Friday, October 30, 2009

Victor Wong

Victor Wong, an actor who starred in nearly 30 movies including John Carpenter's Big Trouble in Little China and Prince of Darkness, was a renaissance man who only began making movies later in life.

His face, which for the latter half of his life was affected by a form of nerve paralysis, was widely recognizable for its lopsidedness, a trait that may have helped his film career but effectively ended his earlier broadcast television career.

As an obituary from 2001 in the Sacramento News & Review said:
"He was at varying stages a teenage Christian evangelist, a Protestant minister-in-training, a Buddhist, a visual artist, a poet, a Beat Generation luminary, a Merry Prankster, a pioneering photographer and broadcast journalist, a comedian, a successful stage performer, a teacher, a mentor to younger writers and filmmakers, and, in the end, possibly one of the most famous Chinese-American character actors in Hollywood."
He was born in San Francisco, the son of a poet and advisor to Chiang Kai-Shek (then Taiwan's president) in 1927. At one point he wanted to be a Baptist minister. Later, he went to UC Berkeley to study political science and journalism.

Discovering acting in college, he hooked up with the Second City Comedy Troupe and performed with actors like Alan Arkin.

While in Chicago, he went back to religion, enrolling in the University of Chicago's Graduate School of Theology and studying under Paul Tillich, Rheinhold Niebuhr and Martin Buber.

He was one of Ken Kesey's Merry Pranksters and appeared as the character Arthur Ma in Jack Kerouac's novel Big Sur.

In the 50s, he studied art under Mark Rothko at the San Francisco Art Institute, exhibiting his work at his friend Lawrence Ferlinghetti's famous San Francisco bookstore, City Lights.

Victor Wong died on September 12, 2001 at his home in Sacramento.

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