100 Cocktails Later

Entry by: percypop

20th August 2015


It was in September 1989 I met Gilbert at the Plaza Hotel in Bangkok. He rang me to say he was the new rep for Tudor Gin in the Far East and would I like a drink?
The Plaza Hotel was large and flashy. Flakey gold paint everywhere and the red plush banquettes showed signs of many years of hard wear. Dusty chandeliers drooped overhead lending a faint hint of a glittering past which had faded away. The girls who lingered in the Director's Bar were the type who liked you on sight, if you were loaded. They were pretty under the dim light but they never improved on closer acquaintance.
As I waited in a booth, a Gin Fizz in my hand, I saw this figure pause at the bar, looking about for somebody. A thin man about six feet tall wearing a suit which had been Savile Row but was now Skid Row, with missing buttons and frayed cuffs. He wore a Panama hat with a greasy headband which sat on the back of his head exposing his large balding forehead. The striking note of his outfit was the grubby stiff collar circling his throat like a manacle.And a tie. The tie was an MCC tie although the strong colours had faded and it was spotted with various stains of different hues.
I looked over in an enquiring way and he moved down the room towards me swaying and weaving on his long legs. He reminded me of a baby giraffe taking its first steps. In his hand he carried a paper shopping bag.
"Lovely to meet you" he said and he held out his hand, tilting just a little. His hand felt moist and hot and I made an effort not to wipe my fingers on my trousers after our handshake.
"Thought I'd search you out cos I'm new to Bangkok and people say you know everyone here."
It was, at least, a frank introduction and a true one. I lived there for twenty years working with several different regimes and making a quiet profit from each one of them.
He saw my cocktail and he clicked his fingers at a passing waiter.
"Same again for the Maestro and a large one for me"
I spoke for the first time; "Is this a good patch for your sales?
He grinned; "Lord No! They sent me here to wither on the vine, me Boy. Our Gin is foul...wouldn't touch it if I was you. But some of the Locals sup it up like kittens, so no need to work."
This was the first time I had been called "Me Boy" since I was a teenager but there was a glitter in his eye, He was horrible but watchable at the same time, a suburban Svengali.
Lowering his voice to an intimate level he put his mouth close to my ear. I smelt that Gin on his breath.
"They say the girls here will do anything for a US dollar."
"I wouldn't know" I said, although I knew Craisie Maisie, standing at the bar, specialised in massage and extras.
The waiter brought our drinks and we chatted for a while before he pulled from his paper bag, a huge 2 litre bottle of his Tudor Gin.
"Put it away for God's sake, you'll get me barred from here" I snorted.
"Just try it" he urged "After a while you get used to it."
He was an expert at siphoning gin from hidden bottle to glass and we both had a large one. I mixed mine with the remains of my original drink and the effect seemed ok. He had knocked off the original drink and had nothing to drown the taste. He downed it in two gulps.
"I like this place" he said "Got a touch of class."
He took in the bar girls and the fading gilt furnishings with an expansive look like a rajah surveying his palace.
"What's it cost to stay here?"
"About four dollars an hour" I said "but no one stays more than two hours, if you get my meaning."
He chortled and swigged his glass, eyeing the girls intently.
"Maybe I can get a room and do a deal with the manager to stay on."
He raised himself with a slow practised effort as if the task was a difficult one.
"Hold my bottle would you?"
He moved slowly towards the bar as if he was treading through thick jungle and reached the bar.
"I want a suite of rooms-your very best and be quick about it"
The fat barman looked impassively at him and said nothing. He pointed his finger at the office near the front of the hotel.
Gilbert disappeared in that direction leaving me with a huge bottle of gin hidden under my table. I was trapped and if I wanted to leave there was no explanation for the bottle. I sat, curious to see what happened next.
Ten long minutes passed without a sign of him. I began to think he had left me with the baby, or rather, the gin bottle, and sloped away. But then I heard sounds coming from the hall. Raised voices and excitable cheers, not threats and screams,
Marching through the hall was Gilbert arm in arm with the surly manager who had never said a kind word to me. The man was singing some gross song about The Foggy Foggy Dew and Gilbert was harmonising in a gargling sort of voice.
"Hoo Hoo!" shouted Gilbert "You'll never guess! William here is a member."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"I just told you" he tried to show some patience. "He's a member of MCC"
"Yes" said the manager" I've been a member for years. Come up to my apartment and we'll celebrate."
I was mystified but keen to share in the secret, so I followed them up as did Craisie Maisie and a couple of the bar girls. The 2 litre bottle came up with me. Long into the night and the early dawn, we partied with the girls who brought a few friends up to entertain us. The gin soon disappeared and we moved on to Arak and ate curry from a communal dish.
One hundred cocktails later I looked at the badge hung up on the wall of William's room.
It read “MCC ...Motor Cycle Club Bangkok.”
Gilbert never gave it a glance.