Dancers;Chinese American entertainers;Musicals;Asian American theater;Nightclubs;Talent scouts;Casting directors;Chinatown (San Francisco, Calif.)
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2017.032.015 Oral History Interview with Ivy Tam, February 17, 2004

Ivy Tam was a chorus girl at Forbidden City from 1959 to 1962 during the peak of San Francisco Chinatown’s nightclub scene. She was also briefly married to the nightclub’s founder, Charlie Low. In this interview, Ivy provides insight into how dancers at Forbidden City were scouted as talent for the musical production and movie version of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Flower Drum Song.” She also discusses how she herself was considered for but ultimately declined a role as double for Nancy Kwan (Mei-Li) in the film. Ivy also shares her thoughts on various topics, such as whether Rodgers and Hammerstein based their show on Forbidden City, critiques about the racial insensitivity of the original show, and her opinion of David Henry Hwang’s rewriting. This interview is one of a series of 18 interviews that author David Lewis Hammarstrom conducted in 2003 as part of research for his book, Flower Drum Songs: The Story of Two Musicals (2006).