Pardon the way that I stare / There’s nothing else to compare

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).

The Bull 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….

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