Forbidden City, on the second floor of 363 Sutter street, below Stockton, was one of several "Chinese nightclubs" in San Francisco at the beginning of World War II, and certainly one of the most successful."WHEN DOES CHARLIE FIND TIME TO LOOK AT HIS FLOOR SHOWS?–Every time you see Charlie Low he's in the company of such interesting people you wonder how he finds time to stop looking into faces and concentrate on his glamorous Forbidden City revues. The celebrities posed with him this time are Jane Wyman and Ronald Reagan of the movies. The show that's entertaining the visitors is one of the celebrated all-Chinese revues with Dorothy Sun and Mary Mammon as highlights."
Low's competition included such places as Club Shanghai and other Chinese nightclubs, owned by famed herbalist Fong Wan. In 1949, writer Dick Hemp of the Chronicle wrote of a feud between Charlie Low and Fong Wan:"Fong presently has on file in Superior Court a $50,000 suit against Charlie Low, another astute Chinese night club entrepreneur, for allegedly 'stealing' an acrobat away from Fong's Club Shanghai. ""One Fong coup against Low is already legendary in Chinatown and was struck when the herbalist bought a six-story building at 334 Sutter street–across from Low's Forbidden City night club–and erected a huge neon sign directing passersby to Fong's club around the corner on Grant avenue."Fong denies there was malice in this action, however, and credits it to his acute business sense. 'I know valuable building,' he declared. 'Never think of Charlie Low at all, I bought building for $90,000 and next day am offered $110,000, to get it back. Ha, ha.'"
Actor Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911- ) had been called to active duty April 19, 1942, after a string of successful Warner Bros. movies, including King's Row (1941) and Desperate Journey (1942). He may have been waiting to begin work on the Irving Berlin wartime musical This is the Army when this photograph was taken in October or early November 1942. He is pictured with Jane Wyman, whom he married January 24, 1940.Lieutenant Reagan was assigned to the Army Air Corps' motion picture unit because he was too nearsighted for regular military duty. He worked on training and combat films until his discharge, as a captain, December 9, 1945.Reagan retired from acting in 1954, served six terms as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and was elected governor of California (1966-75). In 1980, Governor Reagan was elected the 40th president of the United States.The second-floor space that once housed Forbidden City on Sutter Street suffered a major fire in the 1980s, though the building remained intact. A renumbering of the block also changed the address of the former Forbidden City to 369 Sutter Street. In 2000 it housed a computer instruction company.