|photo courtesy of Hunkmania Male Strippers|
I’m late. I’m always late. It’s no accident. It’s this little game I play with myself week after week. I know I’m supposed to be there by 7:15, but hell, I don’t even want to be there at all. Maybe there’s a part of me that hopes I’ll just miraculously miss it altogether.
It’s 7:30, when I finally arrive. Bubbs sees me and his face lights up as a noticeable hush falls over the crowd of at least 50 women lined up to one side of the entrance. He lets me through the ropes and I know they’re wondering how I got inside with no hassle or question.
Inside, it’s business as usual. The bartender is cutting lemons and limes, the DJ is setting up the music and the waiters are checking their supplies.
I make my way down the long pathway toward the back. The bar runs the whole length of the room and opens up into a large square area which is the dance floor. There are three tiers of carpeted bleacher-type seats surrounding 75% of the dance floor. With the lights up, this place reminds me of an old starlet whose glory days have long since passed –weathered and worn.
Downstairs, there’s another bar that we only use for the second show along with the office and a supply area that doubles as a dressing room for the guys. Inside, some of the guys are getting ready which means greasing up and primping in front of the mirror. Cocoa butter for K.C.. Baby oil for Joey. Tony likes almond oil. Shawn doesn’t use anything – he’s too busy practicing out in the empty bar area. Given the different scented oils, the room always smells like a cross between old alcohol and Hawaiian Tropic.
Heading towards the office, I maneuver past a handful of half-dressed and half-greased guys who talk easily amongst themselves. I give a general “hello” to everyone and Tony comes over to give me hug.
“Nooooo. You’re already oily, “ I say, holding my hands up.
Tony smiles and grabs my hand. “Okay, baby. But anytime you want some of this,” he points to himself with pride, “I’m here.”
The office door is open. I cross my fingers hoping Danny’s working tonight, because he’s my favorite.
“Hello Luv!” Danny says looking up from a pile of money he is counting. “The list hasn’t come through yet. I’ll bring it up when it does.”
“They’re already lining up outside.” I say.
“Ah, fer fuck’s sake. Don’t these women have a life?” he mutters rolling his eyes.
I take the cash box and clipboard from the desk and make my way back upstairs. At the top of the stairs, Bubbs, who’s real name is Michael, is waiting for me. He’s about 6’5” and at least 275 pounds.
“They’re asking how much longer they have to wait outside,” he says, taking my cash box and clipboard from me. “One girl keeps asking to be let in. She says she has to pee.”
We both roll our eyes, silently acknowledging the fact that we hear this same thing every week as the line of drunken girls increases and their bladders start to waiver.
“Five minutes, Bubbs. I don’t have a list yet.”
“What about the girl?”
Here it is. The first moment of a very long night. I want to be nice, but I’ve seen it before. We let one girl in and then suddenly, everyone has to pee. Before you know it, half the line is already inside asking the bartender if they can order a drink, while the rest of the people waiting outside want to know why they can’t come in too.
This is my reality - This is Hunkmania.
Hunkmania is a male strip show for women that was started back in 1999 by an ex- Chippendale dancer.
I work the door. I collect money and check people in to make sure they have paid for their tickets in advance. Most of the time, I end up dealing with stuff a Manager would deal with. But I never say that I’m the Manager. Ever.
During the busy season, we have two shows. We always sell out quickly which means all 225 tickets have been purchased (for each show) in advance of the show date.
A guest list is generated for each show and then faxed to the club. This list goes to me and I have the pleasure of checking people in, making sure the number of people in their party matches the number of tickets paid for in advance. There have been times where women have tried to sneak in an extra person or two. Some of these women can be very clever. One will ask to be let in earlier because she has to “pee”. She stays in the bathroom waiting for the rest of her party to come inside hoping that I’ll forget that I’ve already let one person from the whole party inside. This is one reason I have a bouncer.
The other reason being that I’ve seen women get ugly in this place. Breaking-bottles-over-someone’s-head-ugly, but that’s later, after the show has actually started. Right now, it’s all about getting them inside and seated.
Tonight, the line has extended down to the corner of 14th Street with most of the women decked out in veils, blinking penis head bands, penis lollipops, penis necklaces, t-shirts unifying certain parties with slogans like, “We’re all getting FUCKED up for Heather’s Bachelorette Party!!” as well as the token 4 foot tall, inflatable penis. The inflatable penis is not common, but once in awhile we get one and everyone loves it.
Settling onto my stool behind a podium, Bubbs and I take a minute to bullshit about the past week. He sits down on the stool just opposite the podium – a comical site, given his size and proportion to the stool.
Danny bursts through the doors into the vestibule with the lists. “Looks like it’s gonna be a helluva of a night.” He says, handing me four pages worth of names
Two shows. Both sold out. This means twice the headaches and twice the hassles.
I take a deep breath and turn to Bubbs, “Are you ready?”
“Are you ready?”
And the games begin.
|photo courtesy of Hunkmania Male Strippers|
Most of the time, the girls have been out drinking prior to coming to Hunkmania, so getting them inside can be a little tricky. There are endless questions about things that are clearly stated on the website, which I have to answer each time, every week, as if I’m hearing it for the very first time. There’s also the matter of making sure they don’t bring alcohol into the club from outside – usually in the from of a penis sippy cup. One girl is not happy about giving up her penis cup. She adamantly refuses yelling out in a drunken stupor, “Nobody is taking my dick. This is MY dick!” Another job for my faithful bouncer, Bubbs.
The next bunch of ladies are a group of ten celebrating a bachelorette party. Most of the women appear to be in their mid-twenties. They’re decked out in minimal clothing, lots of sequins, strappy, metallic shoes and of course, penis paraphernalia.
The leader of the pack charges up to the podium and without missing a beat announces in full long-island accented fashion, “We’re here for a bachelorette party.”
She comes around the podium to my side, leans in way too closely and says in a ridiculously overdone whisper, “Uh. Who do I talk to about getting our bride on stage? The website said we can put her up on stage and embarrass the shit out of her. Does D’Angelo still work here? Oooooooh, he’s HOT. Can she be on stage with D’Angelo?”
Between her disgusting alcohol breath and her nasal voice, I’m not feeling very good about my evening. I try my hardest not to sound condescending, “Okay, first off, do you think you could step back behind the podium?” Luckily, she backs up a few inches, but continues to rant. “But we want Deeee--Ange-AH----looooooooo.”
I’m trying to be patient but, this is the first group of close to 200 women and I’m thinking ahead. If each group takes this long to get checked in, we’ll be here all night.
By this time, the chanting has begun. Bubbs comes inside and says, “You hear it, right?”
Outside, on 14th street, there are at least 100 girls chanting in unison, “We want the Hunks! We want the Hunks!” The inflatable penis is being passed amongst the line and an inflatable doll complete with genitalia and pubic hair, has now joined the mix. Doc, the neighborhood drunk, is doing a drunken tango with the doll up and down the line while the women are tirelessly chanting, “We want the Hunks!”
At this point, Lance, the MC of the show arrives. He’s the main man. He took D’Angelo’s place. Where I run the door, he runs the show. He’s the host. The guy who keeps everyone pumped up and happy.
Lance is a Funeral Director by day and male stripper by night. With his blue eyes and deep tan – no matter what season, he loves to remind people he’s in charge. Me, I’m happy to hand it all off to him whenever I can. Though, once the show starts, I’m the one people come to. If I were on a power trip, I’d love it. .
Thankfully, things calm down a bit once Rinaldo, one of the massage guys goes outside to hand out magnets and flirt with the girls keeping them occupied. The next several groups of women are hassle-free and actually very polite and funny, so I’m feeling better about the evening.
Lance comes out with his wireless microphone in hand. A sign that he’s ready to start the show.
“How many are left, Liz?”
“We’re still waiting on a party of 18. Give it 5 more minutes and we’ll see if this big party shows up.”
Bubbs comes in from outside, sits back down on his stool and sighs, “Damn. Sometimes this place makes me feel like such a hater.”
I smile, completely feeling his pain, hop off my stool and head inside get us some drinks.
Inside, the energy is amping up. The first batch of women are most likely two drinks into their night. The waiters are running around like crazy. The music is pumping. The bartender has her head down as she’s making a batch of Apple Martini’s and Cosmopolitan’s. Seeing me, she nods hello, stops what she’s doing and makes a drink for me and Bubbs. I love this girl!
As she’s handing me the drinks, someone taps me on the shoulder from behind. It’s Bubbs.
“The party of 18 is here and one of them doesn’t have ID. You better come out.”
Outside, in front of the club is the biggest limousine I have ever seen. It looks like someone took one end of a Hummer and stretched it as far as they could, making it at least 20 feet in length. It’s white, of course, with tinted windows and besides the thumping bass coming from inside, there are flashing purple strobe lights and a disco ball hanging from the center of the ceiling.
Twenty or so girls are all hovering around the ropes outside the club. They are all outfitted in typical Hunkmania garb along with hot pink feather boas around their necks.
The leader of the pack is clearly wasted as the stumbles up to the ropes.
“We’re celebrating a bachelorette party and we’re from New Jersey and we want to make sure we get good seats and we want to get our girl up on stage with the dancers. They said we could do that when I spoke to someone on the phone. ‘Ter!! Ter!! TER---RY. Get ova here.’ Can we go inside already?”
Bubbs steps up and says, “Yeah. I just need that one girl’s ID.”
The leader puts her long, french manicured nails through her hair for effect and leans in closer to Bubbs and myself.
“Yeah, well ya see, one of us, the bride’s sister, forgot her ID at the hotel. She’s definitely 21. Shit, she’s got two kids. JenniFAH! Show her your kids.”
I jump in. “Uh, no that’s not really necessary, thanks.” I scan the group, “Which one is she?”
The leader yells which is totally unnecessary as we’re all pretty close to one another. “JenniFAH! Come up here. Come on.”
JenniFAH makes her way up towards me and Bubbs. Bubbs looks at me and already I know what he’s thinking. This girl is NOT 21. I start shaking my head because I know this is going to get ugly.
I address JennFAH matter of factly, “So, you don’t have ID?”
“No. I think I left it at the hotel.”
“Where’s the hotel?” I ask.
The leader interrupts, again at the top of her lungs. “Come on, she’s got kids. She’s married. JenniFAH! Show her your rings.”
JenniFAH obeys like a small child and holds up her rings.
Shrugging my shoulders, I drop the bomb. “I’m sorry I can’t let you in without ID.”
The protests begin and suddenly, I’ve got 18 girls all talking at once – “this is crazy.” “she’s 21.” “she doesn’t even drink” “that woman is just being an asshole”
Bubbs steps in. “Ladies! Ladies! Listen. She’s right. You can’t come in without ID. It’s not up to us. It’s the law.”
The leader speaks to me and the rest of her group, “So what the hell are we going to do?”
There are so many opportunities in my night to be a complete asshole. As much as I despise the whole bachelorette party thing, I respect that this is a big night for people. I wish I were the type to look the other way. But, I’m not.
“Listen,” I say to Mary with compassion, “I can’t let you in without ID. I just can’t. Here’s what I suggest you do. Let the rest of the party go inside. Have your limo driver shoot you back up to your hotel. It’s in Times Square, right? You’ll be back here in 30 minutes tops. When you bring back your ID, I’ll get all of you a round of drinks on me and you’ll have a good time. Does that sound fair?”
The leader goes ballistic. “This is BULLSHIT. YOU (pointing with her manicured finger) are a BITCH. You’re just giving us a hard time. I should kick your ass. You’re RUINING our night. SCREW you.”
Sensing things have reached a whole new level, Bubbs sees tells me to get inside.
Bubbs handles the situation and I head inside where the show is just getting started. “Ladies! Welcome to Hunkmania!” Lance bellows into the wireless microphone as he makes his way out to the center of the dance floor. He’s got women on either side of him stacked up in the carpeted bleachers, screaming, cheering and waving their arms with enthusiasm.
“And don’t forget - WHAT HAPPENS AT HUNKMANIA STAYS AT HUNKMANIA!” The crowd erupts as Lance exits center stage and the lights go out. This sends the crowd into a frenzy as the women start stamping their feet, alternating between screams of “Woooooooooo” and “Yeah Babeeeee!”
“Right now, making his debut at Hunkmania from Boston, let’s give it up for AWWWWW---S--TINNNNNN!!”
I walk back towards the door and Bubbs is standing just inside the club at the far end of the bar, with a drink for me in one hand and a drink for himself in the other.
He hands me my drink and the lockbox full of hunk bucks – our version of “funny money” like in Vegas. “Jimmy says people need to buy hunk bucks.”
I make my way back towards the main event with drink and hunk bucks in hand. I notice all the guys are standing around watching Austin’s routine. This strikes me odd as they usually wait downstairs until it’s their turn to perform. But the guys are like mesmerized. Craning their necks, standing in obscure corners completely entranced by Austin’ performance. Now, I’m curious. I assume my hunk buck position and turn my attention to the show.
And what a show it is. Austin, a new guy, whose real name I don’t even know, is wearing a silver glittered tuxedo jacket – complete with top hat and tails. He’s wearing a mask that looks like something out of Cirque du Soleil and the best part of all – he’s like 5 feet tall!
“He’s really good isn’t he?” an envious voice says behind me. “I hear he used to be a Chippendale.”
It’s Joey talking, but his eyes are on Austin. I can’t believe how enamored he is by this guy. In fact, ALL the dancers appear to be just as impressed.
I’m not impressed and decide to leave this alone. I can’t engage in stripper envy. Though it’s worth noting that there hasn’t been stripper envy of this magnitude for a long time. The last time the guys were falling all over themselves with envy was when one of the dancers, a legend in the business, joined Hunkmania. He had an assistant.
Austin finishes his routine and Lance continues to keep the party going. “Ladies! It’s time for a new set of Hot Seats! If I call your name it means that someone has purchased a hot seat for you. YOU are coming up here to get up close and personal with our next Hunk.” The crowd erupts yet again, into enthusiastic cheers as the anticipation is palpable.
|photo courtesy of Hunkmania Male Strippers|
A hot seat is something extra that is advertised as a way of giving the guest of honor, “special attention” as she is seated with three other women in the center of the dance floor while the dancer performs his set.
The key to getting the most attention possible, of course, is about how many hunk bucks and/or dollar bills the person has attached to them.
“Doris. Can I get Doris up here on center stage, please?” Lance is arranging each of the women in their respective hot seats while their friends flock around them affixing hunk bucks and dollar bills to every place they can.
As I’m handing out hunk bucks, Lance walks over to me. “Uh, hey just so you know. We’ve got a really drunk girl in the house. I told Jimmy not to serve her any more alcohol.”
“Okay. Tell him though, if she looks like she’s gonna be sick, to have Bubbs get her out of here.”
Next up is K.C. He’s beautiful. 6’7”, lean, but muscular, very dark skin, bald head. Unfortunately, he knows it and this contributes to his lack of personality. Although, I’ve actually had some decent conversation with him over the years, he mostly keeps to himself. Lately however, he seems to be too cool, even for himself – walking into the club and not saying hello to anyone. His mystique is all bullshit to me. K.C. and I had a moment years ago and after that, I realized this is a guy who’s always gotten by on his looks.
Now, he and I play this little game week after week. I’ll be packing up my stuff getting ready to leave while K.C. is changing back into his street clothes.
K.C. will nod his chin in my direction in lieu of addressing me directly. “So, uh, you goin’ out after this?”
Some nights I play along, just for the ego factor. “Um. I don’t know. I haven’t decided yet.”
He’ll then start to shuffle around uncomfortably and say something like, “We could get a beer.” Translation: “We could drink a beer upstairs for free and then go back to my place where I can use you to help me release all of this pent up sexual energy that has built up all night long from being rubbed and touched by strange women.”
Back out on the dance floor, Doris is having a blast. She’s completely into the special attention she’s getting from K.C. as she continues to replenish the hunk bucks he takes out of her cleavage. Each time he goes in to get the money, she tilts her head back, closes her eyes in sheer ecstasy and grabs the back of his head shoving it into her breasts.
The vodka has kicked in and I’m feeling a bit more relaxed. I’m almost enjoying myself while Doris and the rest of her clan high-five one another as K.C. finishes his set and she goes back to her regular seat.
After another round of hot seat assignments and more hunk buck sales, it’s Joey’s turn. The lights go out and the theme from military boot camp cues up. “Yo left. Yo left. Yo left, right, left.” Joey comes out wearing army fatigues. He has presence. With a shaved head and piercing green eyes that go beautifully with his olive skin tone, he’s the best dancer of the bunch.
The crowd responds to him as per usual tonight as he takes one of the hot seat girls out of her chair and eases her onto the floor so she’s lying on her back. Standing over her, perfectly timed to the music, there’s a dramatic pause and he chooses this moment to rip his pants off - which are held together with Velcro seams - in one full swoop. The crowd is on their feet yelling as Joey stands over the woman on the floor and slowly squats down so his groin is directly over her face and again, in perfect time to the music he gyrates up and down dramatically making it appear like he’s sitting on her face.
In spite of myself, I’m smiling, slightly amused. Or maybe I’m just getting drunk.
Out of the corner of my eye, I see K.C. approaching. He’s wearing nothing but a red g-string and motorcycle boots. Great. Here we go.
He comes over to me and leans in close to my ear. “Some girl is passed out in the bathroom.”
Oh. Well that’s not what I was expecting. I follow him to the bathroom. And there it is – a dose of Hunkmania reality. A woman, mid-twenties is lying face down on the bathroom floor completely still.
I put my hand on her back, which is sweaty and sticky, to see if she’s breathing.
“K.C., go get Bubbs and Danny. Take my phone and call 911. Where are her friends?” I demand. K.C. steps aside and the passed out girl’s friend steps up and into the bathroom.
“Do you know how much she had to drink?” I say to her friend who looks less worried and more like she wants to run out of the bathroom run as fast as she can.
“I don’t know. We had some tequila at dinner and then we drank champagne in the limo. I think she had a couple of cosmos during the show.”
Jesus. Danny and Bubbs show up in the doorway.
“Ah, fer fuck’s sake. She breathing down there, right Liz?” Danny looks more annoyed than worried.
“Yeah. Did K.C. call 911?”
K.C. squeezes through the door with my cell phone in hand. “Yeah. Somebody needs to wait outside for them, though.”
Danny goes outside to wait for the paramedics and Bubbs peeks his head into the room. “Yo, Liz. Isn’t that the girl who was yelling at you earlier outside? “He continues, “Yeah. She’s the one whose friend didn’t have id.”
He’s right. This is the girl that was calling me all sorts of nasty things not more than a couple of hours ago. Now, I’m taking care of her. Perfect.
|photo courtesy of Hunkmania Male Strippers|
By this time, a small crowd is forming in the very narrow hallway right outside of the bathroom.
Annoyed, I tell Bubbs to get them out of there. As I’m barking orders, the girl begins to stir like she just got jolted out of a deep sleep because she suddenly rolls over and starts moving her head back and forth along with her arms as if she’s fighting something.
“What’s her name?” I ask her friend.
Backing up closer to the door, her friend replies, “Rosemary.”
K.C. and I try to control Rosemary’s movement while I’m trying to be all calm in my voice, “Whoa. Whoa. Rosemary. Easy girl. Don’t try and stand up. Let’s try sitting..”
Someone reaches into the bathroom with a bottle of water and there I am squatting down next to Rosemary with K.C. who’s in his red g-string, trying to coax her to drink some water.
Her blond, highlighted hair is matted against her face. Her eyes are barely open. I think she’s got vomit on her chin and left shoulder. She picks her hand up to wave away the water and I notice 3 of her perfectly manicured fingernails are broken.
I tell the friend to get Rosemary’s things and let the other girls know what’s happening.
She turns to leave the bathroom just as Jimmy pokes his head inside the bathroom. “Everything okay here?” He looks at the girl. “Oh shit. That’s the girl who we were thinking about kicking out. She’s wasted, man.”
Finally, after what seems like an hour, the EMS guys show up. Two guys barge their way into the small, smelly bathroom.
“Okay. Everyone. We’ve got it from here. Let’s get everyone OUTside of the bathroom.
To me, “Ma’m. You can go too.”
“No. I think I’ll stay here.” I squat over to one side of Rosemary surprising myself that I’d want to stay. But hell, it’s my job, or is it? Right on cue, Rosemary leans her head over and rests it on my shoulder. She exhales deeply.
“You’re sho nishe to me. Shank you. Shank you. I’m shorry I cawled you a bitsh.”
And there it is. The very person threatening to kick my ass two hours ago, is leaning her head on my shoulder thanking me care and concern. Priceless.
The shorter of the two EMS guys bends down, makes a fist and starts rubbing Rosemary’s chest area right over her heart. I’m a little taken aback because he’s rubbing really hard – so hard that she falls over, head into my lap.
He’s unfazed. “What’s her name?”
“Rosemary”, I say. Suddenly I feel like her only friend.
“Rosemary. Rosemary. Can you hear me? We have to stand up. Get up. Can you stand up?”
This, to me, is useless as Rosemary’s head is in my lap and clearly not getting up anytime soon. The EMS guy maneuvers himself so that he’s able to pick her up from under her arms. He stands her up. I follow suit.
“Rosemary. Can you stand up on your own? How much did you have to drink tonight?”
Trying to be helpful I give him the long list of various drinks she’s supposedly had.
While the first guy is holding Rosemary steady, the other one wants to know who will be accompanying her to the hospital. Both guys look at me. This is where I draw the line.
Standing her up, the EMS guys start to walk her out of the bathroom. As she’s “walking” out, I notice that she’s got a glob of soap on her forehead.
“Wait!” I say to the EMS guys. Grabbing a paper towel, I wipe the soap off her face.
The EMS guys look at me like I’m crazy.
“Come on guys. I can’t let her walk out of here with that on her face.”
The shorter guy looks at me deadpan and says, “Yeah. We wouldn’t want her to be embarrassed or anything.”
And off they go.
I’m exhausted. K.C. walks over to me and hands me my phone.
“That was intense.” He says.
I nod in agreement.
Pause. “So, what are you doing later?”
At the same time, Bubbs appears. “Liz. You ready to start checking in people for the next show? They’re already lined up outside.”
I walk back into the main area. The theme from the show “Cops” starts as the show is still going on in full force. This is Lance’s music. His cop thing. He’s the last dancer of the evening. Looking out at the crowd of women who are drunk, still screaming and waving their hunk bucks in the air, you’d never know there was any drama in the bathroom just a few moments ago. Bubbs taps me on the shoulder from behind.
“Ya ready?” He smiles.
“Are you ready?” I shoot back. And off we go back to the front of the club to do it all over again.
“Give it up for OFFICER LANCE!”