BANGKOK, Thailand - The one-time sex tycoon who would be governor wants to clean up this sprawling, gritty city where he grew rich overseeing an empire of flesh. But weeks of shaking hands and giving speeches have left him longing for the days of massage girls and hot tubs.
'Politics is so dirty, so ugly,' Chuwit Kamolvisit sighed. 'I would rather sit tight in the nightclub, surrounded by girls, smoking cigars, drinking brandy, champagne. That was the perfect life.'
But that life ended, thanks to a series of scandals that made him a celebrity. Now, Chuwit is an underdog candidate in Bangkok's governor race, financing his own campaign to take on what he sees as the hypocrisy and deceit rotting Thai politics.
Who better to wipe out bribes, he argues, than the former king of sleaze who got rich paying them?
'I tell the truth,' Chuwit, 47, said in an interview, reeling off a list of issues from graft to traffic to unemployment. 'If you want to listen to the truth, you listen to me.'
Judging from recent polls, however, most people are not impressed by what they hear. Chuwit is running a distant second, trailing the leading candidate by as much as 30 percentage points. Chuwit, who now owns a boutique Bangkok hotel, gets attention wherever he goes, but few expect him to garner enough votes to win on Oct. 5.
On Thursday, three days ahead of the vote, Chuwit elbowed a newscaster in the face and then kicked him when he fell to the ground. Chuwit was being interviewed by the Channel 3 reporter in the network's studio and erupted after the taping ended, saying the reporter made him look bad by asking confrontational questions.
'A man like me, you can kill him but you can't insult him,' he said during a press conference following the incident. 'I apologized for what I did ... but I had to do it. I haven't done anything like this in over 30 years.'