Rise of the American Born Chinese
Freely embracing American culture, Chinese entered the entertainment business. Chinese American nightclubs sprang up in Chinatown and on the outskirts with Chinese crooners whose voices reminded guests of Frank Sinatra. The most illustrious, the Forbidden City, boasted dancing and variety shows until the wee hours. Hollywood’s top stars, including comedian Bob Hope and movie star Ronald Reagan, flocked to see tuxedo-ed singers, costumed dancers, female impersonators, and comics who entertained in perfect English.
Shows mirrored the American stage and Silver Screen -- Larry Chan was billed as the Chinese Bing Crosby; dance team Dorothy Toy and Paul Wing were the equivalent of an Asian Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers; Colleen Li Tei Ming sang Irish ballads. The Forbidden City was so popular that non-Chinese clamored to showcase their talents by taking on Chinese stage names. The glory days, from the 1930s to 1960s, delivered four decades of rare memories for artists and patrons.
Meanwhile, Chinese immigrants were keeping close tabs on their beloved homeland. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, founder of the Kuomintang political party with a pro-democracy platform, won supporters in Chinatown. He was so revered that the Chinese in San Francisco and many other U.S. cities freely gave funds to his cause to overthrow ancient dynastic rule. In honor of the first president of the Republic of China and Dr. Sun Yat-Sen’s visit to San Francisco, businesses commissioned a statue of him in 1938, which still stands today in St. Mary’s Square on California Street.