THE TOP 40 FARANGS
By Andrew Biggs
I see the Thailand Tatler Top 300 Expat List is out on the streets.
It’s actually called “The 300 List”. It comes out every couple of years and resembles a Billboard Hot 100, with the Bill Heineckes of the world shooting to number one while hapless NIST English teachers hover around the 290’s like a Backstreet Boys comeback single.
It was back in 2007 that I received an email from Thailand Tatler informing me I’d been “selected” as one of Thailand’s leading expats and would be featured on a “list”.
It would be terribly remiss of me to pretend I wasn’t impressed, though had I not been so completely up my own prostate I would have heard the warning bells.
First … an email? Where’s the gold-embossed Issey Miyake-scented letter in the special commemorative Thailand Tatler Top Expat Edition envelope? We’re not talking smelly Khaosan Road Eurotrash here – haven’t you deemed me “leading”? Please … afford me the honor I so truly deserve!
I was too starry-eyed to smell the impending rat; I dutifully dashed off a “short summary” of my “achievements and distinctions”. As I approached the 4,500 word mark I realized perhaps I should respect the 200 word limit and start again.
I quickly dispatched that, along with an airbrushed headshot from 1993, off to Thailand Tatler then sat back in my plush leather chair on the 21st floor of Maleenont Tower. With my head tilted to the window that afforded me a stunning view of the Khlong Toey slum, I reveled in my achievements and distinctions, happy that a prestigious magazine such as Thailand Tatler had finally seen fit to separate the expat sheep from the Nana Plaza goats.
My telephone sprang to life.
“You’ll never guess what I just got asked to be in.”
It was the beaming voice of my dear friend Evil Neil from the 28th floor. Regular readers of this column know Evil Neil, Thailand’s biggest concert promoter … not that that makes him a man of achievement and distinction, unless you’re on stage to announce the award for Atrocious Cell Phone Etiquette.
There was something just a little too smug about his tone of voice, and I didn’t like it.
“I have no idea,” I said. Don’t, whatever you do, say you got a letter from Thailand Tat-
“It’s a letter from Thailand Tatler,” he said, his words glistening and sparkling in the late afternoon sun.
My immediate reaction was; they’re compiling two lists? The Movers and Shakers (my letter) and the Also Rans (Evil Neil’s)? To be honest I don’t doubt Evil Neil’s propensity to dazzle outsiders with his aura of power, but I was a little put out that Thailand Tatler had seen fit to invite two farangs from the very same company to join some exclusive list of Thailand’s Sexiest Expats or whatever the name of it was.
Two? Try three.
“The boss has received one, too,” Evil Neil explained. Now there was a growing apprehension about this exclusive list – I mean, just how exclusive was it going to be?
When the magazine flopped on my desk two months later I was outraged.
“Thailand Tatler’s Exclusive Top 300 Expat List”.
First of all, in a city like Bangkok, what is exclusive about a list of 300 people? I’m surprised my Nepalese gardener didn’t make the list. I’m a bit of a man about town and for all the high-society events I attend, not once did the expat numbers swell to 300.
Billboard calls it their “Hot 100” … I am assuming any expansion of that number turns it into a “Tepid 200”. So what does that make us here in Bangkok – the “Thawed Out 300”? I can just imagine the harried TT staff on the day before deadline coming to the realization they have only mustered up a list of 277 … oh no! 23 movers and shakers short!
“Quick … take this camera and run down to Nana Plaza and see if anybody looks vaguely like leadership material,” the Editor must have said. “On second thoughts, head for Soi Cowboy. Times are tough … even for movers and shakers.”
This is clearly what happened in this latest list, judging by the inclusion of some very dubious faces; movers and shakers in the Pattaya Walking Street girlie bars, perhaps, but certainly not in Bangkok society.
This is borne out by the telltale last question TT asked on the form required to be sent back: “Can you recommend any other names to be included on our list?” Ah-hah! So you did have to pop down to Soi Cowboy after all!
It’s bad enough the list is a morbidly-obese 300. Worse still -- it’s alphabetized!
Thank God my last name’s Biggs, putting me at #18 on the Thawed Out 300. I just think it’s downright unfair Anthony Ainsworth is a perennial #1, while poor old Boaz Zippor, that talented photographer, must be beside himself languishing at #300. What happens if a new expat by the name of, oh, Veronica Zimmerpickle suddenly shoulders her way into Thai expat society? Poor Boaz gets bumped!
It would have been far more exciting – not to mention riveting – to rank the Top 300 expats on a weekly basis.
Perhaps not so great for Anthony Ainsworth, but certainly Bill Heinecke would jump from his current #107 straight to #1 in his first week on the chart – that hasn’t happened since Michael Jackson released “You Are Not Alone”.
TT could tabulate our rises and falls based on bank statements, appearances in the social pages, contributions to the TT Pension Fund, etc. And since we Bangkok expats have a propensity for, er, untoward behavior (a mere 11 out of the 300 are devoid of skeletons in the closet), that too could have an effect on our weekly rankings when and if we get caught. Surely my three months in America earlier this year would have seen me slip from #18 down to the lower regions of the Top 40.
Whenever Rolling Stone publishes their list of the 100 Greatest Songs Of All Time they cop a lot of flak from readers who demand to know why classics like We Built This City or Sunglasses At Night weren’t included. It’s the same with the Thawed Out 300.
Last Wednesday I had dinner with my good friend Andrew Stotz, Thailand’s leading financial analyst, the likes of which the Prime Minister himself consults. Where is he on the list? And what about my dear friend Stuart MacDonnell who runs international sporting events, before which 85 per cent of “The 300 List” telephone him asking for free tickets?
It was Steve Pettifour (#225, art critic extraordinaire) who explained to me this week why there are 300 of us, and not a more manageable 40 or 100. This is what he said:
Recently there was an event at the Renaissance Hotel to announce the Thawed Out 300 and he went. He made the list for the first time, making me wonder who he bumped and whether he should increase security at his moo bahn because of it.
“It’s a conspiracy,” he explained. “They want us all to beef up. They’re going to put us all in armor and make us fight in the name of Sparta!”
Ah, now I get it. And that I would like to see. Anthony Ainsworth and the other 17 in front of me can man the front line.
I’ll be at the back having a beer with Boaz.