Madame Wong’s was a one-of-a-kind legendary L.A. club. The first time L.A. would witness a new groundbreaking club that rivaled the established clubs and introduced the brand-new anti-establishment music called Punk Rock.
The year was 1978; it was my last year living in New York City before returning to Los Angeles in the summer of 1979. The Punk Rock scene was in full swing in New York with up-and-coming bands like the Ramones, Television, Blondie, and Patti Smith, who were playing shows at the Mudd Club and CBGB’s, but in Los Angeles, something extraordinary was happening. For the first time in a long time, unknown bands that could never get gigs anywhere were selling out shows at Madame Wong’s. This new music— angry, 3-chord- guitar- thrashing, hard-core, rebellious rock ‘n’ roll, a cynical reaction to the laid-back California Sound and the watered-down pop and disco being played on the radio was born out of a bored sundrenched discontent that seemed to say, whatever it is— we’re against it, and was brought to life at Madame Wongs. Punk Rock now ruled the streets of L.A.
I rented an apartment near MacArthur Park at 2424 Wilshire Blvd., strategically located between Madame Wong’s in Chinatown and the new club in Santa Monica, Madame Wongs West.
Hordes of kids from the San Fernando Valley to the San Gabriel Valley from Hermosa Beach to San Pedro in Orange County were piling into Madame Wong’s every night and Wong’s rival club across the street, The Hong Kong Café.
There was another club called The Masque, located in the basement of the Pussycat Theater. The Masque was the very first punk rock club in Los Angeles. A hardcore Punk and Experimental Avant-garde club founded by Brendan Mullen. The Masque kicked off the L.A. Punk Rock scene with The Skulls, the first band to play at the Masque. Thus, the birth of L.A. Punk was born.
Esther Wong was born in Shanghai, China, on August 13, 1917. The daughter of an affluent importer, Wong was educated and well-traveled. In 1949 she immigrated to the United States and settled in Los Angeles to escape the Communist takeover of China. Esther worked as a clerk in the shipping business for twenty years. In 1970 she opened up Madame Wongs with her husband George.