It was probably 1979, we were playing Madame Wong’s, which we did quite frequently in those days. Our set was preceded with one or two double shots of an ancient Chinese brandy called Ingapi.
It was a bright orange color, and smelled like 2000 years of Chinese history. George Wong had stories of being a pilot in the war and drinking Ingapi for courage.
After a couple of shots there was definitely no fear, and reality itself seemed an option…
This one night we were packing up after the show, carting our gear down the long flight of stairs to the street. There were a couple of punks downstairs starting a scene that would ultimately end up in a fight. George and Esther ran a tight ship, no shenanigans, (I remember Esther… small, old, and very feisty, dragging Dee Dee Ramone into the bathroom by the ear, to remove graffiti he had installed). I informed George that there was trouble brewing downstairs, George (no young man at the time) sprang into action, he hits the street, jumps between the two guys and shoves them apart.
One kid starts yelling,
“Hey get your hands off me,
my dad’s a big lawyer in Beverly Hills, he’ll sue your ass!”
Or something to that effect.
To which George turns, pins him with a steely stare, and in a very menacing Chinese accent pronounces. . .
“You may be from Beverly Hills, but you in Chinatown now!”
Now let it be known that some of the facts may be clouded by time and Ingapi…
But that line I will never forget. R.I.P. George and Esther
P.S. The last time I saw Esther,
we were playing at Hollywood Park, the race track.
Esther appeared, I had not seen her in years, George had already died. She was smaller than ever, though still bigger than life.
I embraced her, and asked “what are you doing here?”
“I come see you!”
Now Esther had a real love of the track and gambling, so I said. . .
“No you came to play the ponies”
“If I wanna play ponies I go to Santa Anita!, I come see you!”
She really did love the music.