Her apricot lips break into a smirk, and she shakes her head. ‘Most hostesses are not amused by them. Some girls may even feel insulted. The more a customer respects a hostess, the friendlier she’ll be to him. He should never tell her he has fallen in love with her after a few visits. Let things develop naturally. Trying to move too fast in a relationship is an amateurish sign. Another point is many hostesses don’t have the patience for a customer who sits with one miserable drink the whole evening. To be taken seriously, he should be generous and offer to buy food and drinks for the hostess; maybe order a bottle of Hennessy Cognac or Chivas Regal, and if he can’t finish it, the bottle can be kept for his next visit. And, of course, he should give big tips. You get the idea?’
‘Yeah. What type of hostess is easiest to win over?’
‘Obviously, the "girlfriend" hostess.’ She replaces the plastic letter-opener knife and rests her elbows on the desk. ‘She’s average-looking. Therefore, she doesn’t have as many admirers. Consequently, she’s likely to become emotionally attached to her sugar daddy and breaking up is painful for her too. Since her options are limited, getting rid of her can be a problem. The "model" hostess is more difficult to woo and more expensive to maintain as a mistress. She can also be demanding. But after the man has finished with his fling, breaking up with her is easier. She is often prepared to leave with some money as she has many suitors.’
I endure an hour’s wait before going to the hall with Maggie to watch the ‘Miss Zimpaco Sexy GRO’ contest. Maggie tells me that the top three spenders for the past three consecutive months are among the judges. I take a long gulp of brandy and it flows like volcanic lava down my throat and settles in my stomach. Its effect bounces up through my body and my head like a heat wave. My face feels like it is on fire! Reflexively, my hand clutches the suede upholstery of the armrest of my chair.
Three loud bangs resonate in the hall. Colourful confetti showers onto the stage and the house band, comprising a guitarist, a drummer and a synthesizer, strikes up Ricky Martin’s ‘La Bomba’. Four couples spring out from the wings. They gambol on the platform, bending and kicking their legs rhythmically to execute a samba. An emcee announces the start of the contest. ‘Laaaaadies and geeeeentlemen …’ he booms. A musician begins a drumroll, and one by one, the twelve contestants sashay onto the stage to present themselves. Maggie says both the entry fees and contestants’ clothes are sponsored by the patrons (‘You gotta be kidding?’ I retort, but she’s serious), who are given front-row tables.
One girl is wearing shorts so tight that a slit forms at her crotch. Another is togged up in pants of such thin fabric that it shows her panty line. Contestant number eight, a strong contender for the title, is bedecked in a snug lacy top and knee-length godet skirt, and her silky, shiny hair is swept to one side. Another looker is wearing a pencil skirt that’s too short and a neckline showing excessive cleavage. She’s leaning more towards sluttiness rather than sexy elegance and is attracting wolf whistles.
After the judges tally the scores, the emcee announces the winner. She struts onto the stage and settles herself on an ornate high-backed chair. Maggie whispers into my ear she’s a former lingerie model and is the ‘red number’ of Zimpaco. The chief judge, whom I hear is the nightclub’s top spender, is clad in a Giorgio Armani jacket. He crowns the winner and slips a satin sash over her shoulder, the Rolex watch and big diamond ring flashing on his left hand as he does so. Stout and half-bald, he looks like a butcher from the Petaling Street wet market. He poses for photographs with the winner gleefully, unabashedly holding her waist for every shot. Representatives from the sponsors of the other prizes – an overseas holiday trip and beauty products – climb onstage to hand over their vouchers to the winner. One of them, a disgusting lecher with a trimmed moustache, takes the opportunity to plant a kiss on each of the cheeks of the winner.
At my request, Maggie discloses the names and phone numbers of several of her regular patrons. The next day I call them up to ask why they frequent nightclubs, but most of them are not forthcoming with their answers. ‘Sorry, no comment,’ and click! The line is cut. Nevertheless, I managed to talk with four nightclubbers.
Albert Ling, a thirty-five-year old engineer married with two kids, says, ‘My aim is to dance. The first time I went to a nightclub was three years ago. I couldn’t dance and the hostess was very patient with me. She showed me the steps and I learned from her. She also taught me how to drink. My goodness, she drank brandy and whisky like water. She’d say "bottoms up" and pour everything from her glass in at one go. I’d slowly sip my gin, which tasted terribly bitter to me. But after a few more visits, I grew fond of hard liquor and have been a frequent nightclub patron ever since. Of course, my dancing has improved tremendously.’ I try not to judge him but cannot fathom why he doesn’t take his wife dancing instead.
Sakamoto X (‘Don’t mention my last name,’ he requests), a Japanese expatriate, tells me, ‘I take my senior staff to Zimpaco Nightclub to drink frequently, but we don’t book women. It’s like a dinner treat for them. On such occasions, I get to know my staff better, and all the tension accumulated in the office gets dissipated. These sessions build loyalty and trust between subordinates and their superior.’
A bachelor named Hoon Keong, aged forty and a staff architect, says, ‘I’ve got very few friends because I work long hours in a small practice. I’m shy with women. Last time, I used to stutter a lot when talking to women. A nightclub’s one of the best places for me to groom my conversational skills and gain some confidence. In a nightclub, I try to conduct interesting conversations. I was scared to death the first time a hostess sat with me. But after several visits and chatting with so many girls, I’m now more confident. Of course, the booze helps to loosen my tongue too.’
‘This may sound untrue but I visit a particular nightclub for its music,’ Muthu says. ‘I like jazz and blues which you can’t find in dance clubs. I always request for my favourite songs to be played. I can’t dance, so discos are out for me.’
My aim is to dance. The first time I went to a nightclub was three years ago. I couldn’t dance and the hostess was very patient with me. She showed me the steps and I learned from her. She also taught me how to drink. She drank brandy and whisky and say "bottoms up" and pour everything from her glass in at one go.
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