A lady of the night shuts up shop
Simpson Cheung and Amy Nip
As dazzling spotlights shone down from the ornate golden ceiling, 50 glamorous hostesses ensured that the final night of a Hong Kong landmark, Club Bboss, went off in high style.
Loyal customers bid farewell to the nightclub last night, signalling the near-extinction of mega-Japanese clubs on the city's entertainment scene.
The 28-year-old club was a landmark in Tsim Sha Tsui East, covering 70,000 sq ft in New Mandarin Plaza. It was known as one of the world's top luxurious Japanese-decor nightclubs, with a dance floor big enough for 400 revellers.
Apart from the Rolls-Royces, Club Bboss was legendary for its hostesses. During its peak years, more than 1,000 locals - fluent in English and Japanese - were on hand to offer 'hourly conversation service' to guests. For an additional fee, men could take the women out, but they ran the risk of driving cars cheaper than the escorts' own Mercedes- Benzes; the women earned hefty amounts of money.
But entertainment culture changed, industries moved to the mainland and other cities became more competitive. One after another, the glamorous nightclubs drew their curtains for the last time.
Club Paris, also in Tsim Sha Tsui, will close at the end of this month, a person in the business says. That will leave Club de Hong Kong as the district's only mid-sized nightclub.
Club Bboss will be replaced by a duty-free shop, paying a monthly rent of HK$1.5 million to club founder Law Cheuk, who owns the building.
China City Nightclub, Bboss' biggest rival, closed in 2005. At Bboss, formerly known as Club Volvo, the number of staff dwindled to 100.
An escort known as Yuki, in her 30s, has worked at the club for about five years. She took the job to pay off a debt, which she has done. 'It's all a matter of luck. I met a man at the club who I've been with for half a year, and he paid me HK$500,000,' she said.
Escorts earned HK$20,000 to HK$30,000 a month, depending on tips. They were paid HK$700 per table, plus HK$1,600 per evening by guests who dated them - HK$300 of which went to the mama-san.
'I will miss it a lot,' said Yuki. 'I worked here to find true love, so I stayed until the last day.'
Bboss was well past its glamour days, said a waiter who worked there for a decade. 'It was very busy down here, with seven out of 10 VIP rooms filled. These days only three out of 10 of the rooms are used,' he said.
Fewer Hongkongers came, replaced by big-spending mainland customers, he said. 'They are quite generous, handing out thousands of dollars at a time.'
Many big names have visited over the years.
Li Chuwen, then deputy director of Xinhua news agency, officiated at its opening. Soccer players, including Fernando Morientes and Raul Meireles, visited in 2003.
Lawmaker Chim Pui-chung, of the financial services functional constituency, used to visit the club years ago.
'Times have changed,' he said. 'Consumers now have more choices, and there are a lot more entertainment premises in mainland cities. The gambling scene in Macau is also thriving.'
Anthony Lock, founder of the karaoke chain California Red and chief executive officer of the Tsui Wah restaurant, agreed that the club scene had changed.
'The 80s was their golden period, with more than 10 such clubs competing on the scene,' he said. 'It was in line with the boom in the stock market.
'Things started to change in the 1990s, when people began to head north for shopping and entertainment. Only commercial clients remained faithful.'
Stanley Lau Chin-ho, deputy chairman of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries, said factory managers used to bring overseas clients to the nightclub.
Now the factories have moved to the mainland, and so has the entertainment.