Welcome to the Virtual Gogo Bar, Part 1
The idea for this story came from one of Stickman’s Weeklies in which he jokingly (or perhaps seriously) asked if anyone would set up a virtual gogo bar to keep us happy until the real bars reopen. I don’t have the capital, technical know-how or bar contacts to do that, but I can write a story about it and take you there in imagination – and isn’t that all we have, these days?
WELCOME TO THE VIRTUAL GOGO BAR. How does it work? – Just like the real thing. Watch the girls dance, choose one (OK, that’s different – in this virtual bar, you have to click on her). Then she’ll join you for a drink (click here to buy one). Talk to her for 5 minutes. If you like her, pay the barfine (click here). Then she’ll join you in a private room. Click here to set up an account.
“What do you think?”
The speaker was a balding, geeky-looking guy of about fifty years of age. He was not there in person, but on Skype. Behind him could be seen a fearsome array of high tech equipment.
“Sounds good, Dave, but will it work?”
Bill had known Dave for many years, and had learned to take his madcap schemes with a pinch of salt – but just now he was desperate. When Covid-19 had hit Bangkok, he had sold his bar, Boobz n’ Bottomz, to one of the big boys, who had beat him down mercilessly until he let it go for a song. Now he was sitting in a sparsely furnished, rented flat in the UK rust belt – Doncaster, to be precise (at least Donny is cheap!) wondering how he could bridge the four years until he was old enough to draw his state pension.
“No problem there, Bill. That’s my day job, remember? The company I work for is going hell for leather to get out a competitor to Zoom. I’ve got access to lots of C++ libraries – all open source and legal (well, legal-ish), and the knowhow to cobble it all together. I can knock up the wireframe and the API in no time, but the back end will take some coding – take data architecture…”
“Woah! I’m happy to leave the technical stuff to you. What I mean is, will it work as a business proposition?”
“You always say that. Convince me.”
“Well, since this Covid thing, gogo bars are dead in the water, right?”
Bill winced. In his eagerness to persuade, Dave had hit a sore point.
“But traffic to webcam sites has increased exponentially. You see, the guys who can’t get their fix in the bars are going online. But even dating sites are no good, because they can’t get into Thailand, so they head for the webcam sites.”
“Well, then, perhaps that’s what we should do.”
Dave shook his head.
“Too much competition. The Virtual Gogo Bar is a much better idea – because that’s what these guys really want. Give them a front end that looks as much like a real gogo bar as possible and they’ll be happy as Larry – and prepared to pay for it.”
Bill was beginning to get interested.
“But how can you make it look like a real gogo bar?”
“Easy! The API…”
Bill interrupted him.
“In plain language, please!”
“OK, it goes like this. We use your contacts to recruit the girls, then we use CSO…”
“CSO! Come on Dave, cut the tech-speak!”
“Colour Separation Overlay.”
“I still don’t know what you’re on about.”
“Over the pond they call it Chroma Key…”
Bill shook his head.
“OK. This is as simple as I can make it. We ask the girls to set up a high definition camera in front of a green background, then I can superimpose their image against the background of a gogo bar and alongside all the other girls.”
Bill gave a cynical laugh. He had thought of a problem already.
“And where are the girls going to get these high definition cameras – and more to the point, who will pay for them?”
Dave was nonplussed for a moment, then said, “Every laptop has a high definition camera built in.”
“Most of them won’t have laptops.”
Dave scratched his head, then said, with a burst of inspiration, “No, but they’ve all got phones though, and every phone has a high definition camera.”
It was beginning to sound like a realistic proposition.
“Go, on,” said Bill.
“So we ask them to set up their phones at a specified height, and to dance in front of a background painted a specified shade of green, and the software will do the rest. Hey, I can work it out so that, if anyone has a data projector and an empty wall for a screen, I can make it look actual size, as though they were really there. Even with a large screen TV the illusion will be pretty good!”
He was waxing lyrical now, no doubt thinking of the last time he had sat, Heineken in hand, in Boobz n’ Bottomz, with Bill on one side, and a cute little bargirl on the other.
But Bill had thought of another problem.
“You know, Dave, these girls don’t live like we do in the west. They’ll be back in the moobaan right now…”
“Huh? Now who’s using tech talk?”
With a sigh of disbelief, Bill said, “That’s not tech talk, Dave, that’s Thai!”
“Yeah, well, I still don’t understand it.
“Moobaan means ‘village’. Most of my girls went back to their village, where they will be living in a bamboo shack with their extended family – so where are they going to set up their little studio? There’s no privacy, no private space, no smooth plastered wall to paint green… you get the picture?”
Dave sighed and shook his head. He had no quick answer to this one. Luckily, Bill answered it for him.
“Well, I suppose they could get paw (that’s “father”) to knock up a bamboo cubicle in the yard, and hang a green curtain on one wall. We could ask them to wear the same costume so that they look like a team. We’ll keep it simple. White bikinis for one set, black for the other. Up to them to choose the cut. They can shows as much or as little as they like. No nudity though – we don’t want the Boys in Brown looking for a bonus.”
“Sounds good. So – are you in?”
“What will it cost to set up?”
“Well, I’ll have to pay some guys to help me – that’s a lot of code we’re talking about. I’ll need some new hardware too, and you’ll probably have to pay some of your old employees in advance to recruit them. How many do you think we’ll need?”
Bill was on home turf now.
“There needs to be at least 12 girls in a set, and they can’t dance all the time, so we alternate that with another set of 12. Dance for 20 minutes, rest for 20 minutes. 8 hour shift.”
“Don’t forget we’re going worldwide. We’ll have to operate 24/7 to cover all the time zones.”
“Three shifts then – that’s 72 girls, let’s make it 100. They’re pretty unreliable at the best of times.”
“Can you get that many?”
“I’ve got 40 on my books. They’ll be glad of the work – easy work, too. They’ll soon pass the word to their friends.
“We can set the bar high, then.”
“What do you mean?”
“Only young and cute girls need apply.”
“How young do you want? I can’t exactly tell them to recruit their kid sisters!”
“Of course not! We’ve got to keep this legal. Let’s say 18 to 25, slim, and pretty. Can you do it?”
“I’ll contact Pattana – that’s my mamasan – and explain it to her. She’ll round them up – but it won’t come cheap!
“It’ll be the best money we ever spent. Let’s go 50/50. What about £10,000 each as a start-up fund?”
Bill balked at the figure. Right now he had just enough money to survive, and he was loath to dip into it – hadn’t he just had his fingers burned in Bangkok? At last he said, “That’s a big ask. I’ll have to think about it.”
“OK, chat tomorrow. Bye for now.”
Bill clicked off Skype and went to make a cup of tea, as he always did when he had something to think through. It sounded good – but then Dave’s ideas always sounded good, though they rarely worked in practice. This one sounded different though – and he prided himself that he knew something about gogo bars and their customers. Yes, it would work – but £10,000! That would leave a big hole in his savings. Right now, he had enough to buy a one bedroom flat and a second hand car, and still have a bit over for a rainy day. All he had to do was to keep body and soul together until he could draw his state pension – and that shouldn’t be too difficult. He could draw job seeker’s allowance for a while, and then find something to tide him over – a shelf-stacker at B&Q, perhaps. He had hoped that Boobz n’ Bottomz would see him through, even though the bar business had been blue murder in the last few years, what with rising rents, the girl shortage, and fewer customers. Well, at least he’d managed to get out with a few bob in the bank – but was it worth risking that little nest egg for one of Dave’s madcap schemes? On the other hand, who’d have thought he’d have ended up stacking shelves in his twilight years? The very idea would have seemed ridiculous in the years before the Sub Prime Financial Crisis, when the baht came rolling in. Those were the days! He remembered with a pang his duplex apartment in Phrom Phong, his BMW 3 Series Convertible, and his endless string of girlfriends. No, he hadn’t got it in him to be a shelf-stacker. He’d rather take a chance any day – and if it all went tits up, there was always the cardboard box under the railway arch.
To be continued…
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