May 7, 2014

One Night in Bangkok, Three Hundred Nights at Mugi

I went to Mugi, the gay Asian bar in Hollywood, at least once a week, sometimes twice, from 1985 to 1993, when I started hitting Basgo's instead.  Probably 300 times in all.   And every single time I was there, they played "One Night in Bangkok."  It was ingrained into my brain; even today I often catch myself singing:

One night in Bangkok, and the world's your oyster.
The bars are temples, but the pearls ain't free.

Oddly enough, when I visited the real Bangkok in 1988 to "rescue" Alan, I never heard the song once.

I guess the owner was a little short on Asian-themed pop songs.  "One Night in Bangkok" was composed for the musical Chess (1984).



Yes, there was a musical about chess.  It was based on the match between chess superstars Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky at the 1972 World Chess Championships,an American and a Russian, one of the epic battles of the Cold War.

I haven't seen it -- reviews complain that it is over-long, over-wrought, clunky, and exceedingly dull.  And it sounds rather homophobic. .

Chess champion Freddie Trumpeter (played by Murray Head in the British version and Philip Casnoff in the American) must face gay "accusations."  His father states that he's "probably queer," and his Soviet opponent, Anatoly (Tommy Korberg, David Carroll) calls him a "fruit" (a "nut" in the American version), and steals his girlfriend.

"One Night in Bangkok" appears on the night before an early match between Freddie and Anatoly.  Freddie wanders around town, trying to stay focused.



He dislikes Bangkok, "Oriental city," with its "muddy old river," its decadence, and its evil: "I can feel a devil walking next to me."

He disapproves of the drag queens: "the queens we use would not excite you."

And especially the gay men: "you'll find a god in every golden cloister, and if you're lucky, then the god's a she."

Not the message you want to send to patrons of a gay Asian bar!

But at least gay people and transvestites are mentioned, a rarity in the 1980s.

You can see the music video on youtube.

See also: Alan Outwits a Celebrity; The Theme Song of 1000 Nights in a Leather Bar.