During the 1930s and 1940s, Charlie Low’s Forbidden City was in its heyday. Chinese American entertainers who performed at the San Francisco nightclub packed the house and drew such notables as Ronald Reagan and Jane Wyman as customers. One of the most beloved dancers at the Forbidden City was a woman named Dorothy Sun who gave up fame and fortune to join the USO and entertain the troops during World War II. I remember Dorothy Sun and was saddened when I learned of her passing a few years ago. She was a great lady.
My introduction to Dorothy came in a rather roundabout way. In the late 1980s, while doing research for “Pieces of the Past,” I came across an unusual article in an old issue of the Madera Mercury. It told a tale of such intrigue that I never forgot any of the salacious details.
It seems that in the summer of 1906, there lived in Madera’s Chinatown one Lum Hing who was better known as “Shorty the Slop Man.” Shorty earned his living by gathering swill from the alleys of Madera and feeding it to his hogs, making a respectable profit from his pork in the process.
Also living in Madera’s Chinatown was the Widow Chung. In 1902, her husband, Yee Chung had died, leaving her with seven children to raise. Shorty, being an old friend of the late Mr. Chung’s, began calling on his family, ostensibly to see that they were not living in want of the necessities of life. Herein lay the genesis of Shorty’s problem...