It lasted for less than two years, but it seemed like this yard went on forever. Those of us who were there, refer to it as The WTF Years though in charge was a Guru.
It started during the tail end of the Danish Tak relationship whose quest to live with the people had led us to moving to an old walk up on High Street and hit its peak when Happy Wednesday was starting to take shape at Happy Valley Racecourse.
Guru was a Nepalese restaurant located down Elgin Street in the Soho area and started by my friend and his wife- Mr and Mrs Karki.
The food was brilliant- the spinach purée, the Nepalese dumplings, the chilli chicken...
So many winners and losers floated through those doors on any given night. There were the regulars and mainly the irregulars- those who enjoyed the food whereas for others, Guru was a popular meeting place, especially for dinner and to catch up.
With its unique location, it was the place to people watch. To bring the night to a close, some of us would walk up the road to the boutique bar called Feather Boa.
This was where stewardesses from different airlines on, well, layovers, would meet-up for the bar’s famous daiquiris and see who might be there that could be interesting.
WTF- more on this magically weird place later-was where we- musicians, the film crew and hangers on- would unwind after those Happy Wednesday nights downing jars and more jars of sangria and a midnight feast of authentic Spanish tapas made by a Filipino chef who had apparently once visited Barcelona.
WTF was the regular pitstop before taking stock of our whereabouts and wherewithal and going on into the night and the pretty tacky Happy Endings world of a Wanchai that had seen better days.
Danish Tak and I had split up by then and all I wanted to do was get outta my head. The Hangover movies going on for real of course couldn’t last.
I also just needed a crash pad, which turned out to be a dump in Caine Road. I needed some time to figure out next steps, but there was still the need to step out and explore whatever was around. There wasn’t much.
Closer to home, the jazz club Peel Fresco was still featuring the usual suspects on Repeat.
The club Spicy Fingers in Jaffe Road with its two regular covers band played on though the audience was not what it was.
The always busy pickup club Fenwick had been renamed Escape. The standard of everything was down except for the resident band and, weirdly enough, the joint served a damn good Thai Chicken Curry.
When this club was closing its doors for the night, the girls who had been left behind walked over to Players, the club that started to throb at around 4am.
Players was a strange place with all windows blackened out, served the best chicken burgers in Hong Kong, and had a never ending line of girls mainly from the Philippines available for company.
All this was nothing like those days enjoyed when upmarket escort clubs like BBoss were still alive and kicking.
The Nepalese bouncers at Players knew us and would give us “intel” on whether to bother coming over, especially if any Eastern European working girls- suddenly a rarity in Hong Kong- had shown up, or else advising us to call it a night and go home.
There were a few memorable nights: Leaving Players, walking out and finding out that it was 10am and falling asleep while leaning against a tree while waiting for a taxi.
We met visiting international jockeys indulging in inhaling Bolivian marching powder in the Men’s. We also met women in the Men’s.
We lost friends along the way as the night deteriorated into chaos.
There were plenty of fights when some wannabe Don Juan in our group tried to chat up those who weren’t theirs.
I didn’t get involved unless trying to help get a friend out of trouble or else using my two finger “death grip” on anyone who would annoy me.
That memorable scene from “Goodfellas” where everyone kicked in the head of the character played by Dennis Farina comes to mind.
My friend Scottie has a very interesting “documentary” of one of our regular day for night and night for day outings.
It starts at lunch at the Peak Cafe, takes in the Champagne Bar at the Grand Hyatt where we met some visiting Chinese American hip hop musicians and ends up at the popular Lebanese restaurant off Wyndham Street called Marouche. This was owned by my longtime friend Mr Sharma.
From India, Mr Sharma’s accent was more birdie num sum than Peter Sellars.
For some reason, I decided to record him attack an original called “Instant Sharma” though he most certainly couldn’t sing. It was a fairly reasonable hit in...France.
This mondo cane and totally unhinged documentary filmed by Scottie showed how all the dots joined- and it will never see the light of day.
Meanwhile, when Mr Karki was offered a small restaurant two doors down from Guru, he took it, and at my suggestion, named it WTF.
I had my ideas of what WTF could be and he had his- Wine, Tapas and Happiness. It didn’t matter, WTF was always WTF.
If only we had the vision to look into the future of Hong Kong, this could have been a reality series with its own cast of odds and sods.
There was Mama the manageress, Ayano, the very charming young Japanese waitress, the dodgy woman who organised regular round table blind dates and who skirted along the fringes on what was legal and us regulars, the constantly changing conga line of waiters and waitresses...and of course there was Dody, our little Egyptian friend who owned the restaurant Sahara next door.
Us customers were like a dysfunctional version of the cast of “Cheers”. It’s where everybody might have known your name except for yourself.
There was also the mysterious American who visited WTF to see Mama and whom we still believe was working for the CIA.
There were local party girls and lonely married women wanting some extracurricular activity and new foreign company and earn some extra spending money.
When Mr and Mrs Karki emigrated to Australia, I saw this as a sign to quietly slip away to Sri Lanka with a South African girl I had met about a year earlier and when Tak was in Copenhagen.
She worked on a boat at the time we met and had a sense of adventure. We kept in touch and being free, she travelled with me to my motherland. It was fun. It was real.
When I returned to Hong Kong, I moved back to the security of Convention Plaza and focused on making the Happy Wednesday brand the game changer that it became.