By Michael Schiavello
A bong, a joint and a banana. HDNet commentator Michael Schiavello recalls an amazing adventure in Amsterdam’s infamous red light district with K-1 superstar Peter Aerts as his tour guide.
I’m sitting in a hotel room in Amsterdam with Ray Sefo and we’re playing Phase 10, an addictive card game we always end up playing on tour. It’s around three o’clock in the afternoon and we plan to play out this hand (the game can take as long as an hour to complete), take a nap and then catch a cab into town for some dinner and a wander through central Amsterdam.
Ray’s cell phone rings. He answers and through the phone I hear the thunderclap of a voice loud enough to crack the malleus bone. It’s a voice as distinctive and recognisable in the K-1 world as Mike Tyson’s effeminate pitch was (and still is) in boxing. Contrary to Tyson’s high-pitched inﬂection which, whether delivering a rage-ﬁlled rant about devouring Lennox Lewis’ children or spurting forth volumes of senseless saliva-speckled palaver, never matched the boxer’s uber violent image, Peter Aerts’ voice is a perfect match for the great boffo of his personality. The only problem is that the triple K-1 champion’s endless jokes and comic timing is often lost in the mess of his thick accent. Then again, the Dutchtell me that Peter still sounds that way even when he’s speaking Dutch! The secret to embracing Peter’s humor, you soon realise, is simple: when he laughs, you laugh. If you don’t understand what he’s saying, just nod and laugh along because beneath that Dutch-Aerts-something-other-worldly accent is pertinent information, jokes and observations you do not want to miss, like deciphering Dustin Hoffman’s character Mumbles in the Dick Tracy ﬁlm.
“Looks like we’re going out with Peter,” says Ray, hanging up the phone. “Going to grab some dinner and then head out.”
“Awesome,” I rub my hands together. Amsterdam is Peter’s city and we could not ask for a better tour guide. “That should be fun. What time we headed out?”
“Seven,” says Ray and then pauses. “I think seven. It sounded like seven. I don’t know. I can’t understand him sometimes. He’s going to take us to the red light district… at least I think that’s where we’re going… I hope that’s where we’re going. Who knows!”
I can see the excitement in Ray’s eyes. This is his ﬁrst time in Amsterdam and the thought of touring the infamous red light district — or de Wallen — with Peter Aerts is sheer titillation.
For me it will be a second time in an area I consider the most striking juxtaposition in the tourist world. On one hand the red light district is everything your imagination conceives it to be: a dark and seedy labyrinth reeked with the aroma of weed and the stench of sex. Twisting, turning, narrow alleyways populated by scantily clad prostitutes pressing their ﬂesh up against narrow windows, stroking their nipples, licking their lips and batting their eyelids. It’s one great, seemingly never ending parade of sex workers. An alluring, mind- blowing, often suffocating assault on the senses. Miles and miles of endless cock- teasing, luring passers-by into dropping ﬁfty Euros and a load of bodily ﬂuid for twenty minutes of pleasure. It’s a pretty fair deal for a relatively minor fee considering that many of the Romanian, Russian, Ukrainian and Hungarian prostitutes are in their late teens/early twenties with alabaster skin, taut, perky breasts, and deliciously bewitching faces. Alternately, there are avenues of windows housing far less attractive women, among them obese African ladies, saggy-breasted Indians and the occasional white behemoth adorned with C- section scars and stretch marks. These women are best avoided unless your fetish is for ﬂab, three chins and, I’m assuming, genital warts.
The juxtaposition is that this seediest and most sordid part of central Amsterdam exists on the stunningly gorgeous banks of the lamplit canals that give the red light district a wholly surreal appearance. One can walk the cobblestone streets, weaving in and out of delightful narrow alleyways, window shop the greatest whore populace per square kilometre outside of Patpong and hear the soft lapping of the canal’s water and the lulling swoosh of a boatman’s oar gently cutting through the murky water. It’s canal versus carnal in a fascinating arm-wrestle for tourist attraction.
I’m sitting in the back of Peter Aerts’ black Mercedes and my ﬁngernails are punching holes in the leather seats. Driving with The Lumberjack is as wild and unpredictable as his ﬁght style. He’s got one hand on the wheel and one hand around the passenger seat where Ray’s complexion has turned from caramel to white chocolate within two minutes of being on the highway.
Peter’s talking a lot and even though I can’t understand it I laugh every time he laughs. And that’s a lot. Anyone who knows Peter Aerts knows that he laughs more than he actually says. Sometimes he will say something that makes no sense, and isn’t funny, but punctuates it with a contagious laugh. He laughs, you laugh. I strain to comprehend every second or third word at least as he regales a story about Amsterdam’s red light district. In my ears it sounds like this:
“Mikey, you know the hoogle dum dorf in the windows von spork fuck
bwahahaha! Ray this is your ﬁrst time here rootkaoof dooftaok dorf fucking booftra berfen drussdoola fuck bwahahaha! Bwahaha! Bwahahaha! Doof dorf Mikey!”
It’s at the end of this undecipherable spiel that I hear a name that will play a large part later in the night.
“Doorfa ﬂuuken foodel gelagatusa foodle Mikey the Banana Bar? Okay Mikey? Banana Bar? Floodel fordel bwahahaha!”
He’s asking me something about a place called the Banana Bar. What he’s asking, however, I’m not quite sure. Instead of asking him to repeat the question and explain to me exactly what the Banana Bar is and what he’s asking of me, I simply — and foolishly — say yes.
Peter’s eyes light up and a smile creeps across his face. A wide, cheeky smile.
“Vaarf fooer doodofﬂe Mikey, Ray, Banana Bar! Bwahahahaha! Banana Bar.”
Eight o’clock and we’re seated in a packed out Thai restaurant in the heart of the red light district. I’m half expecting the waitresses to shoot curry puffs out of their pussies, along with a couple of ping pong balls and maybe a dart or two.
There’s a whole group of us now, maybe six in all. These are Peter’s friends and they revere him. He’s their leader, their alpha male, their king of the jungle. In Australia we’d call them “mates”, that is a true friend, someone who loves you for you whether you’re famous or not, not a coattail-rider or a hanger-on.
The conversation inevitably turns to marijuana. This is Amsterdam and everyone here is either stoned, getting stoned, going to be stoned or sobering up from having been stoned. Smoking weed isn’t a pastime here, it’s a passion, and they do a lot of it. One of Peter’s mates smokes so much weed says Aerts, that when he walks through an airport the sniffer dogs immediately go for him, not because he’s carrying but because the marijuana sweats through his pores.
“You know how people who eat a lot of garlic smell like garlic doorf dooﬂe vrook furfurfuuu?” says Peter. “That is what he is like. He sweats weed smell! Bwahahaha! Doorf dooofer vroodel! Bwahahaha!”
Another mate, older than the rest, is referred to simply as “The Professor”. According to Peter, “The Professor” opened the third ever coffee house in Amsterdam back in the 1960s. And by coffee house of course he means weed-smoking, brownie-eating, mushroom-chomping cafe.
“He is a master, a genius. He rolls the best joints in Amsterdam soorf fruuk
fardelverlfafen,” says Peter. “Mikey, you wanna try?”
“What? Now?” I ask, stufﬁng a chicken satay skewer in my gob.
“Feeerfaa looubven while we’re waiting for the next course,” says Peter, already out of his seat.
“We just going to go roll one up outside?”
“No,” Peter smiles and dips into his inside jacket pocket. “We come prepared feerfaal dooﬂafel voorf.” He holds up a small plastic case, pops the lid and shows off six perfectly rolled joints.
“Bro you wanna do a bit of puff puff?” I ask Ray.
“Not for me brother, but you go for it. When in Rome, right?”
“Hell yes,” I say, smiling at Peter and following him outside. “When in Rome.”
We’re outside and I’m about to smoke my ﬁrst joint in Amsterdam. Peter reaches into his pocket, takes out the plastic case, pops the lid and with a delicacy unbeﬁtting his enormous hands plucks a joints. He holds it in front of my face, turning it upside down and around, marveling as if it were the Hope Diamond wrapped in a Tally Ho paper.
“You know how long this joint took The Professor to make feeraaal doorfaaa subvooksva, Mikey?”
I shrug. I’m no connoisseur of rolling a joint but I ﬁgure it wouldn’t have taken no more than ten minutes. After all, the joint is only as long as my little ﬁnger and thinner than a drinking straw.
“It took two hours. Can you believe it? Bwahahaha! Two hours. But feerfaaal dooffess ﬂagjabellen wait till you taste it. Bwahahaha! It’s like nothing you tasted before. Tastes better than pussy! Bwahahaha!”
“Well I like pussy so this joint had better taste like an angel’s vagina,” I say as Peter sparks it.
He takes two puffs and passes the joint to me. It’s packed tight, which I always thought was a no-no when rolling joints. I take a puff. It pulls smooth. Real smooth. There’s no harshness on the back of my throat. I don’t cough or splutter. I take a second puff. It’s good. Really good.
Peter watches me like a hawk. He’s intrigued. He wants to savour my every reaction.
“This may sound silly but it doesn’t taste very marijuana-ish. It tastes, like, nice. Real nice. And smooth.”
Peter takes two puffs and passes it back. “This is like a work of art, Mikey. Nobody makes it better than the professor, foorfaa vroofaa durvlebstrudel.”
“Is it meant to hit me though?” I ask. The joint tastes nice so far but I’m notfeeling light headed or giggly.
“Wait for it,” he says softly. “Take another hit and hold it in a bit.”
I do as I’m told. I take a long drag. Suck it deep. Feel the smooth smoke go past my tongue. Down my throat. Into my lungs. And I hold it there. I look to Peter for guidance and after a long moment he nods and I exhale.
Now I feel it. And it feels good. No. It feels great. I feel like going for a run. I feel like dancing. I’m bouncing up and down on the balls of my feet. I can’t hide my smile.
“What just happened?” I ask, springing up on my toes.
“Welcome to Amsterdam, Mikey! Bwahahahahaha,” Peter guffaws.
“That was wicked!”
“I told you,” he says, taking a long inhale. “The professor! Bwahahaha! Better than pussy!”
It’s around ten o’clock and we’re inside a coffee house where they don’t serve coffee. They serve weed. Heaps of weed. In fact there’s a menu full of it. Hash on one side, weed on the other.
You can buy a weed joint for 2.80 Euro or ﬁve joints for 12 Euro. There’s all kinds of weed including: Paciﬁc Mix; Orange Bud; Super Power Plant; Bubblegum; NYC Diesel; K-2; S-5 Haze; Jamaican; LA Conﬁdential; Burundi Kush; Super Silver Haze; Neville Haze; Strawberry Haze; Maco Haze; Amnesia Haze; White Widow, Chiva; Crystal; Afghan Haze; Elephant; Musty Shiva; Super Skunk; Skunk of Queen; Northern Light; Peacemaker and Hawaiian Haze. On the hash side of the menu there’s: Cream de Maroc; Warm Ears, Zero Zero; Special Abraxas; Ketama Gold; Malana Cream; Paruati Balls; Nepal; Manali Fingers; Red Lebanon; Skiff; White Melon; Ice-O-Lator; Kashmir; Master Mellow; Honey Hash; Super Polm; and a selection of pre-rolled joints.
What are you having?” I ask Peter.
“None of these,” he says, plucking the menu from my hands. “We going to try a bong feerfaal dloffel ververvuu.”
I shake my head and screw up my nose. “I don’t know man. This is like a one time thing for me Peter, being in Amsterdam with you and all. I don’t like the idea of trying a bong. I think I’m done just with saying I shared a joint with you.”
“Trust me Mikey, you’re gonna like this bong. Bwahahaha! Come here, look.”
He gestures to a frosted glass bong sitting on a bench. There’s no weed, no flame, no smoke, no water but Peter tells me to take a puff.
“Puff on what? Don’t you have to light it or something?”
“Bwahahaha! Come on Mikey, feeraaf ﬂuugellwa druugaard. Take a puff.”
I wrap my lips around the bong and inhale deeply then exhale. Nothing. No
smoke. No taste. Nothing coming up the pipe.
“I don’t think it’s–”
“Go again,” says Peter.
I shrug, bend down and take another long inhale. There’s still no smoke. No taste. No visible signs of bong life at all.
I stand up, exhale and shake my head.
“Bro, I don’t think that it’s working… woah.” I’m suddenly light headed. I giggle. I can’t stop smiling.
Peter lets out a laugh so loud that it turns all heads in our direction.
“What the?” I ask. I feel like my brain is ﬂoating above my skull.
“It’s a vaporised bong! Bwahahaha! You think there is nothing there. Bwahahaha. It hits you, right? Bwahahaha!”
“Holy shit!” I sit down. “That’s crazy.”
It’s half-past eleven. We’re walking the alleyways, window shopping the prostitutes. Every few minutes someone approaches Peter for a quick chat or a photograph. Then they spot Ray, become even more excited, and demand a photo with both of them.
Peter walks these streets like he owns them. Every bouncer acknowledges him, reverentially dipping their heads. Club owners grovel and beg him to enter their venues.
“Mikey, you like any of the whores? Bwahahaha! Feerfaaal vuluuden voofa. You want one? I’ll get you a hooker. I’ll get you two hookers. My treat. Choose one. Choose two. Bwahahaha.”
“I’ll pass, but thanks for the offer. Man I wish I could take some photos to show people back home. This is just insane.”
“Take photos then,” Peter says bluntly.
“I’m not allowed,” I say. I’d heard and read horror stories about tourists having their cameras conﬁscated and smashed for taking photos of the prostitutes. Even the guide books warned not to take pictures of the red light district window girls, lest a burly bouncer emerge from the shadows and give your camera and yourself a beating to souvenir.
“Bwahahahaha!” Peter roars. “Mikey, look who you are with? Nobody is going to touch you. Take photos. Take video. Zoom in. Fuck it! Go stand in the window with the hookers and I will take pictures of you to show everybody! I will take a picture of you banging a hooker! Bwahahahaha! Goofbeergaal ﬂuuden fegreoodel! Bwahahahaha!”
I take my camera out of my pocket and begin snapping away. I zoom in on a
gorgeous Romanian prostitute and snap three or four pictures of her. She spots me and begins pounding on the window.
“Stop! Stop! No photo! Security! Security!”
A bouncer suddenly charges out of the side alley and stops in our path,
chest puffed up, ready to throw down. It takes him a couple of seconds to realise exactly who he’s standing in front of. He drops his chin apologetically, shakes Peter’s hand, and disappears back into the alley from where he had come.
“Bwahahaha!” roars Peter, gesturing at the prostitute as she continues to scream and kick up a fuss. “Shut up you! Bwahahahahaha! Mikey you should go screw her. I’ll take a photo! Bwahahahaha!”
It’s just after midnight and we’ve arrived at the Banana Bar. According to Peter’s mates, and Peter himself, the bar is an icon of de Wallen. Peter won’t tell me exactly what goes on inside and my overactive imagination is in meltdown. I’m picturing bananas. Lots of bananas. Bananas on the wall. Bananas on the ﬂoor. Bananas on the ceiling. Banana shaped chairs. Banana shaped bar. And most of all, I’m picturing women with bananas. Holding bananas. Sucking bananas. Eating bananas. Slapping each other across the face with bananas. Fondling bananas. Jerking bananas. And using banana dildos.
Entrance to the club is 45 Euro. It’s pricy but gets you inside with one full hour of drinking. For Peter Aerts and co. however, entry fees are never paid. We’re greeted at the door by the venue manager and ushered up a narrow set of steel stairs that run alongside the building to a small door. The manager raps on the door and it swings open. Inside is dark. Very dark. And it smells musky. I’m trying to get a whiff of banana scent in the air but there’s none yet.
We’re ushered through this dark space and it’s obvious we’re in a back room, deep within the bowels of Banana Bar. It’s a surreal experience. A group of grown men, two of them K-1 stars, tip-toeing through the darkness.
Finally a door opens and we’re inside a bar. I’m not impressed. It’s small, dark and underwhelming. There’s a couple of women dancing topless behind the bar and a bunch of seedy-looking men hugging glasses of Scotch and chugging Heinekens. But we’re not where we want to be yet.
Peter has a word with the manager. He’s all smiles. The manager smiles too when Peter gestures to me and lets out a loud guffaw. The manager nods. He knows exactly what Peter wants. The only problem is that I seem to be the focus of their scheming but have no idea what’s going on.
We’re ushered up another set of stairs and into the true heart of the Banana Bar. The room is softly lit with blood red lighting and the carpet underfoot is thick and a little sticky. There’s a few small round tables, some seats, large mirrors on the wall and a well-stocked bar behind which dance two gorgeous women, one of them a busty Asian, the other a tall, blonde Dutch woman. But most importantly there’s a stage. A carpeted stage. The place, I am told, where takes place the act from which derives the bar’s name.
The manager brings Peter and his mates a round of drinks. Peter grabs him by the arm, leans in close and whispers in his ear, all the while pointing at me and grinning. The manager throws his head back with laughter and scuttles off.
Now Peter moves to where Ray is seated and whispers in his ear. Ray explodes into laughter and both are looking at me. I know Ray’s facial expressions and get the feeling I’m being set up for some sort of sordidness.
Peter wanders off and I’m in Ray’s ear.
“What the hell are you guys scheming?”
“Oh brother,” says Ray with a laugh. “You have no idea.”
“Should I be worried?”
“I would be!” He laughs again. “Oh man, this is going to be fun.”
I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn around and Peter is standing over me with a silly grin.
“Mikey, you ready for the banana show? Bwahahaha! It’s a very famous show foorfell doorfuu droodlef bwahahaha! Come on. Come on. You gonna eat the banana. Bwahahaha!”
He takes me to the stage. It’s elevated to waist height and Peter instructs me to hop up onto my knees as I see the Dutch woman walk out from the shadows with a can of whipped cream and a banana in her hands.
Peter lets out another raucous laugh. He points to me and the woman nods and winks. She looks down at me on my knees and waves the banana in front of my face. She slips off her lace panties and in a few seconds is lying on her back with me between her legs. She peels the banana halfway and without any sort of fanfare shoves the phallic fruit into her vagina. She shakes the can of whipped cream and sprays it on top of the banana.
I can hear Peter and Ray laughing uncontrollably in the background as the
woman points to her pussy and simply says “eat me.” I’m not usually one for eating fruit out of a stranger’s genitalia but as has been the theme of the night I think “… when in Rome.” I drop down onto all fours, my hands either side of her waist, and hoe down on that banana like a starving monkey.
Having devoured the banana I get back to my knees and make to leave the stage when the woman says “Not yet.” She reaches into the shadows and procures an enormous green dildo. It looks like a zucchini on growth hormones.
“Now get down and stand on the ﬂoor,” she instructs.
I hop off the stage and onto the floor.
“Back a bit more,” she says and I take a step back.
“A bit more. More,” she says and I take two steps back. I’m about ten feet away from her. “Okay. There is good. Stand there.”
She spreads her legs, spins the dildo around and shoves its into herself like she’s loading a submarine missile. She leans back on her hands, wriggles her waist and aims her crotch directly at my chest. With a ripple that starts from her neck, shoots through her stomach and down her legs she launches the dildo and hits me square on the sternum.
The entire bar breaks into a loud round of applause. Even I’m impressed and my chest is a little sore. I wonder if she’s ever experimented with gunpowder.
The Dutch woman gets to her feet and bows. She exits the stage and the Asian woman enters. She’s holding something in her hand but I can’t make out what it is.
She beckons me forward and drops down to her knees.
“What is your name sweetie?” she asks.
“Michael spelled AE or EA?”
“AE,” I tell her.
She puts a postcard of the Banana Bar on the ﬂoor, shoves a felt tipped pen inside herself and squats over the postcard. I watch in amazement, and even Ray comes in for a closer view, as she writes with perfect penmanship the words “To Michael, with love, Banana Bar.”
It’s ﬁght night at the Amsterdam Arena. The place is massive. At full capacity for Ajax’s football games it holds around 58,000 people and as many as 61,000 for concerts. For the K-1 European Grand Prix, half of the stadium is curtained off and the ring is placed on the spot where the goal net would be.
There’s about 25,000 fans in here and it’s a cauldron. The Dutch are passionate about kickboxing and are the best in the world at the heavier weights. They chant and cheer constantly and the smell of marijuana is thick in the air. I duck out for a smoke break before the show and there’s at least twenty men and women in a small enclave pufﬁng away on cigars, cigarettes, pipes and joints.
I’m commentating with Ray Sefo and we’re joined by Peter Aerts, which worries me. As stated earlier, trying to decipher what Peter says in normal conversation is like trying to crack the enigma code. I have no idea what words I’ll miss when he’s talking to me on live television.
At the end of the show, having spent over fours hours listening to Peter through my headphones, my director Sasaki-san asks me and Ray what it was like working with the man universally known as “Mr K-1”.
“Hmmmm maybe Peter hard to understand?” ventures Sasaki-san.
“He is very hard to understand,” I afﬁrm “but at the same time he was brilliant!”
Sasaki-san is shocked. “Good? Peter good commentator?”
“He’s awesome,” says Ray. “The guy was seeing things minutes before they
happened. I mean I’m usually pretty good at reading the action and analysing the game but Peter is like a genius at this stuff. I don’t think he said anything wrong. It was like he had a crystal ball or something. It was freaky.”
“Totally,” I chime in. “I’ve worked with so many commentators over the years but that was the best, and I mean the best, colour commentary I have ever heard. I mean, he was on the money with every shot and he’s funny too!”
“Yeah man. I love Peter,” says Ray. “You can see what has made him such a great champion. You think he’s just this fun-loving guy with a bad ass ﬁghting style but there’s like a genius beneath it all, you know.”
“Imagine how awesome he would be if he could speak better English?”
“Oh brother,” says Ray. “He would be the bomb! And we’d be out of jobs!”
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