Some Bangkok History
I enjoyed your article on CheckInn99 today. It's a piece of history indeed.
I thought you might like some more history, although about a different bar. Now an Aussie restaurant The Swan on Sukhumvit where now there is an elevated pedestrian walkway with steps right outside it opposite Soi 19, it was in the mid-70's a great gogo bar called El Toro Grande, which was always my base on visits to LOS (which it genuinely was back then, smiles aplenty and real ones) and it was owned and operated by a Chinese couple, Mr. Noo (I'm told 'noo' means rat, but I believe it can refer to any small animal or person) and his very beautiful wife Moy, whom he imported from China (probably Formosa, or Taiwan as it is now known).
Moy spoke very little English but she and Mr. Noo shared the management duties and one of them was always to be seen perched on a little stool in the corner behind the bar nearest the stage (and furthest from toilets) with only their head visible to most of the customers. There were booths along the wall opposite the bar where one could get friendly with the girls, normally one at a time although it was anyone's choice as to the number of girls you could cram in with you. The bar had a row of stools its whole length, on one of which I used to sit and drink and try to decide on a partner, or perhaps sit with a girl happily chatting and groping and sucking on a skinny spliff which I would normally bring with me, although the girls used to trick me on occasion by slipping me the ones they preferred smoking – bloody hell, those were strong! After a 'girlie' joint I'd be gripping the upholstered edge of the bar to prevent myself taking off on my stool and flying round the ceiling!
The American GIs along the bar could always smell the smoke and looked around in panic for who was puffing, presumably in case it was one of their own. When they saw it was only me they didn't worry too much. 'Oh, just that Limey dude'.
After a few visits by me and my pals with whom I worked in the Middle East, Mr. Noo opened up to us Brits and would often take us out to other bars along Sukhumvit, or to his favourite massage joint in Chinatown. He was quite a character and got respect in all the bars we went to. On one occasion he obviously had a spot of 'protection' trouble – he showed me his Smith & Wesson .38 Police Special revolver. I've always been a gun nut and had one the same in UK, so I was anxious to handle it. It was a nice piece and he kept it clean and nicely oiled. After some preliminary drinking on the house, he told me he was expecting 'guests' later and asked if I'd mind just having the revolver in front of me on the bar, in plain sight, while he was with his guests. I checked to make sure it was loaded of course. He gave me no instructions on what I should do if anything kicked off, but I guessed I would make a break for the door if it all went pear-shaped. Loosing off a gun in a crowded bar in Bangkok would definitely guarantee a prison term or worse! In the event everything proceeded peacefully, the sight of my 6' 2" bulk behind a .38 having been sufficient to make Mr. Noo's point.
I would like to return to Thailand in the not too distant future, so please don't name me! The boys in brown might not be amused, despite it having taken place some 37 years ago, and I'd hate to be deprived of a visa.
He never showed me the gun again, but I knew it was never far from his hand. He was a careful man and street-wise, born in Bangkok unlike his lovely wife. She was very shy with the farang visitors but I knew she had a special friend who often came and sat on the stool nearest hers and chatted together. He was an enormous American crane operator who worked in the docks. I'm not sure where, whether Philippines, Singapore, Bangkok or you name it, but he was obviously good at what he did and had a head for heights. He would rarely engage in conversation with farang, preferring a quiet chat with Moy over a few Tiger beers and Bourbon shots. We all loved Moy – she was beautiful, quiet and demure and everybody wanted to make her theirs, but as far as I know she never let anyone but the crane operator into her life.
I met my wife-to-be in El Toro Grande – she was a gogo dancer, although a very bad one I have to say. If she danced any slower she'd have been in reverse. She was practically static! Anyway, she was a really nice girl and we got together and hit it off. We got married in 1979 in a Buddhist ceremony and then had 2 paper weddings the following year, first in the Thai Ministry of Interior and then in the British Embassy. Here we are today, 34 years later, still married and living in the UK near our 3 children and 3 grandchildren. Can't be all bad.
After we married my visits to El Toro reduced, dwindled and eventually stopped altogether. We lived in Vichit Court which was on the corner of Soi 24 not far from the Chok Chai building which at the time was the only 'sky-scraper' in town and had a very nice Hawaiian roof garden and restaurant.
I heard later that Mr. Noo became ill and sold up El Toro to open another bar around Soi 4. His wife Moy was rumoured to have left him for her crane operator and she established the Rainbow Bar in the Nana Entertainment Plaza. She did well and opened a further 2 Rainbow bars in the NEP and when I paid a visit in 2010 I dropped in for a beer one afternoon to all the Rainbow bars hoping she would be there, but sadly she wasn't. I'd have liked to see her again and caught up on intervening years, but it was not to be. I did meet up with one old flame, a friend and contemporary of my wife's in El Toro – her name was Jumraat and she was the manager / cleaner in NEP's short-time rooms. We had a couple of beers for old time's sake. She had been living with her German boyfriend in his condo until his death, after which she brought in her long term Thai boyfriend to share the condo. So true love won in the end. She always supported her Thai boyfriend (husband actually) on the money her farang friends including myself gave her, although we never knew it back then. I have no idea as to whether her German boyfriend left her the condo in his will, but possession is 9/10ths of the law in Thailand!
Now my wife and our elder son are hoping to finish decorating our house, put it on the market and get some money together to fund our move to Thailand to establish my wife's business. Me, I'm too old and knackered to work. I'm waiting for a cataract operation and some surgery on my waterworks. I'm doing as well as my secondary Diabetes (type 2) will allow, although at present I'm on antibiotics for a diabetic foot ulcer. Hopefully it will heal without needing the amputation of any more foot-parts, I'm already a big toe down and counting.
Hope this adds to your knowledge base of Thailand in the old days. I have plenty more stories to tell, as long as my memory keeps working.
If your memory is still working I (and I'm sure MANY readers) would love to hear more of your stories from the past.