Toy and Wing: Premiere Asian American Dance Team

Today is the birthday of Dorothy Takahashi, better known as Dorothy Toy. With Paul Wing Jew (a.k.a “Wing”) she formed the team of Wing and Toy, the premier Asian American dance team of the 3os, 40s and 50s. Wing (a Chinese-American) had taught himself to tap as a child growing up in San Francisco. His first dates were at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in L.A. He met the Takahashi sisters Dorothy and Helen at an audition and they formed the act The Three Mahjongs — Kicking the Gong Around. They studied with the great Willie Covan, sharpening their skills, and worked the western circuits, notably Fanchon and Marco theatres, in the vaudeville-and-film-combination days of the early 1930s. After 3 years, Helen left the act to pursue a solo career, leaving just Toy and Wing (they changed their names because “Takahashi and Jew” carried too much negative freight in the tumultuous lead-up to World War II.)

By the late 30s, Toy and Wing were hugely successful in theatres and nightclubs both in the U.S. and abroad. The war brought a major disruption, however; Wing was drafted. The Toy sisters toured together, untouched by the authorities despite the fact that their Japanese American parents were interred in a domestic prison camp. (The Chinese sounding name “Toy” threw them off the scent). After the war, tastes changed but Wing and Toy continued to work the so called “chop suey circuit” as well as the lucrative post-war Europe scene, for as long as they could.And guess what? Dorothy Toy is still with us! Check out this cool documentary piece on her here. And NBC did this excellent piece on the team in December 2016.

To find out more about acts like Toy and Wing and the whole durn history of vaudevilleconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever invaluable books are sold.

 

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6 Responses to “Toy and Wing: Premiere Asian American Dance Team”

  1. Hello, I was the power of attorney and am now the executor of the estate of Mary Mon Toy, the performer. She was a dear friend of mine. I am a writer by profession (you can check my website, marniemueller.com) and though Caucasian, Iwas born in the Tule Lake Japanese American Internment Camp. I am currently doing research for a book I plan to write about Ms. Mon Toy. She mentioned to me on many occasions that she had worked with Toy and Wing. I also have photograps of them and various press clippings. I wonder if there is any way that I could speak to Dorothy Takahashi Foy. I live in NYC, but, of course, I could speak to her on the telephone. If you have contact with her, perhaps you could say that ironically and sadly, Ms. Mon Toy passed away on December 7, 2009, the anniversary of Pearl Harbor. She was 93. I thank you in advance for your attention to my request. Sincerely, Marnie Mueller

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    • Nice to hear from you, Ms. Mueller. Alas, I have had no direct contact w/ Ms. Toy and wouldn’t know to get in touch with her. However, hopefully some kind soul will spot your comment on this blog and know how to put you in touch. Thanks for writing. I looked at your web site — you’ve had a fascinating life!

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  2. Dear Travsd, Thanks for getting back to me! Let’s hope someone who knows her will contact me. All best, Marnie

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  3. Hello Marnie!
    You may email me and I can pass on your information.
    I am related to Dorothy Takahashi Toy, of the famous duo Toy and Wing.
    I just happened to read this blog tonight.

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    • Dear LAO, Thank you for responding. Since I wrote the initial email, I actually found Ms. Dorothy Toy. In fact, I visited her at her home in October. She is an extaordinary woman, and we had a splendid time together. I feel very fortunate to have been able to meet and speak with her. All best, Marnie

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  4. […] Peter Lorre and Sydney Greenstreet while his partner looks on, the amazingly acrobatic terp duo of Toy and Wing [billed as the far more British "Toy and Wyng"], and the schmaltzily melodramatic terp duo […]

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