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!



  1. Wow, Trina, it’s hard to keep up with you! 😀 So much great stuff! I want to go to Wondercon but I’m not too sure, finances and all…If I manage it, I hope to see you there. Drop me a line at this e-mail or the old one if you’ll be needing a hand, of course!

  2. Dearest Trina,

    Hey Girl, it has been damn near a half century since we last got together. Sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll tend to keep one astonishingly well-perserved. Hell, I’m still waiting for more than a few strands of grey to show up–thus far I haven’t lost my giggle nor ebullience. Jerome and I had three sons, before I out-grew him and split to Hawaii–for the past 42 years my boyfriend Jerry (yeah, I know) and I have conspired to live a rather remarkable existence. Sold art in Hawaii, made a minor fortune when Picasso died, split to Costa Rica where I bought an incredible finca (near the summit of that nation’s continental divide)–when the moon was full we had moonbows. If the conditions were so-so there would be a shimmering silver arc against a greyish void…but when it was truly propitious there would be an intensive full-spectrum rainbow set off by a midnight sky (think Pink Floyd album jacket). After a couple of years I returned to Hawaii for a few years, was recruited to work for Pascale Ionetti in S.F., just before Reganomics kicked the stuffing out of the art-biz. Moved to No. Shore Lake Tahoe for 23 yrs and am now residing in Quincy (Plumas County). At the moment I’m in Oaxaca and pretty positive that will be my next home for (shrug?) however long. Suppose I ought to mention that I’ve been a major commix collector since the underground started…miss the good ol’ days of Print Mint and Rip Off Press. Lost some of my best issues when I didn’t return to my farm in Costa Rica (after my horse was rustled, I just said fuck it) I’m certain squatters have appropriated it decades back. “Mother’s Oats, “Vegetable Express”–still have the first four isses of ‘Snatch” (not particularly p.c., but conformity was never my strong suite). My collection was/is enjoyed and well read ” Demented Pervert” ; ” Armadillo”, “Gay Heartthrob” and loads of thingies that are long gone or now into re-print…some of yours and Kim Dietsh (sic) are well represented. Jerry is also a writer and though most of my best money-making efforts ended-up under Bixby’s by-line, think it’s time to start putting words on paper to augment my inadequte S.S. stipend. So far have managed to avert death by a variety of intersting delivery systems…from homicidal serial killers to flesh eating bacteria. Lucky Little Leo/Tigers, and all that. Finally visted Eastern Europe a couple of years ago…I was phenomenally stupid! Bixby’s mother had come (as might a Biblical Plague) to live with us for seven years–my mother, at the time was married to a man with something in excess of forty million–Bixby yearned for one percent of his wealth. Anyway, she had a flat in London and an apartment in Paris–my kid sister was going to school in Devon. She invited me to spend the summer with her and of course I agreed…what with a built-in baby-sitter in the form of the semi-psychotic mother-in-law. Bixby pleaded with me to not go because “…he wanted to see the expression on my face when first I saw Paris…” How could I deny him that joy? Fucking dumbkopf! After we’d divorced I figured when I eventually got there I’d send him a post card saying “You should see the look on my face!” As is, he’s long dead and I’ve still not seen Paris–without doubt the Paris that then existed has been transformed by MacDonald’s arches and other such…and certainly no mega-bucks mother to permit me dash off to Florence for the weekend, or boogie down to the Prado for a Bosh bash. The worst part was that she died soon after, so that would have been our only opportunity to dig one another as ostensible adults without the mommy-daughter crap. When I first met Ila (the m-in-law) it was two weeks after I’d given birth to her first grandson. Bixby hadn’t seen her in over a decade, when last they’d been together he’d been smoking a camel…he gave her the butt and said a la the cliche of the time “…hang onto this ’til I see you…” So she probably built a freaking shrine…whatever, she got off the plane and handed him this dumb tobacco roach, he looked at it shrugged and said “Nu?” Doubtless shattering what passed for her heart…he then said ” Mom, this is Lin.” Trina, she looked me up and looked me down and then turned to Bixby and said “Well, I suppose she’s a good lay…” You know how in the original “Out of Towners” Sandy Dennis keeps repeating the line “Oh My God …” There were a lot of those moments…early the next morning I’d bumbed into the kitchen to warm a baby bottle and was spritzing tepid milk onto my inner arm when she sidled up and said though a rictus grin “..You tried to poison me didn’t you dear? Well, heh heh, two of us can play at THAT!” She whirled on her high-heeled slippers and swooshed away in MY penoir (!)… another OMG. Evidently she’d become ill the night before…we’d all served ourselves from a common platter of fish, she didn’t attribute her condition to the excitement of seeing the kid, or Bixby, or her first ever plane ride or the change to Venice, California water…nope she freaking thought I’d tried to do her in. Thus commenced a relationship that largely resembled nitrogen getting cozy with glycerine…so it went. I swear I could have dinned out for a year on M-in-law stories.

    So much dead shit… I know from having peeked in from time-to-time of some of your exploits . ..and still treasure the mental image of you, during MacArthur’s ticker-tape parade holding a sign that read “FADE AWAY”
    I adored the mural you did, Mahitable, that great canyon house, and have often wondered what ever became of Paul? Did you guys ever marry? I started using Bixby’s name long before we legalized the trip–marriage only ruined my best line “Always a mother and never a bride” By the time we did I was so over it…at my insistence it was a ringless, vowless, oathless cerimony performed by a judge and witnessed by a mastiff (a couple of the Vegas judge’s clerks signed the document that made a legality of this travesty) and we needed a real divorce to disolve it….we also had the tackiest wedding announcements ever. .. I made person-to-person collect calls to our friends for “Linda Mary Jerome”. So I wondered if you and Paul had ever actually wed. He was a sweet guy, if you’re still in touch pass on my Aloha. I still get a kick out of remembering when you lived next door to Al & Ruth Adrien…I’d go over there and she’d be reading the newspaper personals and once read aloud “…Will the parents of a deaf and dumb child please contact so-and-so…hmmmm I wonder what they want? I know! Can’t you just see it? Hello, we are Mr. & Mrs. Arson…and this is our son George, why did you wish to see us? Is there something you can do for our little Georgie? and the guy would just point and say Naw, I just invited you here because I wanted to go Hah Hah , Hah..!” — Ruth, how had a pretty big mouth filled with proportionate teeth and she did that pointing and crack me up. Bixby gave her a copy of one of his stories and she said that she wanted to go into analysis because it was so heavy, that she’d first started it in Isreal and then couldn’t finish it. I couldn’t believe that the most naturally born-again sick joke personified was too sensitive for his story…I suppose it was “It’s a Good Life” but don’t recall for certain. Scamming records, scamming books, eventually the Feds caught up with him, but the judge was a fellow bibliophile who seemed to think it was an understandable crime. Years later, while working at Ionetti Galleries I met a woman from N.Y. who’d worked in a bookstore in the Village–she recounted how she’d known a Jerome Bixby once and had permitted him to steal a book….far out! It’s a tiny planet… this has been a longish note, but there were a lot of years. I wish that I’d known you were slated to be in Grass Valley, it would have been fun to see you. As I write this the fireworks have been going on semi-continuously for three days. The celebration of the Dead is beyond incredible…so Yip! Yip! It’d be nice to hear from you…this wasn’t written with the intention of being published, but you may do whatever the hell you want.. I don’t think I’ve slandered anyone and unless/until I end up doing a memoir there sure as hell isn’t a redundancy factor. Have a partially completed book about some guys who used to congregate under the Wllow Creek Bridge at Big Sur. Working title is Tales of Willow Creek–these were Steinbeckian types that had never gotten themselves exploited…though the author Richard Brautigan used to hang out with my favorite wino, a guy named Indian Mike. Mike had worked for Dr. Rossier of the L.A. History art museum, before he became a draft dodger and a wino. These guys played Bugs Bunny to the local constabulary’s Elmer Fudd…one day we were driving Mike back to his camp site and Jerry asked ” Hey Mike, what does Big Sur mean to you, anyway?” Mike looked as though he’d waited forever for someone to ask…he smiled and said “Well Jer let’s just say were Big Sur a woman, I would fuck her.” Jerry looked bored and said “Yeah, I’ve heard that before..” Mike beamed and said, “…you don’t pick up. You see I’d like like to have Lots of Little Big Surs…!” Thumping his chest on the final line…that quote will probably be on the frontis page.

    all good things–
    all ways…always,


  3. Wow, Lin, it took me 3 days to finally read all of this, and in between we had Halloween and the Giants won the series and we got Jerry Borwn elected as Governor! So you’re living somewhere in the neighborhood of Grass Valley? Seems to be where hippies retire to, and I can understand that. Truly great to hear from you, talk about a voice from the past! You ever get to San Francisco?

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