The Stories Behind the Stones

In a way, cemeteries are like libraries. They contain the final resting places of thousands of people, each with their own separate and unique story. Some of these people are famous, and their stories are well known. Most are not, but that doesn't make their life any less interesting or their stories any less worthy of being told and remembered.

Periodically, we'll spotlight a different Los Angeles-area grave. Every person has a story, and we will use this space to tell their story, through their final resting place.

After your tour of the virtual cemetery, don't forget to visit the official store (or the brand new downtown location) on your way out and pick up a souvenir or two. Thanks!

Carleton Scott Young
(Oct. 21, 1905 - Nov. 7, 1994)

Noel Toy Young
(Dec. 27, 1918 - Dec. 24, 2003)

July 25, 2014 -- Tucked behind the Chapel of the Psalms at Hollywood Forever Cemetery is a two-story columbarium. On the second floor of the columbarium, along the southern wall, is a double niche filled with an assortment of unique and personal items -– a piece of a white feathered fan, an officer's hat from World War II resting on a "Horse Soldiers" coffee mug, a wedding cake topper featuring a soldier with his bride, a framed photo of the couple, a large piece of costume jewelry, a few newspaper clippings lining the back wall, and a packet of letters tied with a red ribbon.

Another photo in the niche shows an apparently nude woman standing behind an ostrich-feather fan that's bigger than she is. "The Chinese Pin-up Girl" is written on the photo, along with some Chinese characters, and the photo is signed by Noel Toy.

The niche contains the remains of Carleton Young, a character actor who appeared in more than 200 films and TV series, and his wife of nearly 50 years, Noel Toy Young, who started her career as a burlesque dancer in San Francisco and New York City and gained national fame, but gave it up when she got married, and became an actress.

Noel Toy was born Ngun Yee Hom in San Francisco in 1918, the first of eight children born to immigrants from Canton, China. Her family later moved about 40 miles north of San Francisco to Inverness, Calif., where her parents opened a laundry, and her family was the city’s only Chinese residents.

Toy attended the University of California at Berkeley and was a few months away from receiving her degree in journalism when she was offered a job at the World's Fair on Treasure Island in 1939. The World's Fair, which was officially known as the Golden Gate International Exposition, was held to celebrate the city's two new bridges -– the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, which opened in 1936, and the Golden Gate Bridge, which opened in 1937. The exposition opened in February 1939 and ran through September 1940. The theme of the exposition was "Pageant of the Pacific," and Toy's job was basically to stand around in the Chinese village exhibit, wearing a Chinese gown.

San Francisco businessman Charlie Low noticed Toy at the exposition, and offered her a job at his popular Forbidden City nightclub on Sutter Street, the city's first Chinese nightclub. But her costume wouldn't be a Chinese gown. Toy was offered a weekly salary of $50 -– the equivalent of about $850 today -– to be a fan dancer. She would dance, wearing as little as the law would allow, while waving two large ostrich-feather fans around her body. Toy accepted the job, with plans to earn as much money as she could, and then return to college.

"Well, school was dull," Young said a few years later, "and I couldn't see anything wrong about appearing there." She never returned to college.

When she started performing at Forbidden City, Ngun Yee changed her name to Noel Toy, because she loved the Christmas season. Toy performed a fan dance and a bubble dance –- both originally presented by Sally Rand, who also got her start at a World’s Fair, in Chicago in 1933.

Toy was an immediate hit at Forbidden City. Business tripled within three months, Forbidden City became one of the hottest nightclubs in the country, and Toy gained a national reputation as the "Chinese Sally Rand." (The nightclub promoted many of its performers by giving them nicknames based on popular mainstream celebrities. Toy performed with the "Chinese Frank Sinatra," the "Chinese Fred Astaire," the "Chinese Sophie Tucker" and the "Chinese Harry Houdini.")

Toy began performing her fan dance at other venues around the country, and was featured in newspapers, and in Life magazine. She was brought to New York City, where she danced at all the top nightclubs –- the Stork Club, Maxie's, Lou Walter's Latin Quarter, and Leon & Eddie's, where her show ran for a record-breaking 26 weeks.

"If I'd stayed there any longer, they would have had to reverse the name 'Leon' and made it 'Noel and Eddie's,'" she joked when she returned to San Francisco in 1943.

Toy was performing in San Francisco in early 1945 when a soldier in the audience became smitten with the dancer. "I'm going to marry you," he told her after one of her performances, but she only laughed. She had a strict rule against dating soldiers.

The smitten soldier was Capt. Carleton Young of the U.S. Army Air Corps. Born in Syracuse in upstate New York in 1905, Young was the only child of Joseph and Minnie Adler Young. His father was a civil engineer for the state highway department. Young’s parents divorced when Young was about 10 years old, and he lived with his mother in Onondaga, just outside Syracuse.

Young pursued an acting career, and made his Broadway debut at the Bijou Theatre in a comedy titled "Page Pygmalion" in 1932. After appearances in a few more short-lived plays, Young headed to Hollywood, where one of his first film appearances was in "Reefer Madness" (1935).

Young appeared in primarily supporting or uncredited roles in films throughout the late 1930s and early 1940s. He wasn't a well-known actor, but he was certainly busy. From 1937 to 1941, he appeared in a total of 79 films -- an average of more than one per month during that five-year period. Although he appeared primarily in serial Westerns, Young also appeared in "Dick Tracy" (1937); "Buck Rogers" (1939), starring Buster Crabbe; and "Buck Privates" (1941), starring Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. (When Young told Toy that he was going to marry her, he didn't realize that she also had a rule against dating actors.)

On Jan. 6, 1942, a month after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Young enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps.

Despite Toy's dating rules, Young was persistent and his marriage prediction eventually came true. The couple was married on Dec. 19, 1945, in New York City, where Toy was performing at the Latin Quarter.

Toy gave up dancing at her husband's request, and focused on an acting career. Although she never achieved big-screen stardom, she made her film debut in "Anne of the Indies" (1951), starring Jean Peters and Louis Jourdan, and also appeared in small roles in "How to Be Very, Very Popular" (1955), starring Betty Grable and Robert Cummings; "The Left Hand of God" (1955), starring Humphrey Bogart, Gene Tierney and Lee J. Cobb; and "Soldier of Fortune" (1955), starring Clark Gable and Susan Hayward.

But Toy objected to being cast in films as what she described as "the ornamental Oriental." Throughout her life, Toy was an outspoken critic of the stereotype of women –- particularly Asian women -– as passive and submissive, and in the late 1950s, she gave up acting for the real estate business. Toy worked at Castagna Realty in Hollywood, where she was the office manager. She also served for several years as a director on the Los Angeles Board of Realtors, representing the Hollywood/Wilshire Division.

"She was an outrageous rebel," said Arthur Dong, the director of "Forbidden City, U.S.A.," a 1989 documentary about the San Francisco nightclub where Toy got her start. "You never thought of a Chinese woman being like Noel, and that's what made her so special."

Toy eventually returned to acting, and appeared in "S.O.B." (1981), starring Julie Andrews and William Holden; and "Big Trouble in Little China" (1986), starring Kurt Russell. On television, Toy appeared in episodes of "Studio 57," "Family Affair," "Police Woman," and on four episodes of "M*A*S*H" in the 1970s.

Meanwhile, Young resumed his acting career after the war, with minor roles in "Smash-Up: The Story of a Woman" (1947), starring Susan Hayward; "Flying Leathernecks" (1951), starring John Wayne and Robert Ryan; "People Will Talk" (1951), starring Cary Grant and Jeanne Crain; "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951), starring Michael Rennie; "Deadline – U.S.A." (1952), starring Humphrey Bogart and Ethel Barrymore; “The Glenn Miller Story” (1954), starring James Stewart and June Allyson; “The Last Hurrah” (1958), starring Spencer Tracy; "The Horse Soldiers" (1959), starring Wayne and Holden; and "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance" (1962), starring Wayne and Stewart, and directed by John Ford.

Although Young typically played cowboys, soldiers and military figures, in "Liberty Valance," he played Maxwell Scott, editor of the Shinbone Star. After interviewing Stewart's character, Young delivers one of the most memorable lines in the film: "This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

Young also appeared on dozens of television shows, from "Hopalong Cassidy" and "Space Patrol" in the early 1950s, to "The Streets of San Francisco" and "Barnaby Jones" in the early 1970s. Young made his final TV appearance in 1973 on an episode of "The Magician," starring Bill Bixby.

Young died on Nov. 7, 1994, at the Veteran's Administration Medical Center in Los Angeles, at the age of 89 -- a month before the couple's 49th anniversary. Young was cremated and Toy kept his ashes at home. Toy remained in Southern California, where the self-described "political junkie" was active in several Republican Party organizations.

In 2002, Toy moved to a retirement home in Antioch, Calif., east of San Francisco, since her surviving siblings and other family members lived in the area. She suffered a stroke in December 2003, and the woman who loved the Christmas season died five days later, on Christmas Eve, at the age of 84.

Young and Toy were interred together, in the double niche at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

A clip of Carleton Young in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance"

And here's Noel Toy doing her fan dance.

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