Larry Ching


Larry Ching

Larry Ching (b. 1921, d. 2003, the "Chinese Frank Sinatra") was a long-time performer at the Forbidden City (nightclub) in San Francisco. Nearly 30 years after the end of his career there, he recorded a hit record produced by Ben Fong-Torres.cite web | url=http://www.sfweekly.com/2003-07-16/music/they-called-me-frank |publisher=SF Weekly | accessdate=2007-10-10|title=They Called Me Frank: The life and good times of balladeer Larry Ching|author=Kiberlye Gold|date=July 16, 2003]

Biograpny

Ching was born in Kauai, Hawaii, to a Chinese father and young Hawaiian mother. He was raised by his grandparents.

First singing career, 1938-1962

Ching taught himself to sing by listening to records on board ship while he was in the Merchant Marines. Visiting the Chinese Village, a bar in Chinatown, at age 17 with his Merchant Marine friends, he convinced the pianist to play while he sang.. The owner, Charlie Low, was so impressed he hired Ching on the spot as a singing bartender.cite book|title=Picturing Chinatown: Art and Orientalism in San Francisco|author=Anthony W. Lee|url=http://books.google.com/books?id=xkVA7JgdhPcC|publisher=University of California Press|date=2001]

In 1938 Low opened the Forbidden City, an Asian-themed burlesque and cabaret supper club, and asked Ching to become a featured performer. Low promoted Ching as the "Chinese Frank Sinatra", according to his habit of nicknaming his performers after famous white celebrities. Ching did not approve of his nickname because he preferred Bing Crosby to Sinatra, and did not sound much like Sinatra. He would have preferred to be known under his own name.cite news|publisher=San Francisco Chronicle|accessdate=2007-10-12|title=Larry Ching -- Forbidden City's singing star|authorHarriet Chiang|date=July 7, 2003|url=http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2003/07/07/BA17154.DTL] However, the new name stuck, and Ching is still known by it (although Herb Caen, to set the record straight, referred to Frank Sinatra as "the Italian Larry Ching"cite news|title=Remembering Larry Ching, 'Till the End of Time|author=Ben Fong-Torres|date=July 16, 2003|accessdate=2007-10-12|publisher=Asian Connections|url=http://www.asianconnections.com/a/?article_id=84]

Ching was an instant success, although his shyness initially got in the way. Hoagy Carmichael discovered Ching and invited him to work on Carmichael's weekly radio show. Ching declined. Later, Ching discovered a way to overcome his shyness: "Three drinks and open your eyes!"

While at the club Ching developed a reputation for flirting with and dating attractive white women patrons. He got into fistfights with patrons who would make racial insults. He claimed Duke Ellington and Bing Crosby as fans, and met many other jazz and pop greats including Bob Hope and Lena Horne..

Ching performed three shows a night, six nights a week at Forbidden City for more than twenty years. He left the club in 1960, a year before it closed, and retired from singing professionally in 1962. He moved to Oakland, raised a family, and took a job driving a delivery truck for local newspapers, where he was known to sing while making rounds. He retired from his truck route in 1985. He did not publicly perform for nearly 30 years.

econd career, June-July 2003

In 1989 Ching was featured "Forbidden City U.S.A.", a documentary film about the performers from Forbidden City. He sang for the premier of the film at the Palace of Fine Arts, where he met Ben Fong-Torres, who was MCing the event. Ching met Fong-Torress again several years later at a wedding reception. [cite news|publisher=San Francisco Chronicle|url=http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/06/29/CM292950.DTL|author=Ben Fong-Torres|accessdate=2007-10-12|title=Forbidden Dreams:Paying tribute long after the fact|date=June 29, 2003]

Fong-Torres was so impressed with Ching's singing that he decided to fund and produce an album for Ching. Because of Fong-Torres' schedule, the record was not recorded until 2002, when Ching was 82. The album, "Till the End of Time", features twelve newly recorded songs including jazz standards with pianist George Yamasaki and three Hawaiian tunes, and four remastered songs Ching had recorded in the 1940s. Released in June, 2003, it was a critical and financial success, and lead to renewed fame and singing engagements for Ching. [cite news|author=Ben Fong-Torres|date=2003|publisher=San Francisco State University Magazine|accessdate=2007-10-12|url=http://www.sfsu.edu/~sfsumag/archive/fall_winter_03/larry.html|title=In the Studio With Larry: Helping a Legend Make His Final Recording] San Francisco's then mayor Willie Brown proclaimed June 28, 2003 "Larry Ching Day". A week later, July 5, Ching died suddenly of an aneurysm.

Mr. Ching married twice, first to Vicki Ching, a dancer at Forbidden City who died in 1979, and second to Jane Seid Ching, who he married in 1991. He had two sons and four stepsons. He is memorialized by a portrait on "Gold Mountain", a mural depicting Chinese contributions to American history on Romolo Place in North Beach. [cite news|url=http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/09/12/BAH0S2TVJ.DTL | publisher=San Francisco Chronicle| title = S.F. mural depicting 9/11 flight attendant scarred by taggers | author= Jim Herron Zamora | date = September 12, 2007 | accessdate=2007-09-12]

References


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