After arriving in Manila last night from a business trip, I wanted to grab some dinner before going home. My two friends, Mary and Ringo*, were already in their respective homes as it was already past 9 PM on a work night. So I had another option -- meet up with a macho dancer before he goes to work.
Yeah it might be a bit far-fetched idea, like "where did that come from?" or "huh, of all the people you could have dinner with?" But having a hunky or cute guy to accompany you to eat didn't sound too bad. I just had to pay for his meal, nothing more.
I invited Russell*, who has been my dinner partner a few times already. I knew he was still available at that time. In our previous dinner, we started around 1030 PM and he went to the bar around 1130 already, 30 minutes late. So inviting him for dinner that late a night didn't worry me that much...
Russell, whom I helped transfer from "Kingdom Come"* gay bar to "Answer for the Emotionally Needy (ATEN)"* gay bar, wasn't also too worried arriving late in his new bar. Their call time in ATEN is usually at 11 PM, as customers would only be arriving at this time with the so-called "morning girls" (those working in nearby girlie bars) arriving even later at 3AM and leaving as late as 7AM. For some reason, their bar was a bit lax when it comes to time-in, which is already late for a typical gay bar.
Time-in for gay bars are usually around 9 PM or 10 PM, depending on the time the bar opens. If the bar opens around 10 PM, like "Kingdom Come", then call time is usually 30 minutes before. Of course, this ensures that the gay bar will be filled with the macho men before any customer arrives. But having an earlier call time also would allow the models to dress up, errr... dress down to their sandos and underwear and boots, put on some make up or powder, and even get some light snacks.
If that simple preparation or routine, in theory, would only require a few minutes for a macho dancer, then what motivates him to arrive on time, on-the-dot?
Gay bars typically give a "daily budget" to their macho dancers. These range about P150 to P250 per day, depending on the size of the bar and the generosity of the owners, but P200 is standard. Some top dancers, either those with the most guests and the highest sales, or those with "big names" already transferring from another bar, get even higher budgets, as high as P500 a day. These daily allowances are given in full to the employees, basta they come in to work on time. Not going to work means no budget.
If they're late, however, their daily budget is cut, and the amount depends on the bar's policy. Some bars deduct P50 for every 30 minutes late. Some deduct half once the dancer is late. The bigger bars don't even give the allowance, even if the model is just one minute late.
That's why most models in the bigger bars rush to get to work on time. Especially in "Home Base"*, where their policies are implemented very strictly. Frequent and consecutive late arrivals even result to their firing. I've had dinners with some guys from Home Base already in the past, and we always rushed through our meals just for them to be on time. If dinner would be at Mall of Asia, we should be leaving the restaurant around 840 PM, just so they could arrive at 9 PM on the dot.
If there are rehearsals for production numbers for the bar's "big nights" or major events, then call times are earlier, around 6 or 7 PM. Same goes if there are "meetings" with bar management. Being late to these are also no-no's, and may result to bye bye work. Forget any dinner dates you might plan during these days.
Thus, having meet-ups with men from Home Base, with their frequent big night rehearsals and strict implementation of policies, can get frustrating. The men are always rushing. "Late na ako, (I'm already late)" was a frequent reply. Then make it early next time, I'd always respond to them in my mind.
But other men do break the gay bar's rules, if to their advantage. Russell even deliberately arrives late to work. It's a strategy, he told me. If he'd arrive early, his name would be added early on the line up of dances, like the 5th or 7th in the list. By the time, he'd be called on stage, he'd be dancing to an empty bar. If he'd arrive late, then his name would be one of the last to be called on-stage, at the time the bar is filled with more customers. So he's taking a chance, risk his daily budget (which is less than minimum wage), for a chance to be seen by more men-hungry customers.
Good strategy, I thought, while in a 24-hour restaurant along Roxas Blvd. Good thing I was having a relaxed dinner with a smart guy at 11 PM last night.
*Names here are the not the actual names of the men and gay bars, but are somehow related to them.
Learn more: Lessons from Gay Bars in Manila