A while back, I spoke with an insider who hinted that someone over at the Post might be willing to publish a story about the monger known as Bangkok Seven, and would I be interested. I said I’d be amiable only if I was quoted verbatim, with no editing or commentary. But once the interview was finished and put to ink, they decided it was unusable. So, since they wouldn’t print it, I’ve posted it here. Presented as a momentary distraction from your day:
“Patpong’s Biggest Fan Has a Website
In the crowded field of old foreign nightlife bloggers, a new voice has reared his satirical head. Bangkok Seven is the latest expat to try his hand at romanticizing the red-light scene in the City of Angels. He is the self-described unofficial farang mayor of Patpong. His website, patpongnightlife.com, acquired from the previous owner in the summer of last year, has turned out a weekly column plus other related fare to tepid interest and a niche audience that at times seems comprised of just his circle of friends. It hovers between the mundane and the eclectic with no apparent literary compass. In fact, he admits that the question readers most often ask is “What’s the point of your blog?” to which he claims to reply, “Whatever I feel like.” At times, it can be a breath of fresh air in a field that mainly consists of tired-out characters with nothing to say and little talent for saying it. At other times, it seems like just more of the same old shtick.
Seven is a bit of a mystery. It’s hard to nail down a complete picture of what he’s doing or why he’s doing it. His Twitter feed would seem to reflect a single-mindedness centered around a near religious devotion to gogo bars—specifically the ones in Patpong. We sat down with him at one of his favorite hangouts, The Steakhouse Co., for a chat…
Over the last year, you’ve become something of a figure in Patpong. Untrue. I’m known to a handful of bar owners and a gaggle of gogo dancers. Other than that, I’m completely anonymous.
Where are you from, originally? Los Angeles, California, born and raised. But I’ve been a global vagabond for almost two decades, so I like to say I’m from all over.
Where’d you get the name Seven? A Thai friend of mine gave me that name when I lived in Krabi. I was one of only four farang living in a small town, and the locals couldn’t pronounce my real name. The only foreign thing for miles around was a lone 7-11. So my Thai friend started calling me Seven, and it stuck.
How did you come to live in Thailand? And what’s your profession?
I come from old money. My great grandfather invented the flavor of glue on the back of stamps and envelopes. Which is no small feat. How do you get people to lick glue? You gotta make it somewhat appealing. His first formula had cocaine in it, but that didn’t work out because people kept forgetting to post their mail. In the end, he settled on a combination of butterscotch and chicken broth. That’s all I know. He refused to pass down the recipe. But I live off that tasty glue money. As for how I got to Thailand, that’s a story of a series of failures. As a young man in LA, I of course tried my hand at acting. I was in films with Jim Carrey, Jeff Bridges, Christopher Plummer, John Goodman, and Eddie Murphy. But I never got my big break. It turns out you need to have sex with a producer if you want to become a star in Hollywood, and I’m not particularly attractive. So then I made an indie film, thinking I could forge my own way. It was a bad film. Five people saw it. Then I wrote a novel, which I self-published because no one else was interested. It was mediocre. Six people read it. Then I tried to open a bar. The day my investors were scheduled to sign their checks over was September 12, 2001. Obviously, due to the events of the day before, they reneged on the deal. At that point, I gave up on life and retreated to a small beach on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica where I marinated in dark rum for a year. When I sobered up, I found I was in mid-conversation with the dude next to me who was saying, “If you like tropical beaches, you should check out Thailand. It’s just as beautiful, plus the place is crawling with hot women.” A week later, I was on a plane to Krabi. That was ten years ago.
Who else is on the patpongnightlife team? Our offices are small, and so is our staff. Literally. Right now it’s me, a former Russian circus performer (he’s a dwarf) who speaks no English and mainly runs errands and entertains us by tumbling around the office; also our Thai landlady, who insisted on being hired as part of the lease agreement. She doesn’t write. She just sits in the corner and smokes. Our final member is the ghost of Herman Melville. Talk about a diva. Actually I shouldn’t say more. You can never tell when he’s around and he might be listening now. He’s really insecure—constantly worried that people are plotting behind his back. He never shuts up about that whale, either.
People like to say Patpong’s popularity is waning, that it’s only a matter of time before it closes down. They call it sleazy and dirty, and say tourists will eventually stop going there. What’s your take?
People have been saying that for half a century. In fact, the opposite is true. Patpong is experiencing some changes—growing pains, if you will. But it’s changing for the better, evolving to adapt to the demands of a new type of tourist. Of the three red-lights in Bangkok, it’s the least expensive, the most diverse, and the most fun. People like to say “But Nana and Cowboy have prettier girls.” That argument—which is really a matter of personal taste—aside, I’d respond by asking “Does your red-light have a supermarket? A 24-hour diner? How about a steakhouse, Beatles and Rolling Stones cover bands, dance clubs, an Irish pub and sports bar, a Japanese ramen restaurant, a night market, a 7-11, tattoo parlors, a Thai-Italian fusion restaurant, a pizza joint, French bistros, ping pong shows, billiards, a bdsm dungeon, a museum, an art gallery, and massage parlors in addition to gogo bars? No. No, it doesn’t. So you can keep your one-trick pony red-light. I’ll put my money on Patpong outlasting everyone and everything else in Bangkok.
What’s the best thing about Patpong at the moment? I think it’s the slow shift from the shady to the trendy. The gogo scene is still prominent, but it’s shrinking. There will always be gogos, but other more mainstream venues are taking more of the spotlight lately. Places like The Steakhouse, Shenanigan’s, The Paddy Field, and French Kiss are as popular as the “nightlife” attractions. Not to mention those joints that are almost landmarks, like the Old Other Office, and Le Bouchon, one of the best bistros in Bangkok. Patpong is eclectic. In short, it’s fun.
What do you think of the other expat writers in the Bangkok nightlife scene? I don’t read any of it. I follow BKKNites because they used to publish my stuff, and Sweet3Mango for the photography. But nobody else is on my radar.
Do you feel a sense of competition with the old guard, given their long standing in the Bangkok blogosphere? What I do is the exact opposite of what they do. They report, they do op-ed, they depend on it for their livelihood. Their goal is readership. I’m a gogo hound in a serial narrative that I’m telling. I don’t care if people read my content or like my content. This is something I do for fun. I’m not in competition with anyone because no one else can write about my experiences in the red-light district.
I’ve definitely seen reports and op-eds on your page. I tried being that guy early on–reporting on the red-light. It was painful. It bored me to tears. These days I’ll report if I’m hyping a place purely because I like it, or if something significant is going on, but most of the time I avoid doing that. It’s not my forte. If you want to learn which holidays don’t allow alcohol, or read an advertisement for Nana Plaza disguised as a news article, or a blurb on a bar by a writer who hasn’t been there in months, you’ll have to go to one of those other sites.
Do you make money from your site? No. I lose money. Every time I go out, I burn cash like a maniac. Because crazy nights make for good blog fodder. I’ve turned down offers to put banners on my page. If the owners of the bars I frequent wanted to advertise, I’d do it, because I’m happy to endorse a product or business I like. But I’m not fussed either way.
How would you describe your writing process?
It’s not a process. Sentences come to me unbidden as a reaction to what I’m experiencing in the moment, and I regurgitate them onto the page in a single sitting. Sometimes I go back and edit my grammar mistakes. That’s it. That’s the process.
That seems pretty depreciatory—almost irresponsible. To not devote more time and effort to the work. Many writers— It’s not work. I’m not working when I’m writing. I feel no obligation to the reader. Writing is for me a catharsis. I do it because I’m entertained by it. And honestly, that’s all that matters to me. Maybe that’s irresponsible. I don’t care. My moral dilemmas are independent of my writing. If I had to point to a dilemma when it comes to writing, it’s the existential one: to write or not to write. I was faced with that choice early in life, and the answer came from Sartre, who said “You are free, therefore choose.” So I chose. The rest is irrelevant.
Do you think you’d have a wider readership if you were more considerate of your audience? Who cares?
Is there anything you want people to know about you that we haven’t covered?
No. Oh wait, yes. Everything I’ve just said was a lie. In fact, I’m not even a real person. I’m a figment of someone’s imagination. Also, the day-to-day of a nightlife addict in Bangkok is an absurd topic. It’s beautiful and blissful, but ultimately absurd. So blogging about it can only be absurd. If you take it seriously, you’re a douche. And of all the things Seven is, douche is not one of them.
Referring to yourself in the 3rd person is pretty douchey. That’s it, this interview is over. I’m leaving. Good day, sir!
You can follow Bangkok Seven on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram in addition to his website.”
To be honest, I can see why they didn’t publish it. Tune in on Friday for a frowback, and cheers to everyone living the dream in this paradise known as Thailand. Peace out.