for horse exhibitions.
As for their cabaret act, Dunn says, "It's been a wonderful adventure." Deftly accompanied at the keyboard by Michael Lavine, Dunn and Wong are as entertaining onstage as they are inspiring offstage. They hope to take their show to senior citizen homes and hospitals because, Wong says, "We're having fun and we want to show that old folks aren't fuddy-duddies." And why not? Surely, they've proven that it's never too late for two people to make beautiful music together.
"She Dunn Him Wong" plays July 9 at 7 p.m. at Danny's Skylight Room, 346 W. 46th St.: $15 cover and a $10 food-drink minimum. Reservations: 212-265-8133.
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