Coby Yee (1926-2020)

Known as “China’s Most Daring Dancing Doll”, Coby Yee began dancing in the 1940s and soon became a mainstay in Asian nightclubs, particularly Charlie Low’s Forbidden City in San Francisco. She performed all over the country through the 1950s and ‘60s, eventually buying Forbidden City in 1962 and running it until it closed in 1970. Coby was an avid seamstress. She designed and sewed all her costumes, including her partner Stephen King’s and many burlesque dancers’.

In the last couple of years Coby and Stephen traveled and performed in Cuba, Shanghai and Las Vegas with the Grant Avenue Follies. She did her last public performance at Clarion Performing Arts Center’s Firecracker Burlesque to the delight of her fans. Coby received the Legend of the Year 2020 award from the Burlesque Hall of Fame. Sadly she passed away on the night of August 14, less than 24 hours before she was to be virtually honored. Coby was 93.

Read SF Chronicle’s Date Book on Coby and the Forbidden City Nightclub here.

Tangents Radio Tribute by Dore Stein with a poem by Clara Hsu, August 15, 2020
The Woman Who Ate French Fries
for Coby Yee

Food was not complicated
for a woman who had fully tasted life
who
loved to dance
danced to love
set fire
stoked desire
with fingers rolled down
a shoulder strap
the pieces fell
the crowd went wild
hunger was fed
pride was stripped
nature was celebrated
in sequins and flesh
wink, you, wink, and you too
a final shimmy
the house came down
what thunderous sound

With utmost love Stephen held
all ninety three years of her off the stage
Behind the curtain she demurely nibbled
on her french fries
Coby and Stephen Are in Love (2019)
Produced and Directed by Luka Yuanyuan Yang and Carlo Nasisse
Featuring: Coby Yee and Stephen King
Edited by Alex Winker
Full film duration: 30min42sec
Paramount Theater, Shanghai, China 2019. Video by Diane Mark.
Forbidden City, Beijing, China 2019. Video by Diane Mark.
Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai, China 2019. Video by Diane Mark.