Irene Tsu (Chinese: 諸慧荷; born November 4, 1944)[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.
|Alma mater||Los Angeles City College|
|Employer||Coldwell Banker (real estate), motion picture industry, and yoga schools|
|Height||5'4" (1.63 m)|
|Board member of||Beverly Hills Greater Los Angeles Association of Realtors (BHGLA)|
(m. 1971; div. 1980)
|Awards||Voted woman of the year 1969 by US information Service|
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. 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. 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. 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.
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. 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.
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. She is a single mother to her daughter, Yasmine, and a yoga practitioner for more than 25 years. 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. 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.
- Flower Drum Song (1961) as Dancer (uncredited)
- The Horizontal Lieutenant (1962) as Oriental Spy (uncredited)
- Under the Yum Yum Tree (1963) as Suzy (uncredited)
- Take Her, She's Mine (1963) as Miss Wu
- John Goldfarb, Please Come Home! (1965) as Harem Girl (uncredited)
- The Sword of Ali Baba (1965) as Nalu
- How to Stuff a Wild Bikini (1965) as Native Girl
- Seven Women (1966) as Chinese Girl
- Women of the Prehistoric Planet (1966) as Linda
- Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966) as Pua
- Caprice (1967) as Su Ling
- Island of the Lost (1967) as Judy Hawllani
- The Green Berets (1968) as Lin
- The Yin and the Yang of Mr. Go (1970) as Tah-Ling
- Stand Up and Be Counted (1972) (uncredited)
- Three the Hard Way (1974) as Empress
- Airport 1975 (1974) as Carol
- Judge Dee and the Monastery Murders (1974, TV Movie) as Celestial Image
- Paper Tiger (1975) as Talah
- Deadly Hero (1975)
- Hot Potato (1976) as Detective Sgt. Pam Varaje
- Damien's Island (1976) as Momi
- Down and Out in Beverly Hills (1986) as Sheila Waltzberg
- Steele Justice (1987) as Xua Chan
- A Girl to Kill For (1990) as The Counselor
- Unbecoming Age (1992) as R.J
- Mr. Jones (1993) as Mrs. Chang
- Snapdragon (1993) as Hua
- Comrades: Almost a Love Story (1996) as Aunt Rosie
- Golden Chicken (2002) as Kam's Aunt
- The Heart Specialist (2006) as Mrs. Olson
- Alibi (2007) as Chu Fan
- 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
- Some sources quote April 5, 1943 as her birthdate.
- Cf. Lisanti & Paul (2002), p.293
- Cf. Lisanti (2001), p.158
- "Profile: Irene Tsu", Glamor Girls of the Silver Screen, website
- Irene Tsu on IMDb
- "Actress Irene Tsu, an LACC Alum, Talks to LACC Cinema Students About her Film Career", Los Angeles City College News, December 1, 2006
- Realtor: Irene Tsu - webpage
- Lisanti, Tom, "How Actress Irene Tsu Lost the Female Lead in The Sandpebbles", cinemaretro.com Archived 2019-04-06 at the Wayback Machine
- Cf. Lisanti & Paul (2002), p.295
- Beck, Marilyn, "Hollywood Hotline: Frank Sinatra Works on TV Special and Off-Beat Movie", Friday, September 26, 1969
- Irene Tsu: Salesperson License #00975925 issued 12/21/87, State of California, Department of Real Estate
- Bikram Yoga - Encinitas, California
- Cf. Lisanti (2001), p.167
- Lisanti, Tom, Fantasy femmes of sixties cinema: interviews with 20 actresses from biker, beach, and Elvis movies", McFarland Publishing, 2001. Cf. pp.158-169 for entry on Irene Tsu.
- Lisanti, Tom; Paul, Louis, Film fatales: women in espionage films and television, 1962-1973, McFarland Publishing, 2002. See pp.293-295 for the entry on Irene Tsu.