Burlesque Queen Noel Toy


The above circa 1940 video of Chinese-American burlesque queen Noel Toy performing her famous fan dance, makes it clear to see why she was was often billed as “The Chinese Sally Rand.”

Undoubtedly the most famous Asian-American Burlesque performer of her time, Miss Toy began her show biz career as a photographer’s nude model at the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939. Since Asian nude models were a rarity at the time, word soon spread around the San Francisco Bay Area and Noel was contacted by the owner of “Forbidden City,” a once-popular nightclub in San Francisco’s Chinatown. Believing Noel was just what he needed to spice up his club, the owner offered her 50 dollars a week (good money for that time) to headline at Forbidden City, which was where she first became known as the Chinese Sally Rand. There, she made famous her fan and “bubble dances,” the latter in which she used large balloons, rather than fans. According to Miss Toy, some customers were successful in popping her balloons with their cigarettes, “but they also go it on their bill.”

Mary-Madison Baldo

Filmmaker and actress Mary-Madison Baldo (who'll ask you to call her Madison, not Mary) has all the makings to realize her dream of hearing her name announced at the Oscars someday. Besides her talents, the not-quite-21-year old filmmaker has the drive, focus, and positive attitude needed to succeed in her field. Of course, her looks don't hurt either, and have landed her some modeling jobs, most notably for Northern California-based Soul Clothing & Co.

A native New-Yorker who now lives and goes to school in the San Francisco Bay Area by way of Los Angeles, Madison and her partner started their own production company last year, entitled Bardo-Bretow Pictures. She's currently in production with two of her own; The Glittering Girl and Snake Eyes, both of which she'll also be working on in front of the camera, as well as behind.

A recently completed solo project of Madison's, which the above photo is from, is her submission for Team Oscar 2015, an annual competition for young filmmakers, put on by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. If hers is one of the six winning videos selected, you'll see her on stage as an Oscar Bearer on award night. What follows is my recent interview with the very charming lady, in which she reveals, besides her passion for filmmaking, she also dreams of being a roller derby queen and has some very good taste in music.
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