The number of karaoke lounges in Kuala Lumpur is something like thirty, and they are found in the city centre as well as in the suburbs such as Cheras, Puchong, Kepong, Pandan Perdana, Pandan Indah and Bukit Manjalara. If you’re looking for karaoke bars with no hostesses and no hanky-panky, here is a partial list: Red Box, Red Box Ria, Red Box Plus, Green Box, Neway and News KTV. Many karaoke lounges, irrespective of location, offer sleaze within their premises, whilst in others, you can take a hostess ‘home’ (‘My place or your place?’) after closing hours.
The New Straits Times of May 19, 2004, reported that a GRO in Crystal KTV in Petaling Jaya named Noritta Samsudin, who was murdered in her Seri Hartamas apartment, had frequently brought men home. And, of course, there are others like her. Two types of hostess systems operate in karaoke bars: the ‘butterfly’ and the ‘fixed hour’. Under the cheaper ‘butterfly system’, the hostess (also called guest relations officer or GRO) goes from table to table to sit briefly with patrons and is paid a tip from RM50 upward, but under the ‘fixed-hour system’, she will stick to a patron for the period she is hired, which ranges from RM60 to RM90 per hour. Obviously, the more expensive the rates, the younger and prettier the GROs are.
Squeezed between vehicles on both sides, I am driving Charles and Ivan to Kandy Karaoke in Cheras, four miles from the city centre. In between giving me directions, Charles tells Ivan and I the names and locations of the ‘dirtiest’ karaoke bars.
‘Some GROs perform oral sex at GW Karaoke in Pudu, and a few GROs in SS Karaoke near Imbi Road – turn left – they can do a striptease show followed by a handjob,’ he says. ‘Don’t use the hot face towels in SS Karaoke and GW Karaoke – proceed straight ahead – the girls use them to wipe customers’ genitals after oral sex and masturbation. Right turn and try to park. In fact, in any karaoke, use only paper towels wrapped in plastic that are kept in the refrigerator.’ In front of a commercial block, I manoeuvre the car into a parking space, and we follow Charles to Kandy Karaoke, housed in two ground-floor lots.
Once we are inside, the captain approaches us. Charles tells him something and he takes us into a room with the words ‘VIP Room’ displayed on the door. An eight-seat, U-shaped sofa and a square, wooden coffee table are set facing a thirty-inch flat-screen wall-mounted TV monitor, a karaoke machine, two speakers and two subwoofers. The captain tells us the charges are RM75 for hostess time, with a minimum of two hours; the VIP room itself costs RM120 per hour and refreshments are priced at RM319++ for five jugs of beer, a plate of fruits, a plate of salted nuts and a plate of prawn crackers.
‘This room okay? Got attached bathroom,’ the captain says, his necktie swinging from side to side as he walks to the bathroom to open the door.
I pop my head in the washroom and a flush of adrenalin courses through my body. The six-feet by eight room is crammed with a washbasin, a gilt-edged mirror, a sitting toilet, and – of all things – a couch five feet long. A fat guy would probably have to walk sideways to get to the sitting toilet. Charles displays a thumbs-up to the captain who shows us the locations of the light and air-con switches before leaving, and everyone gets comfortable. A Myanmar waiter brings our drinks and tidbits and we start nibbling.
Enter five GROs with the mamasan, a forty-something-year-old lady wearing a floral print maxi dress and humongous silver earrings. Her hair is tied in a swirly bun, with wide angular bangs covering her forehead. She hands her name card to all of us. On it are the words ‘Mummy Molly’ and her cell phone number. The GROs stand facing us in a row.
‘Thanks, dear,’ Jessica says. ‘A piece of tissue, please...’ She takes a piece from Ivan and cleanses her fingers, lifts her glass and tilts her head to one side and flips her hair. Then she gulps down her beer in several swallows like a straggler in a desert dying of thirst, and tops up the glass. ‘Have more beer,’ she tells Ivan and pours more of the frothy stuff into his glass. She leans backward and slips her right heel out of the shoe and let it dangle on her toes. ‘Cheers,’ she says to Ivan and guzzles again.
Ivan has just swallowed a mouthful when she announces ‘Bottoms up’ and downs another draft. She smacks her froth-flecked lips and holds the willybecher in her hand. ‘Which part of my body do you most like, Ivan?’
‘Your face. It’s oval, well-proportioned.’
Smiling, she raises her eyebrows. ‘Are you sure or not? What about my legs?’
‘I’m sure.’ Ivan nods like a cobra charmed by music from a pipe. ‘I’m not a legs man.’
‘You know which part of your body I like best?’ She looks at our willybechers and wrinkles her nose. ‘Hey, you guys’re not drinking! Come on, be a sport. Drink … drink.’
‘Tell me, which part?’ Ivan, obedient as a street organ-grinder’s monkey, empties his glass and burps slightly, his hand covering his mouth.
Before Jessica can reply, the band starts on the first bars of Nat King Cole’s ‘Unforgettable’. The ambience in the hall turns lively, prompting Jessica to sit straight and slip her shoe back on. ‘Come, let’s exercise,’ she says. ‘You can put your head on my shoulder and enjoy the perfume.’ She stands taller than Ivan in her four-inch stilettos.
With four other pairs of dancers, Ivan and Jessica sway back and forth with the music on the marble dance floor, entangled like a baby chimpanzee and its mother. I sense that alcohol is making Ivan lose his inhibitions. The next number is a waltz.
Munching mozzarella sticks, I watch the dancers sway as if they’re skating on ice. After a few more dances, Jessica and Ivan return to the table and he continues to drink.
‘Want to go out with me?’ he asks Jessica. ‘I mean, after the nightclub closes.’
I look straight at the band, now playing ‘When I Fall in Love’, pretending not to hear anything.
‘Where? For what?’
He averts her eyes. ‘Some place quiet, a hotel perhaps?’
‘Sorry, I’m having my period.’
‘How about next week? I’d be happy to come again.’
‘Come next week. Then we can discuss it.’
‘Sure you’ll go out with me?’
‘My mother’s confined to a wheelchair. She suffered a stroke a year ago. I’ve to go home after work to care for her. Come next week, we can take it from there.’ She holds his hand for a moment and gazes into his eyes. ‘I know you’re an understanding person, that’s why I like you.’
Flirtation is all talk, no action.
Two types of hostess systems operate in karaoke bars: the ‘butterfly’ and the ‘fixed hour’. Under the cheaper ‘butterfly system’, the GRO goes from table to table to sit briefly with patrons and is paid a tip from RM50 upward, but under the ‘fixed-hour system’, she will stick to a patron for the period she is hired, which ranges from RM60 to RM90 per hour. Obviously, the more expensive the rates, the younger and prettier the GROs are.
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