Friday, February 7, 2014

Hazel Jay

Hazel Jay was born in Honolulu, Hawaii, on July 1, 1916, according to a 1946 passenger list (below) at Her name has not been found in the U.S. Federal Census records.

In the 1920 census, there was a Soon Sai Chung (line 17), the fourth of five children born to In Sui and Mary, both Korean immigrants. Soon Sai’s age was 3 years and five months. The census was enumerated in January, so Soon Sai’s birth was around July, the same month as Hazel’s.

Recorded on a 1940 passenger list (farther down) was the name, “Hazel Soon Sai Jay.” I believe Hazel had married one of the Jay brothers and adopted a Western name. In a 1957 gossip column, “New York Confidential”, Hazel was described as “a beautiful Korean pianist.”

In the 1930 census, the widow, Lee Shee Jay, head of the household, had three sons, all single: Amung (20), Alfred (18), and William (16).

1937 Honolulu City Directory
Hazel’s residence was 1203 Palama and she was employed at the Bergstrom Music Company. A career as a pianist was in her future. Alfred (Alf K), had the same address and worked at the Metronome Music Store. (According to his World War II enlistment record, he was an actor.) Amung, was listed between them.

1938 Honolulu City Directory
Hazel was a Bergstrom saleslady and her address remained the same. New to the listings were Aki; Lee Shee (Miss Lee), whose husband’s name was Chee; and William, a clerk at the Metronome Music Store.

Passenger List
March 1, 1940
Hazel’s full name was recorded on the passenger list. She was bound for San Francisco.

San Francisco Chronicle
June 15, 1942
Forbidden City

Seattle Daily Times
October 12, 1943
“Chinese Follies”

Reno Evening Gazette
January 31, 1944

Berkeley Daily Gazette
March 1, 1944
“Stage Door Canteen Lists Attractions”
…Hazel Jay, “Confucius Club;”...

Passenger List
February 25, 1946
Hazel traveled with dancing partner Mary Mammon.

Passenger List
August 27, 1946
Hazel departed for San Francisco. (see top)

1949 Honolulu City Directory
Hazel resided at 2526 Kapiolani Blvd.

The World-Herald
(Omaha, Nebraska)
February 10, 1950

The World-Herald
February 18, 1950

(New York)
October 16, 1950
“Voice of Broadway”
...Ex-champ Joe Louis la doing his rumba-ing these
nights with Hazel Jay, the China Doll chorine…

January 2, 1954
“Table Talk”
Two of the charms of the New China Bowl (152 West 44th) are named Gertrude Chin and Hazel Jay. Mrs. Chin’s husband is an aide to Gen. Chase on Chiang Kai-shek’s refuge, the island of Formosa. Both of these extremely good-looking gals are there to help you order your meal, and I must say their presence makes decisions not only easier but pleasanter....
Buffalo Courier Express
(New York)
July 22, 1957
“New York Confidential”
International “Incident”—John Schlesinger, the South African billionaire, is due in New York next month. He’s a central figure in London’s current cause celebre in which Seignon, the Burmese model, is named as “intervener” (whatever that means). She hotly denies it. Last year when Schlesinger was here, he dated Hazel Jay, a beautiful Korean pianist (now a Hawaiian Room hostess), and Jadine Wong, the exotic Chinese dancer and movie actress…
Buffalo Courier-Express
August 11, 1957
“New York Confidential”

September 9, 1959
“New York Confidential”
(fourth paragraph)
...Did I note that Hazel Jay, the chief hostess at the Lexington Hotel Hawaiian Room is one of the prettiest girls alive? (She's a former concert pianist.)...
At some point, Hazel retired to Florida. A public record at had this address, 6190 Woodlands Blvd. in Tamarac. She passed away April 26, 1986, according to the Florida Death Index at

Images of the Hawaiian Room and dancers can be viewed at Hawaii Aloha, Honolulu Magazine and the Tiki Room.

Although this blog is devoted to artists of Chinese descent, Hazel was included because, at the time, entertainers of Japanese, Korean, and Filipino descent were passed off as Chinese, and there was very little information about her.

(Today’s post supports Arthur Dong’s upcoming exhibition, “Forbidden City, USA: Chinese American Nightclubs, 1936-1965.”; next post: Bruce Lee)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Yun Gee and the Moon

Ogden Standard Examiner
February 15, 1946
(click image to enlarge)

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(Next post on Friday: Hazel Jay)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Yun Gee in San Francisco, 1946

Oakland Tribune
September 8, 1946
(click images to enlarge)

Shanghai Evening Post and Mercury
September 13, 1946
Yun Gee Exhibition Scheduled in SF

Oakland Tribune
September 22, 1946

Oakland Tribune
November 11, 1946

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(Updated November 1, 2018; tomorrow: Yun Gee and the Moon)

Monday, February 3, 2014

Yun Gee and Eggs

Traverse City Record-Eagle
April 11, 1945
(click images to enlarge)

Photograph published in PM (New York, New York), July 4, 1948

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(Tomorrow: Yun Gee in San Francisco, 1946)

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Yun Gee at Lilienfeld Gallery and Flatbush Art Galleries

Brooklyn Eagle
April 1, 1945
(click images to enlarge)

The New York Times
April 2, 1945
Exhibitions opening today include recent…paintings by the American-Chinese artist, Yun Gee, at Karl Lilienfeld’s…

The New York Times
April 8, 1945
The American Chinese painter Yun Gee is the current exhibitor at the Lilienfeld Gallery—groups of rather squirmy figures, city landscapes and still-lifes, in varied styles.

Brooklyn Eagle
April 8, 1945

Yun Gee has successfully fused the Chinese and 20th century French art traditions, with American subject matter, into a highly recognizable style entirely his own. Each of his canvases is an inspired opus. They are all invested with a spirit of cheerfulness, a dancing, rhythmic design, and jubilant color.

Thousand go in and out of Bronx Botanical Gardens. many know of its location and great numbers pass by this storehouse of nature’s beauty. But Yun Gee not only sees its pictorial possibilities but waits until Winter comes. Then he creates of its white dome an effect as monumental as our capital’s building. “The Mirror,” “Swan Lake,” “Central Park,” “Old Broadway” and many others bear eloquent testimony to Yun Gee’s interpretive genius.

Brooklyn Eagle
December 23, 1945

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(Tomorrow: Yun Gee and Eggs)

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Yun Gee at Milch Gallery

The New York Times
June 7, 1942
Paintings by Yun Gee are on view at the Milch Gallery, an exhibition arranged for the benefit of Democracy-in-Action, affiliated with the British and American Ambulance Corps. The organization will devote its proceeds from the admission charge and sales to ambulances and equipment for the United Nations. Portraits, fantasies, urban glimpses of Paris, Madrid and New York and a variety of other themes are treated by the artist in a style that at times suggests Soutine.

Brooklyn Eagle
October 5, 1943
(click images to enlarge)

Brooklyn Eagle
October 10, 1943

In the 23 canvasses painted within the last year by Yun Gee, we find a consolidation of Chinese intuitions with occidental schooling. With swift brush bravado, Mr. Gee injects a new kind of drama into our Manhattan street scenes. Central Park, as seen through his Oriental eyes, becomes a color ode to America, for which the artist’s affection is so intense that he has taken a night job in a Brooklyn war products plant.

In “Harlem,” “Bronx” and “Palisades“ he shows wee but unmistakable traces of Darian influence. In the main, however, his work is of dexterous virtuosity. He paints fluently and his objects have a sense of volume.

Art Digest
October? 1943
The American Scene Through Chinese Eyes
Yun Gee, the Chinese-American artist who paints New York not quite like you'd expect a Chinese to paint, is holding an exhibition during October at the Milch Galleries (4th to 23rd) of recent paintings. Yun Gee has shown a great many pictures in the last few years; first at an art goods shoppe on 34th St., then at the Montross Galleries, at Milch for benefit of the American Ambulance Corp., etc. It was his painting of the connoisseur Vollard peering through a loop of forefinger and thumb, that most took the fancy of critics. Fairly fantastic assemblages of figures and horses rather stopped them.

Now, the 1943 exhibition shows a comparatively domesticated Yun Gee. While still brilliant and unbridled in color, his paintings have jelled more nearly in the conventionally American mode of making a picture. Views of New York are familiar rows and corners, albeit Yun Gee imbues the scent with animation and high good spirits. What a glitter he sees in a Morning in the Bronx! How gala the Union Square scene which he calls Holiday on Old Broadway, showing he knows his New York history. Central Park West amuses him for the minarets and towers that form that fancy sky line.

One painting in the show is a tip-off to his present occupation. Discretion prevents our saying what essential industry has hired his talents but his Army Searchlight painting, done at night, was a special permission concession granted by his employers for whom he works on a day shift.—M. R.

Art Digest
November? 1943
John B. Powell: Yun Gee
Yun Gee’s Gesture
John B. Powell, newspaper correspondent in the Far East, and former editor of a Shanghai English-language newspaper, China Weekly Review, has, in effect, gone back to school. A portrait of him painted last year in this country by the Chinese-American artist, Yun Gee, while the released prisoner Powell lay in Medical Center with small chance to recover from Japanese-inflicted tortures he suffered as prisoner, has been given to his alma mater.

A representative of the faculty of the School of Journalism, University of Missouri, will come on to New York from Columbia, Mo., to accept the gift from the now foot-less journalist, who received it as a gift from the artist Yun Gee. An exhibition of paintings by Yun Gee was held at Milch Galleries last month.

Brooklyn Eagle
November 1, 1943

Joplin Globe
March 17, 1944

Portrait of Editor Presented Missouri U.
New York, March 16.—(AP)—A Chinese-American artist’s portrait of J.B. Powell, former editor and publisher of the “China Weekly Review” in Shanghai, was presented today to the University of Missouri’s school of journalism, of which Powell is an alumnus.

The portrait was painted by Yun Gee in Harkness pavilion medical center where the Far Eastern journalist has been confined since he returned to the United States in 1942 suffering from mistreatment received in a Japanese prison. He lost both feet.

Yun Gee, who knew Powell in China, did the portrait as a tribute to the newspaper man’s efforts in behalf of the Chinese cause. Powell in turn gave the painting to the university.

The presentation was made at the Milch art gallery at an informal ceremony attend by the artist and Powell’s wife. Dean Frank Luther Mott accepted the gift on behalf of the university. The portrait will be hung in the school’s J.H. Neff hall.

Brooklyn Eagle
June 18, 1944

Twenty-three contemporary Americans are represented in the current Summer exhibition, each with one canvas….Yun Gee…are showing the high-calibered canvases which one has grown to expect of them.

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(Tomorrow: Yun Gee at Lilienfeld Gallery and Flatbush Art Galleries)