Forbidden City, USA captures the magic and glamour of the Chinese American nightclub scene, which peaked in San Francisco during World War II. In the 1930s and ’40s, audiences flocked to nightclubs to escape the problems of the day with a cocktail and a show. Filmmaker Arthur Dong spent twenty-five years interviewing the entertainers from this era, many of whom time had forgotten, and collecting hundreds of rare images and objects. The result is a sexy and insightful exploration of a time when Asian Americans pushed against exploitation and racism—as well as expectations from within the community—to pursue their dreams of working in show business.
Here are the sassy, bold, and sometimes heartbreaking memories of dancers, singers, producers, and nightclub owners, as told in their own words. Accompanying these previously unpublished stories are over four hundred stunning photos, postcards, menus, and programs. Together they recreate a forgotten era, taking readers on a dazzling tour of the old “Chop Suey Circuit.”