OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – Known as the “Chinese Ginger Rogers,” Dorothy Toy was one of the most famous dancers in the Bay Area. But a deep, dark secret revealed by a jealous rival sabotaged her dreams.
Now 95 and living in Oakland, Toy just recently hung up her dancing shoes. She was one half of a famous dancing act that got its start in the 1930s and 40s. Dorothy Toy and Paul Wing were one of the top all-Asian dancing acts of the time.
Toy still has the moves. The pair met at an early age, forming a trio dancing act with her younger sister. They landed small dancing gigs in Los Angeles until Hollywood called.
They were a vaudeville act and got their break when Chinese restaurants and nightclubs were putting on all-Asian reviews for white audiences. At the time, it was known as the “Chop Suey Circuit.”
But Toy and Wing became movie pioneers, appearing in films like “Deviled Ham” and “Happiness Ahead.”
“There were no Asians in show business. Yes, it was hard, but Paul and I did alright. We traveled all over and they liked us. They liked Paul,” Toy told KPIX 5.
The dancing duo made it to Chicago, on Broadway, even to the London Palladium. But the Pearl Harbor bombing broke up the team. Wing was drafted by the Army. Toy kept dancing and kept a secret. Until it was revealed by another dancer jealous of Toy’s fame.
Dorothy’s real name was Takahashi. She was Japanese and not Chinese, and changed her name so it would fit the marquees. The name change kept her from being sent to internment camps with her family. But when the truth was revealed, it cost Toy a movie contract.
Toy and Wing were reunited after the war, returning to Broadway and eventually back to the Bay Area.
After retiring, Toy taught dance in her home studio up until six months ago. She cherishes the memories of her years in the limelight.
“I had a lot of those moments. Because you hit a certain town, see people, good to you. When you take your bows at the end, it hits me…money doesn’t count. You get that pleasure inside your heart,” said Toy.
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