BABES. BRIGHT LIGHTS. BIG BUCKS.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven
against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,
who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness,
as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time.
Spots they are and blemishes,
sporting themselves with their own deceivings
while they feast with you;
2 Peter 2:13
That they all might be damned who believed not the truth,
but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
2 Thessalonians 2:12
By Wong Kim Hoh
Where high rollers go to party
Hostesses at Tiananmen welcome their clientele. Popular hostesses in such lounges can easily take home five-figure sums each month.
They spend thousands of dollars a time being entertained by attentive mamasans and nubile young hostesses
RED lanterns conspire with chandeliers to throw a seductive glow on the sprawling 1,500 sq m premises.
Prints of European classical paintings adorn the walls. A water fountain with bathing Greek goddesses gurgles at the entrance.
Make no mistake. While its faux luxe interior may not make it to the pages of hip international design magazine Wallpaper, Tiananmen is a high-end karaoke lounge.
It has a valet service. Many of its clients roll up in a Lexus, BMW, or Mercedes Benz. The hostesses are young, nubile and willing. And its mamasans can earn in one month – $12,000 – what a new graduate earns in six.
Ms Irene Su – Tiananmen’s top hostess mummy – recently made headlines when the taxman fined her nearly $120,000 for failing to declare $325,213 in booking commissions for two years. She paid the fine on the spot.
It’s 9.30pm on a Friday night, half an hour before the nightclub’s happy hours end.
Businessman Lionel Goh, 37, emerges from one of the 39 rooms in Tiananmen. He has just settled the $850 bill for 3 1/2 hours of entertainment for himself and his two friends. The bottle of Chivas Regal cost nearly $350. The five China hostesses, one of whom bears more than a passing resemblance to China actress Gong Li, receive $80 each for singing, playing dice games and making small talk. The mamasan gets a $100 tip.
Tiananmen is not the only posh nightclub in the annexe block of Novotel Apollo hotel in Havelock Road. It shares the building with three similar set-ups – Grand Century, Club Tycoon and Las Vegas.
There are at least half a dozen other high-end hostess lounges in Singapore. These include the Lido Palace across the road at the Concorde Hotel, and Orchard KTV at Claymore Drive off Orchard Road.
Most are owned by Singaporean or Indonesian businessmen.
Typically, these places are glitzy with big neon signs, leather sofas, marble finishings, chandeliers and fountains. They boast at least 100 hostesses each, most of whom are nubile 20-somethings hailing from China.
Some are here on student permits, others on tourist visas. Some work in just one club, others ‘freelance’ at several lounges. Popular hostesses can take home five-figure sums every month.
They are managed by mamasans such as Ms Su, many of whom are skilled in public relations and speak English as well as several Chinese dialects.
Indeed, the quality of the mamasans and hostesses is one reason why businessman Joseph Chan, 37, frequents Tiananmen and Orchard KTV at least six times a month, spending about $800 every visit.
‘The good mamasans look after you excellently. They know when not to be pushy.
‘Also, the girls are not tacky. They are pretty, they talk well, they dress well and they are attentive. If I’m going to spend money, I don’t want to waste it on an Ah Lian.
‘Some are actually quite smart. I knew one who was a kindergarten teacher back home in China.’
He says there are cheaper places in Joo Chiat and Lavender Street but ‘these are not the places you want to bring your friends and clients to. Some are quite sleazy’.
Unlike cheaper KTV lounges, which allow raunchy activities between clients and hostesses in their rooms, high-end clubs keep up an appearance of propriety.
While the hostesses are not averse to public displays of affection, the unspoken rule is that any sex takes place outside the clubs.
Mr Goh recalls being stopped by a mamasan when he proposed a game of strip poker in Tiananmen several months ago.
The chief executive officer of an investment firm, who did not want to be named, said the classy environment was one reason for him frequenting Tiananmen with his clients at least twice a week.
He finds the facilities and ventilation good. ‘Even if everybody lights up, the place isn’t smoky and your eyes don’t water.’
He adds: ‘When you meet new clients, you need to develop a certain level of comfort. You can do it on the golf course, over dinner or at a nightclub.’
‘Golf is for smaller crowds, up to four persons. Dinner is in a stiff environment and how much can you really eat? So, music and hostesses relax the clients.
‘You don’t want to be talking to them all the time so you subcontract the role to hostesses. They entertain while you size your clients up.’
Ultimately, he says, impressions count.
‘I could take clients to places with no girls but then I would have to host. If I were the CEO and had to key in songs on the karaoke machine and be the clown, then my clients would think my company was so small that I couldn’t afford proper entertainment.’ — Additional reporting by Arlina Arshad
Money, money, money – in a rich man’s world
INSIDERS say a mamasan could, like Ms Irene Su, earn more than $200,000 a year. The earnings come mainly from booking commissions, as well as liquor sale commissions and tips from customers.
Popular hostesses have also been known to take home as much as $1,000 a night. Girls who sit ‘exclusively’ with a client in a lounge such as Tiananmen get about $35 an hour. The booking is for a minimum of four to six hours.
Hostesses who flit from one client to another get tips ranging from $50 to $200 from each client. Some women can juggle up to 20 clients a night.
Clients who want to take them for supper or other after-hours ‘arrangements’ typically pay $250 to $400.
Taken from The New Paper