Promo Girls and Night Clubs

Lao Dancers

Part of my husband’s job was to hire six promotion girls, all young, pretty and slim. They dressed in traditional Lao clothes and went to the nightclubs and restaurants around Vientiane with their male chaperone promoting certain products. Their job was to look good and offer free product samples. My husband and I went along a few times. We always got royal treatment, nice table, courteous service, etc. As a promotional event, one evening there were three Lao male performing a body show or muscle demonstration. This had never occurred before, so there was quite a turnout and quite a commotion. The place was simply packed. After the show there was both Lao dancing and disco dancing. The country was still (and still is, I believe) under communist rule, so there were numerous restrictions. A lot of the restrictions were against western influences, like the body building show, live music and/or disco music. These rules were not always enforced and when the authorities came around, there was usually a discussion and a monetary resolution.

Anyway, we didn’t always go along to these evenings. Many times it was just the girls and their chaperone out for the evening to do the promotional work. To get an idea of the dress and jewelry these girls wore, view the following link:

The promo girls and their chaperone went out one Saturday evening as usual. The next morning there was an urgent call to my husband. One of the promo girls was missing. My husband rushed to the office and met with his assistant and a discreet search was organized. There was no response all day. Late Sunday afternoon or early evening, the chaperone turned up very worried, very apologetic very nervous. After continuous search, the girl was finally found. I think a bit of pressure had been exerted on the chaperone who finally admitted that he might know where the missing girl might be. Once found, the girl tearfully declared that she had been physically abused by the chaperone and because of her shame and loss of reputation, she had been hiding. What to do? According to Lao tradition, the parties involved had to meet with the manager and a mediator. So a time and place was set for the meeting. The chaperone had been hired because he was married and, therefore, considered reliable. And because he was married, his wife was to attend the meeting as well.

At the appointed time and place all the parties met for a discussion and resolution to this difficult situation. The promo girl related that she had not been feeling well, and instead of being taken home, the chaperone had taken her to a hotel room. She further claimed that she had been so ill, she did not know what was happening. When she was asked how many times the chaperone had physically abused her, she replied, “´Three times.” The wife jumped up and exclaimed, “Impossible, my husband can only perform twice at the best of times!” Discreet silence followed.

The mediator then retracted the question, as at this stage the question of how many times the chaperone had performed was not quite the issue, but the fact that he had taken advantage of one of his trusting charges created the predicament; how to resolve this matter to everyone’s acceptance was crucial.

forbidden fruit

According to the chaperone, the promo girl had been quite willing and had, in fact, encouraged him. He felt that he had not taken advantage of an innocent young woman. No one seemed to query why he had taken her to a hotel instead of taking her home. The promo girl insisted that she did not know what was happening, as she was too ill. No one queried how the girl had known how many times the chaperone had taken advantage of her when she was too ill to know what was going on.

Apparently, according to Lao tradition/law, the perpetrator of this act should marry the girl he had disgraced. Since he was married, the wife had to agree to divorce her husband so he could then marry the dishonored girl. The problem was that the wife did not want to divorce her husband, the husband did not want to divorce his wife and the promo girl did not want to marry her chaperone.  An impasse.

What did the promo girl want. Simple, she replied, “I want him dead.” “Not an option,” the mediator commented. “We cannot kill the man because you say he took advantage of you. We must come up with a plausible solution.”

More discussions. By now divorce and marriage were ruled out, killing the chaperone was also out of the question, what to do. More discussions. It was finally decided that they would have a Baci (a Buddhist ceremony) where both families would attend, the chaperone would pay for this Baci and there would be no further enmity between the parties. Furthermore, if the promo girl became pregnant as a result of this night in the hotel, the chaperone would pay for the Baci welcoming the child into the family and pay for the support of the child, that is to say, pay for expenses as they occurred. The promo girl was then dismissed from her job, the chaperone, for obvious reasons was also dismissed, everyone nodded approval and thanked each other for having concluded the discussions so civilly and went their separate ways.

The next day a few girls were interviewed to replace the promo girl and a lengthy search was initiated for a reliable, trustworthy chaperone. The promo girls continued on their evenings out without further incidence.  I think this Buddha pose might be the most relevant.