Bangkok's Night Scene In Review
Where is Trink ?
- NITE OWL QUITS BANGKOK POST
01 February 2004
William R. Morledge
Rififi says 'Goodbye"
"BIRD FLU" Hits Bangkok
Rumor Of The Month Award
February's Follies in review
On 18 November 2003, MIDNITE HOUR first got wind of the rumor that Bernard Trink was to be fired by The Bangkok Post. That rumor was from a trusted source who got an email, reportedly from Trink himself. Our follow up with those close to the source confirmed that Trink's ouster was more than just rumor. That same day, we posted to this web site our original account of the news item. To read our original report, click HERE.
For those new to the Bangkok night world, Bernard Trink single-handedly illuminated and popularized the Bangkok Night Scene through his weekly Nite Owl columns in the Bangkok World. He joined the World in 1965 and in the following year, 1966, he took over their failing entertainment column (on the condition he could incorporate coverage of hotel entertainment and night clubs). Later, he included coverage of the bar and massage parlor scene and, in his words, "... became the Nite Owl in 1967." (We hope this clarifies a lot of recently received email questions on the subject as to when he started his night column.) The Nite Owl column became increasingly popular, and was, de facto, the centerpiece of their Bangkok and Beyond pullout section. In the twilight years of the Bangkok World, this pullout was delivered separately to various tourist hotels for distribution at the reception desks. Before the advent of the Internet, copies of the Nite Owl were mailed around the world by enthusiastic readers to other would-be visitors to Bangkok's wild side. The closure of the Bangkok World on 29 August 1987 was a great disappointment for a great many reasons, however, not for Nite Owl lovers. The Bangkok Post, then under enlightened management, wisely snapped Trink up, and the Nite Owl column didn't miss a beat.
That is to say, the Nite Owl didn't miss a beat until the end of 2003. Trink's last column appeared in the R.T (Real Time) section of the Bangkok Post on December 28, 2003. The speculation and gossip had come to an end; without commenting on the legitimacy of the emails in circulation purporting to be from Trink, the end result was the same - after 36 years, the newspaper column was dead.
From a publishing standpoint, the termination of a hallmark column after more than three and a half decades is more than just another news story. The term, "End of an Era" is the supreme understatement. But then we can't help but note that the niggardly Bangkok Post never gave Bernard Trink even the passing nod or the tip of the hat for a job well done, in spite of the fact that the Nite Owl column was the focal point and backbone of its entertainment section for many years.
This staggering slight to the creator of the most popular column to ever have existed in any English language publication in Thailand was no accident, no oversight. Representatives of the Press in Thailand will proudly, often defiantly proclaim that Thailand has the "Freest Press" in Asia. These bleatings are delusional and devoid of both veracity and responsibility. In the days of coups d'ιtat, the military appointed Prime Ministers insured newspapers toed the line; they were visited by members of the military and were given specific guidelines on what would not be published. The current neo-Victorian Autocracy conducts itself in an identical manner, differing only in its public relations 'spin'. The government's new-found political correctness, ill-guided moral facade-building, and the prevailing mentality that demands - 'what have you done for the nation's dignity lately?' are not just guidelines to the Media, they are mandatory. This general malaise has been recently euphemized by these very same spinmeisters as the "Social Order Crusade". The rest of us know it as the Night Entertainment Crackdown.
While this overwhelming increase in pressure on the Media has been generally uniform over the last two years, the Bangkok Post has shown itself to be an exemplary leader in spineless compliance. Over the last two years of the Crackdown, Trink's Nite Owl column was downsized no less than three times, and anything even hinting at 'controversial' was proscribed.
The column could no longer publish its long-famous 'group-of-three' photos of dancers, accompanied by the now-classic caption, "The best Go-Go dancers I saw in the ale houses of the Capitol last week." Apparently fully swim suited women were taboo if they worked in an 'ale house' but it was, and is, OK to publish photos of fashion models in see-thru tops, because they, according to some, are of an elevated 'station'. (See the 23 January 2004 issue of "the magazine". )
Also removed permanently from the list of subjects Trink could talk about was AIDS. It seems Trink's quoting of prominent non-mainstream medical doctors and saying there was also merit in what they had to say was generating too much "controversy". Not to mention it was highlighting the fact that Thailand had an AIDS problem - and under the current political regime, no gutless newspaper would be caught dead intentionally sabotaging Thailand's tourism industry by openly discussing an actual disease found in Thailand. (One only need look at the present Autocracy's handling of SARS and Avian Influenza to get an inkling into the breadth and depth of their highly dangerous behavior and greed-driven self-interest.)
Trink was also resoundingly lambasted by feminist letter-writers because of his honest discussion of the plight of Night Entertainment workers and their sometimes less than exemplary lifestyles. Trink wouldn't be bullied into calling the young women "victims", when as often as not, they were the predators. Again, "controversy" raised its ugly reality-head, and traumatized the backbone-less Bangkok Post management even further.
The list goes on, but needless to say, the general readership saw censorship at its very finest, its most evil, and all of it executed in the name of compliance.
The downward spiral which is consuming the Bangkok Post can be laid entirely at the feet of the two most recent editors, Pichai and Veera. Under them, the Post has transformed from an international English language newspaper by native English speakers to an English language newspaper written by Thais for Thais. If you have any doubts, look at the ever-increasing amount of Thai language advertising within, have a look in the Outlook section and count the number of fluff and promo pieces about young Thai singers and TV 'stars'. These are things that native English speakers are not, and never will be interested in, and things that Thais, if interested, would look for in Thai publications. Under this desperate editorship, these editors have also come to financial crisis. Their new Thai language paper Bangkok Today is not cutting it - and they are desperately trying to shore it up by robbing Peter to pay Paul. Or should we say, 'tear down the kitchen to build the living room'? They of course need this Thai language newspaper, because The Nation has one. In addition to other cuts, they have ceased a great deal of their other publishing activities, to include book publishing. Local authors, some of them Post employees, are unable to get their own books reprinted and out into the stores because of the shut-down. The Post Editors see blood flowing onto the printing room floor and they don't know how to apply the hemostat. In view of this, and the above, it is not surprising that Trink was let go. These cumulative actions and non-actions by the Post are unforgivable and indelible graffiti on the face of modern publishing, and a body-blow to the craft and profession of Journalism,
But this piece is not intended as a Trink obituary, as he is very much alive and, we can assume, well. What he has been doing since the beginning of the year has been the subject of a lot of conjecture. As mentioned earlier, there have been emails making the rounds, reportedly from Trink, some of them so entirely out of character, and so grammatically disfigured that no reasonable person could believe they were from him.
The most tantalizing possibility of his whereabouts is the web-borne announcement that Trink has a new website. They give the URL as www.idontgiveahoot.net. We have gone to the site, and discovered it to be a pay-per-view member site with a member forum. They give a home page glimpse of the beginning of what is reported to be his column, but if you want to read the rest, you need to pony-up. The aforementioned glimpse, by the way, again, does not look like Trink's style. The most interesting part of the website is the banner ad, top, front and center - by Metro Magazine. In mid December, it was rumored that Metro was one of the groups making overtures to Trink on continuation of employment. We at MIDNITE HOUR will be reserving judgment until all the cards are on the table - and of course, we are hoping that Bernard Trink has in fact fallen into a lucrative continuance of employment.
Bird Flu hits BangkokMIDNITE HOUR is already in receipt of email traffic asking about the dangers of travelling to Thailand because of the Avian Influenza epidemic currently sweeping Asia. It would be naive to assume that we, and a few of the web forums are the only ones being queried on Bangkok's safety because of the spreading virus. We would be as naive if we believed it is not already starting to impact on tourism, and therefore the Night Scene.
VIRUS SPREAD IMPACTS NIGHT SCENE
But what could incoming visitors to the Kingdom possibly be afraid of since they have already been shown by His Excellency The Dr., among others, that eating chicken is perfectly safe? Why couldn't they just come to Thailand and not eat chicken?
Its time for a reality check. First of all, epidemiologists agree, and have never disagreed, that eating chicken is not a vector for the disease. These real doctors (to include those who provide input to the W.H.O.) are telling us the vector of the Avian Influenza mutation H5N1 Type A which is contagious in humans is spread like any other variation of the virus: in the air. The W.H.O. says also that infected chickens' feces will contain virile virus for up to 10 days. So basically, we can contract human Avian Influenza through inhaling micro-droplets of sneezing and coughing infected persons, and perhaps if we were to somehow inhale dust of dried bird feces, as is more likely on, say, a chicken farm. If we have any question as to the method of contagion, or the 'vector', we need only look at how all those chickens and other birds caught the disease. We can assure His Excellency The Dr. that all those millions of chickens did not contract Bird Flu from eating chicken.
So what is terribly wrong with this picture? The current Autocracy and the subservient and/or stupid Press continue to harp on the safety of eating chicken and eggs as long as they are "well done". Starting to make sense yet? The government is extremely busy telling us how we cannot get it, and they are extremely quiet about telling us how we can, or might get it.
Why, its almost as if they didn't care whether we got it or not, as long as they are able to continue to eat chicken. Still don't get it? When in doubt, follow the money. Its OK to eat chicken, therefore it is OK to sell chicken, and the vested interests will not lose their shirts in an economic collapse of the chicken and eggs market.
This sounds almost too bizarre to be true, but all the facts are right there. Is it extreme, stone ignorance, or is it greed-driven self-interest? You, as they say, decide. But it is not the intent of this column to sew the seeds of panic. It is however our intent to point out the red herring the Autocracy has dragged across our paths, and to get us to think for our selves, to think clearly.
It was noted last week in the Press that doctors from "down under" had made tests on the Bird Flu virus, and found it more virile than the SARS virus by far. That doesn't necessarily mean that it will be able to 'vector' itself faster, only that once caught, a human's chances of survival would be less than with SARS. Again, no need for immediate panic, as this does not seem to mesh well with W.H.O. findings. This, hopefully will ignite a flurry of emergency research into reconfirmation of these doctors' findings.
What we are left with is the potential, however remote, for a very deadly epidemic or pandemic, a potential that for the present, has not started to manifest itself - at least quantitatively. It, however, conceivably could, and the part of this equation that is terrifying is that the government is presently doing nothing to make determinations one way or the other on the actual epidemiological issues - their concerns being only economic.
Their entire perception of the problem and its solution is that by stopping the spread to other chickens (by culling), the business of raising 1 billion chickens a year can continue to march on unimpeded, as it once did only a few months ago. And, they have repeatedly stated, if they succeed in doing that, it will (somehow - they have not said how) contain the virus from spreading in humans. Hint - once the virus has spread into humans, it won't need chickens to spread to other humans - which is now the main concern of real doctors. Yet this simple fact has eluded the Autocracy entirely. The word, "irresponsible" doesn't even begin to cover: - the word, "insane" is somehow a little closer to the mark..
In the extremely unlikely event of a "worst case scenario", the Autocracy would lose a great deal more than their chicken economy, they would lose a great number of human lives and paralyze their tourist trade. And that's just for starters.
MIDNITE HOUR presents the NEWS on the Bangkok Night Scene; - the 'history-in-the-making' for all major Night Entertainment Areas - for the month ending 1 FEBRUARY, 2004 :
The Richiy Pool Bar, reopened last month, has been demolished. We at first assumed that this was part of the inexorable demolition of the Night Entertainment Area, but in fact, they are now compacting the earth in and around it in preparation of pouring a new concrete slab. We should see a new beer bar there before the end of the month. While it is true that the front Asoke Plaza section has had their individual contracts extended, we, nevertheless, couldn't help but wonder whether such optimism about the future is warranted. Where there's life, there's hope... COWBOY ANNEX
As the dismantling of Cowboy Annex picks up speed, we noted that one of the first to disappear this last month was Lolita's specialty bar. As mentioned in Trink's last column, it didn't go far - they are now located on Sukhumvit Soi 8, but with a reported 50 baht rate increase for basic services. COWBOY ANNEX
Only darkened windows and padlocks greeted those passing by Lolita's Pool & Tarts. The sister bar to Lolita's has also 'done the chicken', and looks to be demolished in the near future. COWBOY ANNEX
The To Day Airport Bar, having already prepared a soft landing for itself at 13 Night Market this last June, didn't lose too much sleep over the closure of their original pool bar this previous month. As they seem to be doing well in their new, if slightly cramped To Day Airport Bar 2, we need shed no tear. COWBOY ANNEX
The Princess Bar, one of the 'old timers' (at least in terms of the Cowboy Annex), has been sucked into the black hole of oblivion. Its pock-marked walls showing signs of fixtures and decorations having been stripped in haste. COWBOY ANNEX
Lucky Bar, which once occupied two separate stalls in the 8-Pak has thrown in the towel. Where once stood a bar beer, now only a littered concrete slab greets the passing revellers. COWBOY ANNEX
Also in the 8-Pak, the Sanuk bar beer bought the farm this preceding period. Once a double bar, it eventually sold one stall to the Suay in November 2002. COWBOY ANNEX
Speaking of which, the Suay Bar Beer disappeared into the night without a trace this last month. One of the livelier bars in the 8-Pak, we hope it will reappear elsewhere. COWBOY ANNEX
The Black & White bar beer in the 4-Pak has taken down it's Christmas light sets, and made for greener pastures. We hope they find them. (No relation to the Black & White A-Go-Go on Soi Cowboy). COWBOY ANNEX
A largish, if not entirely anatomically correct staff of the Honey Bar bar beer in the 4-Pak thought it was essential that I knew it was a "lady-boy bar". Just as well, otherwise, how would I have known? COWBOY ANNEX
The Buongiorno Bar & Rest were showing their dark side to the public once again at month's end - only darkness shined out from within. We hope this is not a final closing, but we fear the worst, considering the out-of-the-way location at the back of Sub-Soi 5. SOI DEAD ARTISTS
The 33 Lucky Luciano Club is sealed up tighter than a drum. A big sign taped on the front door lets one and all know this is just a temporary condition, while renovations are carried out. Expect their reemergence in March. SOI DEAD ARTISTS
The Upstairs Club Lounge & Karaoke have big plans for the soon-to-be-completed row of shophouses located just a little deeper into the soi. They will be taking two of the seven units for a new, larger venue. Expect lounge - karaoke to be the prime agendum. Renovations could start sometime this month... It remains to be seen if they will keep their original place above the Dali SOI DEAD ARTISTS
The three empty shophouses adjacent to Mojo's in Sub-Soi 2 have been given a thorough evaluation by more than one prospective bar owner, and each time the conclusion has been the same - too expensive. The building owners are hoping to find some other investors with pockets as deep as Mojo's. Somehow I don't think we'll be seeing any movement on these units any time soon. SOI DEAD ARTISTS
While historians are noting -- one of the earlier names for this "Soi Zero" Night Entertainment Area was Tobacco Road (still used by this writer). Its origins go back to 1992 and the Miss Universe contest held here that year at the then-new Queen Sirikit Convention Center. The incumbent government claimed they urgently needed a new access roadway to the Convention Center from the Airport to facilitate this prestigious event.
They then took what could only be called a foot-and-motorcycle path running the length of the railroad tracks from the top of Sukhumvit Rd to Rama IV Road, and widened and paved it virtually overnight. What went unsaid was they wanted to get rid of the slum that had grown up there over the last three decades. They were afraid it would be an eyesore - one that would cast a less than ideal light on The City of Angels to any of the swarming Miss Universe Pageant crowds. In getting rid of the slum, the slum dwellers found it necessary to move further along the tracks into the Klong Toey area, swelling the already crowded Chum Chon's even further.
The powers that be, in their haste to complete this new bypass road, failed to give it a name. In that it passed immediately adjacent to the Tobacco Monopoly of Thailand, some of us took to calling the road 'Tobacco Road'. Others, including taxi drivers, called it (translated directly) the road "that ran along side the expressway" or the road "that ran along side the railroad tracks".
For twelve years this road remained unnamed, however this last month, all that changed - the official Bangkok Metropolitan Authority name for "Tobacco Road" is Duang Pithak Road. And they have brand-new signs to prove it. Now you know what you should, at least in theory, tell the taxi driver. Nevertheless, MIDNITE HOUR shall remain nostalgia-driven rather than accurate, and continue to refer to both the road and the Night Entertainment Area as Tobacco Road. TOBACCO RD (Soi 0)
The Banana Bar resides in abiding darkness, but before we write it off, we note that they have a sign taped to the door saying they are hiring. We'll hang onto this thread and give you a come-back. QUEENS PARK PLAZA
13 NIGHT MARKET
© 2004, BANGKOK EYES / bangkokeyes.com