After the conference, which was, like so many conferences I’ve attended, so full of stuff going on that you had a hard time choosing what to see, the university sent a group of us on to Beijing for a 3 day guided tour. Like all guided tours, there was a daze-making insanity to it, but it was fun. We gathered in the hotel lobby at 7:30 every morning and were herded into buses and taken to the Wall, the Forbidden City, Tienanmen Square, you name it, until we were dizzy.
Our guide was a very cute university student named Lena (that’s her picture up top, in Tienanmen Square) who I thought of as “the manga girl” because that’s what she looked like. She told us stories in her adorably accented English. My favorite was about the last Empress, whom Lena referred to as “the bad lady.” “The bad lady” started as a lowly concubine to the emperor, who had so many concubines that most of them never even saw him. She bribed a palace eunuch to find out where the Emperor was traveling and arranged to be there ahead of him. When he arrived, he heard her playing music and singing, and wanted to meet her. She charmed him so much that she was promoted to wife. When he died, she made her nephew emperor, but he wanted to make reforms, so she had him imprisoned in his room on trumped-up charges. Eventually, he hung himself, but most people believe she had a hand in it. Then she had a second nephew made emperor, but he didn’t work out either, so she had him killed, and even personally pushed his wife into a well! Finally she made her 3rd nephew, 3 year old Puyi, the next emperor — after all, what can a 3 year old do? — and died shortly after. Lena said, “I admire her (because she was so strong) but I hate her.”
I returned home to foggy San Francisco to find a scan of the cover of my soon-to-be-published book awaiting me on email, and here it is, next to Lena. “Forbidden City: the Golden Age of Chinese Nightclubs” isn’t out yet (My publisher says Autumn, so any minute now…) but already, on October 17th, I’ll be doing a presentation on the book at a fabulous pre-Halloween costume event called “The Cool Black Ball”, and here’s a link to the website: http://www.coolblackball.com/fr_index.cfm
and a link to a great youtube video: http://www.youtube.com/planetfillmore
You’ll see some images from the book on the video. Dress in black vintage or snazzy black party clothes, come to the Ball, and say hello!