Noel Toy – The Chinese Sally Rand

Noel Toy was born Ngun Yee on 27 December 1918 in San Francisco to parents from Canton, China.  In 1939, while attending University of California – Berkley,  Noel was hired to perform as a chorus girl at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco. Noel performed in the Chinese village portion of the expo’s Pageant of the Pacific, a celebration of the nations of the Pacific Ocean. Charlie Low, the owner of the Forbidden City – a Chinese nightclub in San Francisco – saw Noel at the exposition and approached her about dancing at his club. Noel began performing at the Forbidden City in 1940.   She gracefully performed with large ostrich fans, and was quickly dubbed “The Chinese Sally Rand”.  Perhaps capitalizing on this nickname, Noel also began performing a bubble dance with a large transparent balloon, another well-known Sally Rand act.

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Noel Toy and her fabulous ostrich fans, as scanned from a souvenir program from the Forbidden City nightclub in San Francisco.

 

Vintage 8x10 photo of Noel Toy from her time at The Forbiddem City, signed in both English and Chinese.
Vintage 8×10 photo of Noel Toy from her time at The Forbidden City nightclub, signed in both English and Chinese.

 

Within a few years, Noel was on the East Coast if the USA, performing in the most popular New York nightclubs including Leon and Eddies, the Stork Club and The Latin Quarter.  While performing at Lou Walters’s Latin Quarter, Noel caught the eye of young soldier and actor, Carleton Young and the couple married in December 1945.

Noel Toy and actor Carleton Young, the night they were married.  The couple would remain married until Carleton's death in  1994.
Noel Toy and actor Carleton Young, the night they were married. The couple would remain married until Carleton’s death in 1994.

Once married, Noel retired from burlesque dancing and followed her husband into acting. She had parts in several movies alongside actors like Clark Gable, Humphrey Bogart, and Betty Grable. Though Noel primarily quit acting in the mid-1950s, she would occasionally accept bit parts in shows like Police Woman and M*A*S*H, and a few films as well. Noel and Carleton remained married until his death in 1994. Noel died in 2003, at age 84, and her and Carleton’s ashes are interred together at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Noel Toy and Dan Barton in a still from a Reader's Digest film production aired on ABC.
Noel Toy and Dan Barton in a still from a Reader’s Digest film production aired on ABC.

If you are interested, here is a link to an interview with Noel from 2010.

Interview with Noel Toy from 2010.

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