Barbara Yung isn't anymore. (Young, that is…she is, I believe, 94 years old (!!!) While she worked some places catering to the Chinese-American market, her first big dancing break came at Peter DeCenzie's El Rey Burlesk in Oakland, a joint which figures most prominently in the story of Tempest Storm, Lilly LaMont and a dozen other ecdysiasts, not to mention filmmaker Russ Meyer.
Like the others, she worked across the country. From her Bay area origins, she "fanned" out (get it?) across the United States, doing it in Texas, New Orleans and just about anywhere a stripper could work. I believe she was from Oakland originally, but as she didn't receive as much press as some of the other dancers on the grind there isn't too much I can add to her story. Which is good…no overt racial cracks in her paper trail. There are no "women of color" really…race is a continuum and there is only one, the human race. But there ARE some women who break ground when they are dancing in footlights and Barbara Yung did and survived.
Ms. Yung worked with Sinatra, but he probably didn't notice…she is credited as one of six "Chinese Dancers" in Pal Joey. (Right below the actors billed as "Chinese Club Owner, Chinese Pianist and Chinese Drummer" but it was a paycheck. In 1953, she helped open the Capitol theater in Portland. She was inducted into the Burlesque Hall of Fame in 2011 and she showed up for the show.
The nicest biography of Ms. Yung is on the Soft Film HERE. Furthermore, the astounding Memories of Fong Wan's Scrapbook HERE has several scarce photographs of the dancer.
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