Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Out on the Tiles

When a man about town becomes a male trailing spouse, he ceases to be about town forevermore. In my case, the town was London and the post was Bangkok, a city with a well worn rep for human intrigue and self gratification.


Life in London was anything but sedate. Social events and engagements were constant. I belonged to private members clubs, dined in fancy restaurants, went to the latest plays and started riots. My adult existence had been a series of scrapes, follies and misadventures. Now I had to tone down the act, and play the part of the diplomat's other, the male trailing spouse, the dutiful househusband, the well-kept himbo.


Moving abroad displaces a man about town. You immediately become a kind of non-citizen as an expat. Who you are, what you did, where you come from -- those sorts of things travel like ouzo if you own a self important personality. The only thing that does travel is power and wealth. But who wants to be vulgar and exhibit that? Not a DFID spouse. You are not at post to flaunt the scepter and baubles of status. You are there save the Second and Third World from bad housing and rickety roads.



Like any Englishman, of sound mind, body and breeding, I used family connections to set up the landing zone. Brother Abel works in the music biz, runs his own record label and manages DJs.  His office would often send requests to my equerry for information about the clubs in Bangkok. Was the sound system good, did they have fire exits, what was the capacity of the space, is the farang promoter a nonce? And so on. New to post, and unfamiliar with the local scene, I took full advantage of my brother's dealings to blag a +1 for all the clubs of note.  


I was soon clubbed to death but for all the wrong reasons.  Bangkok night life is pretty tame. Clubs closed earlyBar service was terrible. You'd pay for drinks and wait 10-15 minutes for change. Credit card fraud was big and it was wise not to leave your flexible friend behind the bar.  There was never enough space to dance. This was because a club in Bangkok, by and large, was not really a club. It was a restaurant or a bar. A club license, I was told, cost too much money and made you a target for Cops looking to shake the place down for drugs or backhanders. Compared to the life that I had left in London, it was an odd combo of lame and dangerous.


One short lived club was Twisted Republic (now The Australian on Soi 11). It boasted the best sound and light system in the capital and a section was cordoned off to entertain Cops from the local nick on its white opening. The owner of the club did not entertain the Cops enough. They returned on the night of its grand opening and shut the place down


Royal City Avenue was a ghetto for the city's clubs at the back of some railway tracks. Here you could go to a place with a proper dance floor and sound system.  The only problem was the gauntlet of Cops at the entrance stopping vehicles and shaking down punters. One Fingerlickin DJ, in town to do a New Years Eve set at 808 Club, complained about getting stopped and searched by the Royal Thai Police. 


"They stopped the cab and searched all of my record cases for drugs. They gave me a bit of a fright. What kind of place is this?


The Gestapo treatment was hardly an incentive for our man to return to RCA and do another set


Cops shaking down clubs for drugs is one thing, busting fancy restaurants is quite another. Indigo on Thanon Convent was a high end French restaurant popular with rich locals and expats. One night, a squad of Cops came in to search the place. They were looking for evidence that the restaurant had broken the ban on smoking in public places. It was a scene from Nazi occupied France played out in a French restaurant in Bangkok.   


The Cops searched the diner. Thoroughly. They walked in and out of the kitchens. They marched up and down the aisles of tables (customers acted like they weren't there and carried on as normal). Out in the courtyard, peering through the square window, a beady eyed Sergeant, looked for smoking fags and evidence of ashtrays. I snuck outside for a ciggie. The French owner and his shapely Thai manager were arguing with the Cops. They had been tipped off about the restaurant flouting the ban. They had found nothing. And lost face. 


Trouble is never far from home. And it does not do to defecate on one's own doorstep. But who can resist the lure of a high end strip club opening up on your own street? Not moi. "White Lioness" was its name, owned and staffed by foxy Russian girls. It was a ludicrously expensive place by Bangkok standards. That was probably its downfall. What intrigued was the hearsay about the place. Was it a front for laundering money for the Russian mob in Bangkok? Or just as seedy as advertised?

After a night out at the FHM "Girl Next Door"party, I called up the Heiress, a Thai-American party animal, to come and check out White Lioness. The Heiress turned up tipsy and parked her car in the front lot. Staff came out to berate her.  They were soon informed: the Heiress speaks Thai and her family owns half of Phuket.  The staff at White Lioness adopted a prostrate position, and waved the Heiress in. 


"Have you ever had a lapdance?" The Heiress asked me. 


No, was the answer. But this did not stop her from hiring a Svetlana to jump on me.


"Hey," said the Heiress, "I just bought you one, enjoy!"



The highly pneumatic Russian was cavorting up and down on my seated figure.  



Mid gyration, I asked the lass, "Are all of you girls from Russia?" 


She halted to chat. 


"No, some of us are from the Ukraine...do you want a Ukranian girl?"


"I wouldn't know the difference." 


The Heiress got tipsier and turned Virginia Woolf. She bought herself a couple of Russian lapdancers and tried to snog one of them.



"Can you tell your wife that I am not a lesbian."


"She's not my wife and neither is she."


Despite the "European Showgirls" (IE the best looking human trafficked Russian birds in town) and Coca Cola at Moscow prices, White Lioness did not have the gas to last, and closed its knocking shop doors in 2012. Cheap Charlie expats, including a contingent from the British Embassy, had complained about the high prices. I pointed out that a night at White Lioness was a grand bargain compared to London or Mockba


How to round off my tale of woe?  You can be a man about town in any town. Now the Male Trailing Spouse is in the USA. What did I do before I got here? I called up my brother to see if he knew anyone. Fortunately, once again, I have +1s to all the clubs in town and beyond.


I have the option to be the man about town once more. But why bother? I am 43. I no longer belong to any private, members-only, gentleman's clubs. I gave up drinking (and dancing) at the age of 40. I hate dubstep. And have loathed drum and bass and jungle since the 90s. These days, a quiet night out in a local restaurant or bar will do. And, depending on the venue, at least I don't have to worry about the evening getting ruined by the unscheduled arrival of the Police.