Thailand Footprint is pleased to announce a collaboration and the addition of a new feature: The World According to Gop. A monthly cartoon, featuring Gop the frog in the coconut shell. Talented drawings all done by an award winning author living La Vida Loca down in the south of Thailand. His signature is evident in its own unique style. If and when he starts to think the strip is getting funny he may include a second signature. Kevin Cummings takes responsibility for the writing and humor, absent or present. Welcome to Gop’s World.
I am pleased to announce the launch of the paperback edition of Bangkok Beat via Create Space store and Amazon.com. The book is now available at Amazon USA, Amazon UK, Amazon Europe and Amazon Australia as well. The eBook is also available at Amazon and the outlets listed below.
In addition and order has been made from Create Space which will enable Bangkok Beat to be sold directly from this web site and also directly at Checkinn99 located forever between Sukhumvit Soi 5 and Soi 7 in Bangkok, Thailand. Don’t look for the sign. It’s gone. The book sells for baht 400 at Checkinn99.
Here is what people are saying about Bangkok Beat and Check Inn 99:
In a Bangkok which is quickly destroying all signs of its past glories in favor of shopping malls, Check Inn 99 stands as a beacon of hope to those of us old enough to remember it in all its mutations and still young enough to enjoy it as it is now. Bangkok Beat, in a series of short stories, up close interviews and artist profiles, chronicles some of the amazing history, people and entertainment found in Bangkok and often at Check Inn 99. Many of the stories have been provided by the very creative owner, Chris Catto-Smith and his dedicated staff.
Dean Barrett, author of Kingdom of Make Believe,Hangman’s Point, and Pop Darrell’s Last Case
Bangkok 2015 is like Paris circa 1900 or Berlin in the 1920’s & 30’s, a vortex of noir where artists, writers, poets, filmmakers, journalists and musicians search deep into the darknesss for a glimpse of humanity and hope…..Kevin Cummings is one of the brave souls walking on the edge of the darkness in order to document its depth and breadth.
ChrisColes, artist & author of NAVIGATING THE BANGKOK NOIR
A fascinating collection of interviews, literature reviews and stories from Thailand and the region. Kevin focuses on one of his favorite expat nightlife venues — Bangkok’s Check Inn 99 — with accounts about musicians, poets, authors and other night owls.
Chris Catto-Smith has a pig headed determination to give a voice to the often unheard talents of, writers, poets, actors, singers and artists. Check Inn 99 is a highly refreshing venue in a stagnating entertainment scene that only seems concerned with cheap copy bands that have churned out the same old tunes, forever. Chris, and those who support his vision, such as Thailand Footprint blogger Kevin Cummings whose new book, Bangkok Beat, is a collection of real events including entertaining stories involving the colorful history of Check Inn 99, could well drag Bangkok kicking and screaming into a brave new world, which it will be thankful for in the end because… it doesn’t get any better than this.
Kevin Wood, singer, musician, actor and author of, Opium Sparrows
Bangkok Beat is now available at all Amazon and Create Space stores as well as
I like Chris Coles. The artist and the man. It’s been over 10 years since we first met at a meeting place less than a football field away from Baccara Bar on Soi Cowboy, where James A. Newman, Alasdair McLeod and I recently went to see Chris and his art on Friday the 14th. I wrote a previous piece about Baccara Bar last week partially titled: The Art of Seduction or the Art of the Deal?
That first meeting occurred because I had stumbled upon the art of Chris Coles on one of his web sites: Chris Coles Gallery Expressionist Art. I found the art interesting a decade ago. I still do, today. I surmised the man painting about the bright lights and big city of Bangkok might be equally interesting. We arranged to meet. When Chris arrived for that initial meeting I was sitting with a group of 5 or 6 guys around a table. I introduced Chris to the others and conversation ensued. Some interesting. Some mundane. It was always lively, to me, when Chris spoke. I remember thinking, “This guy is the smartest guy in the room.” The fact that the room was the outdoor bar at Tilac on Soi Cowboy, which had 50 or more people scattered about, drinking fluids under a polluted Bangkok night sky didn’t matter. Chris talked about his time in California and the movie business. The big budget film, Cutthroat Island, brought him to the Island of Phuket and eventually Bangkok, where the former Maine resident now calls home. Chris is like the carriage horse of a different color in the movie, The Wizard of Oz. Chris Coles pulls his own weight. There is only one of him and he is it.
Meetings with Chris are always memorable. There was a mid-day meal at SUDA restaurant years ago where Chris informed me at our lunch table, “You need to buy, VERY THAI.” A book written by Philip Cornwel-Smith and now in its second edition, with additional photographs by John Goss. After we finished eating we walked to the Time Square Building on Sukumvit 12 and went up the escalator to Asia Books on the second floor. That Asia Books store is now gone. But I still own VERY THAI thanks to Chris Coles. It is a great book about everyday popular culture in Thailand.
Three years ago, Chris Coles had his art shown at Koi Gallery on Sukhumvit 31. An art exhibition called: Color of Day/Color of Night. One half of the gallery was filled with traditional impressionist paintings of trees and flowers. The other side was filled with the large and loud expressionist art of Chris Coles, in the self described style of Emil Nolde, Otto Dix and George Grosz. Coles’ art made the more favorable impression, on me. Chris was spread pretty thin that evening but still made time for me and I met some interesting people on a hot Bangkok night.
Another time I took my wife to hear Father Joe Maier speak, the American Catholic priest that lives and works in the Klong Toey slums. We had a dinner table reservation. Chris Coles was sitting at the bar in the packed Foreign Correspondent’s Club of Thailand. After Father Maier finished his very entertaining speaking engagement, Chris came over to our table, despite the fact he probably knew over 50% of the people in the large room. He spent thirty minutes talking to my wife about painting, colors, medium, style and art. My wife appreciated it and so did I. She had begun taking art classes at our community college in California. Chris had seen some of her work and shared his experiences and enthusiasm. Memorable table conversation, again.
Chris Coles Painting – 2:00 a.m. Street 51 Phnom Penh Night
More recently, I was just about to leave the Check Inn 99 in the early hours of the evening on a Sunday, after listening to Jazz for many hours, when in walks Chris Coles carrying one of his large acrylic paintings. Chris stood for awhile, holding the painting, looking for the owner, Chris Catto-Smith. They went and hung the painting and Chris eventually came back and joined our table. This is an image of the painting Chris Coles brought with him on that Bangkok night, which is displayed at Check Inn 99:
That prompted a call to my wife, “Honey, I’ll be home later than I said. Chris Coles just arrived.” She understood. She likes Chris too. Chris is the kind of friend that will let you know when you have put on an extra 10 pounds. He’s also encouraging – to my wife, to me and to others. As Chris puts it in the video interview with James A. Newman, “You need to bring something to the Bangkok night. And then make something out of it.” I appreciate Chris Coles. I also like and appreciate the fact that he has some critics. Show me a man with critics and I will show you a man with accomplishments.
Chris Coles stands next to one of his accomplishments at Baccara Bar in Bangkok, Thailand
Fast forward to Friday the 14th. Our group of four had just finished eating our dinners at Queen Victoria Pub. Big dinners. Bangers and Mash kind of dinners. We were to meet Chris at Baccara on Soi Cowboy. One of three infamous Entertainment Zones catering to foreign tourists and expats living in Bangkok. Someone joked that no one has ever seen Chris eat dinner, which may explain how he maintains his weight better than most in the City of Angels. Chris is not a starving artist, by any means. But he certainly knows how to paint the overweight, contrary and even the ugly side of life. Chris Coles paints Bangkok realities, not American fantasy. Thomas Kinkade he is not. The art made by the Ivy League graduate and father of an M.I.T grad daughter has been exhibited in at least four countries. His clientele is diverse, ranging from Baccara owner Patrick to people close to the Royal family, well known authors, art collectors and even a blogger or two.
“I like using distortion, sharply contrasting, often rather ugly images, disharmonious colors and a rough technique.” Chris Coles – artist and author of Navigating the Bangkok Noir
The above Chris Coles painting is not one of the four that hangs in Baccara Bar on Soi Cowboy. It depicts the front porch of Baccara at 2:30 a.m., after Soi Cowboy has mostly finished being what Chris describes as another, “long, hot, frenzied night.”
Chris Coles was waiting outside when we arrived, at a table in front of Baccara Bar, wearing one of his trademark plaid shirts and Levi 501 jeans. We had permission from the owner, Patrick to photograph inside and videotape outside; we had Chris Coles for a tour guide, he had agreed to a video interview and it was Friday night in Bangkok City. No one was talking politics and no one was complaining.
We went to the second floor of Baccara, where three of Coles’ paintings are showcased. The first floor and second floor of Baccara are quite different in atmosphere. If you have trouble making up your mind where to spend your time you need only look through the glass ceiling or glass floor, depending on your point of view. To get to the second floor one must climb up a spiral staircase, where at the top you will see this Chris Coles painting: [Addendum: fire on 2nd and third floor of Baccara Bar in early May, 2014 destroy three of four Chris Coles paintings – see them here].
Author, James A. Newman on the left. Artist, Chris Coles on the Right. Painting of the Bangkok night – center stage at Baccara Bar in Bangkok, Thailand. (Photograph by Alasdair McLeod)
James A. Newman, who writes about the entertainment zones in entertaining fashion interviews Chris Coles on video, in the thick of the Red Night Zone. Sit back and enjoy this revealing segment from the interview put together by Alasdair McLeod. You’ll learn what motivates Chris Coles to paint the Bangkok night, whether he goes looking for his subjects or makes them up at times? The thought behind the atmosphere at Baccara and whether a pulp fiction writer drinks white wine or red? The Bangkok night can be a big nightmare or a big party. But like any good party you are invited to, as Chris Coles suggests, it’s never a bad idea to bring something to it.
Last Friday pulp fiction writer, James A. Newman, Bangkok Night of Noir photographer and videographer, Alasdair McLeod and I were granted access to Baccara Bar on Soi Cowboy in Bangkok, Thailand for the purpose of photographing the art of Chris Coles and hanging out with the artist during our time there. Four paintings were recently purchased by the owner, a Frenchman named Patrick. Patrick gave us just one caveat, “No photographing the girls”. We complied. In addition to owning Baccara, which most consider to be the premier Go Go bar on Soi Cowboy and all of Bangkok, he also owns the former Insomnia Disco (now called Insanity), Bangkok Beat, Baccara A-Go Go on Walking Street, as well as 4 other popular venues in Pattaya City. Patrick is the exception to the expat bar-owner scene.
As Bangkok 8 author John Burdett recently pointed out in an excellent video interview, prostitution in Bangkok benefits from being illegal. It remains by and large a cottage industry, run much like a Mom and Pop store. Baccara and Patrick run things quite differently in the Kingdom. He would be the equivalent to the mansion on the hill owner. Baccara sees roughly 1,000 people go in and out their doors, most every night of the year. The numbers add up.
Patrick is creative. In a big way. Paying attention to lighting, layout, costumes, audio system, the rules of engagement or what I would call, the art of the deal. The women earn large monthly pay. Baht 200,000 a month and up for the elites. That is more money in one month than their father’s, if they come from Issan, make in years.
Patrick is a collector of Chris Coles’ paintings. The businessman showcases the original paintings depicting the Bangkok nightlife, along with 200+ dancing girls every night, at Baccara. Baccara a Go Go has distinguished itself from the crowd. High season or low season, the good times roll every night at Baccara, for a price.
The 1994 $5.00 milkshake in the movie, Pulp Fiction has been replaced with the 2014 $6.00 Coke at Baccara. Stay tuned at Thailand Footprint for an interview between pulp fiction writer, James A. Newman and Bangkok noir artist, Chris Coles in the next few days. In addition, you’ll get an inside look at Baccara Bar and the paintings in the neon world of the artist. Here is that post and video interview: Chris Coles – Bringing it to the Bangkok Night
Photo by Alasdair McLeod – Painting by Chris Coles