Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Authenticity, Crazy Horse and the Integrated Resorts/Casinos

The Crazy Horse fiasco has been blamed on the onerous restrictions imposed on types of advertising allowed the proprietor. No doubt, the ban on placing racy ads in The Straits Times and other media accounted partly for the absence of a rush for tickets that the investors anticipated. But there is another reason behind the closure that I have not heard mentioned. It none other than the lack of authenticity of experience associated with going to an adult cabaret like Crazy Horse in Singapore.

I have not seen the show myself, but having a troupe of half-naked women prancing about on stage is really quite incongruous with the squeaky clean image of Singapore. The result is that tourists and citizens will find the show fake, artificial and unconvincing, in a word, inauthentic.

If Crazy Horse had been in Bangkok, say, then the French party might have been a better chance of getting their money back. That’s the kind of thing many people go to Bangkok for, though cities are complex and people actually visit the Thailand capital for a whole host of things. Perhaps, if Crazy Horse had been in Orchard Towers or Geylang, the odds would have been more favourable. (And the interesting thing about Orchard Towers and Geylang is that Singapore has become a rather racy place that belies that image of good, clean fun that the Tourist Board spends so much money and effort purveying worldwide.)

It may be worth thinking about whether the want-to-do-it-but-then-don’t-really-want-to-do schizophrenia that subverted Crazy Horse’s prospects from the start and the lack of authenticity of the show in this country are going to rear their heads with the integrated resorts and the casinos. (I must declare that I am a supporter of choice and fewer restrictions, which is why I support the casino and Crazy Horse coming here.)

The wonderful thing about Las Vegas for tourists is that it makes gambling fun, not wicked. Here, however, the attempts to assuage the anti-casino lobby has led to the line of logic that gambling is immoral but an immorality that is worth tolerating for economic gains. This will be the subtle, perhaps non-so-subtle, message that will greet the great masses of high-rolling tourists the government (and many of Singaporeans, including myself) hope will come to the IRs. For any gambler wishing to enjoying himself and paying good money to do so to be told that what they are doing is actually sinful is turn-offish, to say the least. It takes away from the authenticity of the experience. It is like going to Bangkok and being inundated with “Sex is bad, prostitiution worse” billboards on the way out of the airport. I cite Bangkok and Vega not to argue that Singapore should become either. Far from it. But Crazy Horse sits well in Paris, and it worth thinking what makes the show authentic there, but not here.

(This is a very short version of an article I am writing for a magazine.)