Pattaya Boyztown: end of an era?

Pattaya Boyztown choices during its heyday.

Nobody is quite sure where the term Boyztown originated. One possibility is the 1938 movie of that name, but Spencer Tracy and Mickey Rooney were hardly icons of the gay civil right movement. There is a town in India’s Kerala state called Boys Town but it is apparently famous only for its herbal gardens and cucumber sandwiches. There is a Jamaican football club called Boystown, but there’s a high murder rate of gays over there. Oh well, never mind.

Pattaya Boyztown (it was originally named Boystown) was the center of gay entertainment in the 1990s and early 2000s, before competition in Sunee Plaza and the Jomtien Complex caused a slow decline.

In its prime, Boyztown played host to a score of restaurants, hotels, karaokes, bars, clubs and cabaret shows appealing mostly to European gay tourists who flocked in their thousands to spend the pink pound, get sunburned, watch the eye candy and let their hair down.

A darkened Boyztown October 2020.

But in October 2020, the Boyztown district is truly deserted. For the first year in ages, Halloween will likely be a flop. In the main street, only the Panorama bar is open most evenings, but plays host to scant customers and to two bored-looking staff checking their cell phones.

The two biggest cabaret clubs, Castro and Boyz Boyz Boyz, appear to be open only at weekends presumably to cater for the Bangkok crowd taking a mini-break. The once elegant Toyboys, a male go go bar catering mainly for wealthy Asian men, now has fixtures and fittings piled up outside permanently locked doors.

Flamboyant drag stars Eggz Benedict and Aggie Glitterbug, not actually their real names and currently unemployed, said that Boyztown’s decline wasn’t sudden. “From about 2010, the number of European tourists began to fall off as Thailand began to get expensive and eastern Europe opened up for the first time,” said Eggz.

Limited opening is a sign of the times.

“It’s really been downhill since then,” adds Aggie, “although the shows were packed in recent years by Chinese tour groups who have also disappeared thanks to coronavirus.”

In its heyday, Boyztown businesses were also significant fundraisers for various charities, especially aids-related and orphanages. Annual street cabarets and parties could haul in hundreds of thousands of baht for worthy Thai causes.

The Bangkok Post gossip columnist Bernard Trink (who died earlier this year) always refused to mention gay venues, but even he did once congratulate the Pattaya Gay Festival committee for handing out free condoms to the male prostitutes who might need them. He then ruined the positive effect by complaining that the owner of the Amor restaurant in Boyztown had tried to poison him with a tarnished shrimp cocktail and a stale carrot cake.

One of the few bright lights in a Boyztown district street.

Will Boyztown recover its former glory? Eggz and Glitterbug think not. “Pattaya’s future lies in a different direction with literally millions of Chinese tourists waiting in the wings,” muses Eggz.

“It’s not only Boyztown,” complains Aggie, “nobody is making any money these days.”

Both of them point to social media apps, such as Grindr and Hornet, which have replaced gay bars and clubs as meeting places. “But what will come back after the virus are the cabaret extravaganzas,” predicts Eggz, “because you don’t have to be gay to enjoy a good drag show.”

Can’t argue with that.