, if one is to take him literally at his word.... began his professional years in the Hong Kong police force
. To be sure, he was from Hong Kong
of mixed Portuguese / Chinese
heritage - that much, at least, can be verified. However, the remainder of his shadowed origins shall remain one of the Mysteries of the Orient
. He moved to Thailand
in the early 60's
(actual date unconfirmed). In an apparent about-face, career-wise, he worked for a major hotel in the Silom - Suriwong Road
area, polishing his culinary skills. But with his entrepreneurial zeal bursting at the seams, he decided to 'go it alone'
, and opened a hotdog stand in Patpong 1
Bobby, a longtime Rotarian, contributed to the Mardi Gras effort for many years.
initial foray into what was rapidly becoming planet earth's most notorious Night Entertainment Area
was not as most of us remember - Bobby
and Rick Menard
agreed to allow Bobby
to set up shop in one corner of Rick's
now-legendary Grand Prix Bar
. This non-monetary 'deal' would be win-win: Rick
would have food on-tap for customers, and Bobby
would, well, sell hotdogs. This arrangement would not last forever, however - as Rick
had other ideas for the Grand Prix
- ideas that not even Bobby's
great hotdogs could overcome... Rick
out (they remained friends) and he, Rick
, started a Thailand Revolution
- he installed Thailand's
first permanent A Go-Go
stage (and as Tim Young
would later say, 'The rest is history'.) ...But I digress...
In the Patpong heyday...
'getting the boot' by Rick
didn't dissuade Bobby
in the least - rather, it lit his fuse. He almost immediately obtained a small corner in Patpong 2
from "Old Man" Udom Patpongpanich
himself, and opened (what else?) Bobby's Hotdogs
. There was a silver lining to Bobby
going it alone - the unintended consequence - most of the bars in the area, once they found out Bobby
was right there in the middle of things, began allowing customers to send out for Bobby's
hot dogs - as a means of keeping their customers on their stools longer. And the longer they stayed on their stools, the more chits would end up in the cup. However, Bobby
didn't keep that name for long; it was soon changed to Bobby's Aroy Dee
- most just referring to it as the 'Aroy Dee
'. (He soon added hamburgers to the menu, and they were just as good, but we were particularly addicted to the chili dogs...) Bobby
realized he had tapped into a 'goldmine' - he saw that, in spite of the mushrooming of new bars in the area, there were very few good places for expats to eat in the immediate area. He saw that even his diminutive 'hotdog stand
' had, almost by default, become a roaring success.
Bobby's Arms Pub - The one we all knew - up in the parking lot...
he opened his next venture , the one most remember Bobby
for - Bobby's Arms British Pub & Restaurant
. Had he followed the Golden Rule
of restauranting (location, location, location
), he would not have opened Bobby's Arms
in the most unlikely spot possible - a considerable walk up through the Patpong carpark
to an unused second-storey building on the far side. Geographically speaking, this property was located in a building on Silom Soi 4
,which belonged to yet another private Bangkok
family - not 'the Patpongs'
. Silom Soi 4
was - and is a soi suan bukon
(private soi), and has had a number of nicknames over the years, among them "Patpong 3
" (which it most definitely was not), "Soi Katoey
" (which was, by then a gay soi, no longer a katoey
soi), and "Soi Bobby
", (which, as we will see, has a modicum of merit...)
Bobby's Arms - the extension ... in the old Cafe De Paris
, virtually from opening day - and for most of the three succeeding decades, became a place that visiting dignitaries (the list is too long) found to their liking, and where staff from many different nations' embassies would invite visiting guests, and where, at the other end of the spectrum, the Patpong
crawlers (such as yours-truly) could also be found. Bobby's Arms
made its way into the international travel guides, the hotel reception-desk 'recommended venue' handouts, the newspapers (as advertisements, leisure-page puff pieces, and of course, Bernard Trink's Nite Owl column
), but most importantly, it grew in popularity by word-of-mouth. Being a most proper British Pub
, Bobby's Arms
had a fiercely competitive team 'toeing the oche
' weekly in round-robin darts competitions (teams ostensibly under the British Club of Bangkok
umbrella). These weekly darts face-offs were often catered (snacks / finger food), FOC
, by Bobby
A successful branch, but all too short a run at the Hyatt.
At this juncture it would be tempting to say of Bobby
, and Bobby's Arms
, "...and the rest is history". But this is only the beginning, only the departure. Almost no one remembers Bobby
was a Rotarian (Rotary Club Bangkok South)
. The Rotary
and many of the Nitespots
on Patpong Road
would sponsor the Patpong Mardi Gras
once each year through the '80's
and into the 90's
. The Patpong Mardi Gras
raised money each year for various charity causes - and while Bobby
remained a member, he was always front-and-center in those fund-raising efforts.
But the "Britishness
" doesn't stop here - how many of you remember the annual Ploenchit Fair
- a grand event for young and old, held in the grounds of the British Embassy
(before the greedhead Englishmen
decided to sell it for mere filthy lucre - I hope they choke on it). Not far from the 'Queen Vic
' statue in the back of the manicured grounds (which the Thai
ladies flocked to with incense and puang rit
in hopes of having many healthy babies) was, inevitably, Bobby's Arms booth
- ribs, hot dogs, the works. -Great eats along with great self-promotion.
It doesn't stop here either - The British Club
would regularly have Bobby
cater their bigger events - invitations Bobby
couldn't refuse. Bobby
also provided catering services to Bangkok's
larger International School
. The list goes on, but suffice it to say, in those heady years Bobby
remained more than casually active in the expat community.
One of Bobby's less-than-successful outings on Soi Katoey
, being by chance at the right place, at the right time, historically speaking, knew well the 'other'
stories of Patpong's Nightlife
. We would often talk over my cup of coffee; Bobby
relating the humorous
along with 'the dirt
' on a grand cross-section of Patpong's
. He told of the adventures of The Sportsman
, and of Ladda of Patpong
, and the origins of the Takara
, and of the kings and queens
of Silom Soi 4
, and, well, on and on.... I would ask him why he wasn't writing a book on all this. His reply was always the same, "If I did, it would have to be published after I die, because it would surely get me bumped off. And if you publish any of this on your website, I'll kill you too.
" Of course, he wouldn't, but it certainly gives insight into Bobby's
sense of decorum and his discreet nature.
A common item in yesterday's wallets...
Another of the commonly held misconceptions re; Bobby
was that he was a restaurateur
, but not really into the Night Entertainment Scene
. For the record (and this will have some of you popping your eyeballs out) Bobby
was into a number of ventures that even the oldest of "Old Bangkok Hands
" will have forgotten. Follows is an eye-opening bit of Nightlife history
'Bobby's Hotdogs' (not actually named) - located in a corner of the Grand Prix Bar on PP1.
Bobby's Hotdogs - soon to be renamed Bobby's Aroy Dee on PP2 next to Foodland.
"Gotcha Hotdogs! Gotcha Hamburgers!"
Bobby's Arms Pub & Restaurant - accessed from the PP 2 parking lot.
"Just another English Pub - only it's in Bangkok"
Trattoria Da Roberto - (Just say, 'Roberto's'). On the second floor PP2, across from Cleopatra A Go-Go. A successful Italian restaurant in its own right, with a separate entrance from The Ramp.
"Pizza, Beer and Hand-Made Gelate"
The Italian Connection- A predecessor to Cafe de Paris.
- "Hard liquor - soft music."
De Knappe - (The name being a play-on-words for the German customers....)
"Achtung Veal and Port with Sauerkraut."
Cafe de Paris Bistro Bar - on PP2 between Bobby's Aroy Dee and Roberto's. Successful al fresco dining and drinking and people-watching for a number of years.
(Another 'Trattoria de Roberto') - an indoor-outdoor garden restaurant on Sukhumvit Soi 18, across from the Rembrandt Hotel.
Bobbys Arms (without the "Pub & Restaurant") - A 'branch' in the basement of the Hyatt Hotel - lunchtime and after-work crowds. An arm's length from Spasso, it proved to be quite successful, but a disagreement with the lessor on operating hours put the nix on it. It was only open a few months.
Bobby's Arms (& Guest House) - Ground floor, Silom Soi 4. It was actually a pub - bar, and had what must have been the longest "Long Bar" in Bangkok. (There was actually a non-public way to get upstairs through the back to the original Bobby's Arms.) It was immediately successful - always full on weekends, and a good counterpoint to SuperStar Frank's Noriega's, just next door across the Soi.
Pool Boyz Club - Ground floor, Silom Soi 4. It took over the premises of the "Bobby's Arms" on Soi 4. When Bobby initially decided to close the Soi 4 Bobby's Arms and open a pool bar, I suggested that he was fixing something that wasn't broken. With eyebrows quickly raised, and an impish wink, he replied, "Soi Katoey doesn't have a gay pool bar. This will be the first of its kind." This was one of Bobby's few not-so-hot ideas; it lasted less than a year.
"Po' Boy Cafe"
Hideaway - Silom Soi 4. Bobby broke off a third of Pool Boyz Club to make Hideaway. Another attempt to tap into the 'gay' crowd on 'Soi Katoey'. Both Hideaway and Pool Boyz Club quickly became history.
Marco Polo - Patpong 2 - a reopening of the Bobby's Aroy Dee.
Bobby's Arms Pub- opened in the then-closed Cafe De Paris digs. This time around, live jazz on the weekends.
As the years ate away into the new Millennium
venues slowly disappeared, one by one, from the Nighttime arena
. We didn't see much of Bobby
, so no one really got the full who
he was no longer restauranting and running the occasional bar. But just as we had given up on seeing him again, he opened a smallish Bobby's coffee shop
at the top of a Silom Road
side-soi near Soi Thaniya
. Its prominent feature was a long 'coffee bar', which likely came from the Bobbys Arms
on Silom Soi 4
. It also didn't last long, closing for financial reasons - which (some say) were exacerbated by Bangkok's Men In Too-Tight Uniforms
Many have speculated that Bobby's
fortunes rose and fell hand-in-hand with the rise and slow collapse of the Patpongs 1 & 2
- each having their 'days in the sun & deep clover
' through those same years. Others have said that Bobby's
star began to wane when Udom Patpong
passed away, and the Patpong
family began to raise the lease prices. Perhaps both are true, but we should not let ourselves confuse correlation with causation. On the one hand, Bobby
mentioned more than once that the rents were going up, but on the other hand, his real, oft-repeated lament was he was unable to keep responsible management and staff. (Bobby's Arms Pub & Restaurant
the exception, which up until almost the last day, had a great manager
and an even better chef
had expanded rather rapidly in the latter years, having a number of venues open at the same time. This was something he admitted he couldn't manage alone. Then again, perhaps all three of these are significant contributing factors to that final chapter - only the Devil
knows for sure, and he isn't saying...
In local parlance, Bobby
was "a part of the fabric". If ever there is a Patpong Walk of Fame
comparable to Hollywood's
, where bronze-edged terrazzo stars decorate the footpath, Robert "Bobby" De Cozier's
star will be right there amongst them.
Set a table for us Bobby
, we'll be along by and by.