Nineties Flashback: Foreign Babes in Beijing

Don’t worry Jiexi.  I’ll get Nightman tickets somehow…


American Rachel DeWoskin played the vixen in a 1995 TV drama called Foreign Babes in Beijing that was seen by as many as 600 million people in China. DeWoskin was a recent graduate of Columbia University, and only based in Beijing for a few months, when she was offered the role. She went on to juggle TV, her job at a foreign PR firm and the culture shock of being a newbie in the city. Not surprisingly, Dewoskin’s memoir, also called Foreign Babes in Beijing, covers both her experiences in making the show and adjusting to a new life.

A while back, I revisited a July 2006 post in which I listed 20 bars and restaurants in and around Sanlitun and how, four years later, only two had gone out of business due to poor performance. I have also gone through Foreign Babes in Beijing for references to bars and restaurants from the mid-1990s and found four of ten places mentioned by DeWoskin are still around while twoothers existed as recently as a few years ago, one of them apparently closing within the past month. Here they are…

Jazz Ya
DeWoskin: “a Japanese bar… cocktails with paper umbrellas in them….” This veteran in Nali Studio in Sanlitun is still considered by some to have good drinks, especially Long Islands. Owner Li Bo has since gone to open several Japanese restaurants as well as D Lounge.

Charlie’s Bar
Dewoskin: “in the Jianguo Hotel, with a Filipino band and salted peanuts.” During my first visit, in 2007, I found the place newly renovated but sticking by the free peanuts and (cheesy) Filipino band. Still open…

Metro Cafe
DeWoskin: “a new and crazily popular pasta place“. This place is still going strong on Workers Stadium West Road: try the homemade pastas.

Frank’s Place
DeWoskin describes it as “a laowai-owned greasy spoon across from the workers’ stadium.” The original closed about five years ago but the brand lives on in its second edition in Lido. The original Frank (Siegel) now runs the Sequoia cafe chain.

Nightman Disco
Word is that until a month ago, the night, the man, and the disco lived on. I’ll check more into this one…

DeWoskin: “offered salsa lessons”. When I arrived it was near Chaoyang Park’s south gate, beside The Big Easy, but after that space was rezoned it moved near Dongsishitiao, with the salsa ending there less than three years ago.

The Big Easy
DeWoskin: “served up fried chicken with New Orleans jazz belted out by a St. Louis singer named Jackie [Jacqui].” Good music and bloody good Bloody Marys–this place was chai’d about five years ago and is missed. Sadly, both Jacqui Staton and Big Easy founder Doug Monitto have gone to the big club in the sky.

DeWoskin: “an alley bar”. Part of the old Sanlitun South Bar Street, it is long gone but fondly remembered by many. The remains lie somewhere beneath Sanlitun Soho.

Peking Chalet
“…in a broken alley off of North Sanlitun Road; now the lane is called jiuba jie, or bar street…. There were no streetlights, and the road in front of Peking Chalet was torn to shreds. Piles of broken glass littered the lane; the neighbors were so angry about the noise coming from the bar that they had thrown bottles.” Closed…

AFAIK, the last rocket took off long ago, though this site suggests what we are missing: “This high-caliber mega-disco has an army theme worth pondering. Just imagine this—an iron drawbridge, an army jeep that serves as a bar and a crashed helicopter that dangles overhead. This is one of the oldest and most venerable discos in Beijing. You are assured a good disco night out at NASA’s, especially if you can snag one of the free tickets hovering around town.”


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6 thoughts on “Nineties Flashback: Foreign Babes in Beijing”

  1. Rachel was PERSONALLY a part of my 90s Beijing experience.

    Whenever I hear about her, it brings back memories of late 90s Beijing…a great, great time.

    Yes, I remember when Sanlitun was 100 percent red brick buildings…free from traffic…and quietly charming.

    My favorite 90s Beijing dance club has to be…HOT SPOT (RE DIAN)

  2. Was Gunshi (Rock N Roll) open then? With elevator dance floors and day-glo-paint aliens, the place was unbelievable back at the end of the ’90s—though it has since turned into the creepiest nightspot in Beijing.

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