Intl. Notebook Apr 29 2010
CHASING AMY
Flame of the Barbary Coast.

This is the oldest tabloid we’ve managed to locate so far. No surprise it’s The National Police Gazette, which began publishing in 1845. This issue, printed on pink cover stock, is from April 1941 and features burlesque dancer Amy Fong. Fong gained fame stripping at Charlie Low’s renowned San Francisco club Forbidden City, starring in a revue called China Dolls. It could have been “doll”, singular, because Fong was the only Chinese, or indeed, even Asian, dancer in the show. Forbidden City—located in an area of San Fran that once was home to its infamous Barbary Coast vice district—mainly catered to Chinese patrons, but Fong became popular enough to go mainstream, and toured nationally with revues like Modes and Models, Sunkist Vanities, and Moonlight Maids, always as the only Asian performer.

We think her story is probably real interesting, considering the time period involved and the probability that many Americans likely did not consider her ethnicity distinct from that of the Japanese enemy they were fighting in the Pacific, but she’s one of those figures we lose in the mists of time. We know she announced her retirement in 1942, but she must have made a comeback, because we found a flyer of a performance in Pittsburgh from 1949. After that, nothing. Maybe one day more information will appear on Ms. Fong and we’ll learn this pioneering woman’s full story. Until then, we’ll have to make do with hearsay and a few photos.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
August 23
1942—Battle of Stalingrad Begins
The Battle of Stalingrad, perhaps the most pivotal event of World War II, begins. It lasts for more than six months, spread across the brutal Russian winter, and ends with two million casualties. The Russian sacrifice reduces the powerful German army to a shell of its former self, and as a result Nazi defeat in the war becomes a simple matter of time.
1979—Alexander Gudonov Defects
Russian ballet dancer and actor Alexander Borisovich Godunov defects to the U.S. The event causes an international diplomatic crisis, but Gudonov manages to win asylum. He joins the famous American Ballet Theater, where he becomes a colleague of fellow-defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, and later earns roles in such Hollywood films as Witness and Die Hard.
August 22
1950—Althea Gibson Breaks the Color Barrier
Althea Gibson becomes the first African-American woman to compete on the World Tennis Tour, and the first to earn a Grand Slam title when she wins the French Open in 1956. Later she becomes the first African-American woman to compete in the Ladies Professional Golf Association.
1952—Devil's Island Closed
Devil's Island, the penal colony located off the coast of French Guiana, is permanently closed. The prison is later made world famous by Henri Charrière's bestselling novel Papillon, and the subsequent film starring Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman.
1962—De Gaulle Survives Assassination Attempt
Jean Bastien-Thiry, a French air weaponry engineer, attempts to assassinate French President Charles de Gaulle to prevent Algerian independence. Bastien-Thiry and others attack de Gaulle's armored limousine with machine guns, but after expending hundreds of rounds, they succeed only in puncturing two tires.
August 21
1911—Mona Lisa Disappears
Leonardo da Vinci's masterpiece, the Mona Lisa, aka La Gioconda, is stolen from the Louvre. After many wild theories and false leads, it turns out the painting was snatched by museum employee Vincenzo Peruggia.
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