by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
There are some things about life that are intrinsically Gay. Male strippers are on that list.
Magic Mike, otherwise known as 'the movie where Channing Tatum got naked,' is a new film about a group of male strippers. And would you believe it if I told you that Gay men are heading to theaters in droves to see Mr. Pouty Lips play the title character? Yes, of course you would. You have already seen it... twice. But seriously, the reviews are in and who cares about what the movie is actually about - Channing Tatum is still to die for!
Let's be honest, the reason so many Gay men are flocking to see the film that theaters end up looking like improvised Gay bars is because it's about male strippers. You know - men who take their clothes off.
The New York Times reports that Magic Mike is drawing the Gay male audience like no other film since Brokeback Mountain in 2005. Sure, Magic Mike isn't about two men in love (there's no 'I can't quit you' stuff here). But who cares? Sometimes (or always, if you are Gay), you just want to see a movie about sexy muscled men without pants.
The movie cost Warner Brothers $7 million to release and has performed stronger than expected, which means - and which Tatum, who once worked as a stripper in real life, has confirmed - there's a sequel in the works.
Before I go off about 'why can't people just get over the fact that Gay men don't mind watching a movie about straight male strippers and the women they love' because 'we love the male strippers, screw the storyline,' I will give Warner Brothers Pictures an editorial pat on the back for some good old-fashioned Gay marketing. Tatum appeared on the cover of Out, a glossy Gay magazine, the movie trailer got posted on Gay blogs, and the film was promoted at Pride events across the country.
So yeah, as I was saying, you had us at 'male strippers and Channing Tatum,' Warner Brothers.
Gay moviegoers don't care if there is a Gay plot in this movie - where, in an odd role-reversal, Gay actor Matt Bomer plays it straight (as a stripper) - because hot guys taking off their clothes is the Gay plot. That is not a bad thing. And, did I miss something? When did Gay male culture become so sexless? I mean, really.
I came up as Gay in the 1990s when saying you went to a bathhouse wasn't taboo and just because you were dating a guy didn't mean you had to rush out and adopt a kid, buy a Subaru, and look at properties off the Hill because the Gayborhood is just 'too noisy at night.' Forgive me if I think it's silly for Gay men to downplay the sex-play that exists in all parts of our community. If 'no one' goes to bathhouses, why are two of them still in business? And how would you explain the fact that Dog House Leather, Castle, and The Crypt adult novelty stores all still operate and make a profit when they are located less than one mile from each other? Naked men. Sex. That's how.
The beautiful truth that Magic Mike's ticket sales and the demographic credited with buying the bulk of them - Gay men - reveal is that male strippers, or go-go boys or whatever you want to call them, capture our attention and imagination. And the men who do this work right here in Seattle will tell you that when they are doing their thing, it's all eyes on them.
'I think go-go boys are an essential part of Gay dance clubs,' Floyd Lovelady told SGN. 'Almost everyone, whether they want to admit it or not, likes to see some skin when they go to a club.'
Lovelady manages the popular Gay club R Place, which consistently features more go-go dancers than any other Gay club on the Hill. And business is booming.
According to Lovelady, it's not rocket science; it's a fact that 'go-go boys get a party going.' However, Lovelady does admit that it is easy to find hot guys in Seattle who are willing to strip down and dance. Due to the in-house themed shows like the ASS Contest (Amateur Strip Show) and Wet Underwear, Lovelady said, 'I've been lucky enough to have found some hot go-go boys from right here in Seattle.'
If the crowd likes a contestant, Lovelady will approach him after the show to see if he's interested in working.
'Word of mouth has spread the news that we hire go-go boys,' said Lovelady. 'If someone is interested, I ask him to come and compete in one of our shows to see if he can move, and if the audience responds well.'
'Not every guy with a good body can move,' he told SGN, adding, 'It takes more than just flexing.'
And a dance background doesn't always guarantee a job.
'I have a lot of respect for boys who are willing to try it,' Lovelady said, referring to the go-go boy profession. 'It's not easy to dance all night. Make no mistake about it, these guys are athletes.'
Currently, R Place reports having about 10 dancers Lovelady could rotate in. 'And I have others waiting for their chance,' he said.
Corey Wood is one of Lovelady's dancers. He's been on the job for less than two months and doesn't go by a stage name. 'I do it because I like the money,' Wood told SGN. 'I had this habit of taking off my shirt whenever I would go out to dance. Eventually I thought, 'Why not get paid to take it one step further and dance in my underwear?'
Echoing what Lovelady said about the physical demands go-go dancing requires, Wood said, 'I have a lot of fun dancing. Plus it's an amazing workout and helps to keep me in shape.'
Some people hold tight to the sentiment that they would be uncomfortable if they felt objectified. Well, needless to say, those people do not usually end up becoming go-go dancers. Wood told SGN that even as a newbie to the go-go scene, he rarely runs into a disrespectful customer.
'There are times when a person might try to get a little too grabby,' he said, 'and even that isn't a huge deal because you are already in your underwear so it's bound to happen.'
So far on the job, Wood says he's learned that 'a go-go boy has the most fun when he feeds off of everyone else's energy.'
'So whenever you are at a club that has go-go boys, make sure you and all of your friends are dancing their asses off,' he said.
Nobody wants to watch a go-go boy with no go, go. Age, for the most part, doesn't play into the picture until quite some time down the road, say most of the older (25-plus) go-go boys I spoke with.
Joey Amato, president of OUTreach Public Relations, used to be a go-go dancer. Earlier this year, at age 31, Amato says he was asked to dance for a bar and actually took them up on the offer. 'I was proud of the fact that I had the courage and endurance to dance well and still be considered attractive to many of the bar patrons while dancing next to boys 10 years younger than me,' he said. 'I viewed it as an accomplishment, while some people questioned if it would hurt my professional standing in the community.'
Needless to say, 'Facebook friend requests were high the next day,' Amato laughed.
Go-go dancers in Washington State do not run into as many issues as a dancer in California might, due to the state liquor laws concerning nudity. Amato told SGN that in some parts of the country, 'bar patrons and some people in general believe that 'go-go boy' and 'prostitute' are one in the same.'
According to Amato, the main difference is the location of where the boys are dancing. 'For example, I was asked to dance in a fairly upscale bar in Tennessee,' he explained. 'We were not allowed to give private lap dances to anyone, regardless of how much they offered.'
'However, if we were go-go dancing in a strip club, there is a level of prostitution that is expected from the dancers,' said Amato, adding, 'even if it's just a private lap dance.'
To stay out of trouble, and to keep it respectful, Amato says customers need to understand that the location of the go-go dancers dictates the boundaries they need to adhere to.
Gaysha Starr, a well-known Seattle drag entertainer for nearly 20 years, has booked and performed with countless go-go dancers over the years. She says that some of the stigma associated with being a dancer is gone as many of the successful guys on the dance circuit use social media networks like Facebook and Twitter to promote themselves.
'Social media gives dancers direct access to their fans,' Gaysha Starr told SGN. 'As an example, before hiring a dancer, I find them on Facebook to get a good look at the photos they've posted and check out their fan base.'
'The system works,' she said. 'I've booked some of Neighbours Seattle's hottest and most talked-about go-go dancers from their Facebook page.'
Gaysha told SGN that, although Magic Mike is full of Channing Tatum hotness, it takes more than just good looks and a hard body to be successful at club bookings. 'The dancers have to be friendly, don't mind having their pictures being taken with endless club goers, and possess 'star quality,' she said, adding, 'Some of the most memorable dancers at Neighbours were able to make each person they met feel like the only person in the room.'
In January 2006, Jacob Rodvelt-Gamlieli got his start in the biz at Silverado in Portland, and says that even though most dancers at the venue are strippers, he's never gone nude onstage.
'I was interested in a bartender that worked there,' he admits, 'so I knew that if he saw me go-go dancing I would catch his attention.'
But what caught Rodvelt-Gamlieli's attention was how much fun he was having as a dancer - so he kept doing it at Neighbours Seattle and R Place, and at parties in New York City and Vancouver, B.C.
Most go-go dancers do not want to be called strippers,' he told SGN, adding, 'Strippers take their clothes off on stage to arouse the audience and are usually the main attraction.'
Instead, Rodvelt-Gamlieli said, 'Go-go's dance to entertain people and liven the atmosphere as just one component in the overall party.'
Still, Gay club-goers are thrilled to see go-go dancers or male strippers, or some version thereof, whenever we go out. We are also just as equally thrilled to see the same content in movies where the lead characters - or, in Magic Mike's case, strippers - are Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer, and Matt Bomer.
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