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Forbidden City: The Golden Age of Chinese Nightclubs (The Hampton Press Communication Series)

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1572739475
ISBN-10: 1572739479
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  • Forbidden City: The Golden Age of Chinese Nightclubs (The Hampton Press Communication Series)
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Product Details

  • 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: #1,156,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback
Presented as an oral history, Forbidden City: The Golden Age of Chinese Nightclubs records the recollections of nearly two dozen Asian American performers who worked in San Francisco's "all-Chinese" revues from the late 1930s through the 60s.

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.
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If you ever lived in San Francisco or hungout in Chinatown or knew any of the people in this book you will find this a fascinating and enjoyable look back at a time and places that are gone now, but were vibrant and fun.
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Really a collection of anecdotes and personal mementos, this book is an interesting exploration of a subject area that I had never heard about. The photos and stories are unique, and stir the imagination as to what it was like to be living in that era and habiting those clubs.
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