I had intended to space out my this-one-time-when-I-was-drunk stories so it would seem like I’m not a total lush (which is a lie). However, I received some bittersweet news today that conjured up a fond memory: The Banana Show lady died about a month ago.
Now before I tell the story, let me fill you in on what the Banana Show is: Reliable sources are scarce, so I’m just going to repeat the things I’ve heard. The Banana Show has been going on since the World War II era (A Facebook friend of a Facebook friend commented that his grandfather saw the show during WWII). In the show, an Okinawan woman slides a banana up her cooch, cuts it into pieces and tries to get drunk marines to eat it.
This would all be disturbing enough, but the woman who performs the show is really old. It is said that the original banana lady trained another girl to do the show as well–a daughter, a niece, a granddaughter–some relative as the rumor goes. I’m not sure if the one who died on December 30th was still the original, but I’d be willing to bet it was the replacement. Anyway, it’s supposed to be a sex show, except the old lady who performs is older than my grandparents, making it a freak show that’s more likely to cause shriveling than arousal. The Banana Show’s target demographic is drunk Americans.
And a drunk American is exactly what I was that night. My friend Aaron’s wife and kids had already moved to their new home back in the states, and he was soon to follow, so it was one of our last nights to hang out while he was still in Okinawa. Aaron’s wife had been to the Banana Show on a girls’ night out, but he hadn’t been yet and neither had I. Thus our plan for the evening was to see the Banana Show. We kicked off the evening with a few pregame beers before we walked out Kadena Gate 2.
On the way down Route 20, better known as Gate 2 Street, we stopped by First Chance, one of the first bars out the gate, to get ourselves sufficiently inebriated for the evening ahead of us. When we got there I learned that my favorite cantankerous bartender, Nami, was no longer working there. Fortunately, Masami, the cute one, was still there. She made us a free round of Kamikazes because I remembered her name and had asked about Nami. Aaron bought a round of Snake Bites, and we had a few beers, too.
When we finished up at First Chance, Aaron and I decided it was time to do it: We were finally going to see the Banana Show. We turned a left at the corner after the Richie Rich clothing store, and halfway down the block several old Japanese ladies asked us if we wanted to see a show. They tried to charge us each 2000 yen, but we haggled them down to 1000. The old ladies showed us to our table in a seedy North Korea-esque bar scene. While we waited for them to bring our drinks, I drank in my surroundings: we were seated next to a small stage with a dingy curtain at the back and some crappy speakers up front. And it may just be my drunk memory playing tricks on me, but it sure seemed like there were old communist propaganda posters on the walls. The ladies returned with Jacks and Cokes, but I tried to send mine back since I’d ordered my Jack straight. They just left it at the table for Aaron to drink and brought me another.
Afterwards, two of the old ladies sat down next to us and got a little touchy-feely. After some unintelligibly accented small talk, the ladies walked back outside to the street to bring in three more hapless victims. Later Aaron found he was missing the money he’d saved for a cab, and my ID card was nowhere to be found when we went back in the gate several hours later. Still more time dragged on before the show started, and Aaron conversed with the three young airmen who had just come in. I don’t remember very much about them. One of them was the belligerent drunk type who told us how much more badass his job was than ours, and another was a friendly drunk type who offered to buy us a round if we met up with him at Fujiyama’s after the show.
Several minutes later, the show began. The old Japanese music that played seemed better suited to come from a phonograph than the speakers up on the stage, and the wrinkled, boxy old woman who had emerged from the curtains swayed in time to it. She dropped a bottle and a cluster of brand-stickered bananas that looked as if she’d just picked them up at the local Kanehide on the way in. While she danced, she undid her top and flopped out an old lady tit so she could shake it in Aaron’s face. It was much scarier than the pair of snakes she produced in the following part of the act, but it was the snakes that made Aaron recoil when she waved those in his face. Next she pulled out a stack of quarters and set them neatly on top of the bottle. She lifted her skirt to expose her wrinkled, hairy old lady vagina and squatted down to swallow up the change. One audience member was asked to produce a dollar so she could make change, and she deposited four quarters right in front of him. Then she plinked the rest of them one at a time into a small box. Finally, she picked up the bananas and peeled one before sucking it up into her meat curtains. When I say sucking, I mean that her vagina quite literally sucked it up in there. Thankfully, nobody in the crowd was willing to eat the banana when she offered, so she just chopped it into little pieces that she dropped all over the stage. It actually looked more like she was having a bowel movement than demonstrating the might of her kegels. She did several more bananas that way before finally calling it a night. The whole experience was about as sexual as witnessing the miracle of birth–in the way that it ruins your mental image of the lady flower.
Afterwards, we staggered over to Fujiyama’s to meet up with the guy who’d offered to buy us a round, and the rest of the evening is fuzzy. I vaguely recall trying to get back in the gate, discovering that my ID was missing, and having to have Aaron sign me in to get a pass. I got home, crawled into bed to snuggle up next to my wife Danielle, and regaled her with this tale the following morning.
I’m glad to be one of the people in this world who was witnessed this tradition–this unusual and unmentionable piece of G.I. history here in the Pacific. I hadn’t planned to ever go again, but now that I can’t anymore, I’m a little disappointed. People have been asking if she had a replacement, but her dingy little bar was getting cleaned out this week, with a full removal of furniture and equipment, so if they do plan to keep going, some serious renovation must be going on. I secretly hope Fire Yoko moves in to take her place.
Rest in peace, Banana Show lady.