Irene Tsu

Irene Tsu (Chinese: 諸慧荷; born November 4, 1944)[1][a] is a Chinese American actress who made her debut in the film adaptation of Flower Drum Song in 1961, and has had many subsequent roles in TV and films. She was featured playing the wiki wiki girl in the Wiki wiki dollar advertising campaign for Chevron Corporation in the 1960s.

Irene Tsu
Born (1944-11-04) November 4, 1944 (age 76)
Alma materLos Angeles City College
  • Actress
  • yoga instructor
  • real estate broker
Years active1961-present
EmployerColdwell Banker (real estate), motion picture industry, and yoga schools
OrganizationMember of
Known forActress
Height5'4" (1.63 m)
Board member ofBeverly Hills Greater Los Angeles Association of Realtors (BHGLA)
(m. 1971; div. 1980)
AwardsVoted woman of the year 1969 by US information Service
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese諸慧荷
Simplified Chinese诸慧荷

She speaks English and three different varieties of Chinese.

Early life and careerEdit

Tsu was born in Shanghai, China to Z.M. and Dulcie Lynn Tsu.[2] Her father was a banker and her mother a painter. After political changes in China in the 1940s, the family left for Taiwan, then Hong Kong. Her father remained behind in Taiwan while in 1957 she and the rest of her immediate family (sister and mother) emigrated to Larchmont, New York, a suburb of New York City, where her aunt lived. Irene attended Mamaroneck Elementary School in Mamaroneck, New York and studied ballet.

In the late 1950s. she auditioned for a dancing job in Broadway's Flower Drum Song. A staff member of the producer David Merrick's office saw the performance and auditioned her for the Broadway musical "The World of Suzie Wong" and Tsu got a part. Later Irene auditioned for choreographer Hermes Pan in the upcoming film adaptation of the musical Flower Drum Song.[3] The choreographer Hermes Pan brought Irene to Hollywood and she was a teenage dancer in the film Flower Drum Song (1961), directed by Henry Koster.[3] He gave her her first speaking role as a teenage prostitute in his next film, Take Her, She's Mine (1963) starring James Stewart and Sandra Dee, which started her acting career.[4]

She studied acting with Ned Maderino, Lee Strasberg and Peggy Feury [4] and attended Los Angeles City College,[5] UCLA Film School, and California State University, Los Angeles.[6]

In 1961, Tsu entered the Miss Chinatown USA beauty pageant on behalf of New York and won first place.

On November 21, 1963, the evening before President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, Tsu's only appearance on Perry Mason was aired on CBS, as she played the role of defendant Juli Eng in "The Case of the Floating Stones." She made guest appearances on most of the other popular '60s-70s television shows such as I Spy, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Family Affair, Mission: Impossible, and The Wild Wild West. She was tested for, but didn't get the female lead of The Sand Pebbles.[7] In the 1960s, Tsu met Frank Sinatra in Miami, Florida where she was filming the "Chevron Island" commercials and Sinatra was filming Tony Rome. They dated for over two years.

Tsu later married director Ivan Nagy in 1971.[8][9]

Later careerEdit

From 1978 until 1989, Tsu was Chief Operating Officer and head designer for her own leisure apparel company, The IT Company/Irene Tsu Designs.

Since 1990 Irene has been a realtor for Coldwell Banker in Beverly Hills, California.[6][10] She is a single mother to her daughter, Yasmine, and a yoga practitioner for more than 25 years.[4] Irene studied for many years directly with yoga master Bikram Choudhury and is featured in both of his books Bikram's Beginning Yoga Class. She taught at Bikram Yoga College in Encinitas, California.[4][11] She teaches weekly yoga classes at the Bikram HQ in Los Angeles and for the Beverly Hills Department of Parks.

In addition to these new ventures, Tsu has continued to act in TV and film roles over the years, although after she adopted her niece from China as her daughter, she concentrated primarily on being a mother.[8][12]

Selected filmographyEdit



  • Perry Mason TV series, episode: The Case of the Floating Stones (21 November 1963) as Juli Eng
  • My Favorite Martian TV series, Season 2 Episode 9 - Double Trouble (1964) as Leilani
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV series, episode: The Hong Kong Shilling Affair (15 March 1965) as Jasmine
  • I Spy TV series, episode: A Cup of Kindness (22 September 1965)
  • Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea TV series, episode: The Peacemaker (November 21, 1965) as Su Yin
  • My Three Sons, TV series, episode: Robbie and the Slave Girl (20 January 1966) as Terry
  • The Man from U.N.C.L.E. TV series, episode: The Five Daughters Affair: Part II (7 April 1967) - Reikko
  • The Wild Wild West TV series, episode: The Night of the Samurai (13 October 1967) - Reiko O'Hara
  • Mission: Impossible TV series, episode: Double Dead (12 February 1972) as Penyo
  • Hawaii Five-O TV series, episode: Engaged to Be Buried (27 February 1973) as Alia
  • Future Cop TV series (1977) as Doctor Tingley
  • The Rockford Files, TV series, episode: Irving the Explainer (18 November 1977) as Daphne Ishawaharda
  • Wonder Woman, TV series, episode: The Man Who Made Volcanoes (18 November 1977) as Mei Ling
  • Trapper John, M.D., TV series, episode: Heart and Seoul (28 January 1986) as Dr. Julie Lok
  • Noble House (1988) all four episodes
  • Tell Me No Secrets, (1997) TV movie
  • Star Trek: Voyager, TV series, episode: Author, Author (April 18, 2001) as Mary Kim
  • Cold Case, TV series, episode: Chinatown (22 November 2009) as Da Chun Lu
  • Law & Order: LA TV series, episode: Angel's Knoll (25 May 2011) as Christina Yu


  1. ^ Some sources quote (1943-04-05) April 5, 1943 (age 77) as her birthdate.


  1. ^ Cf. Lisanti & Paul (2002), p.293
  2. ^ Cf. Lisanti (2001), p.158
  3. ^ a b "Profile: Irene Tsu", Glamor Girls of the Silver Screen, website
  4. ^ a b c d Irene Tsu on IMDb
  5. ^ "Actress Irene Tsu, an LACC Alum, Talks to LACC Cinema Students About her Film Career", Los Angeles City College News, December 1, 2006
  6. ^ a b Realtor: Irene Tsu - webpage
  7. ^ Lisanti, Tom, "How Actress Irene Tsu Lost the Female Lead in The Sandpebbles", Archived 2019-04-06 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ a b Cf. Lisanti & Paul (2002), p.295
  9. ^ Beck, Marilyn, "Hollywood Hotline: Frank Sinatra Works on TV Special and Off-Beat Movie", Friday, September 26, 1969
  10. ^ Irene Tsu: Salesperson License #00975925 issued 12/21/87, State of California, Department of Real Estate
  11. ^ Bikram Yoga - Encinitas, California
  12. ^ Cf. Lisanti (2001), p.167


Further readingEdit

External linksEdit