Bangkok's Night Scene In Review
What is known for certain is the term "Mama-san" is a Japanese-American "hyphenated compound word" - ("mama" from mother; "san" from the Japanese honorific form of addressing others). The term originated in Japan after WWII during the American occupation. However, the details of the origins of that now-ubiquitous term remain vague and contradictory (but probably closely follow the story-line of the fictional geisha, Lady Red Lips). Prior to WWII, the geisha were both sophisticated entertainers, and/ or providers of sexual pleasures, depending on stature and circumstance. One chapter of that clan, the 'Onsen Geisha' tended to work 'outstation' and were often 'sponsored' by wealthy individuals to travel here and there ("onsen" being the Japanese approximate-equivalent of Turkish baths). And as might be expected, the onsen geishas were held in markedly lower esteem than their classier courtesan counterparts in Tokyo and Kyoto.
Although there are many accounts of one-on-one encounters between the American forces and local ladies in Japan in those days and nights of the Occupation, it is most probable that the onsen geisha houses played the primary role in sexual recreation - in that the onsen geisha houses, and the onsen geishas' stature in the community had continued to be 'ambiguous' since before the war. These onsen geisha houses were the first to adapt to provide for the entertainment of the Gaijin on a regular basis. And it was (most probably) the onsen geisha house madames that first acted as the go-betweens, assisting the GI's in making their selections in the baths. And, again, knowing the overseas American servicemen's unending penchant for incorporating the latest slang into daily conversation, it was (most probable) that these venues first saw the term, "mama-san" being used to refer to the onsen geisha house madames. All very logical, but in the final analysis, still very speculative.
Five years later, American and allied forces were back in Asia in another war, this time in Korea. And the term mama-san returned with them. And mama-san meant the same in Korea as it did in Japan - the house madame. But it wasn't until yet another Asian war, this time in Viet Nam, that the term became broader in meaning. During that 8 years of active combat, approximately 2.7 million Americans rotated into and out of Viet Nam - all the while picking up existing and new multicultural slang, and, of course propagating it by word of mouth, on Zippo lighters, tattoos, items of apparel and letters home. A book could be written on it..... Here, in Viet Nam, the term, "mama-san" was broadened in meaning, tacitly and through laxity of use, not only to mean, 'female brothel manager', but also to mean 'female bar manager', 'female massage parlor manager', and then on to encompass "hooch maids" and other menial female employees, and, eventually, any less-than-young Vietnamese female - regardless of status. And variations began to appear; "papa-san" (any elderly Vietnamese male), and "baby-san" (which originally meant Vietnamese babies, but later took on the additional connotation of any young Vietnamese girl).
As most readers are already aware, the Viet Nam war had large U.S. support contingents in nearby countries (primarily the Philippines and Thailand). Additionally, both Manila and Bangkok were R&R centers during the conflict. So it will not surprise us to learn that the American G. I. slang, so prevalent in Viet Nam, made it's way to Thailand, and to the Thailand Night Entertainment Scene. Although the term was, and is, firmly entrenched in Thailand, the broader definitions have disappeared; meaning now (almost exclusively) the 'floor manageress in a bar or a massage parlor'. Interestingly, however, the mama-san's function as 'facilitator' has remained intact - making introductions between the employed ladies and male customers - precisely as it was in the 1946 Tokyo.
As the oft repeated line goes, "If you feel lonely in the Far East, look for a Mama-san. She knows how to help you to have a good time." While this is true more so for those new to the Asian scene than those long-term residents and regularly returning visitors, it does point out that a primary function of mama-sans in the modern scene is that of the 'ladies in the middle'.
However, today's mama-san has other responsibilities as well. She is required to ride herd on the khon-serbs to insure customers are served quickly, and that the chits are quickly and correctly stuffed into their respective cups, and to insure departing guests have paid their tab. The mama-san also insures the dancers, be they coyote or A Go-Go, are up on stage when it is their 'floor'. And behind the scenes, the mama-san will 'keep the book" on the girls - recording when they come to work (or not) and which days they are "opped", and for how many times. This latter bit of accounting, concerns significant amounts of money, and is important for the bar and the bargirls. It is not surprising, then, that the bargirls whose assignations with customers were facilitated by the mama-san will regularly, and without fail, tip her (usually about Baht 100).
Just as many new farang arrivals to Thailand will soon have a regular tailor (to whom they refer as "my tailor"), and a "my jeweler", and even a "my shoemaker", many will have at least one "my mama-san". We at Midnight Hour have known many mama-sans over the decades, and while some of them were cold, mercenary and calculating, most were friendly, helpful and open, and a very few were star personalities in their own right. And while the mama-san's importance as the 'lady in the middle' is diminishing due to the girls' use of the mobile handphone and the Internet, a good mama-san is as important to the success of a Nitespot as an honest cashier. ....Well, OK, let's not stretch credibility too far, let's just say, 'a reasonably honest cashier'......
Nice Massage (the second, upstairs one) has some new neon up (they were previously operating without). Looking good....
A for-the-archives pic of the Bar Bar and The Strip, located down at the Silom end of Patpong II. Let the good times roll....
SOI KATOEY - (SILOM SOI 4)
The Onna No Ko was closed down tight when we walked by the other evening - but with the promise of a reopening after New Year's. We note that the larger sign to the left indicates they are hiring. We'll go back and come back and advise if it did not, in fact, reopen.
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
Last month, we noted the reopening of The Horse Says Mooooo Restaurant & Wine Bar, and the upstairs Zantana Spa. But that was then, this is now - neither Nitespot will be coming out for the next round. Ashes to ashes - so be it, then.....
SOI DEAD ARTISTS - SOI 33
QUEEN'S PARK PLAZA
SOI EDEN SUKHUMVIT SOI 7/1
Another for-the-archives pic of the Down Under. Still going strong after all these years....
SOI EDEN SUKHUMVIT SOI 7/1
! ORDER NOW !