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New Skype Phones at Telephone
New Skype Phones at Telephone
  End of an era: Telephone Pub at last hangs up on Alexander Graham Bell
Sunday, July 24, 2011

After 24 years, Bangkok’s busy Telephone Pub is chucking out the trademark telephones that used to perch on its tables like ghosts from the pre-pre-digital era of Alexander Graham Bell. In their place, Skype videophones are this week being installed at strategic locations in the bar areas, restaurant and karaoke lounges of the venue on Silom Soi 4. Telephone Pub’s head honcho, Wayne, tells Dreaded Ned breathlessly: “We’ve moved into the 21st century!”

Complete with headphones and boom microphones, the ten new ASUS Skype videophones can be used to make calls to, and receive them from, all around the world. Customers will also be able to call in to Telephone from outside with their Skype-enabled mobiles. Wayne explains: “Skype IDs will be displayed around the pub.”

And, needless to say, calls can be made from one of the videophones in the pub to another, echoing the original idea that customers would use the old-style phones to contact anyone at another table who caught their roving eye.

This concept gave the pub its name, of course. It was introduced by the original owner of Telephone, William Myers, who recycled it, in true Bangkok style, after seeing it in a bar in New York in the early 1980s. But if the form of aural cruising envisaged by Myers ever caught on, it fell away in recent years. The phones were moved off the tables and on to the walls, where they did little but gather dust.

Perhaps customers prefer using eyes and gestures to communicate their whims – not a bad idea in a multi-lingual environment – or perhaps their attempts at telephonic sweet-talk were defeated by the famously loud music played at Telephone in the later hours of the evening. Either way, as Wayne frankly puts it: “We’ve taken out the old telephones because no one ever used them.”

The oldest gay pub in Thailand, Telephone has just celebrated its 24th anniversary: see these pictures of the party. But it seems determined not to show its age. The arrival of Skype is one of a flurry of recent innovations. Earlier this year, a pair of private “VIP” karaoke rooms were added to the main 40-seat karaoke lounge. And Telephone now has no fewer than seven HD video screens showing concerts on Blu-Ray and other musical fare, aided and abetted by an upgraded sound system. You can even find Telephone on Facebook.

Mind you, for fuddy-duddies like Ned, seven music video screens is seven too many, and every decibel added to a sound system is a decibel too far. So it’s good news that the partial soundproofing of the upstairs restaurant has been reinforced.

“Our aim is to evolve as the best all round entertainment venue in the Silom area,” pledges Wayne. Ned reckons that, if you don’t like the way he’s going about it, you can always call him on Skype… and it won’t cost you a satang!

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