This is the first English-language newspaper account I've found that describes in fair detail the "dance empress" contest, which took place annually among the dance halls in the city in the late 1920s and 1930s. In 1934, a dancer named Peiping Lily (Beiping Li Li 北平李里) was crowned empress. I relate this contest in detail in my book Shanghai's Dancing World using Chinese newspapers as my sources--especially the Crystal or Jingbao 晶报 which published frequent articles on the city's "dancing world" (wujie/wuguo). Seems Max Chaichek was very well informed vis-a-vis the goings on of the city's Chinese cabarets. Here is his lavish description of the contest and of the contestants. Following that is a humorous account of late-night (early morning) shenanigans at the famed Del Monte club located on the western edge of the International Settlement on Ave. Haig. Demon Hyde was the club manager. --AF
Shanghai Show World (by Max Chaichek, The China Press, Nov 9, 1934)
The Queen Is dead. Long live the Queen. Boys gather round and salute Miss “Peiping” Lily Lee, new queen of Chinese dancing hostesses who trips the light fantastic for a living at the Metropole Ballroom, formerly Greyhound. On Sunday night at the Paramount Ballroom she will be officially crowned queen. And when we say crowned we mean it. She will be presented with a crown, said to have a number of pearls embedded in it at a regular coronation. Anyway she will fill the throne which was formerly occupied by Liang Sai-chen of of the Three Liang sisters of Majestic Cafe fame. Lily Lee (there are so many Lilies that we must call her Peiping Lily) is more the Chinese type of girl. She has the bangs over her forehead although she dresses rather bizarrely. mixing semi-foreign-Chinese styles and clothes. She formerly was the queen at the Ambassador. Recently a popularity contest was sponsored by four Chinese bodies, the Institute of Dancing (formed by proprietors of ballrooms and cabarets), Association of Shanghai Dance Critics, Social Dance Club and the readers of the dance column of the evening edition of the Sin Wen Pao.
Liang Sisters Follow
Lily Lee danced in first with a total of 2,005 votes out of a total of 5,670. The Liang Sisters put on a Garrison finish between themselves to follow the winner closely. The ballots were scrutinized under the supervision of officials of the sponsoring bodies at the Dance Institute and brethren, according to them, there was no monkey business. Contests have been popular of late and the Metropole Ballroom, newly decorated and managed, started one of its own just a week or so ago and the results are to hand now.
Miss Yee Fei—Cash Champ
Mctropole's own little contest proved to be an expensive affair for some of the patrons because the winner was to be the gal with the most dance tickets for a period of two weeks. And did those swains flock to the spot and purchase book after book of dance tickets to present to their favorite or did they? Well, brethren, judge for yourself. Miss Yee Fei, very charming and dainty and with a little beauty spot (believed to be artificial) to the right of her pert nosey, totalled a mere 2,892 tickets which converted into hard cash means $964. Miss Yee Fel, therefore collected $482. Not so bad in these days of depressions for a little gal to earn in two weeks. It kinda makes our taipans blush, eh?
Miss Dong Ying, another petite hostess fox-trotted into second place with 1,002 tickets while Miss Lily Lee (this time it's Ningpo Lily) waltzed in third with 944 slips. This business of gals calling themselves Lily must have either inspired the song “Shanghai Lily” or vice versa.
Oil Man Oiled
The time was early morning. were gay. Wine was flowing aplenty. An American correspondent sat quietly, sipping on a whisky. An oil company taipan was cavorting around, nearby. Suddenly the oil magnate walked up to the newspaperman. Without a word of warning, he pulled out a pair of shears. Snip, snip, and our New York paper correspondent lost a brand new U. S. neck-tie. The oiled oil man walked away, chuckling to himself. The correspondent was too dazed to do anything for a minute. Then he realized what had happened. He leapt up, murder in his eyes. He grasped two nieces of thick, costly red silk. He darted after the very oiled man. He found him at the bar, scissors in hand and another bit of a nick-tie. Demon Hyde proved to be the other victim. With a roar of fury, the correspondent pounced on the oil man. Words flew thick and fast. The oil man began to sober up. He apologized. He promised to buy half a dozen neck-ties for the victims. The correspondent cooled off. Wine began to flow and the incident was closed. P. S. If you don't believe this yarn come around the office with a bottle of beer and we'll tell you who they were. Both are well-known in Shanghai.