By Lola Bessa
Most student associations receive financial support from universities or alumni. But in Maastricht, one particular group of students has been sponsored by Yab Yum, the former world’s most exclusive brothel in Amsterdam, for almost thirty years. The Angle made an exclusive visit to Heerendispuut Xaviera.
On the Rechtstraat 94 in Maastricht stands a small building that looks like a miniature version of an historic canal house. Red lights illuminate the window displays on both sides. There are different props as decoration. When you take a closer look it mostly looks dusty, as if it has been laying there for quite a while. There’s an Amstel Beer lamp, different expensive wine bottles and a blonde pin up doll who wears a red top to match the red curtains behind it. You can’t look inside as the door is blinded. Above the door hangs a sign that says Heerendispuut Xaviera.
The scene looks nothing like the elegant and sophisticated Yab Yum and when the door opens a musky scent of beer and cigarettes is released. Why would someone like Yab Yum founder Theo Heuft decide to sponsor a Heerendispuut, in English best compared to a fraternity, on the other side of the country? Didn’t he have other things on his mind? According to Xaviera praeses Benk Jonk, the president of the club, he liked the idea of supporting young guys like him. “It’s not as if the members of Xaviera have so much money to spend as the visitors of Yab Yum, but we do hold the same attitude. Our motto: ‘in the eloquence of one man lies the jealously of the other’, does hold the idea of class and elitist behaviour.”
When one would enter Yab Yum it would’ve felt like entering a five-star hotel. The same feeling does not enter one’s mind when you enter society ‘In de dry Leeuwen’, which is the name of the pub that belongs to Xaviera. At first, it looks like your average pub. A wooden floor, oakwood barstools and a wooden bar. But when you walk to the back you see Chesterfield couches made of brown leather and chandeliers that look a lot like the ones in Yab Yum. And the presence of Yab Yum is also to be found on the wall. A commercial in which they are looking for new girls got a prominent place next to the poster of the Father’s Day announcement in 2020. There are also a few beer taps on the wall. Some of them were a present for another jubilee year. The back wall of the bar is full of porcelain mugs, one for each alumnus or current member, painted in delfsblauw: the typical colour of old Dutch dinnerware.
Heerendispuut Xaviera is a part of Amphitryon, the student society attached to the Hotel Management School Maastricht, which was founded in 1951. The former principal asked five students to form a union to ensure more cohesion between the students. Since then, the society has grown out to be a big club with 5 male -and 2 female disputen. These are sub-clubs that are part of the society. The society has its own clubhouse near the Hotel Management School Maastricht, which is in the old castle Château Bethlehem.
The Hotel Management School Maastricht itself was founded in 1950 and is one of the oldest Hotel schools of the country. When Amphitryon already existed for 32 years, five members of Amphitryon came together with the same desire. They wanted to open their own gentlemen’s society. In 1983, they founded the Heerendispuut Xaviera. Not long after Xaviera was established, a sixth member wanted to join. As he was a little late to the party, the other members set him up with an assignment to show them that he was worth their effort and time. He needed to find a suitable sponsor for Xaviera.
At the same time in Amsterdam, the cities nightlife for the most rich and elitist men was under the spell of one club: Yab Yum. A high-class brothel, only for the ones who could afford, located at one of Amsterdam’s finest places in a luxurious canal house on Singel 295. The club was founded in 1976 by Theo Heuft and was known as the most exclusive bordel worldwide. It existed before it was even legal to have a brothel in The Netherlands. In Anna van ‘t Hek’s recent documentary about Yab Yum you can see the grandeur it once held. As the camera flows through the building, it almost looks like an elegant hotel. With soft red carpets, its stairs wrapped in gold and big chandeliers from the ceiling. “It was unique, and it could still be unique. It was the top of the bill,” they say in the documentary.
Until today, the club’s mystique and illustrious character is a mystery you can fantasize about. These same characteristics can be traced back in Heerendispuut Xaviera. When the sixth member needed to prove his worth to the club, he got in touch with Theo Heuft who was a friend of his parents. On one evening, the now six founding members went to Yab Yum to have a night’s long conversation with Theo Heuft. They left the building with a new sponsor and the motto: “Long nights are the nicest at Yab Yum, a club of class.”
To become a member of Xaviera, you need to be asked. The membership costs a lot of time and as the guys almost see each other daily, they become very close. The secretive sphere around Yab Yum also circulated around Xaviera. Alumni member Ernst de Graaf thinks the secretive character matched the two perfectly together: “Yab Yum or Theo Heuft himself and Xaviera were a great match because we were just as tight-lipped. As a society, we would never say how the initiation ceremony went or what we did as a club. Only we knew what we did. In Yab Yum people used to say: ‘What happens in Yab Yum, stays in Yab Yum.’ I think the idea of coming across as a mysterious bunch of men is somewhat thrilling.”
Alumni members still visit the pub ‘In de dry Leeuwen’ in the centre of Maastricht whenever they can. They still tell wild stories of yearly trips to Yab Yum with the whole Heerendispuut or about evenings of working for Yab Yum as club gentlemen. They all study hospitality after all and therefore knew how to ensure the guests would be entertained. Sometimes, the men spent the nights serving out caviar and champagne.
Unfortunately, Yab Yum no longer exists. Due to criminal activity, the club was forced to close by the municipality of Amsterdam in 2007. The last thing Theo Heuft paid was a new floor for the pub. He recently passed away.
What is left is the legend around Theo and the myths about Yab Yum. “When we walk through Amsterdam wearing our Xaviera clothing with the words Yab Yum printed on it, the old inhabitants of the city would yell at us. They immediately know who we are referring to with our clothing,” Ernst de Graaf says. Benk Jonk does think that the older stories are made prettier over time: “There are many rumours about parties with the fine ladies of Yab Yum and stories of inviting strippers. Whether that is true doesn’t matter. It’s the thought that counts and during our jubilee year we still rent limousines, invite strippers, and spend our money on whiskey and cigars. I think it’s the arrogant and illustrious attitude that counts. But we are all normal boys in the end and partially to break the stigma around student societies we regularly invite our neighbours over for a beer or coffee.”