Air Force One: A Gentleman’s Club by Julie Yap Daza (Manila Standard Today)


It’s not an airplane. It’s not a Hollywood movie. What it is is the biggest in Asia.


One hectare, three stories. First class, business class, economy class. Plus a basement. And a parking lot for 600 cars.


In one wing of the building — which has cathedral windows minus the stained-glass images of biblical characters — an “aquarium” where the fish, 100 girls, wait to be fished out by men who will pay the house P795 by the hour for their company. On the stage, a “fashion show,” nonstop, featuring bits and pieces of clothing on 30 models walking up and down the ramp.


At midnight, there will be a show other than the walk of the cat. Wednesday is the big night, when movie stars idled by the death of the film industry turn into dancers, singers, performers, entertainers, the likes of Ara Mina, Aubrey Miles, Angelica Jones, Maricar de Mesa. (Sometimes the girls are bodyguarded by their mothers sitting in the dressing room with those naked bulbs studding the frame of the huge mirror, mirror on the wall.)

Welcome to Air Force One, gentlemen. Too complicated to be a nightclub and too posh to be a KTV club, so the owners prefer to call it a gentlemen’s club. A club for gentlemen without their usual ladies because, with 100 girls in the aquarium and 30 on the catwalk, who needs more?


Hedonistic comes to mind. The food is better than what comes out of some “fine dining” restaurants (where customers pay a fine for ordering gourmet):

Japanese tempura, Filipino sinigang, Chinese noodles, American-style steak, at five-star prices. “Our chef came from the Westin.”


The appointments are five-star. A lobby with marble floors and lamps seemingly lifted from a hotel, and don’t overlook the sweeping staircase with a graceful arch. Smoking rooms, bars, lounges — and, the piece de resistance, 50 KTV rooms and 100 rooms in the underground spa, a spa that provides queen-size beds instead of narrow massage cots.


In the KTV rooms, each named after an American president — but since George W. Bush is only the 43rd, there are rooms called Camp David (though I didn’t see one named after the White House) — the gentlemen will find two TV sets, a luxuriously furnished bathroom with shower and toilet, and individually packaged razor, toothbrush, soap, all branded Air Force One, exactly like what a first-class passenger would find in the plane’s lavatory.


Air Force One is supposed to be the biggest nightclub-KTV club in Asia. Owned by the fortyish Leo Ting and 14 partners, it’s only 16 months old and making waves. Not surprisingly, the men who come to look are mostly tourists, who bring in 70 percent of the business. A crew of 400 look after their every need, wearing different uniforms to distinguish their work: waitering, ushering, gofer-ing, parking, security. (No uniforms for the bouncers.)

They’re so focused on their work that one night, when the American ambassador casually walked in with two bodyguards to look the place over, nobody remembered to roll out the red carpet and give him the VIP treatment.

The manager could only surmise from Ambassador Francis Ricciardone’s visit that the envoy was curious about a nightclub named after the airplane of the US president, a club with 43 KTV rooms named after US presidents and goodness knows what else. From what I saw during a brief walk-through, I’m almost certain there is no smoking room named after the Oval Office or Monica Lewinsky.


To hear it told, the girls of Air Force One make good money, easily. One of them is now the wife of an expat CEO, and although she has retired from the business, once in a while she and her husband drop by to watch a show and catch up with the other fish.


It’s not always the prettiest girl who takes home the big money. The customers want “sweet” girls with saucy manners; they want to be caressed, amused, the time to pass unnoticed. For the fish, P3,000 a night is as good as it gets. The dancers earn tips in dollars, too, and $500 inserted into the garter of their bikini is not a phenomenon. From the hourly fee of P795, each girl takes P200 from the house.


Hospitality doesn’t come cheap. Most of them have “talent managers” who organize their schedules and teach them how to multiply their earnings. One such manager has 10 girls living under one roof with him, “every room in the house airconditioned,” if you believe the manager of managers. “They all drive brand-new cars, too.”


Trained by experience to entertain, the girls are conditioned to look out for themselves. As providers of fun, they want some fun for themselves, too. That’s when they disappear for days on end, after they have been blessed with a windfall, a bonus, a generous patron, manna from heaven. – ?

Updated: 2009-03-20 — 21:36:09


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  2. I can’t wait to get my hands on these ‘fishes’. I’m getting some boner. Where is it? Do they have a website? I wanna go for a visit!

  3. I was overcharged and the waiter tried to get me to sign for drinks I never ordered. I complained to the mgmt. – did NOT sign the bills and paid for what I owed them….you gotta be careful and this is kind of cheezy….too bad, it is a nice place but they are out for your money….

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