- Series: The Hampton Press Communication Series
- Paperback: 156 pages
- Publisher: Hampton Press Inc (November 16, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1572739479
- ISBN-13: 978-1572739475
- Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 7 x 10 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #494,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Forbidden City: The Golden Age of Chinese Nightclubs (The Hampton Press Communication Series)
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Top Customer Reviews
This book also offers a slice of Asian-American history that is not well-known.
Interestingly, the cast was not all Chinese in these clubs. First, the local Chinese women and men wouldn't be caught dead performing in these clubs, so there was a shortage of qualified Chinese entertainers, so often clubs hired Japanese or people of mixed heritage (but who had some Asian blood). Most of the performers came from small towns in other states and were from non-traditional, more "Americanized" families, so they didn't have traditional Asian families clucking their disapproval. You might say a lot of them were very modern who dared to defy the traditional roles of men and women in Asian society.
A lot of the entertainers tried to make it in Hollywood, but found little success, due to the scarcity of roles for Asian actors, and because of the racist practice of taking major, well known actors and putting them in yellow face. Asian acts were seen as one-time-appearance novelty acts in Hollywood films, so most of the performers found steady work in the nightclubs. Forbidden City was the first to have an all-Asian revue. The book contains a lot of photos of the entertainers as well as newspaper clippings, old advertisements, etc. It chronicles the start of these clubs, the boom years, to the closing of these clubs. It is a fascinating look at a brief but glamourous period in Asian-American history.
The transcribed interviews of the artists, and their friends and relatives, paint an intimate portrait of this unique cultural scene. Profiled are some of the better known alumni of the Forbidden City nightclub -- like singers Larry Ching and Frances Chun and dancers Dorothy Toy, Tony Wing, and Jadin Wong -- as well as other performers I'd never heard of before, such as:
* Ellen Chinn, Forbidden City dancer and, according to news of the day, "possessor of Chinatown's most beautiful pair of legs"
* Mai Tai Sing, Forbidden City dancer who later ran a cocktail lounge in Chinatown and played a bit part in the 1960 TV show Hong Kong, starring Rod Taylor
* Coby Yee, "China's Most Daring Dancing Doll", an exotic dancer who performed off and on at the Forbidden City and later bought the club from founder Charlie Low in the mid-60s
* Cynthia Yee, dancer in Dorothy Toy's various revues, Miss Chinatown of 1967, and founder of the Grant Avenue Follies
One of the best things about the book are the more than 200 illustrations, ranging from newspaper ads and magazine articles to family photos and glamor shots. They are absolutely priceless and by themselves worth the price of the book.
I would have given Forbidden City a 5-star rating, but unfortunately the book is let down by a lackluster design and the lack of a readily apparent organizational structure.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
FORBIBBEN CITY...THE GOLDEN AGE OF CHINESE NIGHT CLUBS GIVES A
DETAILED HISTORY OF THE OLD WONDERFUL GROWTH OF NIGHTCLUBS IN
SAN FRANCISCO CHINATOWN. Read more
My memories of the "Forbidden City" Nightclub in San Francisco, as well as the "Chinese Sky Club" are most vivid, so this book has special significance to me. Read morePublished on March 23, 2011 by George E. Rowe