Monday, March 16, 2009

Return of the Z-Bomb!

Margo the Z-Bomb in Singapore (1956)

You may remember my post last November about the origins of the Z-Bomb. This tasty piece of American slang was used in Hong Kong movie magazines in the late 1950s to describe sexy stars like Fanny Fan and Lau Leung-wa. Of course, it doesn't take a Ph.D. to figure out that it was made popular by the unforgettable Margo the Z-Bomb, whose explosive dancing was captured in the 1957 film Mambo Girl.

In my post I included a clip of Margo's scene that I'd put up on YouTube, and what do you know... three months later, thanks to the wonders of the World Wide Web, I was contacted by RMarie, who tells me that her mother just happened to be Margo's road manager during her 1956 tour of Asia. OMG! How cool is that?!

RMarie told me that she had lots of photos and promised to scan some and send them to me. Well, she did even even better than that by launching her very own blog to share her Margo treasures with the world. This is amazing news, because there is practically nothing about Margo in print or on the Web (just google her name and you'll see what I mean). And that, my friends, needs to be corrected, because based on the newspaper accounts that I've been able to find, Margo was a legend (with a capital L) in the San Francisco nightclub scene during the 1950s. She obviously made quite an impact in Asia as well. Check out this picture of Margo and Run Run Shaw from RMarie's blog.

Margo and Run Run Shaw in Saigon (ca. August, 1956)

I'm sure that Run Run would have loved to sign her up for one of his films, but alas Margo ended up with Shaw's main rival, Loke Wan Tho and his Cathay Organization, shaking her stuff in the film Mambo Girl. The movie was created as a vehicle for Miss Grace Chang — allegedly inspired by her knack for dancing the mambo — but Margo's presence added some much appreciated authentic Latin spice. Compared to Margo, Grace is just a mambo-girl-next-door. Don't get me wrong... I absolutely adore Miss Grace... and love her uncharacteristic "bad girl" turn in The Wild, Wild Rose (1960)... but take a gander at these publicity photos of Margo and Mambo Girl's leading man Peter Chen Ho and try telling me that he'd rather be dancing with good girl Grace. I think not!

Margo and Peter Chen Ho from the December, 1956 issue of International Screen (thanks Charley!)

If you're hungry for more about Margo and her conquest of Asia, here's a tantalizing account that I came across from surgeon and author Richard Selzer in the book What One Man Said to Another (1994). Selzer tells his friend about seeing Margo at a Hong Kong nightclub.

Pretty soon the performance was announced, and it was Margo the Z Bomb. Not the A Bomb, the Z Bomb. It was this Portuguese woman who was going to perform and there were great cheers from the Chinese men — it was ninety percent men — and out came Margo the Z Bomb, absolutely gorgeous and vulgar to her toenails. She had on this very sexy outfit, which was minimal, she danced and sang, and then she began to take off her clothes. She called a man up from the audience, and there was a general reluctance for some guy to get up and take part in it, but finally some young Chinese man got up and she wrapped her legs around him and rubbed him up and down, and everybody laughed and he was a little embarrassed, but not much, and she was carrying on — she knew how to play the crowd to a fare-thee-well. If I could perform like that, believe me, I would be a rich man, because she knew exactly what this audience wanted of her and she delivered it.

OK, so now you want to see Margo in action, right? Well, here is an encore presentation of her scene from Mambo Girl, because like all good things, once is never enough. And for godsakes, will the whole bunch of you please give this video a 5-star rating to counteract the killjoy who gave it one star! Finally, don't forget to visit RMarie's wonderful Margo blog.


YTSL said...

Hi there --

Do you know that MAMBO GIRL is one of this year's HKIFF offerings? And post knowing this, aren't you tempted to come over to Hong Kong for it (and other movies)? :b

duriandave said...

Hi YTSL! Thanks for dropping by.

I was sorely tempted to visit this year. Not because of Mambo Girl (although it's always a treat to see Grace Chang on the big screen), but because of the early Li Lihua films, like The Beauty and the Dumb and Blood Will Tell, as well as the Grace Chang rarities like The Girl with a Thousand Faces and Journey to Kwan Shan. I even went so far as to check ticket prices (the US$815 fare on Singapore Air nearly sealed the deal). But alas, I foolishly decided to be responsible and pay down my credit card debt instead of increasing it.

At least I can console myself with your reports on the festival!

ewaffle said...

You now have at least one five star rating on the YouTube post--mine--and thanks for posting the clip. Margo really got everything out of some very sketchy choreography and didn't slow down for a moment. Quite an act.

Great story about RMarie finding your blog and starting her own--amazing how serendipitous the web can make things.

Love the "Southern Screen" covers.

duriandave said...

A great big thanks for the 5-star rating!

Yeah, Margo's sheer athleticism is amazing.

I'm glad to find out about your blog and looking forward to learning more about Teresa Mak. I've got a soft spot for under appreciated actresses. BTW, I love the picture of her smoking the cigar!

Margarita said...

I was Margos only daughter she had me in 1962 while married with my father Leo Heredia, is verry sad for me to say that my mom passed away in 1996 if any one will like to know more about her life you may contact me at my email

duriandave said...

Thanks for writing, Margarita. Sorry to learn about your mom's passing. She was a great dancer. I wish I could travel back in time and see her perform.

Margarita said...

She was a great dancer an a wondefull mother,Once I was born I traveled most of the world with my parents since both of them worked together I turn one in Hong Kong I have pictures of that day and a lot of my mom I will try to post some of them she was sooo beutifull.

nilson uy said...

Hi Margarita. Its great because you are a daughter of a great dancer. I hope you can post more of her pictures and your pictures too. We would be very happy to see the pictures...