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Coby Yee: The Hardest-Working Woman in Chinatown


In 1960, burlesque star Coby Yee – “China’s Most Daring Dancing Doll” – opened the Dragon Lady nightclub on the eastern border of San Francisco’s Chinatown. In addition to being part-owner, Coby was the hostess and public face of the business.

Each night between her featured spots at Forbidden City, Coby would pound the pavement over to her own establishment to greet patrons, introduce acts, and generally keeping tabs on the entertainment and atmosphere.

The following year, Coby opened a studio in the area where she taught dance and sold her handmade costumes and dresses.  At the same time, she created her own show called the Dragon Lady Revue that was featured in other local nightclubs as well as toured to other areas of North America.

Yee was awarded BHoF’s Living Legend of Burlesque award in 2020 for her contribution to the art of burlesque. With costumes donated to us by Yee’s estate as the centerpiece, this exhibition explores these busy years at the peak of Yee’s career. Performer, costumer, teacher, nightclub operator – Coby Yee truly was, as one contemporary described her, “the hardest-working woman in Chinatown!”

On display in our special exhibition space May 28 - Oct 22, 2021. No extra charge.

Burlesque Hall of Fame