How Chinese Food Fueled the Rise of California Punk


The relationships between the punks and the proprietors could be … complicated. Esther Wong, the Chinese owner of Madame Wong’s, became infamous for her strong opinions; she insisted on vetting every band that played at her restaurant, and even told one Los Angeles Times reporter in 1980 that if she was given a bad tape, she liked to “throw it outside the window.” (Shigekawa says the restaurateur was also fiercely competitive, sometimes calling the fire department on the Hong Kong Café to break up its shows.) In the end, Wong was demonized by the scene when she became exasperated with the fights breaking out in her restaurant and banned certain groups—such as the Alley Cats and the Bags—from playing there.