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[TIMELINE] Eddy See Opens Dragon's Den Restaurant in 1935

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  • madchinaman
    Dragon s Den http://www.apa.si.edu/ongoldmountain/gallery5/gallery5.html During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Chinese population in the United States
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 7, 2006
      Dragon's Den

      During the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Chinese population in
      the United States was changing, from mostly a bachelor society, to
      one that included families. The American-born children of Chinese
      immigrants began expressing themselves through art and enterprise.
      This second generation sought to balance the old world of their
      parents with a new world opening up outside Chinatown.

      Federally-sponsored programs, like the Works Progress Administration
      (WPA), brought students together with nationally-known artists. The
      growing popularity of Chinese cuisine, along with tourist
      attractions like China City and New Chinatown, brought new patrons
      into Chinatown. Some Chinese American youth viewed Old Chinatown
      with nostalgia, but many looked for opportunities to escape its
      confines by marketing themselves in Hollywood and elsewhere.

      Dragon's Den Attracted a Trendy Crowd

      In 1935, Eddy See opened the Dragon's Den Restaurant in the basement
      of the F. Suie One Company. On the exposed brick of the basement
      walls, Benji Okubo, Tyrus Wong and Marian Blanchard painted murals
      of the Eight Immortals and a dancing dragon. An arty crowd,
      including Walt Disney and the Marx Brothers, came to see the murals
      and sample the "authentic fare." In an era when Chinese restaurants
      were known as chop-suey joints, Dragon's Den served egg foo young,
      fried shrimp and almond duck. Non-Chinese diners during the Great
      Depression considered these "exotic" dishes.

      Eddy opened Dragon's Den restaurant in the basement of the F. Suie
      One Company in Chinatown. With a $600 grubstake, Eddy went about
      creating a place that would be very different from other restaurants
      in Chinatown.

      The See Gallery Sponsored Chinese American Artists

      Eddy See opened a small gallery in the mezzanine of the F. Suie One
      Company to sell the artwork of his friends, including Tyrus Wong, a
      student at Otis Art School, and Benji Okubo, a Japanese American
      artist from Riverside. Okubo met art pioneer Stanton Mcdonald-Wright
      while studying at the Art Student's League.

      He introduced McDonald-Wright to Wong and others at Dragon's Den,
      including Gilbert Leong, a student from Chouinard Art School, George
      Stanley, Marian Blanchard, and Dorothy Jeakins. McDonald-Wright's
      interest in Asian art grew because of his acquaintance with these
      students. He encouraged these young Asian American artists them to
      look to their heritage for forms and to juxtapose colors without
      adopting western perspectives.

      The End of Old Chinatown
      The area east of Alameda, near downtown Los Angeles, suffered from
      decades in decline before a deal was finally struck in 1931 to build
      Union Station, a new railroad terminal. The pending demolition of
      Old Chinatown was one reason the neighborhood was falling apart.
      Another cause was the exodus of second generation Chinese Americans,
      youth whose citizenship rights enabled them to secure "outside" jobs
      and housing. Some were ashamed of the run-down place where their
      immigrant parents had been forced to live. They blamed
      discrimination on bad publicity emanating from the media portrayals
      of Old Chinatown. Hundreds were forced to relocate when demolition
      began in December 1933, many of them elderly Chinese bachelors.

      Filming The Good Earth
      In 1932 Irving Thalberg bought the motion picture rights to Pearl
      Buck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Good Earth, hoping
      to "establish a clearer and more sympathetic relationship" between
      the United States and China. However, Thalberg could not bank on
      Chinese American actors in the starring roles, so he cast Paul Muni
      as Wang and Louise Ranier as O'lan. Supporting roles featured Ching
      Wah Lee, Keye Luke and Caroline Chew. Filming took place in and
      around Los Angeles. When the movie premiered on January 1937,
      critics hailed it as the most authentic view of Chinese life ever

      The Good Earth.
      Though producer Irving Thalberg sent a crew to China to film scenes
      for The Good Earth, the film footages were reconstructed in Los
      Angeles and Northridge.

      House Of Wang, The Good Earth.
      China City included The Good Earth movie sets as tourist

      China City
      Christine Sterling opened China City in June 1938 as a tourist site,
      similar to the Mexican-themed Olvera Street nearby. The attraction
      pandered to touristy stereotypes of China. It was enclosed within a
      miniature "Great Wall of China," with lotus pools, temple gongs,
      curio stands, dance pavilions, and movie sets from The Good Earth.
      Tourists rode rickshaws and ate Chinaburgers. They loved the
      atmosphere, as did dignitaries like Eleanor Roosevelt. Movie stars
      such as Mae West and Anna May Wong were paid to make appearances and
      promote the attraction. A fire leveled China City in February 1939.
      Though it reopened amid great fanfare in August, business was never
      the same.

      Peter Soo Hoo made New Chinatown a Reality
      Peter Soo Hoo, President of the Chinese American Association,
      negotiated with Herbert Lapham of the Santa Fe Railway Company to
      purchase land and build New Chinatown. Soo Hoo formed a corporation
      with twenty-eight men and women, each contributing $500 per share.
      One of Southern California's first pedestrian malls, New Chinatown's
      brightly colored buildings and tiled pagoda roofs attracted
      tourists, shoppers and diners. The eighteen stores and bean cake
      factory also served the social and economic needs of the community.

      The clean, contemporary appearance of New Chinatown did much to
      raise the status of Chinese Americans in Los Angeles.
      Inscribed "Cooperate to Achieve," New Chinatown's west gate was
      constructed as a tribute to Chinese laborers who built the railroads
      of California. Y.C. Hong erected the east gate in honor of his
      mother and the self-sacrifices of motherhood.
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