In mid 1968 Rosemary Andree came along to an evening show at the Casino de Paris with a handsome young Anglo-Chinese guy called Philip Seow whose claim to fame was that at 27 he happened to be the youngest hotelier ever in Singapore. We had drinks with him at the bar and then he and Rosemary watched the show. Ray and I went out for dinner that evening and thought nothing more about it until a week later when Rosemary rang and wanted to have a meeting with Elliot, Ray and myself. Of course she had a nightly meeting with Elliott, but that was neither here or there. The happy news she had to impart was that Philip Seow wanted us to put a small show together of 6 artistes for the newly opened Malaysia Hotel. She made it all sound so lovely and easy. The contract was for 6 months, beginning January 1969 with two months at the Hotel Malaysia in Singapore. This would be followed by one month at the Merlin Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, during which time we (“me!”) would rehearse a new show to open again at the Hotel Malaysia in Singapore for two months, followed by a final month at the Intercontinental Hotel in Jakarta.
This is where he held the prodigious role of Managing Director of the newly opened Hotel Malaysia in Singapore, which was a luxury 5 star hotel.
We had drinks with him at the bar and then he and Rosemary watched the show. Ray and I went out for dinner that evening and thought nothing more about it until a week later when Rosemary rang and wanted to have a meeting with Elliot, Ray and myself. Of course she had a nightly meeting with Elliott, but that was neither here or there. The happy news she had to impart was that Philip Seow wanted us to put a small show together of 6 artistes for the newly opened Malaysia Hotel. She made it all sound so lovely and easy. The contract was for 6 months, beginning January 1969 with two months at the Hotel Malaysia in Singapore. This would be followed by one month at the Merlin Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, during which time we (“me!”) would rehearse a new show to open again at the Hotel Malaysia in Singapore for two months, followed by a final month at the Intercontinental Hotel in Jakarta.
Didn’t she just make it all sound so lovely? And I just knew Eric was going to get lumbered again, but this time it would not be my doing! I said “No!” straight away and reminded them of what I went through during my time in Cairo and Athens and Istanbul – oops, I hadn’t told them about the revolution in Istanbul! Rosemary, however, said it wasn’t going to be like that. It was all going to be lovely. In fact it was going to be worse!
Anyway, I didn’t want to go, and neither did anyone else, but we all wanted the contract. So we put it to a vote and guess who lost? Fuck it! I was on the trot again! I forgot to mention that during the six months contract Eric would travel from England to Singapore three times to open the shows and rehearse in Kuala Lumpur. Lucky me! Then during my time in England, I would be rehearsing the new show for the Casino de Paris. You may well ask what did I did with my spare time? I scrubbed the stage and cleaned the loos! ! ! I refused to do stairs!
In those days air travel was not quite as fast as it is today. A plane trip from London to Singapore would take about three or four stop-overs to refuel, so altogether the flight would take about 24-26 hours. What it did to one’s body clock was nobody’s business! By the end of the six months I didn’t know whether I was on my ‘arse or my elbow’! Did something happen in Singapore or was it London? Did Diana Dors give birth to a son, or did I dream it? Really, I hadn’t a clue! When I arrived in Singapore I would go straight to bed only to be woken an hour or two later by Philip Seow, who had become my best friend, (he had arranged with the front desk that they notify him as soon as I arrived) demanding that I join him in the “London Underground,” the disco that was in the basement of the Hotel Malaysia as there was always something important he had to tell me. Always there was some reason or other that I just couldn’t get out of. So I’d go down there only to be confronted by three large Canadian Clubs and ginger ale, plus three shots, all lined up for me. Whenever I was there, I was his drinking partner. So by the third “Yum Sing” I was wide awake again and raring to go. So much for jet lag!
But I digress. Rosemary told me that striptease was not allowed in Singapore, so I couldn’t use strippers. Then why did she bring Philip to see our show? Fortunately for us, we couldn’t get any at the time anyway, so that was one problem solved. She also told me that nudity was not allowed and that the girls had to wear pasties over their nipples as the Singaporean government were very strict about nudity, and of course I believed her!
She managed to find for us five girls, four showgirls and one singer, all of whom had worked at the Casino du Liban in Beirut, the no.1 night club in the world. The girls, who apart from being the most amazing looking creatures, were each in their own way stunning with bodies to die for.
She also found a young lady who had been a dancer in a circus and was quite as beautiful as the rest.
I have to point out that showgirls are a different breed from strippers. They do not show their nipples. They are like thoroughbred horses, majestic in stature, beautiful and regal, a breed unto themselves. They wear pasties. You may well ask what is the difference between a small bit of sequined plaster and raw flesh. To them it was everything and they would not dream of working without their pasties. It was a question of take it or leave it. So I took it because Rosemary told me that was the way they liked it in Singapore.
The show was great. I called them The Dolly’s-a-Go-Go. I say it myself, it was sparkling, glamorous and fast moving. It ran for just forty minutes. Once it started, it ran like a fast moving express train. I was very happy with it.
So I flew out to Singapore one week before the girls to set everything up. The new show at the Casino de Paris had just been running for two weeks, so there was no problem there. In Singapore there was a small press conference when I got to the hotel. Most of the press were charming and respectful except for one snotty bitch who kept pressing that there only 6 people on stage, “So little! Oh! It’s all so little!” So I told her I was going to use mirrors and that would double them up. That shut her up.
Philip was charm itself, We had dinner together that night in the exotic Golden Lotus Room, a wonderful Chinese room with a large stage where the girls would be doing the dinner show. Later, he took me up to the Supper Club, where they would be performing the night club show.
When we arrived in the night club, he proudly announced he had a surprise for me. He had an artist playing there, ‘A FRENCH STRIPPER!’ He said it with such pride. “YOU SEE IT’S JUST LIKE THE CASINO DE PARIS!” Yeah! Yeah! Ohhhh! Yeah! A stripper! I couldn’t fucking believe it! Rosemary had told me that there were no strippers allowed to work in Singapore. Was I going potty or was she? What was I going to do? Meanwhile, the Parisian stripper had removed everything. She was starkers! ! ! Running around the stage flashing everything to everyone! Then the dirty bitch started working on the chair which she had just used to sit on. Now the legs of the chair came into play and she had one favourite one that went into every orifice that she had on show. The dirty cow! I can’t say that she got a standing ovation at the end of her act, except for some of the males in the audience. The rest were in total shock. As for me, I was slowly sliding down to the floor with embarrassment, and realizing that after what I had just seen on stage that I was completely screwed! What the fuck could I do? She made my girls look like they were the nuns from the Sound of Music. My show was classy and erotic and beautifully staged. The French harlot looked like she’d just come off the street in Place Pigalle. I found out later that she would do extra quickie matinees in the privacy of her room to supplement her income.
When we arrived in the night club, he proudly announced he had a surprise for me. He had an artist playing there, ‘A FRENCH STRIPPER!’ He said it with such pride. “YOU SEE IT’S JUST LIKE THE CASINO DE PARIS!” Yeah! Yeah! Ohhhh! Yeah! A stripper! I couldn’t fucking believe it! Rosemary had told me that there were no strippers allowed to work in Singapore. Was I going potty or was she? What was I going to do? Meanwhile, the Parisian stripper had removed everything. She was starkers! ! ! Running around the stage flashing everything to everyone! Then the dirty bitch started working on the chair which she had just used to sit on. Now the legs of the chair came into play and she had one favorite one that went into every orifice that she had on show. The dirty cow! I can’t say that she got a standing ovation at the end of her act, except for some of the males in the audience. The rest were in total shock. As for me, I was slowly sliding down to the floor with embarrassment, and realizing that after what I had just seen on stage that I was completely screwed! What the fuck could I do? She made my girls look like they were the nuns from the Sound of Music. My show was classy and erotic and beautifully staged. The French harlot looked like she’d just come off the street in Place Pigalle. I found out later that she would do extra quickie matinees in the privacy of her room to supplement her income.
I couldn’t sleep! I was in panic! What could I possibly do? I lay all night asking myself how I could compete with that French slut and not let Philip down. The next morning at 8a.m. I faced Philip Seow in his office. He already knew something was wrong by my reaction to the stripper the night before. I had decided that I had to come clean with him. I told him exactly what Rosemary had told me – no full nudity, no striptease, the girls must wear pasties, etc. etc. and that none of the girls that I had engaged for my show would strip as they were showgirls, not strippers. I told him what I had done with the show and that I knew he would be pleased with it. I told him that I was not worried about the show. BUT what was I going to do about a stripper? What was I going to do with such nudity as I had seen in his night club?
I took a deep breath and said that I thought it would be better if I went back to England and that we should call it a day and forget about the show. He then took an even deeper breath and told me that on no account would I be allowed to leave Singapore. He said that he had put his job on the line by insisting in bringing our show from England and that if everything went sour both he and I would finish up in Singapore Bay. The hotel had already taken a big risk by making him the youngest Managing Director ever and many people were just waiting for him to screw up. That was just not going to happen if he could help it. As far as he was concerned, I was responsible for this crisis and I had to sort it out, otherwise it was cement boots for both of us.
Shit! That was another fine mess I’d gotten myself into. I wasn’t too happy at the thought of concrete anklets in a dirty watery grave in Singapore bay. I told him that I had an idea, but it was imperative that I brought out an extra artist, a stripper from England. If he would pay for the extra artist, I would sort it out in England and I was sure he would be happy. I just couldn’t let him down. I knew it just couldn’t be any run of the mill stripper. This one had to be special to counteract the filth that was currently on show in the Supper Club. The Casino de Paris did not deal in filth, my girl needed to be really different, clean and special.
The Fabulous Diane Darling
God must have been watching over me because by chance in the new show that I had just opened at the Casino de Paris in London there was a young lady called Diane Darling. She appeared as Queen Marie Antoinette and slowly did a very long and elegant strip to the minuet, looking every bit a royal queen. Then to top it all she finished up with tassels on her boobs and also on each cheek of her bum. This was something I knew that had never been seen in Singapore or the Orient. She could rotate them either way, together or one at a time, depending on what the audience asked for. In fact, she could do anything with those tassels. She could rotate them so fast that you would think she would take off! Diane could be my savior if , and this was the main and only problem, she was prepared to come to Singapore at a moment’s notice for six months. “Oh please let it happen!” I prayed.
Diane Shows A Leg
I rang Rosemary from my room immediately. It must have been at about 3a.m. in England, which didn’t please her too much, but to hell with that! It was a matter of life or me finishing up at the bottom of Singapore Bay! I told her the situation that I was in and how much I needed Diane. “Promise her anything, just get her on that plane,” I told her. “I can’t take no for an answer and no other girl will do. Get her!”
The miracle happened, Rosemary talked Diane into coming immediately to Singapore. She had that way with her, she could get whatever she wanted. God was with me! The days before the girls arrival, Philip showed me around Singapore. We went to some wonderful night markets and he also showed me Bugis Street, commonly called Boogie Street, which was still going in those days and was infamous for all sorts of things. A must see on the tourist destination agenda.
BUGIS STREET 1969
Diane As Mae West
The day the girls arrived was a happy occasion for me. I had already arranged dressing rooms and wardrobe space for the them and the costumes. Each girl had her own dresser, everything went along smoothly apart from Diane having a few problems with some of the girls, who behaved as though they were superior to her because she was a stripper. The main instigator was the singer, Juliet, who seemed to stir up a few of the girls, until they’d sussed her out. Things sorted themselves out fairly quickly when I pointed out to them that if it wasn’t for Diane none of them would be in work . When the girls got to know Diane they loved her.
The Dolly’s With Their Dressers
Diane With The Dolly’s Poolside
The show opened and Diane, who came on in the star spot, stopped the show. She would get a standing ovation every night, the audience had never seen anything like it, and they loved the humour that she put into her act. They just couldn’t get enough of the Tassel Lady. Meanwhile, the ‘Mean French Lady,’ who appeared only once on the first night that we opened in the Super Room Night Club, was terminated immediately and understandably! So much for ‘Viva la France’! I believe she went back to Place Pigalle to ply her trade!
Philip Seow loved the show and appreciated what I had done to counteract the “Parisienne Harlot” and bring some class to the fabulous Malaysia Hotel. After four days of previews there was a Gala Dinner in the Golden Lotus Room for “The Dolly’s Show,” which was an enormous success. I was complemented on the show by Lee Kuan Yew, who I had no idea was the the Prime Minister of Singapore, where he was known as ‘The Father of Singapore.’ He told me how much he had enjoyed it. It was he who shaped Singapore into the wonderful country that it is today and cleaned up Bugis Street. I also got to know, and was invited frequently to dine with, Khoo Teck Puat, the owner of the Goodwood Group of companies, who owned The Malaysia Hotel and happened to be one of the richest men in Singapore. I was mixing with, as they would say back home, the rich and powerful of Singapore.
Truthfully, the time I spent in Singapore had to be one of the happiest times of my life, even with all the jet lag. It was hard work, but I and the girls, especially Diane Darling, Brenda Saunders and Faye Duncanson had a wonderful time.
My 3 drinking buddies Brenda, Diane and Fay
Whilst we were at the Malaysia Hotel, Eartha Kitt did a two day guest appearance and ‘Dolly’s-a-go-go’ had the pleasure of working with her.
In the beginning of March, Philip informed me that Khoo Teck Puat had bought a 50% share of Aeroflot, the Russian Airline, as they wanted to start an Oriental route, and that from now on I would be flying with them backwards and forwards between England and Singapore via Moscow! What a happy thought that was, but I couldn’t get out of it.
I was on the first flight out from Singapore to Moscow. There were eight passengers on board. We all sat in the front cabin and froze our balls off. I’m amazed the crew could get the plane off the ground! The cabin crew did not know how to work anything. Foodwise everything was frozen, they didn’t know how to turn on the heaters. So I just vodka’d all the way to Moscow, where I had to wait six hours for a plane to London. It was all very enlightening and the thought of doing return trips just made me want to throw up! I flew with Aeroflot four times and it was like being in “Ninotchka.” The whole place was so backward. The people at the airport were so rough and rude. All the secret police stood around looking obviously like secret police in their leather trench coats. Russia was definitely not for me!
Still, I loved Singapore and it was worth putting up with backward Russia just to be able to get to Singapore. Don’t even ask about Tashkent! It was freezing! I’ve never seen so many Russian mamushkas in my life, and all with their hands out.
At last the time came for us to go to Kuala Lumpur. The Merlin Hotel was the top hotel there at the time. The staff we found were so different from those in Singapore. In Singapore they were all smiles, but here they all looked as miserable as sin. Maybe it was just their nature; the manager, who was Dutch, and his Malaysian wife were charm itself. It was just the rest of the other miserable sods. Could it have been because I and the girls were given the best rooms in the hotel? That was because I had told the manager that all my girls were very respectable, like the nuns from The Sound of Music! Of course, that image was ruined when the girls discovered that the hotel pharmacy sold the birth pill and they bought out his whole stock! ! !
So we rehearsed the new show and went back four weeks later to Singapore with “Viva les Dolly’s.” It was another blinding success, and it was all thanks to Diane bless her and her four tassels, which also saved me from a watery grave!