Fri, 23 Jun 2000

Tanamur marks Jakarta's anniversary in its own way

JAKARTA (JP): Tanamur, the oldest discotheque in the country, celebrated the capital's 473rd anniversary with transvestites wearing overmodified Betawi costumes and seemingly never-ending house music, giving the term 'cross-cultured' an extra twist.

Decorated with ondel-ondel puppet paintings and other Betawi (native Jakartan) ornaments, the 30-year-old discotheque in the Tanah Abang area of Central Jakarta rocked from midnight on Wednesday until the wee hours of Thursday. The party was an effort to provide its guests with an impressive spectacle to celebrate Jakarta's anniversary which fell on Thursday.

Manager Boy Faruk refused to admit that the special occasion was held simply to follow other entertainment centers in Jakarta, which also presented special Betawi-related programs.

"We hold this program every year and as you know, this place is the oldest," Boy told The Jakarta Post.

The discotheque will celebrate its 30th anniversary in December.

Two hours before the program started, which was around midnight, many scantily clad girls were already dancing to the typical non-stop disco music, consisting mainly of looped drum samples.

"They are 'free-lancers'," a hostess, Dini, 27, said.

"Those are girls whom you can take out. But not me, I have a contract here," she said adding that she did nothing more than accompanying guests to dance and drink.

As guests kept coming, some transvestites who were to perform a Betawi fashion show were rehearsing steps and smiles near a bar on the balcony.

One of the transvestites, Daniel Hasan, was busy helping one of his fellow performers to add more of a Betawi touch to his costumes.

"We are free to make our own interpretations of a Betawi dress as long as it goes with a veil," Daniel said.

He then offered to pose for the Post. With oversized hair ornaments, he looked more like the title character of Australian movie Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, a transvestite road movie.

"It takes a lot of guts to perform such an act, that's why we didn't hire real women," Boy, the 28-year-old manager said.

Minutes before midnight, hundreds of assorted guests, including expatriates, were joyfully moving their bodies to the beat of the music.

One expatriate admitted coming to the discotheque to see the special program.

"I noticed some unique ornaments. They're pretty nice," he said.

Some men and women who seemed to have come from a less fortunate economic background, alienated themselves and giggled at the acts of the other guests on the dance floor.

"That's the difference we offer in Tanamur, we don't discriminate between our guests. Whether they come with sandal jepit (cheap slippers) or they are buck rich, we'll serve them just the same," Boy, who claimed to be a Manchester University graduate, said.

The entrance fee to the special program was Rp 30,000 a person, while beverages were priced between Rp 17,000 and Rp 35,000.

Some of the young local girls mentioned earlier by Dini were already seen hanging around in the corners with some expatriates, while their colleagues were still moving around, probably hoping to meet someone who was interested in them.

The main program opened with a semi-erotic dance number by some beautiful young girls who performed their act on the balcony.

Minutes later two Caucasian boys climbed up on to the balcony and performed their own spectacle.

They started taking off their shirts and pants while the audience below screamed for them to show it all.

They were about to take off their boxer shorts when a security guard came upstairs and told them to put their pants back on, which they did reluctantly.

Fifteen minutes later Daniel and his associates came downstairs for the Betawi fashion show.

When they could not find a space to perform their practiced steps, they just mingled with other guests and dance to the disco music.

The program lasted for about three hours.

A few minutes later, guests were leaving the discotheque. Some of the men who'd arrived earlier without female company were escorting their newly met girls out of the building.

Daniel, however, kept sitting on the balcony, making puffballs and occasionally moving his body to the tune of the seemingly endless music.(08)