Private Dancer by Stephen Leather

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It’s a damn good read.

I read this book about 3 months ago.  It’s a fascinating read.  At the time I read it, though, I thought it to be all fiction.  Recently, I found out that it’s based on real events and real people.  Even if loosely based, it’s still amazing to me that anyone could be as foolish and idiotic as Pete.  It’s mindboggling that anyone could do anything remotely resembling his acts of stupidity and treachery.

I have, in my travels, been witness to similar events.  Bar girls using their wiles to goad foolish, naive men into handing over large sums of money.  Men using women for sex while telling them that they love them and are going to marry them and take them home.  Relationships began on completely false pretext.  Everything.  I’ve seen it somewhere.

But this book takes the cake.  It was a fast and easy read.  Stephen Leather gives a glimpse into the seedier side of Bangkok life.  When you read it, realize that this is only a part of that life.  It’s a small part as well.  I’ve met hundreds of regular women and men in Thailand who aren’t constantly working a scam on some dumb farang.  I’ve met people who straddle the line as well as the voyeurs who interact and watch but never participate.  Life is fascinating in Bangkok.  It can really twist up a weak soul.  Wrap you around the wings of the dark angels and drag you down.  DEEP into murky waters.  It can also be a pleasant experience and uplifting.  Depends on what and where you are seeking your experience.

Just be careful.  It’s all about situational awareness as we say in Afghanistan.  Keep your eyes open.  Don’t be a fool.

Peace.

‘I don’t know if it was love at first sight, but it was pretty close. She had the longest hair I’d ever seen, jet black and almost down to her waist. She had soft brown eyes that made my heart melt, long legs that just wouldn’t quit and a figure to die for. She was naked except for a pair of black leather ankle boots with small chrome chains on the side. I think it was the boots that did it for me.’

Thailand 1996. The Year Of The Rat. Pete, a young travel writer, wanders into a Bangkok go-go bar and meets the love of his life. Joy is the girl of his dreams: young, stunningly pretty, and one of the Zombie Bar’s top-earning pole dancers. What follows is a roller-coaster ride of sex, drugs and deception, as Pete discovers that his very own private dancer is not all that she claims to be. And that far from being the girl of his dreams, Joy is his own personal nightmare.

For many years Private Dancer was only available as a free download through my website. It became something of a cult classic and over the last five years was downloaded sixty thousand times from more than forty countries. I gleaned much of the information for the book sitting in a bar called Jool’s in Sukhumvit Soi 4, just down the road from Bangkok’s infamous Nana Plaza red light area. The owner, Big Dave, knows pretty much everything there is to know about Thailand, and he’s the basis for the Big Ron character in the book.

Hodder and Stoughton didn’t want to publish Private Dancer as it is so different from my regular thrillers, so I decided to publish the book myself in Thailand, through my own publishing company, Three Elephants. (Three Elephants is an anagram of Stephen Leather!)

The striking cover photograph, of a naked girl holding a cut-throat razor behind her back, was taken in Anglewitch Bar in Nana Plaza and features one of the bar’s top showgirls. It took us ages to find the right girl. When I originally wrote the book, the fashion was for the girls to grow their hair long. But these days they trend to cut it short, make it curly, or dye it red or blonde. I sat with my friend Andrew Yates for hours outside Nana Plaza in search of the right girl, but it seemed as if the only ones with long straight hair were the ladyboys! My pal Paul Owen took the photograph. I borrowed the cut-throat razor from my barber and it took us almost an hour to get the shot right. I’m really pleased with the result – think it’s one of my best covers.

The book got great reviews from Bernard Trink at the Bangkok Post and the Pattaya Mail, both taking the view that Private Dancer should be required reading for all visitors to the Land of Smiles. Forewarned is forearmed! I think it works so well because it gives the story from so many viewpoints, including several Thai characters. Most books about the Thai bar scene only give the Westerners point of view.

Private Dancer is available at all good book shops throughout Thailand, especially Bookazine and Asia Books outlets, and is also on sale at the airport. There is still a free download available of an early version of Private Dancer. CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE DOWNLOAD. The book has more detail on what happened to the characters so if you enjoy the download you’ll want to buy the book eventually!

In 2005, Phil Tatham, who runs Monsoon Books in Singapore, wanted to add the book to his growing stable of publications, and I agreed to let him have publication rights for Singapore and Malaysia. You can also buy it on line through his website, www.monsoonbooks.com.sg.

The Bar Girls 10 Commandments

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1. At the end of the week, specifically Friday and Saturday, many locally employed walking ATM machines will come to your bar, choose carefully! Some have money, but others do not! If he is wearing a suit and tie, check that the tie is not a Pratunam special and check that he isn’t wearing trainers. If he is, forget him because he is most likely an English teacher, and they will only give you peanuts, if they give you anything at all.

2. No matter how fat and ugly he is, no matter how bad he may smell, no matter how drunk he is, make sure you always tell him he is handsome. Sit close to him and run your hands over his body, arousing him. As soon as he has paid the bar fine, you can stand clear of him. Even if he knows that you despise him, he’ll still pay you. The hard part is getting him to pay the bar fine, and as soon as he has done that, the rest is easy.

3. Start collecting email addresses from all of your customers, once you have a good collection of addresses, a visit to your local Internet cafe is in order. Send everyone an email. Simply change the name on each email and send it off to all the guys. If you can remember something specific about them, mention that in the email too. These walking ATMs all have a soft heart, so you need to tell them a story to get them to send you some of their riches. Start with a sick buffalo and if he doesn’t reply, next tell him that your mother is ill. As a last resort, if he still doesn’t send any money, tell him you are pregnant and the baby is his! 4. Practice crying on cue. It is essential that you can produce tears immediately. This will have the effect of helping the walking ATM machine to see things your way! 5. When you get a customer for an extended period of time, make sure he takes you shopping, with Rarn Tong (gold shop) being the best place to visit. Make sure he buys you gold and if he doesn’t, see rule 4! As soon as he has left Thailand, take the gold back to the shop and sell it straight back to them, thus increasing your pay out. 6. When locally based farangs are inside the bars, do not speak in Thai with your friends in the bar but rather use Lao, Khmer or any other dialects that you may know. It’s bad enough that some of them can speak and even read Thai, but Lao and Khmer should be kept as sacrosanct. Under no circumstances should the farang be taught our regional dialects. 7. Always see him off at the airport. Thai currency cannot be used in his country, so it is highly likely that he will give you all of his leftover Baht as he leaves and says goodbye. While accompanying him to the airport, prevent him buying going-away gifts for his family and friends in his homeland, this will leave more money for you. 8. See Asian customers. They understand that we like to gamble, and they understand that we have lots of unemployed brothers and sisters who need to eat. Therefore, they pay a lot better than the farangs. 9. Remember, when you go with a farang, you must always ask for taxi money and give him the excuse that taxi drivers cannot give change on big notes. Don’t let him see the small change in your wallet. If taxi money isn’t forthcoming, see rule 4. 10. If you are no longer making money in Bangkok, move down to Phuket where you will be able to start making money again. Give Phuket a few years, then move on to Pattaya. Even if you are approaching 50, it is no problem as the walking ATM machines in Pattaya seem to be so blind, they will not notice.

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I found this on the net. It’s pretty funny. And before anyone gets offended. It’s a quasi joke. There is truth to it but it’s not all there is to Thailand and not all there is to the Bar girls. Like anything else, people are people. Trying to make a living. This is just one way that women make a living in Thailand. They come from the poor areas in the North. Usually Isaan. Some just want to make enough to get ahead. Some save to start a business. Some, I’m certain, are cheap little cheats who want to use suckers to support a lazy lifestyle.

Not all girls in Thailand are prostitutes. Not all are looking for a buck. Not all are looking for love either. Lots of women in Asia who are just like the girls in your hometown. I’ve met nice girls in Thailand from all levels of the socio-economic ladder. I’ve had great experiences there. Of course, I’ve been given the “I love you” line several times by little ‘tweeners looking to get a line on a dumb farang. Just don’t be a sucker and fall for it. I’ve met educated women who have great jobs who refuse to let you pay for anything. Working women (business) who just want a drink and a casual relationship. I’ve met girls who are looking for a nice farang to fall in love with because they are sick of Thai men. I’ve met girls who just want sex and a man to hold them for the night.

There are clubs in Thailand that are just like any club in the States or Europe. You can meet women who are just out with friends. Some out looking for the love of their life. Hell, I’ve even met “off duty” bar girls who are looking to hang with a normal guy. Be normal and she’s your girl. One thing you gotta watch out for are the lady boys. Some of them will fool you. They’ve got all the right surgeries to look the part. And they DO look the part. Half lit in the dark, you can’t always tell. lol

The club scene in Thailand is great. The music is much better than in the States. Well, it’s better than Kentucky. They’ve got world class DJs. Locals and Internationals spinning the tables and lots of gimmicks to get people into the clubs. Not that you need an excuse to go to a club in Thailand. All those beautiful Thai women should be reason enough.

You can meet and experience almost anything you want in Thailand. Bar Girls, Good Girls, ‘tweeners, Society gals, business women out on the prowl. It’s all in how you approach it. Don’t be a sucker. Don’t be a heartless ass either. Enjoy yourself, but realize that they are just as human as are you with all the emotions, challenges and complications AND good that goes along with being human. Keep your perspective. Be human. Live and let live. Love freely. Love well.

Bottom line: Don’t be a douche!

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This movie was taken by a patron of the Safari A GO GO. These clubs don’t allow people to video. Hence the quality of the vid and the angle. But it gives you an idea of the more sedate places in Patpong on Silom Road.