In one of my recent posts, I mentioned that Pretty Lady Go-Go in Nana Plaza — one of the few locations where one can enjoy vintage Rock & Roll — was being remodeled. The work finished in early November and a couple weeks ago I ventured in for the first time. The new name of the place is Spellbound.
The main floor is x-shaped, giving a clear view of the girls and avoiding the crowded cattle-like shuffling that passes for dancing in such places as Rainbow IV. The music also appears to be unchanged. On the surface, it looks like a winning renovation.
Until you try to sit down. The person in charge of the go-go’s makeover must have had a prior career designing church choir lofts. Climbing the steps past the stark, narrow “pews”, I half expected to see hymnals lying on the seats. Not very inviting.
This style is not unique. Many other go-gos are infected with it. The problem comes when you try to sit in one of their upper rows where there is no room to stretch your legs. Then when you bend them, your knees are pressed against the stanchions. This is not quite the case at Spellbound — I still had a good three to four centimeters clearance —but I’m not a large person. It’s hard to imagine tourists and my fellow ex-pats, many of whom would never be mistaken for fitness fanatics, being able to wedge themselves in and maintain this exacting posture for long periods.
The new cushioned seat backs at Spellbound are another concern, with little give and positioned at an uncompromising ninety degree angle. It results in this weird feeling of leaning slightly forward, somewhat like those sedated captives in Alien Resurrection whose heads were forced out over the waiting eggs.
This disregard for comfort is partially understandable. The typical go-go customer in Bangkok is usually a half-soused European or Aussie who may not even recall the names of the places they’ve visited during the evening, much less whether they had a good time. So who cares if they can actually relax so long as they keep buying drinks for themselves and the girls? (And if they end up taking one of the dancers back to their hotel room, any and all prior annoyances are quickly forgiven.) But with Nana Plaza nowadays seeing a influx of tourists who are not into the sex trade — meaning they might actually have standards — this attitude is becoming outdated.
I’ve occasionally read about the money and effort it takes to operate a go-go in this city. Just keeping the girls in line can be a full-time job. But I have to wonder if any of these business-savvy owners ever actually sit in their establishments or try to discover what their customers prefer. Too many subscribe to the same tired formula of cramped seating and overpriced drinks while featuring a few halfway-cute girls listlessly moving about to obnoxiously loud music. Take it or leave it. If they tried to run a business in the U.S. in this fashion, they’d last maybe two months. Probably end up managing a popcorn stand in some shopping mall.
It would be refreshing to see an owner with vision and originality enter the nightlife game here in Bangkok. I think there’s a crying need for a new direction.