Shameless Mack's blog went offline years ago, which I deplore very much. All I have left are memories, a few printouts (which I cannot find, but they are somewhere) and this article I saved on my computer. Here is a copy (edited, the original has some problems opening in the browser).
I saved that particular article because I made a comment on it. If everyone else has fragments of Shameless Mack, or knows what happened to him, please let me know.
June 13, 2010 at 00:47 | Posted in Gay Bangkok, Gay gogo bars, Mack's musings, Mack's reports | Leave a Comment
Tags: Dream Boy Gogo Bar Bkk, Future Boys Gogo Bar Bkk, Screw Boys Gogo Bar Bkk, X-boys Gogo Bar Bkk
May 2010:Even before the 19 May crackdown on the Red Shirts’ protest occupation of Bangkok’s main shopping district and the curfew that followed for several nights thereafter, the gogo bars of Soi Pratuchai (also commonly known as Soi Twilight) were already hurting.(Picture of Soi Twilight, X-Boys)It was the low season, but tourist numbers were even lower than typical for this time of the year. The Red Shirts’ sit-in had started mid March, and had led to two violent confrontations in April, with grenades going off causing several casualties. The headlines deterred many would-be tourists; travel warnings from foreign governments hardly helped.I’ve been to Bangkok during the low season in years past, but this was the first time I found so many bars cancelling their shows. And I’m referring to the pre-crackdown/curfew period. (For a report on the brave and hopeful attempts to stay open for business even on nights with curfew, see the post Gogo bars keep going despite curfew.)Dream Boy had the fortitude to continue with its show. Having seen it more than enough times, I didn’t feel like sitting through it yet again, despite the best sales spiel of the doormen, so I’m unable to report whether it was well attended or not (I doubted so) or even whether the show was abbreviated to save costs. Their exorbitant drink price too of 300 baht made it all too easy for me to say “No, thank you, I’m not going in.”X-boys, Future Boys and at least one other bar (I’ve forgotten which one it was that I asked) had suspended their shows. Or rather, as one doorman put it in public-relations-speak, “Yes, we have show… if have enough customers.”Nonetheless, I popped into X-boys (Drink 220 baht) because I wanted to have a drink and a chat with a boy I know, for old times’ sake. The bar had just six or seven customers within, at 22:10h. By the time I left, at 22:50h, there was only one other customer remaining.There’s no way they can afford to put on a show. The pay rate for the gogo boys when they participate in a show is 400 baht. Involve ten boys in even a 45-minute show, and it comes to 4,000 baht in employee costs. I don’t think the bars are confident of getting 20 customers to cover just the show-related expenses. And that’s not adding in the (meagre) salaries for coming to work, rent, power and water, etc. Let alone the big payment to men in boots.On the other hand, it’s a vicious cycle. If the doormen cannot promise a show within, the bars get even fewer customers.Oh, and I noticed that the number of coyote boys had been cut down. Normally, X-boys would have three or four so that two would be on the pods at any given time. Tonight, they had just one, who seemed a little pissed off at the manager, because he was expected to be dancing continuously with no breaks. He looked exhausted. Coyote dancers are paid 500 baht a night, so by letting the rest go, the bar saved 1,000 to 1,500 baht in costs.—Screw Boys (Drink 200 baht) had a “show”. At 22:30h, the gogo boys vacated the stage, making way for a skinny heavily tattooed Yakuza-wannabe and a ladyboy. With no preliminaries whatsoever, the fucking began. After just two or three minutes on the stage, they proceeded to do it on customers’ laps, in the hope of tips.I quickly waved them away.Fuck act over (22:40h), show over too. Back to gogo on stage. What a show!—Is the gogo business dying? Are the glory days of Bangkok gogo bars behind us? Let’s see what high season brings later this year.Leave a Comment »Hello Mack, some weeks ago your blog started to show advertising, which is fine as I hope it gives you some income for your excellent work and it is unobstrusive. However, I was not able to open the links in either a new tab or a new window (tried on two computers with IE). It directs me to something like s-p:%20Go%20to%20www.ThaiLoveLines.com when I delete the charakters before the www, it works. I just want to know if there is an error or I really have to navigate away from your blog to follow the link. I allways chuckle when I find adverts like “1000s of beautiful Thai Ladies want to be your girlfriend now” on gay websites (as I don’t think is advert is directed at lesbians)!Comment by christianpfc — June 13, 2010 #
Found some printouts from his maps:
Kind of screenshot (from gaythailand; wordpress decreases size from 420 kb to 114 kb, if you want to read follow the link until I find a solution):
Etrend 1: Boys expect to earn more as cost of living rises.
Etrend 2: Good-looking, good attitude boys may be scarcer, so trying to stock a bar with 100 boys (like Dream Boy today) would be unrealistic. Perhaps 30 - 40 boys would be max.
Etrend 3: The "arms-race" of doing ever more elaborate shows that need to be re-engineered frequently to keep them fresh costs an arm and a leg.
Etrend 4: Audience numbers will be flat until the great wave from China materialises. . .
Etrend 5: Even then, the Chinese may never be all that keen to off (reasons explained in the other thread Holiday Sunday Numbers Seem Down), but will likely be prepared to pay a small premium for small shows and nude dancing, something they don't get in their home country.
How will I address these issues? Perhaps I would hypothetically build a bar with a layout like this:
The operational model will be rather different from current, in response to each of the 5 economic trends mentioned above.
But first, I'll walk you (as customer) through the bar:
1. No women, no Thais under 20 years old, allowed.
2. No smoking inside the bar.
3. You enter and receive a number tag from the cashier (like in a sauna). All purchases made inside the bar will be charged to that number; you settle the account on departure. Perhaps a cover charge (200 baht?) can be paid on entry if the competitive environment allows it. That prepaid cover charge can be consummable, i.e. it is set off as a credit against purchases of drinks.
4. In the main salon, you will see several boys dancing in their briefs on the stage behind the bar. You are free to just sit at the bar, but you are obliged to order your first drink.
5. You may call a boy over, buy him a drink (or not) and sit with him in the sofas, and if the brief conversation works out, you off him.
6. Every hour on the hour, the captain announces "Showtime now. Anybody interested?"
7. Let's say 13 customers are interested. There are two more who are here to off a boy and aren't interested in the show; they continue to sit in the main salon, where boys continue to do their rotations on the stage -- in other words the show should not inconvenience these customers.
8. The captain opens two private rooms and splits the 13 customers into two groups, putting six in one room, seven in the other. The charge for the show is 200 or 250 baht per customer, which includes a second drink.
9. The show thus takes place in a more intimate setting -- a room no larger than a small bedroom -- where the boys dance a mere arm's length from the seated customers.
10. The boys either dance nude or dance in a manner that strips to nude. The etiquette is NO TOUCHING unless the boys invite you to lay your hands on them briefly. Naturally, the boys are encouraged as part of their routine to invite the customers by turn to do so from time to time, in order to up the thrill quotient.
12. The show is mostly done on a small, low podium/stage that is 2 metres by 2 metres (the size of a king-sized bed, enough space to allow for acts of sodomy if that's what the show requires).
13. In each room, the show involves about 6 boys (or maybe 8 boys if the cost structure allows it). In the first half, each boy does a 5-minute dance solo, either (i) coyote-style, (ii) Manila macho-dancer bar style, or (iii) Chiangmai style. In the second half, the 6 (or boys are paired or trio'ed for their routines.
14. From the customer's perspective, he is in a really intimate setting with boys hardly more than a metre away, making frequent eye contact and with seductive smiles. He is also invited by the dancing boys to touch and caress them now and then. The show has a degree of personal attention that a bigger showspace cannot provide. Although the customer had been asked to stump up an extra 200 or 250 baht for the show (on top of the first drink), he is getting value for it.
15. The economics is that the six or seven customers in a private room will have put up 1500 or 1750 baht for the show. Involving 6 (or boys, the labour cost for each room's show will be 600 (or 800) baht with each boy getting 100 baht for an hour's work (serious dancing, not shuffling)
16. The duration of the show is about 45 - 50 minutes, comprising 9 - 11 acts. At the end, the rooms have to be vacated for cleaning in preparation for the next round of shows. If a customer wants to see a subsequent show, it's another 200 or 250 baht, though for most people, 45 - 50 minutes will have been enough!
The economics of such a bar has the following characteristics:
The typical customer will be buying two drinks: the first drink on entry and the second drink either because he wants to sit with a boy prior to an off, or because he wants to see a show. Two drinks per customer is a significant improvement on the present one-drink average in most bars. The important thing though is that the customer must feel he gets value from paying for a second drink, and that is where an intimate, hands-on show comes in.
The bar doesn't need a lot of boys. Assuming on average at each hour, only two rooms are opened for shows, the bar needs only 12 boys (6 boys per room), plus another 10 - 12 doing the rotation in the main salon. If there's a surge of customers and all four private rooms need to be used, the same 12 dancing boys can cover all four rooms by having each dancing team of six boys to stagger their routines between two adjacent rooms. Double the work, yes, but double the earnings.
Because there's a show every hour on the hour, customers can come any time that is convenient for them. The bar is able to attract customers at those hours where other bars aren't doing shows. Bars with "blockbuster" type shows can't afford to put up more than one-and-a-half of them per night, so they can't have a show going on through the entire evening. This little bar can.
The business model responds to the economic trends thus:
Response to Etrend 1: Currently, gogo boys are mostly wasting time, doing little and earning nothing unless/until they get an off which is "jackpot money". In the new business model, the boys are working for pay for many of the seven or eight hours they are in the bar. For each set of dancing in a private room (each boy does an average of two 5-minute items per 45-minute set) a boy earns 100 baht. Assuming a typical boy gets to do three sets a night, he earns 300 baht. Multipled by 25 days a month, he has base earnings of 7500 baht before tips.
Response to Etrend 2: As boys become scarcer, the bar runs on fewer boys, but these boys work harder to deliver satisfying shows. Running on fewer boys also means the bar owner can get a little picky about which boys to hire, thereby keeping the "good looks" factor, boosting the rate of offs.
Response to Etrend 3: No more elaborate staging for shows and the costs associated with that.
Response to Etrend 4: In an era of flat tourist numbers, such a bar will rarely look empty. That's because it is divided into small spaces, and you only open such spaces as are needed (also save on airconditioning). A small salon or private dance room with 6 customers in it looks a lot better than a bar that can seat 100, but has only six people; the atmosphere is more encouraging.
Response to Etrend 5: The bar and its boys draw revenue not by relying on high rate of offs -- in a new era of Chinese tourists this may not be realistic -- but by getting customers to pay for a second drink in order to get a satisfying show. Of course, any offs that the bar/boys get will be good too.
Operational imperatives for success:
A bar that requires boys to actually work through a seven-hour shift (rather than sit about or shuffle about as at present) requires boys with a good work ethic. This especially as every boy must be able to perform on stage, equipped with a handful of routines, executed reasonably well (i.e. with artistry, with good eye contact and seductive appeal to customers). This means training, training, training.
I also think it is imperative to address the problem of service quality after being off'd, but that's a separate issue I have written about before.
Update 21.07.2014 Thanks to Jellybean on sawatdeenetwork for digging up a copy of 2009 massage overview. http://sawatdeenetwork.com/forum/post291306.html#p291306
Update Feb 2016: link to his maps on googlemaps (via Moses on gaythailand forum)
Copyright 2013 ChristianPFC