Homosexuality was illegal in Hong Kong back then, but for the expat community it was mostly overlooked by the authorities. Gay life consisted of Waltzing Matilda’s on Kowloon side where the rats were more frequent than the men, Dateline in Central which catered to older expat men and the young Chinese boys they loved, and on d’Aguilar Street in Lan Kwai Fong there was Disco Disco and 1997.
With the newly opening of Alan Zeeman’s California bar, gay life got a lot more interesting. An upscale bar for expats, the crowd of men and women was “sexually fluid.” I remember once standing with a British woman and her Chinese girlfriend, when her male fiancé walked into the bar. The girlfriend was quickly pushed into my arms as the woman rummaged through her purse to pull out her engagement ring and slipped away to greet her future husband. Another time standing with a gay friend and a recently-arrived straight traveller, I struggled to keep my “straight” outward appearance so as not to chase the fellow off, only to find out later that my gay friend had plied him with pitchers of margaritas well into night and managed to drag him home.
The Hong Kong workweek was five and a half days long. Weekends started on Saturday noon. By one o’clock we would be all out on a company or friend’s junk for the day to drink, eat catered lunches of cold jellyfish salad, sea cucumber and other Chinese delicacies and sail around the small islands off the coast of Hong Kong. Again it was a mixed crowd of straight, gay and lesbians.
My best friend at the time was a guy named Brian. He worked part-time as a model (a close-up of his underweared crotch could be seen in ads across Southeast Asia) and was an occasional “mule,” smuggling gold from Nepal to Tokyo. He was straight but promised that if he ever decided to sleep with a guy it would be me. Several weeks after he shared that with me, a couple of friends visiting from Europe whisked him off to Bali for the weekend, plied him with drinks, and beat me to the “punch.” He came back to Hong Kong still straight and my chance to be his “experiment” gone—like a sampan in a typhoon dashed on the rocks of Hong Kong Harbour. – Tom Walker