ithout a doubt, the most requested Midnight Hour article is "Whence A Go-Go" from our February 2006 edition. (It must be harder to find in our Archives than we thought...) Nevertheless, because of this sudden (and quite surprising) renewed interest, this month we shall reprise for old and new readers alike.
A Go-Go dancing was born at the Whisky A Go-Go, almost by accident -
.....but that's not the half of it.... Excerpt from Internet is, under current precedents and interpretations, considered 'Fair Use' under copyright law.
"There are more spellings of A Go-Go than there are spellings of the name 'Moammar Ghaddaffi' in Libya, so among other things on our list-of-things-to-do whilst researching the world's favorite nighttime viewing sport, we have been questing after the most 'legitimate' spelling of this entirely ubiquitous word. We have settled on 'A Go-Go', and soon you will see why.
During World War II in France, the French resistance managed to find time for recreation despite the German occupation. They would slip away to secret "libraries" - libraries that kept jazz recordings and the like, and listen to their hearts' content. (The Nazi occupation took a particularly dim view of jazz music, convinced that, as it had "black" roots, it must be degenerate.) And to keep from drawing attention to themselves, these clandestine private clubs were called: "record libraries", or in French, "discotheques" (so now you know where that word came from....).
In a seemingly unrelated event, shortly after the war ended, in early 1947, Compton MacKenzie published a book titled Whisky Galore about an ocean freighter with 10,000 cases of whisky that was wrecked near a booze-starved island during World War II. It was made into a movie called, "A Tight Little Island", but when the film was released in France, they reverted to the direct translation of the novel's original title: it became "Whiskey A Gogo". (The exact translation of 'A Gogo' or 'Au Gogo' is 'galore', - most likely from the Old French 'gogue'. or 'en gogue'; meaning 'merriment'.)
Rick Menard'sGrand Prix became, in 1969,
Thailand's first successful A Go-Go bar.
After the war's end (the real war, not the movie), these nightclubs, these 'discotheques' became ever more popular - all the while maintaining that wartime underground mystique. But with money in short supply, the nightclubs would continue to entertain with recorded music most of the time, and, rarely, when they could afford it, with a live band. These smallish almost-private nightclubs were the sort where the patrons put their names on their own bottles of cognac, returning regularly to join their "in crowd". This was the beginning of Paris' own 'La Dolce Vita' era. Before the end of the year (1947), one such new Night Entertainment Venue opened in Paris, and, inspired by the movie, called itself 'Whiskey A Gogo'. As the Nazis had been driven from the land, dancing returned, and an increasing number of French nightclubs also provided for customer dancing, albeit the dance floors remained small and personal.
The Whiskey A Gogo enjoyed great success, and in 1960 it revitalized, and began marketing the wartime term "Discotheque" - and, well, I think we can lay the blame for the 'Disco Revolution' directly at their feet. They are credited not only with opening the first modern Discotheque, they are also credited for redefining it; now meaning specifically "a nightclub where the featured entertainment is dancing to recorded music" (rather than an on-stage band). It was then that the 'Discotheque' moved away from the small, more private word-of-mouth 'record library' style nightclub to something grander, generally advertised to the public, with a larger, dominating dance floor. So great was it's success, it generated myriad imitators (Café A-Gogo, etc), and many other "Whiskey A Gogo's" around the world - the name eventually being franchised.
In 1964, a Whisky A Go-Go opened in Hollywood (- note the alternate spelling of 'Whiskey' without the 'e', and the now-hyphenated 'gogo'). Little did anyone know that history was about to be made. The Whisky A Go-Go nightclub was billed as a discotheque, but soon started featuring live performances as well. Singer Johnny Rivers headed up one such live band there, and between sets, a mini-skirted Disk Jockey would spin records from a suspended cage at the right of the stage. When the girl DJ wasn't spinning records, she would pass the time in her 'bird cage' dancing to the music of Johnny Rivers and crew. Audiences thought this was part of the gig, and the concept, and name 'A Go-Go dancing' were born (and quickly abbreviated by many to 'Go-Go dancing') .
Following the Los Angeles Whisky A Go-Go's lead, New York's new Whiskey A Go-Go introduced (in 1965) scantily clad dancers (plural), and A Go-Go dancing as we know it had arrived. It wasn't long before this new form of dancing was found in quite a few of the larger Discotheques. But it was also 'a natural' for America's already existing 'girlie bars' and striptease joints, and by the late '60's, various forms of 'Go-Go' dancing were found in these Night Entertainment Venues as well.
Quick to spread overseas, bars featuring A Go-Go dancing could be found in virtually all large cities - Bangkok being no exception. Author Alan Dawson, in his book "Patpong" cites the Grand Prix Bar & Restaurant on Patpong Road (Patpong 1) as the "first successful Go-Go bar" in Thailand - introduced in late 1969, initially with a solitary 'dancer', by owner Rick Menard. And the rest, as they say, is history."
Footnotes: Although Rick Menard'sGrand Prix is long gone, A Go-Go dancing remains a prominent, if waning, form of Nighttime Entertainment in Bangkok. A Go-Go has not experienced proportionate growth with the rest of the Entertainment Scene - being slowly overtaken by pubs, beer bars, clubs, massage parlors, sports bars, etc.
We note that the Whisky A Go-Go < Iink > in Los Angeles is still going strong, and has, in recent years, used both the hyphenated and unhyphenated spelling of A Go-Go.
Tim Randall, known to Bangkok's Nightlife blogging world as Baron Bonk, died last month from heart failure. His website column Baronbonk.com (and it's Asia Bugle newsletter) was one of the pioneering Nightlife websites in Thailand. The website Baronbonk.com was created on 25 May 2000, and for the next decade was one of the leading Nightlife sites to be found anywhere. In later years the site was dormant, but nevertheless was kept 'on line' - it is currently set to expire in May of 2016. There has been some chatter in the ether that the site might be revitalized - we hope this is more than just idle mumblings.... The site, historically significant in the Bangkok Night Entertainment world, has had a <Iink> on the Midnite Hour for many years, and will continue to be linked as long as it remains on the net.
The Bangkok expat community regrets the passing of one of the more colorful characters to have populated it's neon landscape. Godspeed, old son.
Hey, wondering what the real story is on the "Tunnel" that used to run between Foodland and the Beer Garden on Soi 7. I read where there were still a couple of bars, one was the Country Road which was one of my hideaway bars. I saw somewhere else on another blog that there were as many as three bars. How many bars are really there, if there are still any, and is my Country Road one of the survivors?
We find it interesting that so many are still talking about that small soi that was often referred to as "The Tunnel" (there used to be a sign...) Currently there are four bars on the soi (pics below) - the Check-Inn Bar Bangkok, the Country Road, and the Mistress P'Joy Bar and one small (hole in the wall bar) without a name.
Although it is now again possible to walk from Soi 7 to Soi 5 (or vice-versa), it is not recommended, as it is blocked off as you near Mistress P'Joy. If walking in from Soi 7, just as you near Soi 5 you can veer off to the right and exit onto Soi 5 through the property that was the outdoor beer garden. However, it is still a minefield out there. It doesn't look like any decisions have been made as to what will become of it and the surrounding properties, and the area is still littered with the rubble from the demolition of some of the buildings.
Last month we had a pic of the newly opened The Den, and this month we have another, somewhat more illustrative. May they continue the romp.
The upstairs Queen Bar (Queen 1) looked darker than a poisoned well when we walked past the other night. There have been several temporary closings in the past - we'll keep an ear to the ground, and if any change, we shall duly note next time around.
This month we have yet a second photo of the Dragon Beer Bar, opened only two months ago. They have some additional lighting up this time 'round, but as yet, no sign. Wishing them long life in these interesting times.... This one for the archives.
A photo for the Archives, this time of the Dundee. They took over the reins from the Honey Moon in September of 2002; one of Cowboy's older bars - and one of the few remaining single-shophouse bars. Get down tonight....
On the night of 23 November a couple dozen Men-In-Too-Tight-Uniforms from Lumpini'sSoh-Noh descended en-masse on Nana Plaza. This coincided, coincidentally, with the arrival of a phalanx of news reporters and photographers. And this coincided, coincidentally, with the arrival of a young cheer-leader contingent with matching "We Love" t-shirts from the Lumpini Police Station. What a serendipitous bunch of coincidences... After a leisurely stroll front-to-back, top-to-bottom, and after no busts, no ID card checks, no piss-tests, Bangkok's Finest merrily departed.
The RTMP arrive at Nana Plaza on their trusty steel steeds, both named 'Segway', by coincidence. A grand show of procurement force. Bangkok's tourists and expat residents just couldn't feel any safer.....
As reported last month, the 2nd-level Rainbow 4 has closed down - or more precisely, was closed down by Bangkok's Finest for having underage dancer(s). Popping up in it's place, after some name-change jiggery-pokery, is the new R & B - Bar. According to sources on the ground, 'R' and 'B' are short for "Rain" and "Bow", and these same sources say that it was more expedient to close out the Rainbow 4 than it was to wait until the police-dictated closure period ended. Well.... perhaps..... In any case, welcome the new R & B - Bar to the sharkpool....
Several months in the birthing process, Nana Plaza's newest A Go-Go, Bangkok Milfs, has opened in part of (but not all of) the old Underground (nee: Voodoo). We wonder what will become of the rest of the unused Voodoo space.... May the nightwinds blow kindly....
The Rainbow Bar (the last remaining seminal bar in the NEP) has had a subtle name change to Rainbow 1. But that is all it was - just a name change to conform to the other Rainbow Bar namings. May they maintain the momentum....
After missing their original opening date of 31 October (Halloween), The Mexican will now open it's doors to the public on 10 December (barring any major catastrophe). Their theme will be an artistic look at Mexico's "Day of the Dead" celebrations (their equivalent of Halloween). They will have authentic Mexican food and the popular Tex-Mex on the menu - not to mention Bangkok's finest selection of tequilas.
The new, quite obviously ambiguous massage parlor, Miss BJ Massage, has opened in one-third of what used to be the old May Massage. May they continue to slip and slide.
SOI 22 - (Sukhumvit)
The Wild Orchid Massage 2 , located deep in the Soi has been sucked into the black hole of oblivion. The sister Wild Orchid Massage, however, is still going strong....
SOI 22 - (Sukhumvit)
The Hands Of Heaven Massage & Spa has thrown in the steamy towel (again) and faded back into the night. This is their second closing in their relatively short life span. Should anything change status-wise, we shall get back atcha.
Hammers and saws afly, the Wall Street Bar is being actively renovated - crews working into the night.... No indication of a name-change. Earlier rumors of the Wall Street expanding back into the old Lookie-Lookie digs, however, were just that - rumors. It is not going to happen, a new boutique hotel has opened there instead. We shall update on the Wall Street Bar next issue - they should be back to their rock-n'-rolling ways by New Years.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
The Japanese Karaoke above the Blue Heaven has reopened, however it's conjoined Ikemen 33 has not. Located in the rear of the 33 Complex. Let it roll on....
Cheap Charlie's, an out-of-doors bar beer, has been an anomalous lump of success since 1982. Far and away the most popular congregation-point for farang who come to Bangkok and would rather hang out with other farang than get out to see Bangkok Nitelife's diversity of entertainment. (Sorry to say, the bat died some years back, but with the profusion of brik-a-brak on the walls, one hardly notices....). Located in the side-soi across from the Ambassador Hotel.
The Five Star Bar came into being [-in the recently defunct Angel's Kiss A Go-Go (Coyote)-] two months ago. We are finally getting around to putting up a pic of their neon.... No relation to Soi Cowboy'sFive Star. Let the good times roll....
The X - Boys are one of the many bars in Bangkok that have taken to 'dynamic' signage - in this case, scrolling LED lighting..... Call us old fashioned, call us what you will, but we still maintain our preference for real neon.
Bangkok Eyes goes back in time to
Who was new - And who was through
in the Expat Night Entertainment world.
How many of these old 'oases'
do you remember ?
*Chicks opened up in the upstairs location where the Pussy Collections once was. Located above today's Muzzik Cafe. There is currently no Nitespot at that location.
* Up on The Ramp, the Spanish Eyes Cocktail Lounge reopened after a brief closure. It is still there today.
*Vinai's Cosmos Club opened up in the old Club Sawasdee. It is currently still at that location - I wonder if Khun Vinai is going to have a 20th Anniversary Party.....?
* The Lanna Thai (Thai sign) opened up between the Sawasdee Cocktail Lounge (no relation to other "Sawasdee's") and the Opium Club. No Nitespot currently occupies that slot up on The Ramp. None of the three Nitespots mentioned herein exists today.
* The After Skool Bar took over the reins from the Bumble Bee. This is today's Sunshine - After Skool Bar.
*Hollywood Cowboy Bar moved into the then-recently abandoned Crazy Lady digs. Currently the True Obsession location.
*An (unnamed A Go-Go bar) opened up on Level 3, making it the second bar to have opened 'upstairs'. It would soon be named Shooters Wild West A-Go-Go.
Soi Katoey(Silom Soi 4)
*Telephone Karaoke opened up adjacent to it's parent Telephone Pub & Restaurant (which is still there today). It (the Karaoke) closed down long ago.
* The Redwood 23 reopened in its original location. There is no Nitespot at that location today.
Buckskin Joe Village(~ October 1988 to
(Also known -originally- as Tobacco Road or Soi Rot Fai or,
'The Tracks', and later as Machim [Thai] and Soi Zero)
*Butterfly Bar bar beer reopened in it's original location.
*Tequila Bar bar beer opened newly between the Bar Love You and Rita's Bar.
These graphic excerpts from Internet are, under current legal precedents and prevailing interpretations considered 'Fair Use' under copyright law.
Forty years ago, or thereabouts, Norman Mailer of The Naked and the Dead fame, wrote a widely republished essay declaring New York's subway graffiti to be nothing less than "The Great Art of the 70's". So.... perhaps we can lay much of the controversy over 'Graffiti - Good or Evil' at his feet.....
In 1989 New York's MTA claimed virtual victory over the famous/ infamous spraycan graffiti scourge that had tormented them endlessly in past years. Of course, a 'virtual' victory is not a total victory, but they did see a drastic drop in the spraying of the railroad cars themselves. Nor did New York'smidnite vandals miraculously disappear from the midst of New York's MTA - their talents were redirected, generally, to the MTA's walls and tunnels instead. So perhaps 'victory' was proclaimed a tad prematurely.....
But that wasn't all that changed in the MTA graffiti milieu. The MTA, in an effort (largely successful) to reduce the number of broken train windows changed out the old windows with shatter-resistant glass. The 'unintended consequence' here was that the new glass was more easily scratched. And this 'scratchable' glass quickly became the new medium-of-choice to those who would prefer to continue to harass the MTA officials. (Or, if not the medium-of-choice, at least a new, alternate medium.)
A variety of 'etching tools' was employed by these 'new-style' train-riding graffiti artists - everything from glass cutters, spark plugs, carbon-hardened drill bits, hand grinders, bits of lava, emery boards, but most commonly, keys. And, not unexpectedly, it wasn't long before those who would hope to find fame creating entries in Urban Dictionaries gave this style of graff a brand-new label - 'Scratchiti', (sometimes known as 'Etchiti'). The consensus among graffiti artists and outside observers alike is that scratchiti is less artistic; a 'poor-man's graffiti', but with the 'advantage' of being un-erasable.
But what has really changed? If graffiti is generally defined as, "Unauthorized markings on others' property," then this would-be new "scratchiti" is actually the oldest form of graffiti known to man. If we want to push the envelope, 'scratchiti' is everything from cave dwellers scratching out depictions of Mammoths and antelope, to images on the walls of Pompeii, to someone whittling their name in a tree in front of the Public Library, to a couple carving 'Peter (heart) Mary' on a park bench, to 'Killroy Was Here', to taking a stick and writing one's name in wet cement, to using a pen-knife to carve obscenities on public bathroom doors and walls in the 1940's, and on, and on. "Scratchiti" was around before the advent of the spraycan, when you get right down to it. As we said at the start, "What goes around, comes around".