IN THE intense campaigning for the Thai polls on Dec 23, what’s a sensible question to ask a 52-year-old Tiger Show performer who recently came out of retirement?
Do you want Thaksin Shinawatra back as prime minister? I asked Krissana Makrasa, who in the past two weeks has performed tricks (such as opening Coca-Cola bottles with the most delicate part of her body) in a go-go bar at Bangkok’s Nana Entertainment Plaza.
“No, because he does not like Tiger Show. I support those who support my job,” the granny revealed last Sunday in a cafe along Sukhumvit road that is teeming with campaign posters of smiling candidates vying to be a Member of Parliament.
Krissana is referring to the social order campaign then prime minister Thaksin launched in 2001 to clean up Thailand’s risque image. As a consequence, the Tiger Show – which Urban Dictionary defines as “in Thailand, a special sex show involving a number of acrobatic displays” – became virtually extinct.
When army tanks rumbled into the Thai capital on Sept 19 last year to oust Thaksin, Krissana didn’t grumble as she hoped the coup would herald change. That year her life crumbled after her 34-year-old English boyfriend of 16 years left her.
“I was hoping to return to my former job as there was nobody to take care of me financially. And I have a big responsibility to provide for my family (her 27-year-old daughter and six-year-old grandson),” she recalls.
In the early 1980s, after divorcing her Thai husband, whom she labelled as a “butterfly”, Krissana journeyed 56km from her home province of Nakhon Pathom to unfamiliar Bangkok to seek a better life.
“At that time I was as naive as a scarecrow,” she recollects.
In Patpong, Bangkok’s then infamous red-light district, she found a job performing gymnastics and ballet in the nude.
“I was embarrassed, but the money was good,” recalls Krissana, who as young girl taught herself ballet and gymnastics from watching television.
The top earner in the go-go bar was a Tiger Show performer. And Krissana studied the necessary tricks so she could make more money.
“At home I imitated what she did on stage. At first it was so difficult. Then I realised that if I contracted my abdominal muscles there was ‘wind’ in my stomach which I could use to blow out a dart,” she explains.
Readers, please don’t try the dart trick at home. “If you don’t concentrate 100%, accidents can happen,” she warns.
Wasn’t the Coca-Cola bottle trick painful? I asked.
“The first time it hurt a little bit. But I did not need to see a doctor,” she says, proudly. “I had to practise, practise and practise.”
Her lucky break came when a Tiger Show performer called in sick. On the night of her first public performance, to overcome embarrassment and stage fright, Krissana pretended that she was alone in a toilet.
And a star was born. Subsequently she learnt more than 100 tricks, earning about 150,000 baht (RM16,300) a month.
After performing for seven years the star quit, as her English boyfriend disapproved of her job. He promised to support her financially.
Last year, the couple broke up after a fight over his excessive drinking and smoking. In financial straits, she wanted to make a comeback.
“But I couldn’t because of Thaksin,” she recalls.
The opportunity to come out of retirement came three weeks ago when Krissana stumbled onto her former mama-san, who offered her a job, as the Tiger Show was now allowed with the change of government.
Surprised that the go-go bar recalled a veteran who possesses a body that has seen better days, I asked the granny why it didn’t hire younger performers.
According to her, Tiger Show performers are now a dying breed following the crackdown six years ago.
“How can a girl learn when she has never seen a Tiger Show?” she asks.
Buoyed from her roaring comeback, Krissana hopes the next government will not allow the Tiger Show to become extinct.
(Published in The Star on Nov 24, 2007. Photograph by Vera Mopilin)