Friday 23 February 2018

Strippers show more than just pecs appeal to women

Antonia Leslie gets a front-row view of the men letting it all hang out in a bid to put the full monty back on the map

THRILLS: The Men of Desire - strippers Anto, Joe, Wayne and Leo, with Antonia Leslie, at Club52, where the guys perform their act once a month. Photo: Barbara McCarthy
THRILLS: The Men of Desire - strippers Anto, Joe, Wayne and Leo, with Antonia Leslie, at Club52, where the guys perform their act once a month. Photo: Barbara McCarthy

Antonia Leslie

During this drastic depression, I never stopped to give a thought to the stripping/lap-dance industry, which seemed to thrive during the 'good years'. What happened? Did the novelty just wear off or did declining bank balances simply put an end to it?

No stranger to stripping, I worked the floor serving drinks in Lap Land, the first strip bar Ireland ever saw, in 1998. I saw how innocent the whole thing was. I refer to that period as the "carry on up the pole" times. I was seven months pregnant, so I was, genuinely, up the pole!

I also worked as a hostess for The Barclay Club. I have friends who worked as strippers, loved the job, made good money and travelled the world. I've friends who worked as strippers, made good money, hated the job, and felt that every time a man looked at their bodies as an object of gratification, they lost a piece of their soul. I guess, like anything else, the job of stripping and how it affects one, is relative.

So imagine my surprise, when a friend sent a Facebook message that there was a new strip club opening in town, and this new club was a male strip club! Naked men to titillate women is nothing new – but what surprised me, was now, in these dire times, what women can afford to go?

"It's a show, no lap dancing," Sinead, the message sender, reassures me. "And drinks aren't too expensive!"

Remembering Steven Soderbergh's movie, Magic Mike, and having visions of a ripped Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey, I grab Barbara McCarthy and her camera and off we go.

On arrival, Sinead informs me: "You know they do the full monty?"

I instantly feel shy. Me? Shy? Yes! Women manage to keep their personal bits neatly tucked away between their legs when stripping – even when they bend down they cover any intimate parts that might become exposed. But naked men with everything jangling in my face? I wasn't sure how I'd handle that one! Turned out, not very well.

Even though the full monty happened reasonably far away, up on stage, I still clapped my hands over my face and hid, every time it did. I had been enjoying the strippers' magnificent bodies up until that point. Turns out I'm a prude. I've a big mouth, and full of bravado over most things. But hot men waving their willies at me in a crowded room? I squirmed, every bloody time.

Barbara was up close, clicking away – she had the protection of the camera between her and IT. Sinead was clapping and smiling, unfazed. Maria was giggling but taking it in her stride. The rest of the women, all young trendy things, were clapping, and whistling. It was fun, though. No money asked for except the entrance fee, €10, and the drinks were very cheap. A cocktail (the drink) is a fiver.

OK: the run down. The club is Club52 on Middle Abbey Street, and the act, the Men Of Desire. They do their night here once a month. Opening night was last Tuesday. The men are Wayne, Leo, Anto and Joe. Wayne is in charge. They all come out individually and do a number, then they do a number with the full monty at the end. They are all Dublin lads except Leo, who is Bulgarian. Their choreography was good. They possessed the kind of bodies you would expect.

The full monty bit? They all seemed to be built equally, in the size department (Okay, I peeked) so no rivalry and proper bro-manship was apparent. After, when I spoke to them for this piece, Leo showed me their 'reading material'. He explained it was to get the blood flowing to the right places before he went on stage. Then he explained how he puts an elastic band on his equipment. I remember female strippers using ice to get their nipples hard, then spraying them with hairspray, to keep them that way. Same type of thing.

The guys were very sweet, and chatty and brave, I think, to embark on this venture in this financial climate, when every other bar and club is going out of business.

I was glad I went, it was the giggle factor and the girlie get-together that made it so enjoyable. I also felt revenge for womankind, for every time a man who has negatively ogled and objectified a woman who strips. Although there was no negative objectification that night – objectification, yes, but it more curious and intrepid. The men on stage definitely held all the power.

The male strip show is here, with a new home now. No longer a travelling show in the Olympia for two nights only. Wayne and his Men of Desire are giving it their best and how long it lasts, time will be their test!

Sunday Independent

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