Thursday, August 18, 2005

Madame Wong Rides The Elephant

Esther Wong, owner and booker at Madame Wong's in Chinatown and Santa Monica is dead.

At Madame Wong's, which closed in 1985, and Madame Wong's West in Santa Monica, which operated from 1978 to 1991, she proved a staunch supporter of new and local groups. Besides Oingo Boingo, her stages hosted Police, X, the Motels, 20/20, the Knack, the Know, the Textones, the Go-Gos, the Plimsouls, the Nu-Kats, the Bus Boys, Plane English, the Naughty Sweeties and more.

She opened the Santa Monica club, she once told the Los Angeles Times, because there were too many worthy groups seeking bookings for her Chinatown club alone to accommodate. And she closed each club as new wave and then other forms of rock lost popularity.

Ms. Wong chose the groups by listening to audition tapes -- although she had to give up playing them in her car.

"I got a very bad temper," she told the Times in 1980. "When there's a bad tape, I throw it outside the window. One day I almost hit the (California) Highway Patrol car that was right next to me."


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