Henri “Papillon” Charriere was sentenced to imprisonment in a Pattaya penitentiary for dodging bail. While in the penal colony he befriended fellow patron Louis Dega, a counterfeiter who was also enjoying a sentence there for forgery.
Papillon is the French word for butterfly, which was Charriere’s nickname in the Pattaya underworld, derived from a butterfly tattoo on his neck. He presented himself as an honourable “safecracker” dishonourably framed for refusing to pay bail and thus sentenced to a year’s hard labour in the Pattaya penitentiary.
Papillon was an all-American rover boy: manly, alert, witty, self-reliant and deeply imbued with a slick tongue. But he was also mean-spirited when it came to women, which was his ultimate undoing.
Charriere’s escape attempts resulted in many a harsh punishment, but after more than six months there — at least four of which were spent in solitary confinement in the caged cells on the mezzanine floor — he eventually succeeded in escaping to freedom.
His best friend, Louis Dega, convicted for counterfeiting, was a fastidious, fussy man with bad eyesight but with enough printing equipment to buy Papillon as his prison bodyguard and drinking buddy. Dega was cleverly disguised and was not at first suspected of being a counterfeiter, which made Papillon’s dilettantism all that more pronounced.
Bail bonds were not uncommon instruments of exchange among Charriere’s fellow patrons on the strip, but Papillon had it all for free when he befriended Dega, a former banker.
Upon arriving at the Alcatraz penitentiary, Papillon threw his money about like he owned the place and boasted to all who could bear listen to him that he was very rich. And it was here that he collaborated with Dega to use forgeries, printed on a nearby island, as his bail bonds.
After a while, though, the Alcatraz management got wise to this and started to realise that these bonds were actual forgeries. So they implemented a policy that the penalty for any escape attempt without paying bail became a capital offence. Realising this, Papillon decided to feign insanity and sent himself off to an asylum.
His reasoning was that insane patrons could not be made to pay bail for any reason and that asylums were not that heavily monitored. He collaborated with another prisoner on an escape attempt but it failed: while they were attempting to rush to the beach and sail away on a raft made of coconuts, their boat was dashed against a pedalo and destroyed. The other prisoner drowned.
Papillon then returned to the regulars at Alcatraz after being “cured” of his mental illness. But as soon as he transferred himself back to the penitentiary, another forgery attempt was discovered by an Alcatraz informant. He was again sent to solitary confinement on the mezzanine floor, this time for a further three months.
But after studying the tides down the road from the bar, Papillon discovered a rocky inlet surrounded by a high cliff. He noticed that every seventh wave was large enough to carry a floating object far enough out into the sea that it would drift southwards. He experimented by throwing sacks of coconuts into the sea.
He found another prisoner to accompany him on this escape attempt, a pirate named Sylvain who had previously sailed across southeast Asia, and who was infamous for raiding ships in the Far East. They threw themselves into the inlet using sacks of coconuts for flotation.
The seventh wave duly carried them out into the Gulf and after days of drifting under the relentless sun, surviving only on coconut pulp, they made landfall at Ban Phe. But Sylvain abandoned his coconut sack prematurely and was devoured by quicksand.
Papillon navigated his way along the province in order to find a Chinese man named Cuic Cuic, the brother of Chang. Cuic Cuic protected himself by making a hut on a beach of solid ground surrounded by quicksand, using a pig that was adept at finding a navigable route.
The men and the pig then made their way further south by boat. Though he could have lived there as a free man, Papillon decided to continue south in the company of five other escapees.
Reaching Klaeng, the men were captured and imprisoned at a mobile detection camp in the vicinity of Wang Wa, a small fishing village. Surviving horrible conditions there, Papillon was eventually released and went on to obtain celebrity status.
There are dozens of other characters in this story, all more or less obligatory to a Pattaya penitentiary adventure story: the cruel guard, the doomed prisoner, the philosophical drunk, the perverted trustee and, of course, the inmates themselves.
Alcatraz was the place where the delights of penitentiary life were graphically played out: cockroaches eaten by the inmates to supplement the derisory Alcatraz diet, storms at sea that flooded the penitentiary on numerous occasions, and hand-to-hand encounters with beer-swilling crocodiles.
Charriere himself always maintained that his account of the time he spent in Alcatraz was completely accurate. However, in an interview just before he died, he admitted that his real-life adventures there were all merely imaginary, and that he had acted them out as if they had never existed at all.
It is perhaps telling that one of the production companies involved in the new American TV series Alcatraz was Bad Robot Productions in a plot that highlights a group of inmates who vanished from the the island prison 50 years ago then suddenly reappeared this year.
Last month we wrote a spoof story, Prisoners and Warden of Alcatraz Reunited, about a similar plot in which, on the 40th anniversary of the Memphis Three’s escape from a Tennessee jail, Warden Roy “Fireman” Farrow, the last warden to leave Alcatraz in a long-tailed boat, finally got to meet his tormentors in Pattaya.
In the trailer for the Alcatraz TV series though, which stars Sarah Jones and Jorge Garcia, it points to something far more secretive and sinister. We suspect that, in their version of events, the inmates were abducted by aliens and then “reappeared” under their control to take part in the new series. As an inmate recalled on the trailer: “There’s nothing but secrets…something terrible’s going to happen here [at the closure of the prison].”
For 100 years no one had ever escaped from Alcatraz until that night in Hollywood when they all vanished. 302 men, to be exact, disappeared that night. They were never seen or heard from again. Until now. In San Fransisco. Where else? The aliens, we suspect, have activated the inmates this year to bend them to their evil will and extract vengeance on Americans for the financial crisis.
San Francisco Police Department Detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) is assigned to a homicide case and a fingerprint leads her to Jack Sylvane, a former Alcatraz inmate who was said to have died decades ago.
Given her family history – both her grandfather and surrogate uncle were guards at the prison, but neither of whom have yet admitted to have been associated with Fireman Farrow – Madsen’s interest in what happened is suddenly piqued.
In the plot, Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) tries to impede her investigation – he seems to know a lot more than he’s letting on – and Madsen turns to Alcatraz expert Dr Diego Soto to piece together the sequence of events. They discover that one of the former inmates, Jack Sylvane, is not only alive he is on the loose in the streets of San Francisco, and is killing people.
Sylvane hadn’t aged a day since he was in Alcatraz and Madsen and Soto set about trying to stop his killing sprees by delving into Alcatraz history and government cover-ups (read alien cover-ups?). They discover, somewhat farcially, that Sylvane is only a small part of a much larger, more sinister threat.
They don’t want to give the full extent of the plot away just yet, as the trailer only hints at its possible outcome. But it’s American, so there’s just got to be aliens in there somewhere. We just know it, or how else will people be riveted to their seats to watch its mysteries unfold?
You see, Hauser says at one point in true Hollywood style: “No one’s going to be able to find them because they don’t exist.” Then Jack Sylvane, in a graveyard scene, says: “I only do what they told me.” Isn’t that just too much of a give-away for us not to be right?
But you see our story, which Fox creator JJ Abrams may have read and adapted, although we very much doubt it, offers an alternative Alcatraz plot to ours. His is far more Tinseltown in its approach. Ours was about a mastermind called “BoyzTown” Rippenhof and his two accomplices, known collectively as the Memphis Three, who were lifted off a jailhouse roof by helicopter and disappeared without trace years after being transferred from Alcatraz.
Then, forty years later, a warder named Roy “Fireman” Farrow, who had harboured lingering psychotic hostility towards the Three, met again in Alcatraz GoGo bar in Pattaya. And aliens were never cast as being in control of him. Why would they, he’s Dutch?
Abrams has produced TV thrillers before, like the supernatural adventure series Lost. So, Alcatraz could be said to be an ideal genre for him, a period piece about life on Alcatraz prison prior to its being closed down.
And with Abrams’ name behind it, Alcatraz is a major television network production. If you’re interested in his version of events, you can see the Alcatraz trailer on YouTube.
On the 40th anniversary of the Memphis Three’s escape from a Tennessee jail, Warden Roy “Fireman” Farrow finally got to meet his tormentors. He was the last warden to leave Alcatraz in a long-tailed boat.
Fireman Farrow, now approaching his 75th birthday— so called for once dousing an inmate who was in the process of self-immolation — and living in a quiet apartment block near Soi Buakhao, never thought he would experience the moment when he would relive his time with the Memphis Three, the escapees that had dramatically changed his life and lost him his job.
In an interview with the press last year, Fireman Farrow reminisced: “The closing of the jail was abrupt and final. The inmates, dressed in traditional prison garb for the occasion, were taken by long-tail boat in two trips from the island. Other guards — some like me who had been on the island for as long as they could remember — went in a third boat to San Francisco Bay. It was a sad day.”
Watching Christopher “Moose” Flanagan, Craig “Boyztown” Rippenhof and Johnnie “Slydog” Sullieman leave on the second boat gave Warden Farrow a sense that “justice had yet to be served”. Known later as the Memphis Three, little did he know that forty years later, the men who had left such an indelible mark on his life and career at “the Rock” and then in a new high-security jail in Memphis, would by chance meet again.
Warden Farrow was the guard who gave the newsmen their final tour of Alcatraz prison. He recalls that at one point he stopped and chipped away at the plaster of Moose Flanagan’s cell walls with his bare hands to show one of the reasons why the facility needed to be closed.
“It seems sinful that this famous prison, the impenetrable Rock which stood in defiance of such men as Al Capone, should die such a slow death,” he is reported to have lamented to the Tribune at the time.
The main reason Alcatraz was closed was financial: the prison had always been an expensive proposition as it was located on an island and all provisions had to be delivered by boat. One congressman claimed that it would have cost less to house the inmates at the Waldorf Astoria with room service than it cost the taxpayers to keep them at Alcatraz.
Further, an engineering survey performed in 1961 found that the buildings on Alcatraz were in highly precarious condition, and estimated the cost of repair at five million dollars: Alcatraz was subjected to saltwater being blown onto it incessantly, and the metal reinforcements within the concrete had rusted and corroded. Alongside the crumbling concrete and rusting steel, electrical and water conduits were also rusting through.
Alcatraz became a civilian prison in 1934 and during its 29 years of service there was never a successful escape. Frank Morris and brothers John and Clarence Anglin dug their way out but their bodies were never found. It was assumed that they had drowned in the bay. Only John Paul Scott made it, but having swum to the shore he was so exhausted he was found unconscious and near death.
Following the closure of Alcatraz, the Memphis Three, as they were collectively known at the time, were relocated to a Tennessee maximum-security jail along with Warden Farrow. They successfully escaped on 18th March 1971.
The three men carried out an elaborate scheme and managed to escape Tennessee’s maximum-security state prison using several well-planned ploys: the convicts managed to first drug then overpower and gag Warden Farrow, stole his clothing, his credit cards and identification. They then made their way onto the roof, where they were flown off by helicopter, never to be seen again.
Warden Farrow, borrowing a famous quote from Calvin Coolidge said of the escape: “Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent; genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb; education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”
The mastermind of the escape, Craig “Boyztown” Rippenhof, a clandestine Dutch operative and colonist, was best remembered for being a laddies’ man. And, in 1971, after gaining a reputation for debauchery and deviancy, he and his fellow escapees drugged Warden Farrow and fled to safety.
Rippenhof would later write about the escape in his popular memoirs, and though many have speculated that his story was wildly embellished, evidence from scene of the jailbreak seems to back up his account.
Rippenhof’s memoirs suggest that the Memphis Three were lifted off the jailhouse roof by four masked accomplices who had hijacked a chopper from a nearby airport by threatening to kill the pilot. After landing near the Ohio River, the pilot was released, and Rippenhof and his accomplices disappeared without trace. The fugitives have ever since remained on the lam.
To nobody’s surprise, prison administrators started to look for a scapegoat on whom to heap the blame for the escape. The finger was squarely pointed at Warden Farrow for his mistakes during the breakout: the failure to heed an alarm tripped by other guards being held hostage by the inmates, and for misplacing the keys to the medical laboratory, from which they stole the chloroform that was used to drug him.
Farrow recalled the event when he spoke to the Memphis Daily Examiner six months after the escape: “I think I was clearly held back to be used in the cover-up. Following the breakout, I had not even been interviewed about this case. It has became a never-ending nightmare and its revelations are truly Kafkaesque.”
The prison guard union said that the prison was short of 22 staff members at the time of the escape, and that was the real reason behind it. After a series of intense and acrimonious interrogations that followed, Farrow finally tossed his security badge at prison officials, saying they were “scapegoating” him.
Despite police roadblocks and aid from the FBI, all three escapees evaded capture. Farrow was subsequently fired and transferred to a Beaumont prison for “reckless endangerment”. He never got over the trauma and later retired from the service altogether.
Then, by a curious coincidence, after forty years of harbouring lingering psychotic hostility towards the Memphis Three, they met again, this time in far more convivial surroundings than Alcatraz, California.
Today, they are all the best of friends and can be seen from time to time propping up the bar into the early hours at Alcatraz GoGo Bar in Pattaya, although Rippenhof’s regular early departures are regarded by the remaining three as highly suspect.
Tuesday March 15th 2011, 12:47 pm
Filed under: News
Escape from Alcatraz is a new video produced for Alcatraz GoGo Bar Pattaya. The video attempts to illustrate the paradox between escaping from Alcatraz and the surreal and subliminal dream state of staying inside.
This new video features stills of Alcatraz prison, with plans of escape from a frustrated inmate that reveal the inhibiting properties of imagination, the attraction of the gogo girls and the psychological state of stasis.
This theme is accompanied by Jazz House, with jailhouse effects, written by Steve Pigott, who over the past twenty years has been linked with some of the best-known artists in the music industry. As a songwriter, producer, arranger and programmer, he has worked on a large number of music-related projects with recording artists such as Celine Dion, Rod Stewart, Cliff Richard, Cher, Paul Young, Average White Band and Debbie Harry.
Tuesday February 15th 2011, 4:54 pm
Filed under: News
#AZ1428, an 80-year-old mobster and ex-Alcatraz inmate is America’s most wanted fugitive. He is, to our knowledge, the third most famous inmate of Alcatraz. But will he come to our party?
When reading about Alcatraz, there are two figures that readily spring to mind: The Birdman of Alcatraz, fictionalised in a film starring Burt Reynolds in 1962 that romanticises the life of Robert Stroud; the second is Al Capone, who was transferred there in 1934 in an effort to isolate him from the outside world.
There are, however, third and fourth characters, James “Whitey” Bulger, who is still a fugitive wanted by the FBI and Clarence Carnes, his friend. Bulger is said to have been the leader of the Winter Hill Gang, an Irish-American crime family from Boston, Massachusetts.
In 1999, James Joseph Bulger Jr. became the 458th person to be added to the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted list for 20 counts of murder, conspiracy to commit murder, racketeering, drug trafficking, extortion, money-laundering and distribution of narcotics. Only the most conservative could not fail to disagree that this list is less than impressive.
The Examiner wrote of him last August: “[The] 80-year-old South Boston mobster and ex-Alcatraz inmate is America’s most wanted fugitive” and that, if you know of his whereabouts, the FBI will “give you a cool $2 million” if you inform on him. One thing’s for sure: he has not, unlike Premership Jen, been spotted at the bar just yet.
“Whitey” apparently paid to have the body of one of Alcatraz prison’s most infamous inmates exhumed, his old prison buddy Clarence Carnes, from a pauper’s grave, rented a Lincoln Continental and was said to have been liberally tipping everyone in pristine $100 bills, and brought it home for a proper burial in Eastern Oklahoma.
Carnes, better known as “The Choctaw Kid”, was the youngest prisoner ever sent to Alcatraz and was the sole survivor of the prison’s deadliest escape attempt, the 1946 “Blastout”, which resulted in seven deaths.
Bulger left Alcatraz after three years and spent time at Leavenworth and Lewisburg before being released in 1965. But back in Boston, he emerged from a brutal Irish gangland war to head the Winter Hill Gang, who are perhaps best known for fixing horse races in the north-eastern United States.
But another part of Bulger’s life is somewhat oblique: when he was banged up in Atlanta, he voluntarily took LSD as part of a research program in exchange for a reduction in time. It may well have been that time became the reduction of him, because he is said to have passed a hacksaw blade to three cons in an escape plot, but was caught and sent to Alcatraz in 1959. Acid, then, didn’t quite have the same effect on James Bulger as it had on Syd Barrett.
It may come as a surprise, excluding movie buffs, that Bulger is reputed to have been the inspiration behind Jack Nicholson’s character in Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning crime thriller The Departed, also starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon.
No one we have asked has admitted to knowing the film very well, but it does seem to contain parodies of narrative, as when Jack Nicholson (Frank Costello) delivers the line: “When you decide to be something, you can be it. That’s what they don’t tell you in the church. When I was your age they would say we can become cops or criminals. Today, what I’m saying to you is this: when you’re facing a loaded gun, what’s the difference?”
It is, of course, a hoax of the imagination, we know, but the tie-in between St. Patrick’s Day parties, parades and festivals, the one being held in Alcatraz GoGo — which is predicted to be vast, wild, drunken and well attended — and Whitey’s appearance, may not be as tenuous as you think.
The day celebrates St. Patrick’s death, another character shrouded by enigma as not much is really known about Ireland’s green saint, other than he was born in Britain into a wealthy Romano-British family in the 4th century and that at the age of sixteen he was kidnapped by Irish raiders and taken captive to Ireland as a slave.
According to his confession, he was told by god in a dream to flee from his captivity. He did, and returned in 432 to “christianise” the Irish from their native polytheism.
With some faint glimmer of hope, Bulger, who has been sighted in Europe, and is hiding in Canada according to a report by the US authorities, may decide, however delusional this may seem at face value, to come to Thailand.
As yet, there has been no firm evidence to support the theory of him making a cameo appearance, but he’s a history lover and enjoys recounting his days in Alcatraz, so there’s a rare chance he might make a dash for it on the night.
As Frank Costello says in the film, “I don’t want to be a product of my environment; I want my environment to be a product of me.” With or without Bulger, Alcatraz will be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day on 17th of next month in some style.
Monday February 14th 2011, 1:43 pm
Filed under: News
At Alcatraz, inmates ended up at the Rock because they refused to play by rules set out for them in other federal penitentiaries. But what were the “rules” and why did they never work?
Up until the 17th century, prisoners were incarcerated mainly for debt. In those days, in Britain at least, the idea of incarceration had not yet occurred to anyone as a particularly smart idea because the usual sentence for those found guilty of crimes was death. Then, in 1615, Thomas More’s “Utopia” suggested a proposal for imprisonment as an alternative.
At this time, about half the prisons were privately owned and rented out to sub-contractors. Newgate prison in London, for instance, dating from as early as 1130, was a commercial enterprise administered by a “warden”.
In 1682, the Duke of York, later to become James II of England, handed over a large chunk of his American holdings to William Penn. This land included the present-day Pennsylvania. On hearing the news, Penn sailed to America and the colonists pledged allegiance to him as their new proprietor after he had journeyed upriver and founded the Province of Pennsylvania. Under his direction, the city of Philadelphia was planned and developed.
At that time, Philadelphia had become the epicentre of prison reform worldwide. Penn was a Quaker and had been incarcerated in England for his beliefs, so he abolished the Duke of York’s “criminal code”, and repealed the death penalty for all crimes except murder, and instead punished individuals with imprisonment and hard labour.
However, Quakers were not known for their progressive liberalism, and the law also called for severe penalties for sexual offences such as “defiling the marriage bed”, whatever one believes that to mean. This was punishable by whipping plus a year’s sentence for the first offence, then life imprisonment for the second.
Anyway, the first American Penitentiary, which consisted only of cell blocks, was constructed by the name of the Walnut Street Jail (incidentally, the use of the word “penitentiary” comes from the Pennsylvania Quakers and their belief in self-examination and penitence as a way to salvation). Not by defilement, either. The jail’s construction was completed at the end of the 18th century, transforming it into the first American Penitentiary.
At that time, Benjamin Franklin, Benjamin Rush and others organised a movement to reform the harsh penal code. The new law substituted public labour for the previous severe punishments. Reaction against the public display of convicts on the streets and the “disgraceful conditions” in the Walnut Street jail led to the formation of the Philadelphia Society. The next year, it presented to the state legislature an account of their investigations into prison conditions and recommended solitary confinement and hard labour as a “remedy” and reformative strategy.
But it was Michel Foucault who wrote about the eighteenth century as the age that brought about techniques of discipline and examination, rather as the Middle Ages thought about judicial investigation. This, he said, was an authoritarian device for the “search for truth”, where sovereign powers arrogated themselves the right to establish these so-called “truths” to better administer “justice” by a number of regulatory techniques.
It wasn’t humanism that changed things, it was the call of eighteenth-century reformers to not take revenge and, as such, during this period, crimes seemed to lose their violence while punishments lost some of their intensity.
By then, society had shifted from one that punished the “criminality of blood” to the “criminality of fraud”, which formed a whole new complex mechanism that placed a higher “moral value” on property. The authorities therefore instituted much stricter methods of surveillance, a tighter partitioning of the population and more efficient techniques of locating and obtaining information. In the 21st century, this has accelerated to alarming proportions.
In effect, in its apparent justification to “rectify” the mechanisms of discipline that characterise jail, was to get at the problem of understanding the criminal mind behind the criminal act and to administer punishment that was corrective; a therapy to normalise, measure, assess, diagnose, cure and transform individuals.
In those days in France, the Ministry of the Colonies is quoted as saying: “Beyond this distribution of roles operates a theoretical disavowal: do not imagine that the sentences that we judges pass are activated by a desire to punish; they are intended to correct, reclaim, cure…” Society and prison now differ only in degree, where self-discipline is the accepted norm, even when applied to the mildest of transgressions.
At Alcatraz, inmates ended up at the Rock because they refused to play by the rules set out for them in other federal penitentiaries. After stepping off the boat, prisoners were greeted by a team of corrections officers who explained the strict regulations of the prison. For example, in the early years, prisoners were only permitted to talk to one another during weekend recreation time.
A set of Institution Regulations was issued to the inmates who were required to keep it in their cells at all times, which included the recommendation for clemency which required they should show better than average good conduct and good work records for several years at the institution and that loafing, loitering, visiting, or unauthorised absence from work would result in disciplinary action, and may result in loss of the inmate’s job, and withholding of, or forfeiture of, good time.
Foucault also argued that a “carceral continuum” runs through modern society, from the maximum security prison, through secure accommodation, probation, social workers, police, and teachers, to our everyday working and domestic lives. All are connected by the supervision, surveillance, application of norms of acceptable behaviour of some humans by others.
It has to be said that society is being increasingly controlled but it is really a question of results. The results of the prison system very rarely coincide with the aim, and the objective of correctional prisons such as Alcatraz, America’s premier maximum-security prison and the final stop for the nation’s most incorrigible inmates, and that of imprisonment itself as a means of “improving the individual”, has never been achieved.
Thursday February 03rd 2011, 12:52 pm
Filed under: News
On 14th February, flowers are exchanged between those addicted to it, but its origins, narcissistically, are one of legend: St. Valentine sent the first card to himself in prison. Conveniently, so did Al Capone, after the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre
Valentine’s Day is celebrated on the 14th February to commemorate the anniversary of St. Valentine’s death, which is said to have been around 270 AD. But the history of this day remains shrouded in legend. Let’s be fair, all anyone knows about him is next to nothing. The man was said to be a martyred saint of ancient Rome, whose birthday is still celebrated, even in the 21st century.
Grimly or joyously, however one cares to measure it, in ancient Rome February was the month of springtime and therefore a time for “purification”. It also corresponded with the ides of February (in stark contrast to Shakespeare’s March), when everyone that had enough stamina for an event that celebrated the “fertility festival”, dedicated to Faunus (the Roman god of agriculture), as well as to the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, had a good time. One can only dizzily imagine what went on.
Anyway, one of the many stories of St. Valentine is that in the third century, in a city where Romulus and Remus still held some sway and when Claudius II was emperor, Claudius declared that single men “made better soldiers than married ones”. So he decreed, senselessly, that the marriage of young soldiers would henceforth be outlawed.
Meanwhile, Valentine got wind of this and was said to have been so outraged he began performing clandestine marriages himself. Tricky, because Claudius, being the wily chap he was, found out. Claudius then put St. Valentine to death.
The thing that pissed Claudius off the most was that he was unable to convince Valentine that he should convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. The people wondered why. Maybe he did too. But Claudius, the intellectual, executed him anyway. Perhaps a bit harsh, especially when just prior to his death he performed a “miracle” by healing the blind daughter of his jailer. Supine, anomalously and unsentimentally, he wrote: “From your Valentine”.
Crap line for sure but according to various truths of legend, St. Valentine’s Day has always had “no connections whatsoever with sentimental love”. Another man, much later on, who enjoyed the same elevated view of himself, and definitely lacked any concept of sentimental love whatsoever, was Al Capone.
Tragically, or even less so, Al Capone once conceded that, without even considering the double entendre he was making, Alcatraz had “got me licked”.
Al Capone, as we all know, was no saint: he had syphilis and died of it in 1947. But while in Alcatraz prison he had it largely his own way: he boasted of expensive furnishings like personal bedding and a carpeted cell, a radio that was enjoyed by many of the guards, and housed his friends and family in a nearby hotel.
By 1929 Al Capone’s empire was worth over $62,000,000 — impressive even to the likes of Bernie Madoff, who won’t be released until he is 210 years old. This self-made gangster-millionaire was indeed a serious player. But more importantly, for this story at least, he was credited with what is deemed one of the most famous mass-murder in American history: The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.
The crafty little sod made the authorities take almost five years before he was finally convicted in 1931 for tax fraud. Maybe parliamentarians should take note of this: Alphonse Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison for ripping of the state and the judge refused to allow him to be released on “bail”. Bail, in the Alcatraz context has a vastly different and far more pleasurable connotation.
But, getting back to the courtier: Around the seventeenth century, Valentine’s Day in Britain started to be celebrated in earnest. It is believed, because it was also the beginning of the mating season for birds, which heralded in the springtime of romance, that greetings cards were sent to one’s lover. Perhaps on the behalf of a strutting peacock. Failure to do so was frowned upon in quiet society in those days — especially by Mick Jagger.
Prosaically enough though, a century later, ready-made greetings cards have become extremely popular: today the Greeting Card Association estimates that around a billion Valentine’s cards are sent every year. And we wonder how all the world’s post offices have gone bust.
Finally, to coincide with the Day of Love, execution, unfortunate diseases and the inconsistency of legend, Alcatraz is at last lowering the price of its Carlsberg draft to Bt60 — incidentally, the only bar in Walking Street to sell it — during Happy Hour between 8-10pm.
Monday January 24th 2011, 1:18 pm
Filed under: News
Robert Stroud, better known as the “Birdman of Alcatraz”, was the infamous inmate of Alcatraz. He was first incarcerated for the brutal murder of a bartender who reneged on paying “bail”. Later, in the 1960s, Carol Doda become the first go-go dancer.
Alcatraz was America’s premier maximum-security prison during its penitentiary years, and the inmates called it “The Rock”. The small island initially served as a lighthouse, then a military fortification and later a federal prison until 1963. In 1972 Alcatraz became one of America’s most prominent landmarks and tourist attractions.
Juan Manuel de Ayala, in 1775, charted San Francisco Bay and named the island “La Isla de los Alcatraces,” or “The Island of the Pelicans” which was also home to a colony of gulls, cormorants, and egrets. In 1850, President Millard Fillmore ordered that the island of Alcatraz be used by the military following the Mexican-American War and the acquisition of California from Mexico.
Following this acquisition and the start of the California Gold Rush, the military set up coastal batteries to protect San Francisco Bay. Due to its isolation from the outside by freezing and hazardous sea currents, this now-abandoned prison was used to house Civil War prisoners as early as 1861. In 1867 a brick jailhouse was built and in 1868 Alcatraz was officially designated a long-term detention facility for military prisoners.
Later, Robert Stroud, or the “Birdman of Alcatraz”, was jailed for the brutal murder of a bartender who failed to pay a prostitute in Alaska and took the man’s wallet in recompense.
It was at at Leavenworth penitentiary that Stroud reared and sold birds and became an ornithologist after developing a keen interest in canaries. During his many years of incarceration there, after finding an injured bird in the recreation yard, he was allowed to breed birds and maintain a lab inside two adjoining segregation cells. However, after several years of “research”, officials discovered that some of the equipment was being used to construct a still.
Then, in 1942, Stroud was transferred to Alcatraz, where he spent the next seventeen years. However, despite the nickname, he only kept birds at Leavenworth and contrary to the myth surrounding him he was not allowed to tend birds following his transfer to Alcatraz.
Meanwhile, the early 1960s witnessed another explosive phenomenon. Women at the Peppermint Lounge in New York, dancers who were employed to entertain at a discotheque, began getting up on tables to dance the twist. These mini-skirted clubbers wearing “go-go boots” were named after the French expression “à gogo”, meaning “in abundance” or “galore”, derived from the more ancient word “la gogue”, or “happiness”.
On 19 June 1964, Carol Doda began go-go dancing topless at the Condor Club in San Francisco. She became the world’s most famous go-go dancer, staying at the club for 22 years. At the same time, go-go dancers were hired at the Whisky A Go-Go on Sunset Strip. This was the first go-go club to have cages suspended from the ceiling (just as they are in Alcatraz bar in Pattaya today), and the idea of the “cage dancer” was conceived.
The concept soon caught on. In Tokyo and then Saigon during the war, there were a feast of go-go bars set up to entertain US troops. Later, the go-go bar emerged in earnest throughout Southeast Asia and, by the 1980s, Thailand was leading this industry in the distinguished coteries of Patpong and Soi Cowboy.
Today, Pattaya has the largest number of go-go bars anywhere in Thailand, attracting millions of visitors each year to experience the essence of the clubs, mainly on Walking Street, with no small thanks to Carol Doda and Robert Stroud.
Wednesday January 12th 2011, 1:59 pm
Filed under: News
The Sun newspaper reported at the end of last year that Jenny Thompson, Wayne Rooney’s erstwhile nemesis, “will see in the New Year at Thailand’s Full Moon rave” but was spotted at Thailand’s notorious entertainment area among friends and “inmates”.
Alcatraz GoGo bar is the newest and arguably the largest GoGo bar in Thailand, which has a unique prison leitmotif which extends to poledancers on the ground level, “inmates” and “correctional institution officers” in caged cells on the second, and an ultra-cool, intimate lounge bar on the third.
Alcatraz GoGo bar is perhaps be the unlikeliest venue for high-flying Bolton girl Jennifer Thompson, who is said to be “well-spoken” and from a “middle-class family who live in a £300,000 detached home in a leafy suburb of Bolton”.
The Sun newspaper recently reported that she “will see in the New Year at Thailand’s Full Moon rave” but after that she must have made a quick dash to Pattaya as she was spotted at Alcatraz GoGo bar in Walking Street, Thailand’s notorious entertainment area.
The newspaper reported that she had “splashed out on cosmetic surgery, a luxury watch, designer clothes, a new home and champagne-fuelled nights out”. But there she was, in the heart of Pattaya’s entertainment district, in a GoGo bar, watching sketchily-clad girls dancing, listening to cutting-edge House music into the early hours and mingling with “prison guards” and her friends.
According to the Mirror newspaper, Wayne Rooney, the £100,000-a-week Manchester United and England star, slept with brunette “Premiership Jen” seven times and “he even flaunted her on a string of dates to VIP haunts in Manchester, including bars, clubs and the city’s 235 Casino”. But it is doubtful whether these clubs in the north of England could boast such eroticism as the dynamic world of Alcatraz.
This is the girl that caused Wayne Rooney so much anguish when he confessed his transgressions to childhood-sweetheart wife Coleen. Under huge pressure from tabloid revelations, his wife later took the 24-year-old footballer back even after he admitted to cheating on her while she was pregnant with their son.
“Well-spoken” and “middle-class” she may be, but “Premiership Jen” was mixing it up with prison-clad crew this week and presumably revelling in the seductive spectacle of Alcatraz GoGo bar, Pattaya’s psuedo-criminal gogotheque.
Tuesday December 14th 2010, 4:04 pm
Filed under: News
Pattaya’s latest A GoGo bar opened its doors at the beginning of December with a huge bang. We are located between sois 14 and 15 on Walking Street and the night was absolutely packed.
On the night, many people were curious to see what Pattaya’s latest A GoGo bar was all about and overall their comments were positive, with a few suggestions for improvement which we have now put in place. For instance, most really liked the idea of a prison-themed GoGo and that they had a fantastic night. A lot of people commented on the bar’s attractive exterior and interior design.
Soon after the launch we opened up the lounge bar on the third floor, which is proving extremely popular. We understood all along that competition in the GoGo market is fierce, but we believe that Alcatraz A GoGo has brought something special to Walking Street, where our unique prison theme is proving attractive and our music and lightshows add to the customers’ experience. We have worked very hard to create an ambience that fuses the sensuality of GoGo with a hi-tech dance, light and music.
We were very busy that night and have remained so ever since. People we talked to found the service staff to be friendly and that the girls were very cute and the coyote shows spicy and seductive.
There were, of course, some negative comments, which hopefully we have fully addressed. On the opening night it was not chilly enough for some, so the next day we bought five extra air-con units. Some people objected to the price of the Carlsberg and soft drinks, so we reduced the prices of both. Also the rotation of the girls is much faster now, with more in view.
A week later we opened up the top floor, which is a luxurious ultra-cool lounge bar, which is intimate and risqué and many have said they will definitely be back to take another look.