Monday, June 04, 2012

RAF Changi 60's: Private Dancer? Do Nightingales Only Sing?

All the men are in these places
And the men are all the same
You don't look at their faces
And you don't ask their names

Letter from Allan Thompson who was from RAF Changi:

"Dear Andy,

Sometime in 1965 I went into Singapore with one of my friends and after visiting a few bars, we went along to the Great World to round off the evening. 
                                            Video: by debandana

Inside the dance hall we each bought a book of tickets for the *taxi-dancers but found that the prettiest girls had  all been reserved by wealthy Chinese businessmen who had bought several books of tickets earlier in the evening.

After a few dances with one or two of the slightly older, very charming, remaining girls we sat at a table listening to the band whose name I don't recall. 

The musicians were all male but two of the singers were beautiful Chinese girls wearing brightly-coloured silk dresses with slit sides.  When the entertainment ended, we went outside to look for a taxi and while we waited, the two Chinese singers came out.  

When a taxi appeared, we offered to drop them off at their home before continuing to Changi.  They accepted our offer and when we reached their house, which was quite large with a small front courtyard, they invited us in for a drink.  

We paid our taxi-driver and went inside where a middle-aged Chinese amah made us a cup of kopi each and we sat at a table chatting to the girls and complimenting them on their singing. 

After a while, the door-bell rang and the amah admitted a small group of European men who sat at a second table and were served a glass of beer each. 

The girls thanked us for bringing them home and then moved across to join the new arrivals. Naively, we wondered if these were friends, and then it dawned on us that the girls were more than just singers - they had second careers administering to the needs of lonely servicemen. 

We felt quite honoured that they had not regarded us as potential clients but were treating us as guests because we had been considerate enough to offer them a lift home.  

In the circumstances, perhaps it is just as well that I can't remember the name of the dance band!  I hope this recollection is not too low in tone for your excellent site. I may have other adventures to offer later. 

Best wishes, 

Lyrics: Private Dancer: Mark Knopfler. Universal Music.

Information/Original Article: Allan Thompson Collection. All Rights Reserved.

Image 5: 
Dance Hostesses - Peter Chan Collection. 
Image: 4 Great World Ticket - Allan Thompson Collection. 
Images: 3, 6 Great World and Dance Crowd. National Heritage Board Singapore. 
Image: 2 Songstress - Google.

Vinyl Record Cover: Squirrel Record SEP 1008:
Side One: Tonight We Rejoice and Crimson Evening Sky.  Side Two: A Night In Autumn and A Long Wait.

*taxi dancers = another term used for 'cabaret girls' or lady partners from the cabaret you pay to dance with.
My question: Is it common for female singers in cabarets to have second careers as ladies of the night?



Hi, Andy -

Thank you very very much for this 'gift'. You make my day, man!
Keep 'em coming.

Salam 'alaikum -

ARTHUR said...

Thank you very much Andy, I always enjoy your wonderful emails sent to Larry who in turn graciously shared the same with all of us.

I have included your email address in my list and I hope that in turn you would not mind me sending some interesting emails or nearly as good as yours.

I am always pleased to make new acquaintances, thank you for the opportunity. Please include me in all your email sendings.

Have a great week ahead!

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you both for writing and excuse me for the belated reply. I have only included your mail, which was written a week ago, on this posting.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...


Hi Allan,

Your reply came quickly and your tale cleverly told. Your adventures are never 'too low in tone'. So far with your exploits and pictures I could fill up the pages of the blog with still so many in reserve.

You have been a wonderful friend and I cannot thank you enough for your truly generous gifts of stories and photographs.

I wail too much but will definitely reduce my postings as I find difficulty nowadays to write some more.

Do write but only when you have the time.

Again, thanks!

Best regards.


Dear Andy,

Thank you for your message - I had already checked out your blog this morning and found this piece. I love the title you gave it.

You are doing a great job with all the illustrations and the other features. I particularly liked the musical jokes, especially the brass urinals!

(To read Allan's postings click his name above.)


"There was also a dance hall that could accommodate 300 couples. The dance hall was equipped with good acoustics and a floor skirted by marbled columns for couples to dance.

In the 30s, entry to the cabaret cost between 50 cents and a dollar and ordering drinks was mandatory. The dance hostesses or cabaret girls were also known as taxi girls or taxi dancers. While most of the 100 odd dancers were local girls, some were from China, Thailand and the Philippines.

Customers could engage their services by buying dance coupons priced at one dollar for three dances.

Other forms of dancing in Gay World were the Malay ronggeng and joget, catering to the Malays and Babas. Gay World had a ronggeng kiosk, ala a bandstand, and men could find a dance partner at one dollar for three dances."
From: Singapore Infopedia.

Erwin said...

I have to agree. Your adventures are never 'too low in tone'. In fact, I believe what your generation had experienced may be considered too conservative by Generation Y. So keep it coming Allan & Andy ... before the 'Meat market' disappears from the face of the red-light district of Geylang, Singapore! :)

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Thank you for your comment and visit.

'Meat market' will always be around as long as people love to eat it.

soohian said...

Hi Andy,

I'm a scriptwriter for MediaCorp and we are currently producing an online video series about Singapore during the 1950s and 60s.

May I know if you are familiar with Happy World park or the cabaret or nightclub scene of the 50s and 60s? Because we would like to interview you and share this piece of colourful history with our audience.

Amanda Ooi said...

Hi Andy,

I saw one of your picture, the Cabaret Girls.
May I know in any ways I could purchase the image from you?

We would love to use it for our coffee-table book that we are developing.
Let me know soon? :)

Thank you so much,

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

I don't own it. Really don't know Amanda. Got it from Google. Try to check it out from the Net. Good to know you're producing a coffee table book. Any information from my blog should be credited. Cheers.

Gone to the dogs said...

Lovely blog, Andy! Thank You!

Gone to the dogs said...

Hello again, Andy, does anyone know if theres a difference between an admission ticket and a dance ticket to the Great World or are they all the same? And how many tickets in a book? Would you have any idea where do these girls learn to dance? and costumed themselves? Thank You.


Penangwaý in uppet east coast road my band the Meltones had a saturday guest spot was paid 30 dollars for the whole band..we had a free big plate of noodles so good


Those Dance Hostress Depends On The Dance Coupons They Received From Patrons On The Nite For A Living. For the Band, Those Dance Ladies Are Not Too Happy If They Play the Song, Alittle Longer Than Normal. The Longer The Song is Played, the Longer the Ladies Hve to Dance For that Ticket n Im Sure You Understand Why.... Its A Living.


Yes those were d Wild Days, days of Todi n Bung Long where U chew n spit blood-red juice very popular in Taiwan, In Great World Amusement Park U wanna dance,, Ronggeng pay a dollar u will get a dance with a gurl of your :choice,, twist n quiver man n even shakin' all over those were the days of showing off your dancing skills, S'PORE John Travolta's style?


Those were the days, but I was too young to qualify. All I remember about Great World was Rose Chan. Cheerio


I'm not very surprised. There must have been a time when things like that really were in those days.

FACEBOOK said...

thanks for liking this post:

John Cher
Hiroshi Deguchi
Ericbronson Wong
Rose Khoo
Jennie Law
Ann Rowena Lim
Alphonso Soosay
Shun Ng
Van Der Beek Philip
Peter Lim
James Kwok


Yes as true as Merlin Lim tells his part of d story relating d Old days when I stick with an Uncle n walked a lot on the Wild Side, love this particular Uncle who in fact was a God Father, he taught me all those ropes of beings streetwise kid during those days of d Bronx n Big Bullies? Indeed those ronggeng poor dancin' girls in order to survive gotta make a livin' shaking n twisting thru out d nite with drunkards, hobos, gigolos,tattooed samsengs (gangsters) , foul-mouthed ruffians n on d good side of course there were also officers n gentlemen as well as good looking working class heroes who would sometimes fall for these girls like as if what U see in novels and screens, well Facts r stranger than Fiction so to say isn't it,!? After all, this world has no limitations n everyday miracles n strange things happen, I'm a believer tho'.