Marmota was a disco which opened in March 1984 and was located on the second level of Kallang Leisuredrome above a bowling alley. Its exact address was #02-01, Leisure Drome Building, 5 Stadium Walk, Kallang Park, Singapore 1439. Its telephone number was 4407703/4407791. Operating in the mid-1980s, it was one of the first discos in Singapore to hold regular Sunday gay parties which it called Macho Night.
On Sundays, business was usually poor because straight patrons had to work the following morning and could not stay late. This was the rationale for Marmota and other discos to reserve Sunday nights for gay men as the latter had no other choice. This strategy paid off handsomely for these clubs as gay nights were packed to the brim with young, energetic homosexual men.
In the early 1980s, one had to climb a flight of stairs from the ground floor of Kallang Leisuredrome to reach Marmota on level 2 because the escalator which exists today had not been built yet. Patrons who wanted to take a break from the dancing would come out of the disco and loiter around the corridor of level 2.
There was no bus stop near Kallang Leisuredrome so people usually went there by taxi. Those who drove could park at a basement car park located within the building itself. This basement car park no longer exists today.
After partying the night away, many would head to the MacDonalds and other eateries nearby for a drink or snack. However, gay men could not go to the disco if groups of more than five, for instance, if they wanted to regroup to another rendezvous after dancing because handphones had not been invented yet and if one were to be separated from one's chums, it was impossible to know where they were and to arrange to meet them elsewhere.
Marmota was thought to be a very unusual name which no one in the gay community had heard of before. Some gay men joking called it in Chinese "妈摸他" (mother fondles him).
One would find the dance floor packed with the then-unusual sight of men dancing with each other. However, this happened only during the fast numbers. Some of these were Mandopop cha-cha hits. When the slow songs came on, the dance floor cleared faster than as if a tsunami threatened and only the daring ones irresistibly smitten with their partners were left in tight embrace to be ogled at by those on the sidelines.
It was the first disco to organise unofficial masculine Mr. Gay Singapore contests long before Manhunt began. Ironically, the first winner of the contest was a handsome straight boy named Oliver Aw who, during the finals, wore a scarlet long sleeved ensemble with two dragons emblazoned on the front of his shirt. He did a few dance steps and ended up with a half split on the floor at the end of his routine.
The manager of the disco was a well known and popular middle-aged, mustachioed man with a paunch whom the patrons called "Ah Lau". Some sources say he moved to Bangkok where he contracted HIV. Ironically, he did not die of the disease but in an accident whereby he slipped in his toilet at home and hit his head.
The disco underwent several renovations and name changes over the years - first to Shadow and then to Legend when the management relocated it to Lucky Plaza.
This article was written by Roy Tan.