Singer Dan Truong (C) with his wife Thuy Tien and manager Hoang Tuan at a press briefing on July 11, when he accused his ex-girlfriend of ‘blackmailing’ him for demanding $60,000 that she claimed she had spent on him during their relationship last year. Photo by Thien Anh
Based on media mentions, singer Dan Truong’s wedding would rank among the most famous celebrity weddings in years.
Newspapers have been talking about it for months, at first due to the fact that the couple held parties in both the US and Vietnam, with the story picking up steam thanks to a recent scandal.
Truong’s ex-girlfriend, a Vietnamese-Australian woman identified only as Dung, publicly demanded that Truong pay her back money that she had given him when they were together, since they were planning to get married.
Truong had broken up with Dung about nine months ago and she had married someone else before he did.
With the accusations flying thick and fast – he said at a press conference she had blackmailed him in what he called “a traumatic experience” – the scandal seems far from over.
Dung said Truong owed her US$60,000 that she had supported him with for making music videos, an overseas trip and for clearing his debts.
The scandal involving an artist owing money, especially to a fan with whom he was having a romantic relationship, has brought Truong unwanted publicity.
Others, however, say that any publicity at all could help Truong, whose popularity has waned in recent years.
The announcement of his impending marriage to Thuy Tien, a Vietnamese-American businesswoman, along with the emergent scandal may keep him in the public eye for a while, they say.
Throughout his career, the 37-year-old singer born to a poor ballpoint pen making family in Ho Chi Minh City, had maintained a squeaky clean image as a hardworking artist, releasing nearly 30 CDs since 1999.
He entered the music industry in 1997, one year after finishing third in a local singing contest, quickly transforming from a boy who was bullied at school into a pop star praised for his charm, soft voice and moving love and folk songs.
Truong has built one of the largest fan bases in the history of Vietnamese pop music. For nearly a decade, he repeatedly won awards for best song and favorite artist based on the votes of local music fans.
Little was known about Truong’s former girlfriend Dung until now. A fan of his for 12 years, she seems to have turned into an arch enemy with angry posts and comments on her Facebook page as well as to local media.
Both sides in the scandal have since approached the media claiming to be victims of the other.
Lawyers have weighed in to the scandal, of course. Some said Dung can take Truong to court if she has evidence that she was lending him money instead of gifting it to him; and Truong could do the same if he can prove that Dung was threatening and slandering him.
But media commentators have remarked that things are not likely to get that far, because celebrities love to be in the news, but not in court.
In the latest development, Truong sent a letter to local media saying he and his wife want to close the issue, and will not make any further comment on it until Dung can provide proof within this month about the money she says he owes.
He said he had returned Dung $30,000 that he agreed he owed, and that Dung “was coming up with the other $30,000 from nowhere.”
Coincidentally or not, Dung said the same day that she also wants to stop because she was tired of fighting a public figure who had all the support.
“Since Truong and Hoang Tuan (Truong’s manager) told the press that my husband and I were blackmailing him, our life has been turned upside down.
“We have received terrorizing phone calls from morning until late at night as Truong had put photographs of our messages with our phone numbers online,” Dung said.
She said she is now scared of Truong, Tuan and his fans, who could have been threatening her upon his urging.
“I think I’m done here… I just hope Truong will live better as a man of honor, and stop making use of anyone, including his wife.”
Truong said he would have not even come out with any comments if the matter was just between him and Dung, but he did not accept that his wife and marriage could be affected.
He said if Dung had really meant no harm, she could have asked him for repayment before his marriage.
He said that they, he and Dung, had enjoyed a “true” relationship and after their break-up “because of some differences,” they had agreed to be friends and support each other.
Tien has been supportive of her husband so far.
She has posted a long note on her Facebook page, accusing Dung of threatening them, slandering Truong and intending to use their money to get a green card for a family member.
Dung has denied the accusations.
Tien said she once sent Dung a message to thank her for helping Truong in the past, and that before all this, she and her husband had actually paid back by helping Dung deal with financial problems in Australia.
She also criticized Dung for saying that Truong had married her for the money.
“What my husband and I have always longed for in this life is happiness, and that cannot be bought with money.”
Though both parties have expressed a desire to be done with the scandal, another twist to it given by Dung will keep it going.
She told the Dat Viet newspaper on July 13 that she broke up with Truong “because he is gay.”
She also said that this had been confirmed by a friend who used to work with Truong.
The singer has not responded to the accusation about his sexual orientation and tongues are already wagging about his close relationship with Tuan, who has been with Truong since he began his career 16 years ago.
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By Thien Anh, Thanh Nien News (The story can be found in the July 19 issue of our print edition, Vietweek)