Margarita Mercado, is the Puerto Rican dancer, who appears as Margo the Z Bomb in 曼波女郎 Mambo Girl, the 1957 movie musical from Hong Kong. She performs a floorshow at the 麗池 Ritz nightclub at North Point on Hong Kong island, accompanied by the percussionist, Ollie Delfino, with Freddie Sotelo leading the band; both musicians were from the Philippines.
Mercado made her professional debut in New York, dancing at the Havana-Madrid nightclub on Broadway, and then spent three years touring Mexico and South America with the Cuban bandleader, Pérez Prado—the ‘King of the Mambo’—before moving to San Francisco.
She is introduced first as Margarita Mercado at San Francisco’s Sinaloa Club in December 1953, where she soon becomes billed as ‘Margo the Mexican Z Bomb – The Absolute End!’ – later shortened to ‘Margo the Z Bomb’.
Mercado performed in San Francisco until October 1954, when she embarked on a tour across cities in Asia and the Pacific. For the next three years, she toured extensively between Saigon, Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong, Manila, Tokyo, Sydney, Melbourne and Honolulu. By the time she filmed the sequence at the Ritz nightclub in Hong Kong, around December 1956, Mercado had been touring with Delfino for two years.
Mercado’s working partnership with Delfino was reported on her arrival in Hong Kong from Tokyo in July 1955; in fact, the newspaper article suggests that they were travelling together. They must have teamed up in Manila, soon after Mercado’s arrival in November 1954, and then toured the region extensively together.
I write about the partnership between Mercado and Delfino in ‘Transporting Variety Through the Nightclubs of Hong Kong’, chapter 2 of Touring Variety in the Asia Pacific Region, 1946–1975 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2020).
Here are some documents about Mercado’s touring and an incomplete timeline of her career, 1953–1964.
Margo in Manila, November 1954
‘Z-bomb hits Circus Room today’, Manila Times, 6 November 1954, 11. – Margo, sensational show girl popularly called the “Z-bomb,” will be presented for the first time in Manila tonight, Saturday, November 6, at the Circus Room, according to Manager Bill Burr. A twenty-two year old Puerto-Rico-born American citizen, Margo is fresh from a triumphant three-year tour of South America, Central America and Mexico, with Perez Prado, “King of the Mambo.” The sexy show girl has also been featured at the world-famous Sinaloa, San Francisco’s (U.S.A.) outstanding restaurant-night club, where she broke all existing records during her spectacular run by causing crowds to stand nightly outside the night spot, waiting to be admitted.
Margo and Delfino in Hong Kong, July 1955
華僑日報，1955年7月2日， 6。南美炸彈馬高小姐抵港將在麗池夜總會表演蒙巴舞。特訊。 有南美Z炸彈之稱舞蹈家馬高小姐應本港麗池夜總會邀請， 昨日下午一時半，由東京飛抵港， 同行者有其舞伴戴芬奴，戴氏亦為音樂能手。高氏預定在麗池夜總會表演一個月，其最擅長之蒙巴舞、森巴舞及古巴土風舞，將逐日在麗池演出高氏向記者表示：她尚未結婚，亦未有對象，前曾來港一次，並在某夜總會表演一宵，此次在港表演完竣，即赴馬尼剌取道返國。
Translation: Wah Kiu Yat Po, 2 July 1955, 6. South American Margo the Z-Bomb arrives in Hong Kong to dance the mambo at the Ritz nightclub. Special News. The South American dancer, Margo the Z-Bomb, invited to Hong Kong by the Ritz nightclub, arrived yesterday at 1:30pm, on a flight from Tokyo to Hong Kong, accompanied by her partner Delfino, who is also an expert musician. Margo is booked to perform at the Ritz nightclub for one month. Her specialties are mambo, samba and Cuban folk dance. She will perform at the Ritz everyday. Margo told reporters: She is not married yet, and she is not dating anyone. Last time she came to Hong Kong she performed at a nightclub for only one night. This time, after performing in Hong Kong, she will return home via Manila.
Biography of Margo the Z Bomb, publicity brochure, c. 1957
This biography of Margarita Mercado is included in a publicity brochure, c. 1957, held in the Tivoli Theatre collection, State Library of Victoria, MS 11527, Box 33. At the time, her manager was Leonard Saffir.
Margarita Mercado was born in Puerto Rico, twenty four years ago. When she was three, she moved and settled down in New York City where she attended grammar and high school.
In her early teens she was performing at home in front of her mother and family friend Chuchu Montalban, brother of movie actor Ricardo Montalban. He saw the possibilities of Margarita as a stage star and soon she made her debut on Broadway at the famed Havana Madrid nightclub.
After New York City, Margo was swamped with contract offers and accepted on which took her on tour in Canada, Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington. She then joined mambo King Perez Prado and was quickly billed as the Queen of the Mambo. Success after success followed Miss Mercado and Prado for three years while on tour in South America, Central America and Mexico playing all the leading nightclubs. She was featured in twenty motion pictures while South of the Border.
From Mexico, Margarita moved to San Francisco and starred at the world famous Sinaloa, one of the top California nightclubs. San Francisco critics called her the fastest thing on heels and the hottest act to hit the city in years. It was there she shortened her name to Margo and added the ‘Z-Bomb’ title as pinned on her by a leading nightlife critic.
Hawaii was next for the wonder dancer, followed by a comprehensive tour of the Far East taking in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaya, Formosa and Japan.
Margo in Tokyo, 1957, with plans for her publicity in Melbourne
This letter from Mercado’s manager, Leonard Saffir, was addressed to David N. Martin, managing director of the Tivoli Theatre, Melbourne, while they were in Tokyo, in July 1957. It is held in the Tivoli Theatre collection, State Library of Victoria, MS 11527, Box 33.
[Letter, dated] July 17, 1957.
[From] Leonard Saffir, Foreign Correspondents Club of Japan, No 8, Marunouchi, 2-Chome, Chiyoda-Ku, Tokyo.
[To:] Mr David N. Martin, Room 652, Nikkatsu Hotel, Tokyo.
Re: Margo Publicity
Dear Mr Martin
As we discussed in your hotel suite today, I would now like to outline to you my idea on a publicity cocktail party for Margo. These are my suggestions and certainly may be passed to your PR department for approval, changing, etc. I think, however, it is the ice-breaker and key to a good publicity campaign.
- As soon as possible after Margo’s Sydney arrival a cocktail party in her honour should be held at a hotel or nightclub.
- Printed, engraved invitations should go out (several days before) to as many newspaper, radio, television, etc., people in Sydney at the time. These should include persons from the copyboy to the managing editors etc., and should not be only those connected with entertainment.
- In addition invitations should go to a few Tivoli performers and any other celebrities in town (even if not Tivoli); and a few city and government officials.
- Host of the party should be either David N. Martin or Leonard Saffir or both and suggest invitations read something like this: Mr David N. Martin, managing director Tivoli Circuit and Mr Leonard Saffir, manager of Margo the Z Bomb requests the honor of your presence at a reception to meet the world famous singer-dancer at etc…
- Gifts for the press members (I hope to have cigarette lighters with Margo’s name and characture [sic] on) I hope will be ready and handed out; also Margo brochures available.
- A combo (preferably one with a trumpet player) should be playing throughout the party, but not show music.
- After about two hours of free (and there should be plenty of it) liquor, someone planted in the crowd should ask Margo (impromptu) to do a number. Lady-like she’ll refuse but applause will force her on. I’ll have the music in my briefcase (or someone) and will be passed to band members. One number (Cherry Pink) is sufficient; the band may or may not rehearse an hour before the party.
The main idea of this party, I believe is not to ask for anything from the press but just to give them a good time and a good party. I’ve seen newspaper men all over in my 10 years writing and none is different.
This cocktail party in the long run will pay off more than the formal press conference. The boys after this one will then go after pictures, interviews, etc.
In addition, I assume the press photographers, etc., will be tipped off at Margo’s estimated time of arrival at Darwin and Sydney.
[signed: Leonard Saffir]
I would love to know if these plans for Margo’s ‘impromptu’ performance at a cocktail party in Melbourne actually happened! ‘Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White’ was a hit for Pérez Prado and his Orchestra, released in 1955.
Margo the Z Bomb on Tour – an incomplete timeline, 1953–1964
The destinations of Mercado’s touring are derived from a diary and ephemera kept by her tour manager, 1955–56, combined with publicity materials in the Tivoli Theatre collection at the State Library of Victoria (MS 11527, Box 33), and newspaper reports in San Francisco Call Bulletin, San Francisco Chronicle, The Post (San Mateo) and Variety in the USA; Manila Times in the Philippines; the Hong Kong Kung Sheung Daily News (香港工商日報), Kung Sheung Evening News (工商晚報), Wah Kiu Yat Po (華僑日報) and South China Morning Post in Hong Kong; Singapore Free Press and Straits Times in Singapore; Pix, Sydney Morning Herald and The Age in Australia; and The Stage in the UK.
- 1953 Mexico [?]
- 1953-12 Sinaloa Club, San Francisco
- 1954-01 Sinaloa Club, San Francisco
- 1954-03 Sinaloa Club, San Francisco
- 1954-04 Sinaloa Club, San Francisco
- 1954-05 Sinaloa Club, San Francisco
- 1954-06 It Club, El Cerrito
- 1954-06 Million Dollar Theater, Los Angeles [?]
- 1954-06-26 Sinaloa Club, San Francisco
- 1954-07 Sinaloa Club, San Francisco
- 1954-09 Sinaloa Club, San Francisco
- 1954-10 Sinaloa Club, San Francisco
- 1954-11-06 Bill Burr’s Circus Room, Manila
- 1954-11-11 Manila
- 1954-12-29 Coco Theatre, Manila
- 1955-01-04 Manila
- 1955-01 Saigon
- 1955-02 Phnom Penh
- [1955-03 Manila]
- 1955-03-23 Latin Quarter, Tokyo
- 1955-05 Tokyo
- 1955-05 Manila
- 1956-02-11 Feb 11-13 – Phnom Penh
- 1956-02-23 Feb 23-April 18 – Capitol Restaurant, Singapore
- 1956-04-20 April 20 – April 29 – Theatre Embassy Kuala Lumpur
- 1956-05-02 May 2 – May 21? – Capitol Restaurant, Singapore
- 1956-05-09 Singapore
- 1956-05-24 May 24 – June 3 – Sydney, Australia
- 1956-06-10 June 10 – xxx – Honolulu, HI – Dot’s Inn, NCO Club, American Chinese Club, Puerto Rico Club
- 1956-087-18 Wednesday, July 18 – Note: Margo Married Joe wedding took place in Honolulu
- 1956-08-13 August 13 – 17 Manila – Hong Kong
- 1956-08-17 August 17 – September 18 – Saigon?
- 1956-09-19 September 19 Honolulu – SFO
- 1956-10-02 Arrived in Hong Kong from Saigon, one-month engagement at Ritz night-club and Imperial Ballroom, third engagement in the colony
- 1956-10-28 Blue Heaven, Hong Kong
- 1956-11-02 Blue Heaven, Hong Kong
- 1957-02-04 Little Latin Quarter, Tokyo
- 1957-03-06 Mambo Girl released, Hong Kong
- 1957-08-07 Tokyo – ‘Dancer billed as Margo, the Z-Bomb, currently winding up a lengthy Japan stay, signed a six-month pact with the Tivoli Circuit of Australia. The Puerto Rican shaker inked deal with Tivoli chief David N. Martin and is set to open Aug. 9 at Sydney Tivoli.’ Variety, 7 August 1957, 62
- 1957-08-14 Tivoli, Melbourne
- 1957-10 Calypso Capers, Tivoli, Melbourne
- 1957-10-16 Calypso Capers, Tivoli, Melbourne
- 1957-11-30 Theatre Royal, Brisbane
- 1958-01-02 Rhythm Express, Tivoli, Sydney
- 1958-01-08 Rhythm Express, Tivoli, Sydney
- 1958-02-15 Theatre Royal, Brisbane
- 1958-05 Showboat, Sydney
- 1958-07 Singapore [en route to Calcutta, not performing]
- 1958-08 Grand Hotel, Calcutta [?]
- 1959-01 Pigalle, London
- 1959-02 ITV, London
- 1959-04 Embassy Club, London
- 1959-08 Sinaloa Club, San Francisco
- 1960-04 Embassy Club, London
- 1960-12 Sinaloa Club, San Francisco (run of 10 weeks?)
- 1961-01 Sinaloa Club, San Francisco
- 1961-04 San Francisco, San Mateo – with Leo Heredia
- [ca. 1961-09 gives birth to daughter ?]
- 1963-08-01 Princess Garden, Hong Kong
- 1963-08-17 Princess Garden, Hong Kong
- 1963-09-12 Princess Garden, Hong Kong
- 1963-09-14 Sun Ya, Hong Kong
- 1963-10-12 Savoy & Princess Garden, Hong Kong
- 1963-10-19 Sun Ya, Hong Kong
- 1963-11-09 Princess Garden, Hong Kong
- 1964-03-25 Singapore – involved in plane incident, with husband, Leo Heredia, and daughter, two-and-a-half years
- 1964-04 Hotel Singapura Intercontinental
San Francisco Call Buletin, 26 December 1953, 8; San Francisco Call Bulletin, 23 January 1954, 10. San Francisco Call Bulletin, 24 July 1954, 8; South China Morning Post, 12 November 1954, 9. 華僑日報 Wah Kiu Yat Po (Hong Kong) , 2 July 1955, 6.