While perusing the old China Press, I came across this article which had eluded me while I was researching my book Shanghai's Dancing World. It provides a valuable insider perspective on the cabaret/nightlife industry of the early 1930s. I am a bit skeptical of his estimate of the percentages of Russian, Japanese, and Chinese hostesses on the scene, but it may be telling of the situation in the early 1930s before the Chinese cabaret industry really took off and Chinese hostesses completely outnumbered the Russians by the late 1930s.
Ins And Outs Of Shanghai’s Sawdust Trail Probed By Quiz
Experienced Hand At Wine-Dine Business Tells All To Curious Reporter;
Ten Questions Concerning Nightlife Answered
Just a little more than three years ago a Milwaukee Wisconsin salesman and his boy-friend ventured into the tangled purlieus of Shanghai night life, and decided that the Paris of the Orient was the Mecca of all after-midnight acolytes who pay cash homage to wine, women and song. They opened a cafe on Broadway, and they have since made a big success with their dawn-to- dusk sailors' rendezvous.
Mr. John H. Browning and Mr. Phil Jensen have been pals for the past 14 years. Together they have the Hawaiian Islands, Australia, New Zealand. South Africa and India, and Mexico. When they arrived in Shanghai, they studied night clubs, wine shops and the tinsel entertainment palaces which have made Shanghai known the world over. And their cafe has became one of the haunts of sailors and landsmen who want good time in return for good dollar.
During the Sino-Japancse hostilities last year, Browning’s Cafe was one of the few cabarets kept open while the undeclared war raged in Hongkew. Despite the fact that the night club was struck three times by Japanese shells, the stage show went on. A true trouper is John H. Browning, and his patronage was not lost although soidiers and sailors had to pick their way through the dark to find the Neon sign which framed the door of the Broadway dance place.
Mr. Browning has “been around.” He knows men, and he knows what they demand Jor entertainment. His opinion of the cabaret situation in Shanghai is interpreted by his answer to the 10 “pertinent" questions put to him yesterday in the China Press Questionnaire.
The questions and Mr. Browning's answers follow:
1. How many cabarets are there in Shanghai?
Answer: In Shanghai there are about 175, the majority of them owned or operated by Americans and Chinese.
2. How many "hostesses” are there in Shanghai, and. what, is their percentage by nationalities?
Answer: There are about 5,000 professional dancing partners in this city. More than 60 per cent of them are Russian, while about 30 per cent are Japanese and 10 per cent are Chinese.
3. Why has Shanghai so many cabarets and dance-halls?
Answer: Because Shanghai is the Paris of the Orient. Tourists traveling through the Far East expect to find them in Shanghai, and they are not disappointed. Shanghai's night life is known the world over. It is equal in every way to the night life of Paris, and it is far ahead of it in many respects. Tourists are the greatest patrons of Shanghai amusement places. They spend much more than the local residents.
4. What is the average amount spent by a Shanghailander for eating, dancing, and drinking for two?
Answer: About $25. Some spend more and some spend less. About 40 per cent of their money goes for food, 45 per cent for drinks, and 15 per cent for dancing,
5. What days of the year are the harvest days for Shanghai cabarets?
Answer: When the United States fleet is in town, money flows freely. Americans spend about as much one day as another, but the most is spent on American and British holidays.
6. How many dances does the average hostess dance in one night?
Answer: The average Shanghai hostess dances about 25 dances every night, although many of them, at their peak day of the month, cash in on almost 100 dances in one night.
7. What type of hostess is the most popular?
Answer: That is a difficult question. Some men prefer blondes, 90 per cent of them prefer blondes and brunettes.
8. What type of man is the biggest spender?
Answer: Americans spend the most money. The sailors spend a little more than the Marines.
9. What drinks are the most popular?
Answer.—U.B. Beer, sloe gin, rickeys, gin fizzes, cocktails and straight whisky.
10. Are Shanghai nightclubs safe and sane?
Answer: Any man can safely bring his wife to the average better class Shanghai night club. Everything is O. K. There hasn’t even been an argument in our place in the past six months. Most cabarets know how to treat the public, and the public knows how to treat the cabarets.
(The China Press, Jun 11, 1933)