Bangkok Ladyboyz: Plush @ Plaza of Nations
Oct 20-21, 2004 Vancouver BC
“You will enjoy the show for sure,” my friends who had seen ladyboyz
shows in Thailand assured me. So when, the announcer invited the
audience to come down from their seats to the front of the stage to
create a concert atmosphere, my friends and I went down to floor to get
the best view of transgendered male bodies in scanty costumes
lip-synching to techno dance songs.
“What are ladyboyz shows like in Thailand?” I asked my friend
Laura who had once taught ESL in Thailand and Korea. “A lot of fun…
they have the shows in theatre halls with 500 people. All the tourists
Opening the show were 5 local male dancers, dancing a choreographed performance to The Village People’s Macho Man.
What struck me is that very often, we don’t get to see Asian males as
sexy dancers or in positive roles, on my mind since the Vancouver Asian
Film Festival will be sponsoring a forum on profiles of Asian Males in
film on November 6th. But here were 5 males doing their best to engage
the audience to sing and dance, and it seemed perfectly natural in a
dance club filled with mostly Asians, curious middle aged White men,
and the few white younger females.
Then the hype got higher… and the Bangkok Ladyboyz took the stage
one by one, in scanty Las Vegas type show costumes, as four performed,
each taking turns lip-synching on a verse and performing together on
the chorus. Women or men? Beautiful and graceful? Which one had the
operation? Who is your favorite? These are the important questions the
audience is asking itself!
The fifth ladyboy came out with a blonde wig looking like a cross
between Tina Turna and Debbie Harry, lip-synching to Blondie’s One Way Or Another.
And the music continued: Kylie Minogue, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez.
And the costumes continued: bustiers, fishnet stockings, leather,
East meets West cultural fusion? Well maybe if you understand the
Thai creation mythology behind the ancient traditional dance moves
being co-opted into a blend of Western contemporary hip hop music. The
ladyboy Cindy creates a mesmerizing dance routine starting by holding
tea candles in the palms of her hand in a scene remniscent of an
ancient temple ritual, progressing to belly dancing type moves, all
dressed in elaborate jewelry laden costume. Other scenarios portrayed
included school girl turned naughty, leather cat fight, revealing
evening gowns – all standard stuff of traditional male sex fantasies.
Except these performers are transgendered males!
Despite the occasional wardrobe malfunction that revealed ample
displays and peeks of silicon enhanced bosom, this was not a strip show
or even burlesque nor was it a female impersonator show. It is a
lip-synch show that highlights the beauty and performing talents of the
best of these trangendered performers that in Thai tradition are known
as the “kathoey” or “third sex”, an accepted part of South East Asian
culture that lives integrated with the mainstream.
But what kind of people came to see Bangkok Ladyboyz? I was
expecting to see Vancouver’s transexual community out in full force,
but maybe the $45 price tag was too high for a show that tourists in
Bangkok or Pattaya that would cost about $15 Cdn. Well it certainly
wasn’t the crowd from the Dufferin Hotel Pub where the gay waiters all
dress in drag for special events.
In the audience were Chinese grandmothers! And they lined up for
pictures with the Bangkok Ladyboyz after the show. Middle aged Asian
men showed up with their wives. Middle aged White heterosexual men
showed up with their Thai girlfriends. Young Asian men and women showed
up looking like couples on a date. Omigod… it was a normal Asian crowd,
leading me to think that this kind of entertainment is the norm in
Thailand and Asia. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s an entertaining show…
with an enthusiastic audience that all the exotic dancers at Brandi’s
and the Cecil would love to have… plus they wouldn’t have to take their
The next time I am in Thailand, I will definitely take in a ladyboy
show. Not only is the show entertaining – but the cultural intrigue
persists… How do these ladyboyz manage to keep such figures that boast
35-26-36 measurements? Is there something in the Asian male physique
that allows them to look so feminine? What would happen if the Bangkok
Ladyboyz invaded a Hell’s Angel Club meeting… probably end up sitting
on the bikers’ laps, flirting and encouraging multicultural East Meets
And which ladyboy was my personal favorite? That’s my own secret…
but he/she was standing beside me when I had my picture taken with them
after the show.
check out the website for pictures and more at www.bkkladyboyz.com