We brought together male entertainers from two Boston dance troupes last week to talk about the exotic dance industry and how realistic the new Steven Soderbergh-directed film, “Magic Mike,” really is. Some of the dancers requested that only their first names be included because of their families or to avoid embarrassment at their day jobs. The panelists:
Michael Brick, 44, fitness instructor and dancer with Men in Motion
Scott McNeff, 24, stone mason, student, and dancer with Men in Motion
Alejandro, 26, construction worker, dance instructor, dancer with Men in Motion
Christian, 30, vice president of operations at a gourmet pastry facility, dancer with Male Encounter
Garo, 24, physical therapy student, personal trainer, dancer with Male Encounter
Mike D., 43, chef, dancer, and emcee with Male Encounter
Joshua Steele, 32, personal trainer, dancer with Men in Motion
As soon as they walked into the AMC Loews Boston Common theater, heads turned and cat calls commenced. A cadre of seven local male strippers (they prefer the term “entertainers”) came to the theater to see a screening of “Magic Mike,” the Channing Tatum vehicle that puts a spotlight on male exotic dancers who doff police uniforms and pirate costumes to the delight of rowdy female fans.
The question on their minds: Does “Magic Mike” realistically portray their lives on stage?
The movie, which opened to strong reviews June 29, tells the story of a successful Tampa-based dancer (Tatum) who introduces an unemployed 19-year-old (Alex Pettyfer) to the industry. According to this celluloid interpretation, male dancing involves oiled up moments of glory, and rock bottom stretches of drug use and reckless sex.
True to life or not, there is a good chance that “Magic Mike” could give the slumping male entertainment industry a kick in the tear-away pants.
“When it first started out it was new, and like most good things, it faded,” according to Russell Robbat, founder of the Boston troupe Male Encounter. “It was a very hot trend [in the 1980s]. I think this could help bring it back.”
With their T-shirts stretched tightly against impressive pectorals, the local entertainers at the “Magic Mike” screening took their seats and prepared to scrutinize. During the movie, there were occasional nods of agreement from the strippers. At other times, there were chortles of disbelief from the men, who range in age from their 20s to their 40s.
By day, these exotic dancers are personal trainers, students, stone masons, and construction workers. But on the weekends, they make as much as $300 a night dancing.
After the film, we convened the seven men at the nearby restaurant Marliave (where one waitress asked to take pictures with the men) for a stripper roundtable to hear what they thought of “Magic Mike.” Given their part-time profession, several of the men felt uneasy about having their full names in the Globe. But they had a lot to say about the fictionalized version of the world of male entertainers. Here is a condensed and edited version of the conversation.
How accurate did you think the movie was?
Garo: It was realistic at some points. But then there were these over-the-top Hollywood scenes in it. They glorified it.
Michael Brick: I’ve been in the entertainment industry for 20-plus years. It was more comical than realistic. Certain parts were very serious and good. It was great when the five guys went out on stage and did their live performance, that kind of bond you feel was very realistic. That touched home.
Christian: I believe the unity with the guys was real. It’s like any type of job. You have to enjoy the company that you’re with and if you are with a bunch of solid guys you’re going to have a good experience.
What was unrealistic about “Magic Mike”?
Garo: I didn’t see one unattractive woman in the movie. Every single woman in the movie was pretty. Usually when we do a show, there’s a lot of types of ladies. You get young, old, and most them in this movie seemed like they were the same age group. It was funny when [Joe Manganiello] is seen repairing his G-string at the sewing machine, because I’ve never sewn my own G-string. I usually have somebody do it.
Alejandro: They did way more grinding in “Magic Mike” than we do. There’s a lot of pelvic thrusting. That is important to some degree, but it’s a lot of acrobatics, and flips.
Did you think it made light of stripping?
Michael Brick: It basically made fun of it. We take our job very seriously. We make lots of money. We have pride in our job.
How did a bunch of nice guys like yourselves end up stripping?
Joshua Steele: It was to pay for school.
Garo: One day I was working out at a gym and a gentleman told me I had “it.”
Christian: I was working security at a Boston nightclub getting $13 an hour to break up fights while avoiding getting stabbed. I’d rather make $200 to $300 a night stripping.
Scott McNeff: I needed some fast cash. I showed up to the club, and the owner wasn’t going to let me dance. I made him watch, and he fell in love with it.
Mike D.: I went from body building to stripping to stay in shape. Also my girlfriend at the time was a dancer and I didn’t like it much. So I thought “I’ll show her!”
Michael Brick: I got laid off from my job.
Alejandro: It was a way to make extra money, and I love dancing.
There was a lot of drug use in the movie. Is that how it is in the clubs?
Christian: The sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll of the film was taken to an extreme. I’ve been in an environment where those things were around. It doesn’t have to be at a male stripping place, it’s anywhere. You as an individual make the decision on how you want to portray your image and how you want to live your life.
Mike D.: I think that was the case 15 years ago more than it is now.
Alejandro: I don’t drink when I go on stage because all of my dance moves are choreographed. It’s a serious business. It’s becoming more of a dancers’ industry rather than steroids and bumping and grinding. You’re up there for 10 minutes by yourself. You can only bump and grind for so long.
They never go full monty on “Magic Mike,” but do you ever?
Alejandro: At the male revues or parties in private you can get away with it. But at Guilt [in the Theater District], where we dance, you can’t do any of that.
Are the women you dance for aggressive or not so much?
Christian: I’ve had experiences where some girls look like they don’t want to be there. There are other shows where the women are already drunk and ripping your pants off. Alcohol plays a huge factor. Overall, women are definitely wilder than men.
Alejandro: I did a show for an 80-year-old and she was wild. She was in a wheelchair. She was just the most perverted old lady I’ve ever seen in my life. I almost wanted to hang up my G-string after that one. She was saying some very filthy things.
Scott McNeff: There’s a lot of crazy things. Last weekend, I got asked to strip out of a lobster costume.
There’s a scene in “Magic Mike” where a character is caught shaving his legs by his sister. How much working out and shaving do you have to do?
Christian: Preparing for the show is a job in itself. It’s five days a week of weight training and six miles of cardio, three times a week. Hair cut once a week. Tan once a week. Full body shave once a week. It becomes expensive.
Garo: A woman sees her husband every day. He’s not getting his hair cut once a week, he’s not doing the preparation. She expects us to look like statues.
Christian: A Greek god.
Garo: You’re not going to get on stage with pasty white, bushy legs and everything. They want something they can’t have.
Is it impossible to have a
relationship when you’re a stripper?
Alejandro: They don’t trust you, and you can’t blame them.
Christian: It’s tough to explain to your significant other that you’re treating it as a business when in actuality it doesn’t look like a business. You get anywhere between 100 to 200 girls, and the temptation . . . any guy can feel the temptation.
Garo: If I meet a girl, I don’t tell her. Once I’m not on stage, I’m not that person anymore. I’m a student. I go to school, I know exactly what I want to do. If you tell her right off the bat she’s going to think he’s no good.
Joshua Steele: My wife didn’t leave me because I was dancing. She was fine with it. It’s not always the dancing that causes problems. Just because you’re dancing doesn’t mean you can’t have the same problems as any other couple.
Male Encounter performs Saturdays at Who’s on First, 19 Yawkey Way, www.maleencoun
terboston.com, 866-400-MALE (check schedule, performances do not take place every Saturday night). Men in Motion performs Saturdays at Guilt Boston, 275 Tremont St., www. meninmotion
Christopher Muther can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_