Michael Chow is scheduled to be in Riyadh. But as drones spell his name in the skies above Saudi Arabia’s capital, heralding the Oct. 5 opening of the newest outpost of his eponymous restaurant, the charismatic restaurateur, artist and bon vivant is in his Los Angeles home, founded on a positive COVID-19 crisis. -19 test. Yet he is cheerful. “My name is Gatsby,” Chow says with a laugh, invoking the name of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tragic hero, known for throwing extravagant parties but not necessarily attending. “When he throws a party, they always come.”
Of course, the 84-year-old Chow has long been known for his talent as a host, with more than five decades spent feeding the A-list legions of Hollywood, fashion, the arts, politics and beyond. Mr. Chow Restaurants. His empire now consists of seven locations and was launched with a London branch opening in 1968, followed by Beverly Hills in 1974 and New York in 1979.
A new documentary, also known as Mr. Chowaims to separate the person from the larger-than-life personality.
“I was very shy,” says Chow when he agreed to the documentary, which spans his life and follows him across continents, decades, careers and four marriages (with fashion editor Grace Coddington, model and jewelry designer Tina Chow, fashion designer Eva Chow and current wife Vanessa Rano).
The documentary also delves into the more traumatic moments from Chow’s impressive life. He has spoken openly about some of these – such as the isolation he faced when he moved to England from his native China as a teenager and the racism he experienced – while he has shied away from others, including the persecution and murder of family members, including his mother and his father. father, during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and the suicide of a niece. “I have hidden all kinds of unspeakable tragedies inside me,” says Chow.
also known as Mr. Chowavailable October 22 via HBO, it is directed by Nick Hooker, who has handled docs on Nora Ephron and Gianni Agnelli, and the film counts Airmail‘s Graydon Carter as executive producer. The film features performances by Coddington, Brian Grazer, LL Cool J and Julian Schnabel, while archive footage shows Chow with Andy Warhol, Mae West, Jack Nicholson and Calvin Klein.
In this interview, a single question to Chow is answered in an unhurried response that may start with a mention of Marlene Dietrich and then jump to Lady Gaga before turning left to the paintings of British artist JMW Turner, complete with a footnote. about the effects of turpentine on oil paint. “I’m rambling,” Chow says, at one point stopping mid-answer on a question he’s already forgotten. “But at the end of the interview you can go back and listen to it, and maybe I’ll understand. Now you say, ‘Where is he leading me?’ But then you listen to the recording and say, “Aha!” “In a similar way, also known as Mr. Chow tries to draw a continuous line through a winding life.
“My destiny is about bridging everything; to bring about harmony of things. I am committed to harmonizing East and West,” said Chow, who started his restaurant franchise with the ambition to elevate the status of Chinese cuisine in American cuisine. It’s an ethos he believes extends to his art; he works under the name M from his studio in Vernon, California, not far from downtown LA. “My paintings are collages, and collages are things that don’t go together at first. My job there is to harmonize.”
This story first appeared in the Oct. 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.