It’s TERRIBLE outside — Winter’s last hurrah, I hope! A strong wind is turning the treetops into giant fans and blowing the lovely pink blossoms off the wild plum tree in my backyard, the sky is gray and heavy. No sunny California today –you can feel the approaching storm in the air. But I’m safe and dry inside, still warmed by my memories of the amazing gala opening at the Old Mint, on February 11th, of the San Francisco Historical Society’s celebration of my book, “Forbidden City: the Golden Age of Chinese Nightclubs.”
What a glorious, glittering night that was! Everybody who was in the book, who could make it to San Francisco, was there: superstar dancer Dorothy Toy in mink; singers Ellie Chui and Jimmy Borges, all the way from Hawaii; Coby Yee, the last owner of the Forbidden City, wearing one of her amazing creations — and of course the fabulous Grant Avenue Follies, the non-profit dance troupe consisting of dancers from the clubs who never retired — and who are responsible for me writing the history of the clubs.
Back at least 4 years ago, when Cynthia Yee, Isabel Louie, Pat Chin, and Ivy Tam first appeared in my dance class I knew that these were special women. They all looked at least ten years younger than they were, had great legs, and were fabulous dancers. It was through these women, who had danced in the clubs back in the Day, that I learned about the great Chinese nightclubs that had glittered and gleamed in San Francisco’s Chinatown from 1937 to the mid-60s, and decided that there needed to be a book about them, and that I was the person to write it.
A special guest was the young and beautiful fan dancer Shanghai Pearl, who flew in from Seattle to give us a taste of what it must have been like in the 1940s to watch fan dancers Noel Toy or Barbara Young do their thing.
So here’s a glimpse of what the gala was like: from left to right, top to bottom: Ivy Tam and Cynthia Yee of the Grant Avenue Follies, on either side of mink-coated Dorothy Toy. Behind them is a photo of Dorothy when she danced en pointe at Forbidden City; yours truly with 93 years young Eddie Leong, who told me that he was a barfly back in the days of the clubs; yours truly again, this time with David Wells. David has the world’s greatest blog, all about the lovely actresses in the Hong Kong films of the 60s, and he has written glorious reviews of my book and the opening: http://softfilm.blogspot.com/2010/02/charming-lovebirds-victor-sen-yung-and.html
Moving on, here I am again with the inimitable Shanghai Pearl — and who says Chinese girls are short? After that is a photo of the Grant Avenue Follies, San Francisco’s sweethearts, in action, and finally, queen of the fan dancers, the elegant Ivy Tam, of the Grant Avenue Follies. Don’t you wish you coulda been there?
Next, the exhibit moves to the main branch of the San Francisco public library, on April 10th, so if you missed it at the Old Mint (it was only up for a very short 2 weeks), you can catch it for free from April through June at the library. Plus, you can find me on May 2nd through the 4th at Wondercon, where I’ll have the book for sale, even though it has nothing at all to do with comics!
As I write this, the heavens have opened up and are pouring buckets of water down upon us poor earthlings. Please, may it be the last storm of the season!