Chapter 8 - Nightlife
WHOOPEE! What odds whether Shanghai is the Paris of the East or Paris the Shanghai of the Occident?
Shanghai has its own distinctive night life, and what a life! Dog races and cabarets, hai-alai and cabarets, formal tea and dinner dances and cabarets, the sophisticated and cosmopolitan French Club and cabarets, the dignified and formal Country Club and cabarets, prize fights and cabarets, amateur dramatics and cabarets, theatres and cabarets, movies and cabarets, and cabarets - everywhere, in both extremities of Frenchtown (French Concession), uptown and downtown in the International Settlement, in Hongkew, and out of bounds in Chinese territory, are cabarets. Hundreds of 'em!
High hats and low necks; long tails and short knickers; inebriates and slumming puritans.
Wine, women and song.
Let's go places and do things!
When the sun goes in and the lights come out Shanghai becomes another city, the City of Blazing Night, a night life Haroun-al-Raschid never knew, with tales Scheherezade never told the uxoricidal Sultan Shahriyar.
Tea and Cocktails. Night life in Shanghai begins with the tea-cocktail hour, tea for propriety, cocktails for pep; it ends at anytime from 2 a.m. until breakfast. You can take your fun where you find it, and one needn't look far. The hotel clerk will tell you, or your partner in a cocktail twosome.
Formal tea and dinner dances, with elaborate entertainment, are featured by the leading hotels and the larger cabarets and ballrooms.
The cabarets - maybe we mentioned them before - are in three classifications; high class, low class and no class. You take your choice. The Number One places will be thickly dotted with dinner jackets and Paris frocks and you bring your own girl or engage in a little social piracy; the Number Two's supply the "dancing hostesses" at a moderate fee if one is stagging it, and the Number Three's - but why bring that up?
Food and Liquor. Good food can be found everywhere, at any hour; good liquor is the pride and boast of the first class resorts - at the others stick to bottled beer, and open the bottles yourself. The entertainment is variegated, a Hawaiian hula, Russian mazurka, Parisian apache, negro musicians, dusky crooners and torch singers, Siberian acrobats, London ballroom exhibitionists, American jazz, the Carioca, the tango, and the "dancing hostesses." Ah!
Keep moving, if there is but one night; start at the hotel and finish at "Blood Alley," playground of the navies and armies. There's plenty to see and do in between.
Dancing and Music. Shanghai flames with millions of flashing jewels at midnight. The centre of night life is a vast crucible of electric flame.
The throb of the jungle tom-tom; the symphony of lust; the music of a hundred orchestras; the shuffling of feet; the swaying of bodies; the rhythm of abandon; the hot smoke of desir, desire under the floodlights; it's all fun; it's life.
Joy, gin, and jazz. There's nothing puritanical about Shanghai.
The "dancing hostesses"! They amiably entertain at a dime to a dollar a dance; Russians, Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Eurasians - occasionally others.
They can dance - and drink.
"Vun small bottle of vine?" It's the battle cry of the far flung bottle front.
"'S'funny how a little girl can hold so much champagne!"
It's not wine; it's cider or ginger ale, but not on the chit (bill). Shura or Vera or Valia gets a commission. It all helps. Give this little girl a great big bottle.
"'S getting late." Rose tints the sky beyond the Whangpoo. "Let's go for ham'n eggs and one last round."
One swaying, sinuous embrace and a moist kiss with the last strains of the dance. "Hey, kid; why don't you marry the girl?"
The modish matron cuffs the gigolo. The dancing girl nods surrender but grabs her stack of dance tickets and flees into the night.
"Boy! Call a car!"
One night in Shanghai is ended.
Shanghai likes to dance and to be entertained. The Cathay Hotel features tea dances and dinner dances, with elaborate floor shows. During the Winter season the Astor House Hotel's tea dances and classical concerts are popular. The Palace Hotel offers concerts during the tea and dinner hours.
Of cabarets there is a range to suit any taste, from those where formal dress predominates, to those not so formal but distinctly bohemian.
Among the cabarets which may safely be recommended, because of the high standard of management and service, a tour of which will give the visitor a reasonably complete survey of Shanghai's night life, are:
"Invest $10 and win $500,000," the advertisements say, and it is possible.
In fact, in Shanghai, sudden and unearned wealth, like prosperity, is just "around the corner" - for the lucky ones.
In this instance the opportunity is offered by the National State Lottery Administration (Chinese Government). Drawings at this writing (July, 1934) are held every two months, with 500,000 tickets offered for sale at $10 each, each ticket in turn being divided into ten shares, at $1 a share. That is, you may have one full $10 ticket or a tenth interest in one ticket for $1. Prizes approximate. $2,500,000, the net realization going into a fund for the development of highways and airways in China. Drawings are supervised by a commission composed of foreigners and Chinese. Tickets for this lottery are continuously on sale in Shanghai.
Fortunes in Prizes. The capital prize is $500,000. If you have the full ticket for the winning number you win $500,000; if you have a tenth interest in it you win $50,000. There are two second prizes of $100,000 each, four third prizes of $50,000 each; ten fourth prizes of $10,000, fifty of $2,000, one hundred of $500, five hundred of $200, and, on terminal numbers, 4,999 prizes of $70, and 44,999 of $20.
So, if Lady Luck smiles, $10 may bring you $500,000; $1 may win $50,000. The odds are long, but the prizes are won, and promptly paid.
Racing. Racing in Shanghai is promoted by the Shanghai Race Club, International Recreation Club, and the Chinese Jockey Club. The magnificent new club house of the Shanghai Race Club is at the Recreation Ground, at the junction of Nanking and Bubbling Well Roads. The International Recreation Club operates at Kiangwan. North of Shanghai, beyond Hongkew Park, and the Chinese Jockey Club's course lies beyond Yangtszepoo.
Horse racing (or rather "China pony" racing, the ponies being imported from the Mongolian plains) is practically a year 'round diversion in Shanghai. The Shanghai Race Club starts off with the New Year Race Meeting on January 1. In December the Chinese Jockey Club finishes the racing year with the "China Gold Vase" meet.
The first weeks in May and November (Saturday to Saturday, inclusive) bring the Spring and Autumn Race Meets of the Shanghai Race Club, the most important events in the racing calendar. "Champions' Day" (Wednesday) of these weeks brings for award the biggest sweepstakes of the racing year. The lucky holder of the ticket on the winning pony in these events will profit by from $70,000 to $125,000. There are many lesser sweepstakes, and most of the Shanghai social clubs conduct their own sweeps on the major events, with first prizes ranging from $2,.500 to $10,000.
Wagering Systems. Betting at the horse races is both by sweepstake and pari-mutuel methods. The International Recreation Club varies from the parimutuel system by employing the "totalizator" method. which is a machine instead of a manual system and by which the bettor can see at a glance how many tickets have been sold on any one pony.
In the big sweepstakes all revenue from the sale of tickets is available for prizes after the deduction of 20 per cent. of the total pool for the club. Holders of tickets on unplaced ponies are alloted ten per cent. of the prize money. The residue is divided 70 per cent. to the winning pony, twenty per cent. to the second and ten per cent to the third. As may be imagined, the running of the sweepstake races are among the major sporting and social events in Shanghai.
Dogs and Hai-alai. "Going to the dogs" is literally a favourite diversion of Shanghailanders, the greyhounds racing on stated dates at the Champs de Courses Francais (Canidrome), Avenue du Roi Albert and Rue Lafayette, in the French Concession. Dog racing is not allowed in the International Settlement, and the importation of greyhounds has been prohibited by the Chinese Government, but the sport flourishes at the Canidrome in the French Concession, where greyhounds are bred, and, like pony racing, offers ample opportunity to those who would woo fickle fortune. By various combinations, big winnings, or big losings, are possible.
Hai-alai, fast and fascinating Spanish indoor sport, is a nightly feature of Shanghai sporting life, staged at the palatial Auditorium, on Avenue du Roi Albert, just off Avenue Joffre, in the French Concession. There is a huge amount of betting on the games.
For its theatrical entertainment Shanghai is largely dependent on motion pictures and there are a number of first class cinema houses showing the best of the American, British, German, French and Chinese productions. They are all equipped for sound.
Excellent stage plays are produced at frequent intervals by local associations of amateurs, and touring companies are occasionally here for limited engagements. But in the main going to the theatre in Shanghai means going to the "talkies."
Among the first class cinemas are:
Carlton - 2 Park Road
Cathay - 868 Avenue Joffre
Embassy - 742 Bubbling Well Road
Grand - 216 Bubbling Well Road
Lyceum - Rtes. Bourgeat and Cardinal Mercier
Metropol - 500 Thibet Road
Nanking - 523 Avenue Edward VII
Strand - 586 Ningpo Road
Municipal Orchestra. The Shanghai Municipal Symphony Orchestra is perhaps the chief cultural asset of the city. Under the direction of Maestro Mario Paci, conductor, the orchestra has achieved an international reputation. The personnel is made up of 44 players of various nationalities - Italian, German, Austrian, Russian, Hungarian and Czecho-Slovakian.
Many notable visiting artists have collaborated with the orchestra from time to time, including Zimbalist, Moiseiwitsch, Elman, Godowsky, and McCormack.
During the Winter season the orchestra performs every Sunday evening in the Grand Theatre. These concerts are interspersed with mid-week radio broadcasts. In the Summer months band and symphony orchestra concerts are given in the public parks.
Radio Broadcasting. Although radio broadcasts are a comparatively recent development in Shanghai, there are now more than 100 stations operating in the city, the bulk of them being Chinese. Among the principal foreign stations are the following:
Call Letters / Operated by / Metres / Kr.
XQHA, Radio Shanghai, 80 Love Lane, 517.2 , 580
XMHA, Radio Engineering Co., 445 Race Course Road, 500, 600
XMHC, Radio Sales and Service, Ltd., 47 Ningpo Road, 428.57, 700
XQHB, Mrs. C. M. Robertson, 274 Rte. Moresea, 861.2, 830
XQHC, China Broadcast, 269 Broadway, 80.6, 1300
Radio Minded. Ninety per cent. of all radio sets sold in Shanghai go to Chinese and a large proportion of radio advertising is placed with the Chinese broadcasting stations.
HOTELS AND APARTMENTS
Shanghai offers ample hotel and hotel-apartment accommodations, with a wide variety of locations and tariffs. Customarily the American plan (meals included) prevails, but the European plan is optional at reduced rates; monthly rates are reasonable. The more modern hotels offer all the attractions and facilities obtainable elsewhere in great cities.
Principal hotels, locations and minimum American plan rates (quoted in Mexican dollars):
Astor House Hotel; 7 Whangpoo Road, immediately North of Garden Bridge; single, $12; double, $20, suite- for two, $30. Beach Hotel (Kaochow); on Whangpoo river excursion; American plan; rates on application.
Burlington Hotel; 1225 Bubbling Well Road; single $8; double, $15. Cathay Hotel (Sassoon House); The Bund and Nanking Road; European and American plans. Metropole Hotel; Kiangse and Foochow Roads; European and American plans. Palace Hotel; The Bund and Nanking Road; single, $12, double, $24; suites by arrangement. Park Hotel; Bubbling Well and Park Roads; American plan; single, $12; double, $22.
Blackstone Apartments; 1331 Rte. Lafayette; single, $10; double, $18.
Bubbling Well Home; Lane 591, 196 Bubbling Well Road; daily, weekly and monthly rates by application.
China United Apartments; 104 Bubbling Well Road; single, $12, double, $16.
Cathay Mansions; Rue Cardinal Mercier and Rue Bourgeat (French Concession); single, $10; double, $18.