Think you’ve seen it all? Well, you haven’t really seen anything at all until you’ve walked into a showbar to find Speedo-clad swimmers performing underwater stunts in a giant onstage aquarium as “Sadeness” by Enigma blares from the speakers. As pre-party entertainment goes, it more than lived up to Copa’s self-hype as “the only erotic underwater show of its type on the planet!”!
And how could I not, especially when she started doing cartwheels mid-song? It may have been next to nothing compared to the gravity-defying moves in the impromptu breakdance show earlier — see the video below — but it was totally impressive nonetheless. I’m still not sure how those twinky dancers managed to lift her off the ground and up in the air for the finale. (One of them, Hec, later told me that he wasn’t sure either!) But what is it with Thai drag queens and sappy love songs like Diana Ross’s “When You Tell Me That You Love Me,” which, in an unexpected twist that still couldn’t save the song, was performed by a queen and a male dancer wearing what looked like a prom tux from 1987.
“What is this, the best little whorehouse in Thailand?” I asked the Malaysian guy sitting beside me as eight young men arrived onstage wearing nothing but tighty whities with numbers attached to them. After the perfunctory small talk, he was trying to work his way up my back with his right hand. I, however, was not for sale. I inched forward to detach myself from his grasp without being too obvious.
“Do you want to have some fun?” he asked.
I didn’t even try to hold in my laughter. I declined, and he was on his way.
The boyfriend of my new friend from Melbourne tried to buy me No. 34 as a welcome-to-Pattaya gift, but I kept thinking that 34 must be the number of weeks since the onset of puberty on his under-sized body. He was actually 24, or so he said, but once again, I declined.
My new friend made off with the cream of the crop, No. 9, a guy from Chiang Mai who had a wife and young daughter at home. No. 1 lived up to his billing, and later on, after showing me a photo on his phone of his girlfriend, he told me that he, too, was straight and in it strictly for the money.
No. 19, gorgeous and the only one who appeared to be even close to thirtysomething, kept looking at me and grinning. His eyes seemed to be saying, “Pick me, pick me.” I was transported back in time to P.E. class at Denn John Middle School in Kissimmee, Florida, when I prayed I wouldn’t be the last man standing on the outside when the football teams were being chosen. I was surprised that No. 12, who spent the entire evening wearing a big desperate smile, got picked before 19 did. For a moment, I considered putting 19 out of his misery, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it, not even for the reasonable price of 2,000 baht, or the equivalent of about $70.
Unlike the showboys, the cocktail waiters were fully clothed, but with names like “Porn” and “Thong” on their name tags — totally real, they insisted — I kept wondering why they bothered getting dressed at all.
Later on, one of them accompanied the two Melburnians, No. 9 and me to a superclub called Nab, where we saw a higher-budget drag show and a catwalk parade featuring more tighty whities, six packs, bulging pecs and some of the most beautiful faces I’ve seen in all of Southeast Asia. Alas, there were signs posted everywhere that said, “No photos,” so you’ll just have to take my word for it.