Notorious SF: Margaret Cho

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Comedian Margaret Cho took the entertainment world by storm in the early 1990s with her hilarious act centered around her eccentric family and R-rated personal life. More than just a culture clash comic, Cho's take was unique. As a youngster, she hung out in her family's bookstore, Paperback Traffic at Polk and California - now the tobacco store seen here. Later, she honed her talents at the Rose & Thistle around the corner before reaching comic heights at clubs and colleges around the country. Following the career paths of stand up comics like Roseanne, Ellen DeGeneres, and Brett Butler, Cho was given her own ABC sitcom. When All American Girl debuted in the fall of 1994 the ambitious Cho was determined to do for Asian families what Bill Cosby had done for African Americans a decade earlier. In addition, she was dating director Quentin Tarantino and was herself the toast of Hollywood. But what should have been a dream come true for Cho was the beginning of a nightmare. The network pressured her to lose weight, contributing to health problems exacerbated by Cho's own drug and alcohol use. A new star at 24, she was too young and inexperienced to wield any power over her show's content. The network turned All American Girl - based on Cho's own act - into a bizarre and unfunny minstrel show. Asian communities hated it and audiences tuned out. Cho was derided in the press. Comedians, still jealous over Cho's meteoric rise, were not supportive. When the show was canceled after its first season, Cho's personal life continued to decline, but the star would have the last laugh. She dried out, returned to stand up with a vengeance and emerged out of the dark with the depth and character of a true survivor. Her one-woman show I'm the One that I Want was filmed at The Fillmore. In it, and it's spin-off book, Cho recounted abuses she had suffered in the industry that nearly destroyed her. When Cho premiered the film at the Lumiere, a few yards away from her parents old bookstore, she was triumphant. She had survived Hollywood and dared to tell her stories. I'm the One that I Want became one of the few films in history to gross more than $1 million with only ten prints in circulation. Her follow-up tour, Notorious C.H.O., was also filmed for cinematic release.

Copyright 2002 Hank Donat home