Nude Male Dancers Expose Their Idea of a Perfect Audience
Every night at the castle-themed Excalibur Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, a group of Australian men strip for women in an all-male revue called the Thunder From Down Under. The men are all buff, but their bodies differ, ranging from shaved armpits to hairy chests. They tear their clothes off to songs like Michael Jackson's "They Don't Care About Us" and LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem." And, as male feminists, they do it for women.
"When we first arrived, we were the very first male revue to be in Las Vegas with a permanent residency," explains Matthew, a 42-year-old dancer who has performed in the show for 16 years. "It gave women a chance to have an outlet that men have had for many, many years. It is empowering."
I love tribal tattoos. I love them nearly as much as I love white boys with neck tattoos.
At the end of each show, a performer will bring an elderly woman onto the stage. When I watch the show, a dancer named Kurt—who also serves as the house MC—brings up an old lady wearing leather boots and a shirt that says, "CHIC HAPPENS." Ginuwine's "Pony" plays, and the dancer mounts her. He grabs her boobs; she motions to him with her fingers. Kurt French kisses her, grabs her hand, and puts it his pants.
Although the show starts with a video of Gene Simmons calling the dancers "male strippers," the show's publicist Penny routinely tells me that the men identify as "performers who strip."
"We're not sleazy," Penny says. "We don't do what's called 'Hot Seat Reviews,' where they stimulate oral sex or flip the girls upside down."
Penny is an elderly woman with red hair. Backstage, she tells me she used to work as an investigative reporter during the years when the Mafia ran Las Vegas. She wears a beautiful furry black hat. ("It's a hat day," she explains.) She bought the hat years ago and wants to find a designer to create her a replica. I promise her I will ask a gay in New York to design her one and then ask her about the show. I like her a lot. If I'm ever a male dancer (which I probably never will be, but who knows), I hope she is my handler.
In the green room, Penny lists the charities the dancers do work for: "[Disability organization] Opportunity Village, Susan G. Komen, cancer, autism, multiple sclerosis, NSPCA—we did a bowling thing with them," she says. "We are part of a community."
The men, though, are sitting around me in black tank tops and skin-tight jeans, so I don't think that much about the dancers saving puppies or doing charity work for autistic kids. I just look at their booties. Especially the booty of Aidan, a tan dancer with a buzz cut and tribal tattoos. I love tribal tattoos. I love them nearly as much as I love white boys with neck tattoos.
My lust seems inappropriate (I'm a journalist), so I ask the boys how audience members should behave at an all-male nude revue.
Dress like a bachelorette
"There is no set dress code, except to say that if you want to get pulled up on stage, if it is your bachelorette party, or it is your birthday, then I would recommend wearing a sash that says that because it makes it easier, because we're fully interactive. We'll bring girls up on stage, so bring a sash that says, '21st birthday party' or whatever."
Don't grab dancers' dingleberries
"I don't allow them to touch my front dingleberries. It's not exactly like I want to be having fingers inside my buttcheeks, but I'm fine with squeezing butts. You can never stop a girl—if you're looking at this girl trying to do something with the show, this girl might try to grab you. When they grab you, there's not a whole lot you can do, other than go, 'Thanks.'"
"It's always kind of a bit of a shock, running through a crowd and the next thing you see is some chick [showing her breasts]. You kind of don't know what to do. Flashing is kind of the worst, but I mean, there's not really a whole lot else you can do [about it]."
Bring your husband
"It was our first year as permanent residents in Las Vegas, and we had an elderly couple there that was in their 80s. Typically during our show, our master of ceremonies brings a senior woman up there and does a little dance at the end. It's very tame, but the crowd loves it. So the gentleman had gone up to the bathroom, and it was at that point in the show, and our MC brought her up on stage. When the husband came back, to his dismay, he saw his woman up on stage. He walked up to the stage, and he had his fist cuffed. It was quite a memorable moment because—yes it was funny—but it was wonderful to see that chivalry's not dead. After God knows how many more years of marriage, he still felt that for his woman, and probably more than most men do because they were true soulmates. They'd gone through so many ups and downs together, so it was memorable in that it was incredibly sweet.
Most guys that come to the show, to be honest with you—and it's probably the biggest compliment we get—have a really good time because they think the show's funny, it's nothing like what they expect. Guys have a lot of energy and a lot of fun, and that translates. The guys will come up after the show and go, 'I brought my wife, but I just had the best time watching the girls' reactions. It was so funny.' That's the typical reaction from the guys."
Don't act like an Australian
"Australia is a lot more vulgar, a lot more aggressive. Out here, they get into it, but it's a lot more polite. That's what I've found, because I've been to the Thunder Down Under shows in Australia, and over here there's a lot less yelling."
Fall in love
"I think every guy accidentally falls in love with whomever they fall in love with. These guys do 13 shows a week here at the Excalibur during the summer and nine shows a week during the winter. This. Is. Their. Life. If they're not on stage, they're in the gym. If they're not in the gym, they're doing promotions. If they're not doing promotions, they're in meetings or rehearsals. There are many weeks where the guys are putting in a 70-hour week. This becomes their lives, so when they meet people—like, anyone—they meet them at the place they hang out the most. It happens."
Don't scratch the dancers
"It's happened to me and one of the other guys: We've seen a lot of blood thrown. We did one [show] in Canada with 5,000 women. So we've got sections where we play a song and you're literally running out to the back of the crowd so they can see you up close and maybe get a hug or something. So I went in for a hug and didn't get let go, and there was blood on my back from scratching."
Don't push dancers off the table
"A lot of the time when you'll be up on a table or something, you'll have women pulling, and that's just shit. Sorry for the language, but all they see is they're trying to touch a bun, but what we get is being pushed off a table."
"It depends what kind of a drunk you are. If you're a loud, obnoxious idiot, then [don't drink] that much. If I was watching a show, three or four drinks kind of gets you [having fun]. Three or four for a girl would give them a decent buzz, but then they wouldn't be able to talk wasted, puking on the floor. [Drink] enough to be having fun, but not to be an idiot."
Be a fan
"There's a lady who's, like, 86 or something who comes religiously for a week straight every month. By religiously I mean, if there are two shows that night, she'll be at both shows. If there are three shows, she'll be at three shows—every single show. I've been here for seven years, and she's probably been to more shows than me. When it's your birthday, she comes in on your birthday. She knows when all our birthdays are, sends us birthday cards. There are fans, but there are ones that we do know that come a lot, that we see all the time, and then there's ones [...] that only get to come once a year or go see the touring boys when they're at the show."
Just be gentle
"It's a fully interactive show. We go out into the crowd. The girls will grab up on us and stuff. Just be gentle."