A Brief History of The Grand Prix Bar

Article in The Nation;

ďSPORTSCOPE    :    Anton Perera

Bangkok, 14 April 1991

         When the Grand Prix Sports Bar in Patpong closes down tomorrow it will mark the end of an era.   Opened on February 5, 1969, the Grand Prix was the international mediaís watering hole over the years and was a place to meet old friends and make new acquaintances and to discuss many issues over a glass of cold beer.

         Famous, and infamous, names from all around the world gathered in the bar, but none was better known or respected than the remarkable Neil Davis, who covered the Vietnam War as only he could, and then gave his life in Bangkok in the line of duty, doing his stint for CBS during an abortive coup attempt several years ago.

         Davisí death was a tragedy of immense proportions and the Grand Prix was never quite the same after his demise.   His death sent shockwaves that reverberated through the Sports Bar, on the street and around the world.

         In its 22 years, two months and 10 days, quite a bit of sports history also filtered in and out of the bar that was the first in Thailand to screen regular sports programmes from all over the world.   Boxing was the most popular sport and owner Rick Menard put together regular weekly fight cards on Saturday afternoons that attracted boxing aficionados from all over Bangkok   The four-hour programmes were well chosen, and fight fans packed the Grand Prix every week, enjoying the fare that Menard put together.   There was hardly a dull moment and it seems a great pity that the same fight fans will now have to look elsewhere for their weekly entertainment.

         Over the years at the Grand Prix many international sports stars passed through its doors.   Formula One motor racing champion Jackie Stewart of Scotland visited Menard twice, the first time in the company of one of his best friends in Thailand, H.R.H. Prince Birabongse Bhanubandh, Thailandís famous ĎFlying Prince'.

         Others who sampled the hospitality at the Grand Prix were boxing promoter Don King, World Boxing Council president Jose Sulaiman, world heavyweight champion Pinklon Thomas and light welterweight champion Saoul Mamby.   Other well known visitors included Australian test cricketers Arthur Morris and Dough Walters, who is known to enjoy a cold ale, Manchester Unitedís Australian forward Trevor Johnson, Cricketerís Club of Londonís Frank Russel, and South Africaís Barry Richards and many, many others too numerous to mention.

         Looking back on Menardís famous meetings with sportsmen from outside this country, one cannot forget his 90-minute session early morning in Muhammad Aliís suite at the Kuala Lumpur Hilton, where the world heavyweight champion held court with a few members of the press that included myself.   On that occasion he fought Englandís Joe Bugner in the Malaysian capital.

         Many years later Menard also caught up with Tim Witherspoon in Las Vegas who said he hoped to visit Thailand when he became the reigning world champion.

         Yes, the closing of the Grand Prix Sports Bar will doubtlessly mark the end of a fabulous and exciting era in Bangkok

(Note from Rick:)

"Anton was Godfather to my daughter Marissa, a very good man.

(Note from Cimi Suchontan, fellow journalist now with The Nation:)

      "Anton was one of my oldest friends and colleagues in the newspaper world circa 1980s.   He is legendary as a walking dictionary on sports globally, he knew the scores and names of everything.   A genius, Anton was also very attached to alcohol and was frequently spotted at the Grand Prix on Patpong 1.   He was one of the most popular newsmen in Bangkok (perhaps the most popular among expats).

      He wrote beautifully and was a true authority, and today there is no one close to his stature.   Anton was from Sri Lanka, a great gentleman even when toxed.   He worked as Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post until 1978 or so.   He then worked at The Nation in the same capacity until he died sometime in the Nineties.   The last days of his career were laced with tragedy (his own inability to overcome mood swings and drinking).

      ......I remember there were two obituaries in both papers (The Nation and the Bangkok Post) when he died."

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