It felt like a cross between a National party convention and a Fellini movie. But, ten, not having been to one perhaps that’s what all National party conventions feel like.
I’m talking about the annual Rotary Club of Bali Christmas party to which we were invited last night. We were invited by our friends, S & K, whom we like a lot (although K is the sort of guy I don’t talk politics with – he’s my hard right wing buddy who mused last night that the leftie “wingnut” media makes up all the bad news, Iran needs taking out, and GWB is on a hell of a roll; at that point I moved the subject towards their recent African vacation).
But mostly we laughed. There were, naturally, the speeches and the charity auctions, and raffles (first prize, two tickets to Jakarta on, ummm, Mandala Airlines, and a section of floral nylon sheets), oh and there was a Santa who arrived on a large painted paper maché bull. All good.
And I can deal with the jolly ex-pat Hotelliers, most were rather pleasant and fun. Although too many years in the expat world does funny things to one, and you will never get me in one of those rayon pseudo batik shirts so beloved of ageing gents in this part of the work. That I swear.
The whole thought of Rotary or Lions or any of those sorts of blokey (regardless of the actual sex of the devotee) “good works” fellowships make me cringe. They really do have an aura of National Party-ness about them (as do the shirts).
As the night went on we were introduced to a series (two or three, it’s hard to tell, one looks much the same as the next if I’m honest) shows from Divas.
The Diva concept is a hard one to properly explain to a non-Indonesian resident. You could try the oft-used “all round entertainer” but it doesn’t do the “Diva” justice. Imagine Oprah Winfrey with huge hair, overblown, almost grotesque makeup, a pawing public who wants to know your every move (to whom you are happy to have your publicist feed all sorts of personal trivia, giving you an almost goddess status amongst many), a starring role in a series of shockingly awful soaps, the odd movie and a parallel career as a singer of gruesome clichéd pop pap often featured on huge live Saturday night TV variety shows, and you almost come close.
So, we were, lucky us, treated to three Diva sequences. Only second level Divas mind, as the A list would be unlikely to treat the good folks of the Bali Rotary Club with their Xmas presence. They are strictly Jakarta AAA and Bali is only for the beachside villa and an infrequent open air throng of adoring thousands.
The second Diva (or perhaps it was a second set from the first) opened her show by telling us she was performing for free – and offered to auction herself. Exactly what that meant I didn’t get to find out. But, as she launched into an extended version of Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You, complete with a radio mike as she wandered into the audience looking for singalong – there were few takers. That was probably partially because, as she got closer, and the makeup hid fewer flaws, our Diva looked increasingly rough.
Over the next hour or two Diva one, two and three treated us to quite a selection – Feelings is a goodie, no? Or Simply The Best, or a couple of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s bigger hits – although the aura of Suharto gives anything from Evita a resonance in RI.
The invite threatened a magician but he didn’t show and no-one asked where he was. In Indonesia, you don’t complain. However, the listed dancing troupe most surely did show and took the evening to another level.
Personally, whilst I got a buzz from the two Come Dancing refugees waltzing out of step with each other whilst dressed as Senorita and Bullfighter, I though the plate dancing (!), and the Can-Can dancers who repeatedly lifted their skirts for extended periods, and bent forward, spreading their legs in slender G‑Strings, had a certain something and certainly the local lads in the audience (and their wives too) seemed to agree, with a roar of glee each time (there were a few).
I’d always though the Can-can was about titillation, but like the spirit of Christmas here (the staff at Ace Hardware wearing reindeer antlers for example), some things are reinterpreted in ways we don’t always expect.
Wonder how that anti-porn bill is doing in the legislature at the mo….