HomeChinese AmericanHoarders producer who discovered Lisa Ling dies at 71

Hoarders producer who discovered Lisa Ling dies at 71

By Randall Yip, Executive Editor

Longtime television producer and community activist Matt Chan died Saturday at the age of 71 after a battle with kidney cancer.

The Seattle Times reports Chan grew up in Portland, OR but eventually became a Seattle transplant. There he immersed himself in local politics and fought hard for the Chinatown International District.

“Matt’s dedication to the Chinatown International District was a testament to his deep love for our culture and his unwavering commitment to storytelling,” said state Sen. Joe Nguyen, (D-White Center).

This reporter worked at the same television station as Chan in the late 90’s, KXTV in Sacramento, California, where he served as program director.

While we didn’t work closely, I recall his jovial personality and engaging smile.

He had a large, framed movie poster behind his desk from director Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, the 1987 epic movie starring Peter O’Toole, Joan Chen, Victor Wong and Dennis Dun about the rapid rise of a small boy who became China’s last emperor.

Chan distinguished himself as one of the few Asian American television executives at the time. I admired his accomplishments and looked up to Chan as a role model.

He would go on to be executive producer of the popular cable program Hoarders which debuted in 2009 and is now in its 15th season on A&E.

Lesser known is that he launched the nationally syndicated teen program Scratch while at KXTV. He held an open audition at a local shopping mall for young talent to appear as hosts on the show. One of the reporters he hired was Lisa Ling, who would go on to national prominence as a journalist and television host.

Kent Takano worked as producer for Scratch under Chan. Takano along with Dave Seversen and Pat Barnes joined Chan in judging the auditions. Everyone had to speak to the camera for one minute to explain why they wanted to be on the show.

“Lisa had an incredible personality, and when she auditioned, she didn’t skip a beat. When we all assembled for the next few days after auditions, Lisa was everyone’s first pick,” Takano recalled to AsAmNews.

Takano described Chan as “paternal and protective” of everyone around him.

“I think Lisa thought of us as her older uncles, and never hesitated to sit in either of our offices and tell us what was going on in her life. School, boys, family life, you name it. Trust among cast and crew/staff was a huge factor in why the show was successful.”

One of the most popular segments on Scratch conceived by Chan was Dateless and Desperate. The program received hundreds of letters each week from teens asking for assistance with their love life.

“Matt knew that this regular segment would resonate with teenagers,” Takano said.

The show Scratch is fondly remembered by its fans. I found a discussion about Scratch on Reddit from just two years ago.

His career would take him to KPIX in San Francisco and KING-TV in Seattle. He also ran his own production company, Screaming Flea Productions.

According to Northwest Asian Weekly, while in Seattle, Chan produced videos for several non-profits including The Wing Luke Museum.

Chan once described being Asian in a mostly White industry as being “profoundly lonely.” Eugene Tagawa worked with Chan at KING and shared that feeling.

“Both of us being Asians in a mostly white building, that was sort of a bonding factor,” said Tagawa to the International Examiner.

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