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May-May's Diary
Past reports from our favorite guide to Shanghai's nightlife.
Week of March 9
Week of March 2
May-May's Diary
Entry for March 22, 1998

Lots to report, once again, boys and girls!! A very busy weekend here in Shanghai despite the appalling weather. I mean, sleet in late March??!! It make me consider, for a nanosecond at least, a move to Singapore!!

We have in town a very special entertainer, who has already performed at Eddie's on Yueyang Lu and at the Groove on Hengshan Lu -- Tim McKew, a cabaret performer who may on occasion agree with the proposition "Viva La Difference" but not always!! He's performing again Monday night at Park 97, and he's`promised to do several numbers in his Empress Dowager costume, as well as his singular rendition of "Cry Me a River" with the words changed to "Cry me a Yangtze"!!! We see don't entertainment like this very often in Shanghai, so do go and check it out -- I was just stunned when I saw him at Eddie's.

You remember I mentioned the Titanic is coming to Shanghai. Well it begins on April 1, and is just subttled, no more of that awful dubbing! Isn't that wonderful??!! Maybe not for the film dubbers, but I met one on Saturday afternoon who did the voice-overs for Darth Vader in all the Stars Wars movies (Luke, wo shi ni de ba-ba!!) who said he was happy the dubbing was coming to an end from an artistic viewpoint. That's so touching!!

More news on the American Club Wars. You will remember there are two here in Shanghai fighting for our attention -- the Shanghai American Club in a shiny new building on Huangpu Lu is having its formal opening on April 3, I understand with the Empress Dowager in attendance. Meanwhile, I understand that Shanghai Links is saying their American Club will open up a club house pretty soon in the old RAF Club premises in the Hongkong & Shanghai Bank building on the Bund. But no specific time for that. So much choice!!!

We can expect duelling hamburgers!!! Byeeeee!!

Entry for March 20, 1998

A couple of days ago, I was at Park 97 for a fashion show, which was probably the most sensual I have seen in a long time. I was moved. The girls were gorgeous, although I thought just a trifle over made-up. And the clothes were magic. I spotted my good friend the artist Chen Yifei in the corner, looking even smarter than usual, and it turned out he was the host!! He had two of his latest paintings hung in the restaurant especially for the event, so new that the paint was hardly dry, said one of his minions. They included another of his painted harem of life-like and exquisite Chinese girls dressed in traditional garb. How life-like is it? I saw one man trying to kiss her before someone reminded him that it was just a painting!!!

I went last night to the new Pasta Fresca pizza restaurant on the new colonaded section of Hengshan Lu, opposite the American church. I thought the use of tablecloths was an interesting innovation, compared to the paper and plastic table coverings used in the Pasta Fresca restaurants in Changshu Lu and Hong Qiao. Luigi, that darling man who runs the chain, said the idea was to make restaurant more traditionally Italian. Well, the photos of Venice and the Vatican definitely fill the bill, but where are the chianti bottles hung from the ceiling? And the plastic grapevine??!!! The pizza, however, was superrrrrb as always. The best in Shanghai, and possibly the best this side of Hiroo.

After dinner I went for a drink at Shanghai Sally's and saw for the first time a new all-female band!!!! Three girls, Shirley, Molly and Angel (it appears there are as many girls called Angel in Shanghai as there are boys called Tony!!!). They were just lovely and they sang harmonies just wonderfully well. Their rendition of Sugar, Sugar sent shivers up my spine!! If you haven't seen them, you must go and catch their show. I complimented Shirley particularly on her sparkling eye-shadow. So original!!!

Entry for March 19, 1998

I don't know about you, boys and girls, but I just love seeing a good spectacular movie on the big screen, and from all accounts, Titanic is the one to see. It's opening at cinemas around Shanghai next month. One of my best friends has promised to invite me round to see the VCD of the movie -- as soon as she gets the copy back from friends she has lent it to give it back!! Maybe it's just as well. Titanic is one movie that should be seen on the big screen. I just hope they do a better job dubbing it than usual. Why can't they just give us the Chinese sub-titles instead??!!

There's a possible connection between Shanghai and the Titanic that you may not be aware of. On the corner of Huaihai Lu and Xingguo Lu, there is an old wedge-shaped building known as the "Nine-Story Building". I am told it was built to commemorate those who died that night. Is it possible? Why not?

You remember a few days ago, I posed the question: is bar culture here to stay in Shanghai, or is it a temporary craze like karaoke and bowling? Well, one of my fvorite readers, Sean, has written in to give his view:

"Dear May-May (he writes), In response to your question "Are the bars of Shanghai here for good," I guess the answer is a definite yes. I have been in Japan for a pseudo-business trip for the past 7 weeks. I found that night life in Japan is really fascinating. They have adopted much western culture, including bars (or people call them pubs), but from their imported hard liquor, you can always taste this subtle, but definite feature from the Orient. I say that because Japan reminds me of Shanghai a lot. People go to bars to enjoy the environment, to meet people, to loosen up from their uptight daily lives, or, as you might suggest, to pick up chicks or to get lost (just kidding). This is not something that other types of entertainment can usually offer. People will still need to consume alcohol with a big group of people and, of course, with food, but people will also enjoy the intimacy and privacy that westernized bars can offer. However, I will say that there will be elements from local culture that will be incorporated into this new fashion, and this fashion will soon become part of Shanghai's culture, and nobody else's."

Sooo!!! If bars are now a permanent thing in Japan, why not in Shanghai? Or is there a difference between Chinese and Japanese culture and habits that would impact on this issue? Tell me what you think!!! Byeeeee!!

Entry for March 18, 1998

Hi boys and girls, May-May here again with more news from the Shanghai nightlife front line. It's a tough job but someone has to do it!! I try to pay for all my drinks and food, but very often proprietors and companions threaten suicide unless they are allowed to treat me. Well, what's a girl to do?!??

Mixed reports on business down at L.A. Cafe, the Hong Kong hangout on Huaihai Lu which is said to serve a very tasty range of duck dishes. A couple of good friends in the rag trade told me last night that business was not the best these days, while my girlfriend, Qin-squared, said the Cantonese-speaking crowds were as thick as ever. I will have to find time in my busy schedule to go along and see for myself.

I see an increasing number of Shanghai girls with their hair dyed various shades of brown. I used to think it was tacky and unnecessary, but I'm gradually coming round to thinking it looks good, and may even consider some brown hilights myself. Japanese girls do it the best. I guess they've been experimenting for longer.

My dear departed friend Coco started the trend of course here in Shanghai, experimenting with purple, blonde and gold (Coco, if you're there - big hug and kisses!!!). One American friend said dyed hair on Asians made her feel disoriented. Now, if you dissect that word, it's exactly the right one for the context, isn't it??!!! It would definitely dis-orient James Bond, who was very concerned about matching collars and cuffs!!!! Byeeeee!!

Entry for March 17, 1998
A very active evening tonight, boys and girls, about which I will give you as much information as I dare!!! I have to say that this diary is difficult to write from the point of view of discretion. I want it to be as interesting as possible, and as close as can be to my life. But I can't tell you everything!! There woiuld be hell to pay from all sorts of people!

Three things that happened today spring to mind that I'm just dying to tell you about but can't. Oh, woe is me!!! Partly it's a relationship issue. Its not fair for me to bare my soul, with Party B no doubt reading every word I write, if I don't have equal access to what he's thinking too. Don't you agree???

Have you ever been to Rick's Cafe on Yanan Xi Lu, my loves? Close to where the railway used to cross, just up the road from the Mercedes Benz showroom. It's a favorite hang-out late late late, with good music and a very compact and cosy disco.

Well, the lease is up next month, but I am reliably informed they are moving to a larger place not too far away on Kaixuan Lu. That will be welcome news for all those karaoke ladies looking for a relief from Jackie Cheung songs before bedtime!!!

I went this evening to a Shanghai nightspot which is, I think one of the most extraordinary and well-run in the city -- the Golden Age in the Parkson Department Store building on Huaihai Lu. I was treated with the usual deference and attentive service, and had a fascinating conversation with one of the responsible people there.

We talked about business -- you will remember that I am moving into the world of nightlife establishment consulting. I was amazed at the level of revenue they have achieved. Can you guess how much they take in on an average day? And how much was the biggest single day take they have had since they opened 18 months ago? The person who gives me closest figures will get a free meal at one of Shanghai's top restaurants. Oooooh, aren't I coy??!! Coy but generous!!! Byeeee!!!

Entry for March 16, 1998

Boys and girls. Dear everyone. My darlings. The people at Shanghai-ed have just told me that the number of visitors who come to read my diary has absolutely soared since I started writing daily. If the number of visitors continues rising at the current rate for very much longer, we'll be more popular than the Xinmin Evening News!! That's right! Aim for the stars!!!

Anyway, it's so nice to have you all here. I'm thrilled to bits. I am, as you will know, a true exhibitionist, never happy unless I have an audience. And darlings, you're IT!!!

Have you noticed that Chinese-y elements are creeping into fashion these days around Shanghai? I have been predicting it for a couple of years, but it's finally happening. All this famous-label stuff from Europe is fine, but here in China, we have our own sartorial traditions and influences to draw on. And we should!!! The Cheongsam (Qipao), for instance. On a Chinese girl, it looks divine (while on most western ladies, to be brutally frank, it looks terrible).

I get more lingering glances cast my way when I wear one than anything else in my wardrobe. There were several men of my acquaintance wearing Chinese padded jackets over the winter which has just past. And just last week I had dinner with a friend, a delightful girl with a figure even more willowy than mine, who was wearing the most gorgeous tight-fitting, grey silk top with the high Chinese collar. With black slacks, it looked wonderful, and I spent a while gushing over her in the hope that she'd tell all her friends to wear something similar.

We must push this trend along. Right!! Here's the next plan: May-May's Boutique. It will be situated on Huaihai Lu opposite Thomasville, and will feature designs especially created for me. Watch out all you French designers -- the Chinese are coming!!!! Byeee!!!!
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