Monday, April 25, 2022

They’re all guys

Saturday night, TCM showed the film Saint Jack, which is about Jack Flowers, an American hustler in early 1970s Singapore, who dreams of building a fortune by running a brothel and returning to the States to lead a life of luxury. 

Ben Gazzara plays Jack and early on in the film, he escorts a visitor through a red-light district of Singapore where beautiful ladies abound.

Jack’s visitor comments, “The women here are all so attractive.”

Jack responds, “They’re all guys.”

Wow – I did not see that coming!

“Singapore’s Bugis Street was renowned as a meeting place for trans women to mix, mingle and have fun during the 1950s-1980s. Each evening, a fabulous parade of glamorous trans women would walk up-and-down the rundown streets at Bugis Junction, flirting with tourists, sailors and G.I.s, often charging them to have their photograph taken, inviting them to a bar for a drink, or taking them to a quiet room (or rooftop) for sex.

“Bugis Street was a popular area for touring British servicemen in the 1950s, who became fans/lovers of many of the trans women, and rechristened the area ‘Boogie Street’—a mispronunciation of the district’s name that stuck in 1970s with the rise of disco.

“For thirty years, Bugis Street thrived as a haven for trans women and their admirers, until the government cracked down on what was described as ‘shameful’ and ‘lewd behavior’ in the 1970s. Many servicemen were arrested at gunpoint, tourists were threatened and frightened away, the bars were closed and many trans women were arrested. Eventually the hard-line puritans won and old Bugis Street was demolished in the mid-1980s and replaced by a shopping mall and entertainment outlet.” (source:

The image above is not from the film; rather, it is a collage of the girls who actually populated Bugis Street, circa 1970.

By the way, Saint Jack was very good and Ben Gazzara was excellent.

Source: Venus
Wearing Venus

Singapore’s Bugis Street ladies
Singapore’s Bugis Street ladies, circa 1970


  1. I was a visitor to Bugis Street in 1972 and can vouch for the presence of many young " ladies", usually starting at about 10 p.m. and continuing through the night. Sailors from the navies of the UK, USA, Australia and other visiting fleets loved the place and the girls loved them. It was actually mainly good fun in that the sailors would drink too much and the girls got free drinks. Anything more took place out of public view in adjoining premises.

    I was extremely jealous of the girls, who were mostly very pretty and always dressed to the nines, but I was firmly in the closet and did not dare to join their ranks.

    A couple of years later the government thought everybody was having too much fun and closed the area, ostensibly because they were building the underground railway there. The girls are now relegated to certain hotel bars on/off Orchard Road (a major tourist area) in much diminished numbers and to Changi Village, near the airport, where they are out of sight and out of mind away from the city.

  2. It wasn't the lure of the girls particularly that made Bugis Street so popular, it was one of the few places one could get a meal and more importantly get a beer in the very early hours of the morning. Jae Singapore 1966-1968

  3. Beautiful girls! I read ages ago that they would descend on Bugis St in male guise (doubtless to comply with draconian Singapore laws) and would effect their transformations in a public lavatory at the street. Not sure how true that story was, but it makes the end results even more stunning! Would love to catch up with the Gazzara film, it was from a novel by Paul Theroux.

  4. I never, unfortunately, had the chance of seeing the girls of Bugis Street, but if you go to Bangkok there are some incredibly beautiful "girls", mostly Asian. I think it is much easier to be an Asian Femulator and envy the ease with which an Asian male can become a convincing woman, with remarkably little artifice.