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Darryl Patton: Godfather of the Expat Bars

A young Darryl Patton
A young Darryl Patton - Photos courtesy of Darryl Patton’s family

Darryl Patton, 1941-2011

A young Darryl Patton
A young Darryl Patton – Photos courtesy of Darryl Patton’s family

Englishman Darryl Patton was the innovator behind many of the early expatriate bars in Jakarta, pioneering much of the nightlife scene as we know it today.

Born in Leeds, he was the second child in a family of four sisters and four brothers. Their father was a Royal Air Force navigator, whose final posting was in Hong Kong. After studying at university in England, Darryl joined the family in Hong Kong and found employment as a radio presenter. Initially working as a disc jockey, he was later promoted to commentator for football matches. This led to his own radio show and then a television show, where he interviewed visiting celebrities, including Frank Sinatra, Marlon Brando, the Beatles, Shirley Bassey, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jnr. His easygoing manner and memory for detail made him a natural host.

In the early 1970s, Darryl accepted an offer to relocate to Indonesia to manage the Taman Ria (Amusement Park) at the National Monument (Monas) complex for Jakarta Governor Ali Sadikin. He discovered Jakarta was ripe for international entertainment and over the years brought many acts to Indonesia, including the Bee Gees, Deep Purple, Cliff Richard, Ray Charles and Uriah Heep.

The Bee Gees’ concert at Senayan Stadium in 1972 highlighted the pitfalls of staging big shows in Indonesia. Over 60,000 people had gathered when torrential rain drenched the arena and the band’s sound system. The Bee Gees refused to perform for fear of electrocution, but authorities warned there would be a riot if there was no show, so Darryl managed to convince the group to play an unplugged set. Not much could be heard, but the crowd was placated.

Acutely aware of Jakarta’s limited nightlife options, Darryl in 1976 opened his first bar, the Tankard, in Blok M, South Jakarta. It later morphed into the Lipstick roller disco and these days the site is part of a new shopping centre. Darryl’s second bar was the Anchorage, located at Taman Ria, Monas. He had difficulty in attracting patrons until he hit upon the idea of hosting fashion shows at the bar and business surged. Next came the Club in Blok M, followed in 1978 by the infamous Tambora, which he opened in association with local underworld figure Karno. Suddenly, expatriate men were flocking to Blok M every night. Tambora was not solely a sleazy tavern for men to pick up bar girls. It also incorporated the Key Club, which was a classier place where men could take their wife or girlfriend.

Darryl parted with Karno on amiable terms and left Blok M to open the Ragunan Business Club, which was a rather prestigious venue, but it was too far out of town in those days to attract big crowds. So Darryl moved back to Blok M, where he opened the Top Gun bar on Jalan Falatehan. By this time, he had been joined in Jakarta by his brothers, who assisted in the management of the bars. The next venture was Tower Disco at Jayakarta Hotel in West Jakarta. This was followed by two bars in Bali: the Pink Panther and Bali Legian. In 1983 he opened a Pink Panther bar on Jalan Wahid Hasyim, rivalling the famous Tanamur nightclub. Another bar was the Beat in Bendungan Hilir.

Darryl Patton
Darryl Patton – Photos courtesy of Darryl Patton’s family

In 1989, Darryl returned to England as his one-time associate Karno had begun to take extreme measures in demanding a bigger slice of the Blok M action, culminating in the murder of a co-owner of the Sportsmans Bar. Back in the UK, Darryl devoted much time to his greatest passion: country music. He wrote many songs and often visited Nashville in the pursuit of his dream of having a hit record. In 1990, a Singapore band, Energy, had a top 5 hit with his ballad I’d Fight the World For You.

Darryl returned to Jakarta in 2001 and quickly found investors eager to start a new bar, the eponymous D’s Place in Blok M. The bar was an instant success and later spawned imitators that eventually took over some of its business. Blok M bars are notorious as watering holes for expatriate men seeking the company of bar girls, but when Darryl recruited barmaids, he always hired “nice girls” rather than “naughty girls”, explaining they were not to go home with customers. He made sure his staff were looked after and that barmaids would be driven home safely. Plenty of Darryl’s staff did end up marrying expatriates and there are now countless families that stemmed from relationships kindled at his bars.

In 2002, Darryl co-founded the Jakarta Pool League, a competition which is thriving today after some teething difficulties concerning rules and eligibility. It was a point of pride for the Patton brothers that their bars dominated the inaugural league. Darryl continued to find investors to open bars, but his dream of country music stardom prompted him to sell his stakes and make trips to Nashville to sell his songs.

Illness prompted Darryl to return to England in July for treatment at a hospice in Kent. To the end, he maintained his humour and cheerful demeanour, enjoying the company of nurses, who played recordings of his music. One of his final requests was: “I’m leaving soon, give me a rum and coke.” He passed away earlier this month, with his two sons, daughter and two nieces at his bedside. He was a hero to his brothers, a godfather to Jakarta’s expat bar managers, and leaves a legacy of a city with bars that continue to foster friendships and relationships.

A wake is planned for Darryl. For details contact Lens Terwee at lensterwee@gmail.com

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