Hook up with a hunk - for a pretty penny

SINGAPORE - Some look like they have come out of a fashion magazine, charming the audience as they strut down the runway. The other hunks go topless or have only underwear on.

But this is not a fashion show. It is a scene out of a Neil Road pub where patrons, many of them women, can buy garlands for the men - who are mostly foreigners - they fancy. The garlands range from $100 to $1,000.

Such "ladies' clubs" have mushroomed here in the last few years but, recently, instead of bringing in men from neighbouring countries like Thailand, clubs have been looking to more "exotic" locales like South Korea and Brazil.

At this one in Neil Road, the men start work at 11pm and finish at 3am. They parade themselves thrice a night. Most of them were introduced to the pub by friends.

My Paper has been to the club on two occasions.

The clientele is a mix of men and women, whose ages range from the mid-20s to middle age.

One of the men, a 30-year-old South Korean who works as a theatre actor in Seoul, said: "I've been here for a month. I came here for the money. It pays better than my job back home."

A Taiwanese, 25, who started work in May, said: "My friend told me about this place. I am in the food and beverage business in Taiwan, so I'm also here to look out for business opportunities."

The men earn a base rate for their services and a commission based on how many garlands they receive. The base rate differs: The South Koreans get $1,200 and the Taiwanese, $1,500.

The Brazilians, on the other hand, prefer to be paid by the hour - $50 an hour. But this means they do not receive a commission for the garlands, whereas the South Koreans and Taiwanese receive 65 per cent of the value of a garland.

The Taiwanese said: "The highest amount I've received for a garland is $500. On average, I get paid about $4,000 to $5,000 a month, for working six days a week and a few hours each night."

It seems to be easy money: When they are not looking good on the runway, they sit around playing with their mobile phones or hang around with fellow good-lookers.

But the money comes at a price. Besides looking dapper, they also have to entertain - singing and dancing are part of the job. And once a customer has bought a garland for a particular man, he must sit with them and keep them company.

One of the Brazilian men, 25, said: "The customers, especially the older ladies, would keep trying to kiss us when they are drunk."

One thing is obvious: Money talks, and the men go to the highest bidder. While it seems to be a meat market, the men don't mind. Some are keen to make friends, asking for clients' social media accounts and mobile phone numbers. They even extend invitations to clients to visit them in their home countries.

The Brazilian noted: "With some customers, it is boring because the conversation does not go beyond, 'Where do you come from?' But I like doing this.

"I studied to be a lawyer for two years but gave up. I prefer travelling and working as I go, and my next stop is Shanghai."

The women say they have no reason to be embarrassed about their "garlanding" activities.

A 33-year-old marketing director, who visits such clubs twice a month, said: "A lot of customers just want sex. But I don't want the men to touch me. I just want to have fun, play games, enjoy myself. It's the idea of surrounding myself with good-looking men.

"We become queens and princesses for the night. We also feel a certain amount of satisfaction in being able to pay for it. We are successful women who can pay for company."


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