Veterans’ Tales by Vassar Bushmills
You already know the story of my first visit to Manos, the Russian spy-restaurant in Tokyo. It was 1972. It was run by two brothers from Pittsburgh, former OSS officers during WWII, and within shouting distance of the Soviet embassy, where, at the end of every visit, I’d pause to take a leak on their gate.
A small restaurant, Manos was known Tokyo-wide not for its borscht, which was horrible, but that it was the single place in all Tokyo that the upper echelons of the Japanese business, military and political community could meet, then know, (in the biblical sense) a bevy of foreign, many Caucasian, women. Maj Guy, my neighbor, and who’d gotten his CIB as an advisor to the Montagnards in Vietnam, and chief liaison officer in our G2 section, was a regular at Manos, and had first introduced me to the girls there..
Guy’s wife Penny, of course, knew of Manos. It was part of his job. And she also knew, on a major’s pay, he could never afford any of the merchandise offered there. But my wife was leery. A couple of days after we came back from that night at Manos, we were all sitting around behind our quarters in the housing area having a beer on one of those big wooden spools they used to run the power lines on the post. He was talking about Faye, the Australian girl who introduced me to all the others, and how most would come over and sit for a few minutes in between other chores, including hustling potential clients. (Every Japanese high-roller, the john, was escorted by another man, often a company official who was actually bankrolling the liaison, and as Guy had pointed out to me earlier, each person had his own personal tastes, and that the majority seemed to prefer the fair haired maidens of European extraction.)
My wife, no prude herself, had studied in Europe, from money, was not so much angry as cynical and disbelieving. No matter what Penny thought, she couldn’t believe that I, much less Guy and I, could go to a vineyard and not want to taste the wine. Guy used his “not on a major’s pay” argument, but she was having none of it. She was the daughter of an executive in a major manufacturing company (who Guy and I would introduce to Manos a year or so later) and just sort of assumed that if Guy were steering so much business their way, “commissions” might be involved. You know, freebies.
So Guy suggested, “OK, why don’t we take you down and let you meet the girls, and see for yourselves?”
About a month later, we arranged for a Japanese maid to come and stay with my 3-year old son, and Maj Guy’s 3-year old daughter and 7-year old son. Overnight. We booked a room and a table at the Sanno Hotel, and after a splendiferous 10-oz rib-eye, cut and grilled to my specifications, at about 10 we crossed the boulevard and made our way to Manos. As in England, closing time was at 1 AM, everywhere.
Phil greeted us at the door, and at close to six feet, a champion golfer, Phil kind of looked my wife up and down, as if to imply where she night fit in with his string. You know, one of “those” looks.
We walked to the table in front of the back window, which allowed a full view of the room, and where Guy and I always sat. The girls and their johns always sat in the booths in front of us.
Guy spied the Aussie girl, Faye, who walked over to get a closer look, as wives of any race were never seen there. (I hadn’t thought of that, and apparently, neither had Guy.) Our wives became the immediate attraction to all the other girls, who had to come by and introduce themselves. My wife was the totally modern girl of the 70s, unafraid of most any circumstance, but I don’t think she was quite ready to actually meet…as equals…with really well-spoken, educated hookers, some of whom spoke the Kings English better than she did. None were painted or dressed trampy, as you often see in films. All wore dresses or skirts, no bosomy unbuttoned blouses. It was all so office-like, as my wife later recalled.
But even more style-cramping was that our women, not members of their “community” in the room, apparently dropped in just to watch.
(This happened to my wife and I a couple of years later, when we took a group tour to Hong Kong, and broke away from the tour with two other couples to make the mid-afternoon bar scene in Kowloon while the rest of our group went to visit oriental rug stores. We walked into a little stand-up bar, which were very popular at the time, with about a dozen tables around the wall where patrons stood and almost naked girls would come out and take their orders, and just generally let the men look at them. Looking back, it was all so innocent, but for the bar girls?….here were three tall slender Foreign Devil Women, who never come inside those doors, before, Aiyah! and all she had on was a tiny thin, see-thru pair of panties. Topless. She tried to appear nonchalant as she took our orders, but while men may have gazed at those tiny little breasts, our wives’ necks immediately jerked, zooming down on that little see-thru bikini. I actually felt bad for that little hostess. So she went back to the get the order and when she returned with the drinks, she was covered by a little jacket. Show’s over. I’m sure that little Chinese girl was happy to see us go, but a with a sizeable tip for her discomfort…from our wives.)
Back in Tokyo, I think we all recognized a similar sense in the girls at Manos. Maybe Faye did too, for when she sat down with us and we ordered a round of Kirin’s, she set out to give our wives a cooks tour of their business. Think of it as a bullet-point briefing. She talked about how they worked as a team and traveled around the major cities in the Orient, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, and they would stay as long as the law would allow them but usually a year or two. She said she never knew of a girl who made a second circuit, for usually, after one tour, they’d be set for life. “Cut up $100 a trick, three tricks a night, (a private rule they made up among themselves to allow the non-Caucasian girls a chance to make their three tricks as well) about 275 days a years, and after you’ve paid all your support, pointing at Phil, and ‘corporate’, we come out around $50,000 a year.” That sure as hell was more than a captain’s or major’s pay, not to mention my wife’s father, who was still in the 40K range in the 70s.
Then, on a signal from the front, Faye stood up and said, “It was really nice to meet you, but I gotta go to work. An appointment. Shouldn’t take more than an hour, never does (shaking her head).” She said bye to Guy, couldn’t remember my name, and shook the wives hands and said “Cheerio”, then greeted two men at the front, and took a seat at a center table.
I’ve mentioned elsewhere that Japanese bar hostesses in some places would almost copulate in booths, ass-over-elbow action, then when the owner rang the bell, would stand up, straighten their clothes, and bow to their patron as he would leave. I never knew if they met later on or not. Strangest ritual I’d ever seen.
But none of these doings took place at Manos. I assume the girls spoke a little Japanese, but English seemed to be in frequent use as well. There was no flailing, nor loud cries of drunkenness or whoop-di-doo. We just sat, enjoyed our beer, and talked among ourselves. But my wife did notice, in a couple of booths off to the side where we could look at an angle, that the hand action underneath the table was getting pretty good. I knew this because her jaw dropped, and her hand went quickly to her mouth, as if covering a yawn. “Oh my.” My back was turned, so I didn’t jerk around to see. These little rituals didn’t last very long, as the girl and her john would stand up, bow to the gentleman across the table, and head for the coat check, usually after only one or two drinks.
Getting close to midnight, we decided to turn in. Faye was still with her client, and we nooded as we walked out, she looking up and acknowledging us.
Next morning on the train back to camp, Guy whispered, “You know, we may have to do that again.” “Yep” I smiled.
Thus endeth another chapter in my investigation into the sociology of prostitution, which began when I first saw my Aunt Betty undress at age 6.
Photo by Japanexperterna.se