is a 23 year old graduate of USC's film school that is slated
to direct Columbia's planned remake of "Bye Bye Birdie"
- the studio's first feature musical in nearly 30 years that
is slated to be released late in 2004.
M. Chu) got this job (directing Columbia's upcoming remake
of the musical "Bye Bye Birdie") the old-fashioned
way -- pure talent" stated the film's producer - Lucy
Fisher of Columbia's Red Wagon Productions. The "Birdie"
remake comes as Hollywood is once again revisiting the musical
genre, fueled by the successes of recent tuners like Miramax's
"Chicago" and Fox's "Moulin Rouge."
Bye Birdie” is the story of a rock n' roll singer
who gets drafted. Before he goes, his agent gets him on
to a TV show for a farewell gig, and to kiss his biggest
fan goodbye. The original George Sydney-directed film starred
Jessie Pearson as Conrad Birdie and Dick Van Dyke as his
Chu’s attention-grabbing student musical short (17-minutes)
film (w/producers Jeff Jackel and Melissa Hook), "When
the Kids are Away; A Musical Celebration of Mothers"
((basically, "Toy Story" for Mothers after kids
leave) that was made on a $20,000 budget in 12 days, attracted
attention from Doug Wig and Lucy Fisher of Columbia's (a
division of Sony Entertainment) Red Wagon Productions.
production, which was completed in December 2002, (that
opens with a Black family of seven children whose mother
fees them amide general chaos before sending them to school)
is about the secret lives of mothers and what they do when
their families go away for a day in the 1960’s - which
is to sing and dance - everything from salsa to swing to
country to break-dancing (in a series of intricately choreographed
dance routines) while featuring an orchestra and 40 dancers
(salsa, swing & break-dancing) among its 175 participants
in its cast crew.
film revealed the extraordinary lives of seemingly ordinary
housewives when their husbands and kids are away for the
day, through song and dance."
Jon Chu, the Los Altos Hills native, is the youngest son
of five kids from the family of Lawrence and Ruth Chu, the
people behind Los Altos' Chef Chu's restaurant. My parents
came to the U.S. when they were 19 years old and decided
they wanted to immerse their children in American culture.
love of filmmaking began in the fifth grade, when his mother
placed him in charge of the video camera during a family
trip to Europe. Instead of the normal vacation pictures,
he was making sci-fi movies with his brother. Then his father
bought him a mixer, with which he made home videos and experimented
with animation. In high school, he opened up a shop making
is comfortable on the other side of the camera too. As a
teen, he performed both on stage and on screen. Chu won
the Ginny Award for best juvenile actor for his role in
the Pacific Overture at the San Jose Civic Light Opera.
In high school, he appeared weekly as an on-camera interviewer
and reporter for KRON's Saturday teen show First Cut.
parent instilled an appreciation for musical theater by
taking him to musicals and ballets every Sunday of his youth.
In addition, he took lessons in piano and, violin while
tap-dancing for twelve years. Jon has stated that "Music
is just so powerful. Three notes can communicate what three
paragraphs of a script can."
1998, after graduating from Pinewood School, Chu was accepted
into University of Southern California's prestigious film
department. By his junior year, the industry was already
's black-and-white digital video, "Silent Beats,"
which he wrote and directed, took first prize in the best
drama/documentary category at the Alice's 3-Minute Film
Chu won Princess Grace Foundation’s 2001 Cary Grant
Award, the 2002 Jack Nicholson Directing Award and the Virgin
Records Video Contest, directing a music video for the now
defunct alternative rock group Geggytah. Outside of the
classroom, Chu founded the USC School of Cinema-Television
Student Council and strived to build a community among Asian
Pacific American student filmmakers to broaden the exposure
of APAs in the media.
the original (that starred Dick Van Dyke, Janet Leigh, Maureen
Stapleton and Bobby Rydell) poked fun at Elvis and early
1960s teen culture, Chu said he wants to make something
more relevant to today's generation – as evident by
one idea of morphing the Elvis character into a Justin Timberlake-type
with an urban/hip-hop twist. He wants to make the movie
young, fun and "hip pop.
original "Birdie" bowed in 1960 on Broadway and
offered gentle swipes at Elvis Presley and late-1950s/early-'60s
teen culture. The story centers on Conrad Birdie, the country's
biggest rock & roll star who gets drafted by the military.
In an effort to impress his girlfriend, and make some money,
Albert Peterson wants to get Birdie on The Ed Sullivan Show
and have him kiss one lucky high school girl good-bye before
he enters the service.
president Rachel Shane will oversee the project for Red
Wagon with Amy Baer onlooking for Columbia. Red Wagon principals
Doug Wick and Lucy Fisher with VP Rachel Shane will produce
"Birdie." Col exec VP Amy Baer will oversee the
project for the studio. Chu is represented by the William
Morris Agency and Marathon Entertainment's Jewerl Ross and
Chu has more irons in the fire, including a project with
Steven Spielberg in the near future. How's that for magic?
Larry Naiwi Ching,
a first generation Chinese; entertainment-savvy; liberal,
English speaking and one of the Asian American pioneers
that was accepting of their identities as Americans while
understanding their heritage as Asians, was a popular self-taught
singer at San Francisco's Forbidden City - the Chinatown
nightclub that flourished in the 1940s and 1950s.
Ching died on July 5, 2003 in an Francisco hospital on Saturday
after suffering a brain aneurysm at the age of 82 - one
week after celebrating the release of his first -- and only
-- CD (the Ben Fong-Torres-produced production features
classic love songs and standards from his native Hawaii
-- as well as a handful of his recordings from the 1940s)
and receiving a special proclamation from Mayor Willie Brown,
who declared June 28, 2003, "Larry Ching Day."
Ching was a merchant marine when he landed in San Francisco
during the 1930s and became a singing bartender. Being tired
of being told what to do on the ships, he decided to work
at the all-Asian nightclub, Forbidden City, where he was
billed as "The Chinese Frank Sinatra" (though
many have compared him to Bing Crosby) He hated the label
(though he was like Sinatra in two ways - he was slight
in build but devastatingly handsome), but his sweet, smooth
tenor voice quickly made him a favorite and he was a featured
performer for many years, once appearing on a radio program
hosted by Hoagy Carmichael. He also performed at Andy Wong's
Chinese Sky Room and occasionally at Club Shanghai because
he never signed any exclusive contracts.
Ching was born on the Hawaiian island of Kauai in Kapa'a
and was raised by his grandparents after his mother, an
opera singer, went to study in Europe. After graduating
from high school, since he couldn't afford college, he found
himself a job aboard a ship of the President Lines, working
as a fireman and oiler in the engine Room, joined the seamen's
union and eventually joined the merchant marine. His travels
took him to Japan, Hong Kong and Singapore as well as along
the west coast of the United States.
1938 Mr. Ching took a $40-a-week job as a bartender at Chinese
Village, a local watering hole and owned by Charlie Low
(future owner of the “Forbidden City Nightclub), Dr.
Margaret Chung, and Dr. Collin Dong. "I became the
first singing bartender in Chinatown," he noted proudly
years later. Note: Larry taught himself how to sing by listening
to records at a very young age.
1940, Charlie Low, who had opened Forbidden City, hired
Mr. Ching to appear in the club's floor show six days a
week as part of an all-Asian ensemble of entertainers. He
was part of a Charlie Low's Forbidden City poster that had
the heading: "The Greatest Chinese Revue"; and
the three performers pictures were Paul Wing, inscribed
as "Chinese Fred Astaire," Frances Chun, "Song
Stylist," and Larry Ching, the "Singing Favorite."
became one of the club's most popular performers at a time
when there were few opportunities for Asian entertainers
after starting as San Francisco Chinatown’s first
singing bartender. He met many celebrities at Forbidden
City such as Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, John Wayne, Duke Ellington
and Lena Horne.
Mr. Ching also had to deal with racism. "Several times
I lost control of my temper when some drunken customer called
me 'Chinaman,"' he recalled. Occasionally he would
get in a fight, but most of the time, he said, "I just
had to take it."
the Forbidden City folded in 1961, Mr. Ching found there
was no market for Asian performers. Instead, he became a
truck driver for local newspapers, including the Call Bulletin,
the Examiner and The Chronicle. He retired in 1985.
career was unexpectedly revived in 1989 with the release
of Arthur Dong’"Forbidden City USA," the
acclaim documentary about the club and the performers, which
featured him singing a couple of songs. This lead to the
recording of his debut album, " Til the End of Time."
Ching married twice. His first wife, Vicki, who died in
1979, was a dancer at Forbidden City. In addition to his
widow (Jane Seid Ching), he is survived by two sons, Michael
Ching of Lafayette and Philip Ching of Rohnert Park; four
stepsons, David Gee of San Francisco, Larry Chu of Larkspur,
Lindsay Chu of San Francisco and Lance Chu of Hayward; 11
grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.
the late Thirties in San Francisco, a showbiz-loving visionary,
Charlie Low, opened the Forbidden City, a nightclub and
restaurant near Chinatown, San Francisco, featuring floor
shows with singers, dancers, chorus lines, acrobats and
magicians. His was not the first or only such club, but
he made his the best known, and it became the model for
the nightclub in the C.Y. Lee book and Broadway musical,
The Flower Drum Song.
City closed in the early '60s because its time had passed
- television kept people at home in the evenings and the
younger generation was already rocking and rolling. The
club's combination of Asian performers providing western-style
entertainment with touches of vaudeville and titillating
burlesque was no longer a novelty (by then Las Vegas was
where that kind of entertainment was featured). And unfortunately
for the stars of Forbidden City, even though their talent
as singers and dancers may have been the equal of anyone
else in Hollywood or Broadway, they couldn't break into
the mainstream because they were Asian. If they continued
their careers, it was as dance teachers or hoofing it on
small circuits as a specialty Asian act.
Tse is a young 27 years old scriptwriter raised in San Francisco
who hooks up with Spike Lee on his screen-writing debut
-- "Sucker Free City" (originally titled “The
Game”), a Showtime network pilot executive produced
by Sam Kitt and directed by Spike Lee that is packed with
more authenticity in a three-word name than most San Francisco-based
shows can summon in a 22-episode season.
title of “Sucker Free City” came from several
trailblazing San Francisco rappers such as RBL Posse, Rappin
4-Tay, JT the Bigga Figga and San Quinn who started saying
that people from San Francisco are not punks. They started
calling San Francisco “sucker-free.” “There's
no suckers” in San Francisco - we're sucker-free."
Free City" -- premiering as a two-hour pilot in the fall
-- is about the interactions of a diverse group of San Franciscans
after housing prices force a young white resident named Nick
to move into a predominantly black neighborhood. In other
words, this is a project that had a prestigious film director
on board as executive producer in a project that was different,
quality and provocative about Black, White and Asian gangs
in Sucker Free City.
Tse grew up in the middle-class Richmond District, attended
Alamo Elementary School and later took the bus to Presidio
Middle School and Lowell High School. After graduating from
Emerson College in Boston, Tse chose Los Angeles and ten years
to pursue his writing career. After less than three years
of producing rap videos and working at low-level temp jobs
at Miramax and Disney, he sold "87 Fleer," which
centered on four middle-class kids in the Richmond District.
on his script, Showtime executives last year asked him to
write a pilot about gangs. Tse stated that Showtime "really
liked in 'Fleer' were the middle- class kids, from good families
and how they became bad. Having the freedom to set the show
anywhere he wanted, Tse decided on San Francisco – as
he had remembered that the neighborhoods in San Francisco
through his sightseeing through the graffiti-etched window
of a Muni bus that allowed him to study the gentrification
and gans and racial boundaries that were never represented.
major television shows/films, after the obligatory trips to
the Golden Gate Bridge and the Palace of Fine Arts, ignore
San Francisco's diversity, politics and overcrowding issues.
Recent television shows and movies based in San Francisco
-- "Presidio Med," "Pacific Heights,"
"The Rock," “Girls Club” -- are named
mostly by tourists, mono-ethnic cast, with people who have
perched in cable cars and tasted the sourdough, but still
think the Tenderloin is something on the menu at Fog City
Diner. In Hollywood's most common version of San Francisco,
students can afford to live in Victorian flats, parking is
plentiful and little exists west of City Hall or south of
Free City" is by no means the first major production
to explore corners of the city unseen by tourists. San Francisco
filmmakers such as Philip Kaufman and Wayne Wang have gone
out of their way to shoot less familiar angles of the city.
Smaller independent films coming out of the southeast portion
of San Francisco -- most recently Kevin Epps' documentary
"Straight Outta Hunters Point" -- have provided
an insider's look at the artistic output of some of the city's
Offsay (Showtime’s president of programming that brought
critically-acclaimed mature themed films like "Bastard
Out of Carolina" and "Lolita" that garnered
critical raves for mature themes), Gary Levine (executive
vice president of programming and Offsay's right-hand man)
and Danielle Gelber (vice president of original programming,
reading scripts and acquiring scripts) were interested in
“Sucker Free City” because of their intent on
taking Showtime further in a different direction -- fewer
movies, more emphasis on original series. They were looking
for genres that could be opportunities for storytelling that
would be "getting inside a gang and feeling not only
the violence and the danger, but also the love and support
that goes with it."
Tse thought that “Sucker Free City” would be a
good opportunity to do something real and gritty that was
done in San Francisco.