Bangkok Ladyboyz:
An East-Meets-West Experience

Dates: 20 & 21 October 2004, 10pm
Venue: Plush Cabaret Club, Plaza of Nations

Reviewer: John Jane




Ann - One of the Ladyboyz

Western fashion has finally caught up with South-East Asian androgyny. Last Wednesday and Thursday (20 & 21 Oct.) a bit of Bangkok’s "exotic" nightlife came to Vancouver, when the five member Bangkok Ladyboyz strutted their stuff with exaggerated femininity on the small stage at Plush. Known as katoeys (pron. Gah-toei) in their own language, "ladyboys" actually prefer the slightly edgier English term.

Plush patrons who had previously traveled to Thailand (I suspect there were many) and visited some of the Go-Go bars in Bangkok or the resort towns of Pattaya and Hua Hin would know what to expect. “The girls" -- Anne, Benze, Cindy, Mimi and Michelle -- certainly staged a campy, high-energy show of dancing and lip-synching to an omnium gatherum of pop songs.

The nightclub management took a serious risk, when they encouraged latecomers to stand in front of the stage, effectively blocking the view of patrons who had been waiting for two hours to secure the fifty or so "good" seats. If management were so concerned about everyone's being able to see the show, why was the mezzanine closed off? Fortunately, the customers had come to enjoy a good night out and were generally very well behaved.

“The girls” started their 55- minute performance with Anne, Benze, Mimi and Michelle doing an entertaining (though not particularly accurate) impersonation of Christina Aguilera, Lil’ Kim et al with "Lady Marmalade."






"There’s no way that they can be men,” gawps a guy standing near the stage. Backstage, Cindy is waiting for her debut appearance: she has squeezed into a tiny pair of hot pants -- there’s not a hint of a bulge. During her over-the-top performance of Blondie’s "One Way or Another" she drags a guy from the audience on the stage. The guy doesn’t even offer token resistence.

Cindy being Kylie (Minogue)

The Ladyboys have fantastic figures, long glossy hair, and near perfect make-up. So how can anyone really tell? The short answer is, you can't. In Thailand, gender transformation can take several years. Most ladyboys have had some reassignment surgery, many having had implants. Ladyboys also take vitamins and oestrogen hormones to reduce muscle mass, change skin character, and raise the pitch of the voice. All live as women 24/7.

The good-natured crowd loved them. Women in the audience appeared to enjoy “The Girls's” campy posturing almost as much as the men. Living day-to-day as a ladyboy can’t be easy, but performing no doubt makes it worthwhile.

All told, a fun show, but in a very wrong venue.

© 2004 John Jane