WRITING - COSMOPOLITAN MAGAZINE
When I was twelve, I was determined to blow my life savings on following the Nolan sisters around the United Kingdom on tour. I am glad I saw sense. I thought wrongly as it turned out, it was only men that would be insane enough to follow their football team up and down the country. The Chippendales have a similar draw, woman flock from all over the world to see them perform.
The Chippendales are not quite as clean cut as there image makers would like you to believe .the official web site proudly boasts, “No other male performing group matches the Chippendales in style, professionalism and sex appeal. That may be so, but along side this obviously semi deluded statement, are the several allegations of rape, alcohol and drug abuse amongst its cast since they were formed over twenty years ago. Not surprisingly One former member Troy Cline, who was sacked from the Chippendales for inappropiate behaviour, decided to hit back at their clean image by writing, what can be politely be described as a teenage boys bathroom bible.
When the original Chippendales last came to these shores disaster struck, a new management took over their uk tour, Corners were cut, Shows began to look cheap and everything went down hill fast. The main leads left and went back to the US. Since then they have not been back. Ironically about this time a stripping troop was formed in the UK called men on top, Two years ago they became the British Chippendales. I was going to spend three days with them, not only to observe them outside of the show, but to perform as well.
I have just been collected by Simon in his clean N reg silver Mercedes (79,000 miles on the clock)
“The Chippendales are not just strippers” explained Simon the head Chippendales” We are singers, dancers, strippers, we are male review artists“. Next to him is Troy, Simon Friend, confident, and number two Chippendale. Both Simon and Troy are in their thiries are they still enjoy life.
“Do you consider yourself vain” I ask. “I am not vain, but I will do anything it takes to stay in trim, including surgery“-said Troy Contractedly. It seems that all but two out of the fourteen have taken the free offer of surgery by one of their sponsors. Ironically a cosmetic sugery provider.
We are heading across Manchester to watch their promotional video; this is going to give me a fair idea of what to expect. They put the video on, my heart sinks, there is no way, I can possibly
Master this routine. I smile bravely; before Troy takes me to a local Gym, to try out the routine for the the fire dance. As he is one his own, he talks more freely. Troy has done a variety of jobs, from a building site worker, to a supervisor at the Daily Mail. He loves being a Chippendale and he proudly shows me his mobile full of girls phone numbers. The perks can only get better. I ask him if he blags anything, he looks up and raffles his hair. “I have £140 haircut for twenty pounds, free dentistry, and cosmetic surgery, not mention sun beds free entry to nightclubs and drinks”
We rehearse the dance routine for a couple of hours before meeting another Chippendale, Joey, a professional dancer who is heading towards the London dance academy. He is young, good looking and keen to impress. It was Joey’s mother that alerted him to the Chippendales,
After she saw an advertisement in a local paper. He has now been with them for sixteen months.
Joey clearly wants fame. Do his friends tease him about being a Chippendale. He seems surprised by the question.
Before we sat down to eat I assumed the Chippendales would have dietary requirement of a chimpanzees. As they tucked into their crispy fried beef washed down with Jack Daniel's; I wondered how they keep in shape. Simon and Troy like go to the Gym everyday for about one an hour around lunchtime. This gives them the rest of the day to deal with business. Business has been booming,
And on the whole they tend to do 5 shows a week, not all of the 14 Chippendales appear, only 5 or six will go to a venue to dance. Venues range from nightclubs to social clubs up and down the country.
The shows only last about thirty minutes. Simon agrees that the full Monty gave them a lot more bookings, but it also saw a rise in poor imitations. Simon saw a need for a rise in standard otherwise they would go under. Simon is like the conductor of an orchestra; he is the showman, the organiser, and he builds his team up to give a professional performance. Simon is acutely aware and is concerned that the Chippendales give out the right impression on and off stage. “Some of them have never had proper job, and they do not know how to behave, I am there to show them”
The Chippendales are beginning to relax as Jack Daniels' pays another visit to our table. Simon is concerned about their image, as the BBC film crew took advantage of their naivety and filmed them. They came across as wankers, which they are clearly note.
The light in restaurant is so poor, we are afraid to look at our own images. I notice a small scar on Simon’s forehead, and I wonder, if it was a gift from a jealous husband. I ask if he has encounted any violence in his time “Since beginning a Chippendale, I have been head butted, I have had a glass bottle thrown at me, and I have had to have a tetanus jab, because this girl bit my bum”
Troy reminds Simon about the time they both were performing together in a nightclub in Burnley.
Bernard Manning had just finished his set in front of 650 drunken Burnley football fans. As soon as they came on the fans shouted “Who the fuck are you” Simon turned to Troy and said “what ever you do, do not look sexy. Just dance“
I ask Simon about his girlfriend who he has being seeing for three years. “I do not allow girlfriends, to come to the show, it would shatter the image to the public, if you tuned up with her on your arm, it would ruin the image to the girls watching“ Does your girlfriend trust you, “probably not “he concedes“, Troy adores the attention he gets from woman, and he can understand why men get aggressive towards them. “I am cheeky; I am predator“ he tells me." I would be peedoff if this guy were talking to my girlfriend“. I ask them what kind of look in a girl they go for. Joey prefers brunettes, as does Troy, who adds” they are more sophiscated, Simon prefers blondes~.
After the meal we decide to go drinking. We find a bar and more jack Daniels is ordered, however after while the boys switch to bottled beer. It is about 12am, and we persuade Joey to get up on the bar and dance. He takes little encouragement; soon he has his shirt off and is on the bar dancing. A cluster of girl’s watched him dance. He is good. Girls are now curious, and coming over to chat. He immediately gets the prettiest girls phone number. Next up on stage is very musically black man, Although he cannot dance like Joey, Simon goes up and introduces himself. Simon comes away with a possible new recruit.
Simon collects us the next day from the hotel. His phone is constantly ringing. He has just received booking for Malta. His phone rings again and he refuses to answer. “Do not answer private numbers“ he says as if reading my mind.
Troy is waiting for us in this new Gym. We are going to work out, followed by more training for my dance routine. Simon turns his nose up at modern gyms, he just wants to train, not watch television, or flaff around. After training hard in the gym for an hour, we continue my dance routine, although my confidence is high, as Simon likes what I can do and With the show barely a day away, I am surprisingly calm. I take a Jacuzzi with Troy. He is very easy going.
That evening I sit at home with Simon watching his beloved Man Utd play football on Sky. His eyes do not leave the screen for the whole game. This is perhaps the only chance he has to relax. I awoke early the next morning; I was going with Simon to have a haircut, and pick up the costumes for tonight. My stomach betrayed my nerves and Simon discreetly opens the window.
With the show only hours away, Simon drops me back at the hotel. Simon is paranoid about time, since he lost a gig in Malta, because he was late. We are to meet him at seven for the drive to Dudley the irony is this time, he is late, and both sets of Chippendales makes sure he knows it to. Simon is not amused
I am introduced to the other two Chippendales who are dancing with us. Andy who has been stripping for seventeen years, is the most philosophical about his future prospects, he points out that he has never had a real job nor wants one, and he does not want to earn £5 an hour doing a shitte job.
In a ideal world he would start his own business he is not sure what at this stage, but realistically he has another seven years to think about it. Andy got into stripping part time, in his audition he told them . "I cant dance, but I have got this", (pointing down to his penis) from doing one or two days a week at 17 years old he started to go full time. I now introduced to Armani, who original comes from the soviet union, he first real job was in the circus as an acrobat He he prefers this new lifestyle, as it is less tiring and better paid, but he harbours dreams to become a model.
Simon seems either to ignore the fact that one day he will be too old to perform, so I ask if he would he stay on and choreograph them. "No, I could not”"he says and that's that.
As we get closer to Dudley I suddenly have this fear of doom, like the feeling you would have when you casual look out of your aircraft window to see the engine on fire and know your fate is sealed.
I was beginning to think I had infect I been on a doomed plane, as all I saw was 500 woman in a neat tidy queue, I thought I was in totty heaven. and not Dudley, west Midlands.
When we arrived at the club, Simon is not happy, he wants to dance on the dance floor and not the stage, there is no dressing room, the speakers are to far away, also another stripper is on that night.
The show is getting closer and my heart is beating too fast. The Chippendales ask Gamma the photographer to leave the backstage ten minutes before the show starts, I thought this was so they could concentrate on the job in hand, well to a certain degree it was to a job in hand, but more of a hand job on themselves.
You see they play with themselves before they go on stage, after they have achieved a state of excitement they tie an elastic band around it to keep the blood in there thus making it hard for the whole show. Armani prefers to use a pump to do this. They all have a cigarette and a drink before they go on stage, as they do not want to lose the adreline rush that has been simmering for the last couple of hours.
They don't get nervous before the show. Although I imagine Simon gets stressed. The biggest anti climax for them is when the show has finished and they leave.
The audience is sea of woman and music starts along with the catcalls, my nerves leave me and now I cant wait to appear on stage.
The girls in the audience are huge mix, tattooed ones, old ones, young ones, thin ones, fat ones if the DJ played “who let the dogs out“ he would have not been far of the mark. The Chippendales go into their first routine and the girls go mad. With the first routine over, the come backstage to change. / The music starts again and there off, however Simon is furious, "Wrong track, do your job" .He spits over the microphone to the DJ. He curses, "I have written all down for him, idiot" he explains. Andy is now doing a solo. My dance is next. I am feeling very calm.
Andy comes off stage and the music for the fire routine comes through the speakers. I am the second on stage and the audience reacts positively. This is a real pack your bags you’re going on an ego trip time. This buzz is immense and is addictive, I begin to have a reality check and we are already into the routine and I am a couple seconds slow, I over compensate and now I am too fast, I catch up and I am remembering to smile. The routine is over and the girls are calling for me to get my kit off. Back stage I am flying, I am gibbering like a monkey and I am so happy. They go on one
More time, I wait backstage, but the girls are calling for me. I duly oblige. The power a stripper has on his audience is incredible.
The queue for a picture with the Chippendales is long and at £5 it is hardly value for money. Professional as ever, Simon smiles as woman the size of an elephant sits on his leg. He catches me smiling at him and turns away. With the pictures over and very tidy sum banked we head back stage. Simon bollocks Armani and Troy, he wants routines perfect every time.
We head to the bar, drinks flow and so does the attention from woman. Some of the Chippendales disappear backstage, not Simon; he is the public face. Men who have only now been let into the club scowl in our direction.
The audience have loved the show, is it worth at £5, yes a chorus of three girls chirp. Simon is still signing autographs and speaking to the others who have just finished a show in Stockport. Armani is kissing a girl in the corner of the bar. The Chippendales have only been paid £650 for this as a group. As the door receipts and drink receipts far out strip this, I cannot help but thinking they are under paid.
It is around one clock in the morning as we leave the club. Drunken girls letch around the pavement as if on cross channel ferry in storm , the chippendales ignore, even the ones they have been with, all is hard in love and war. We stop briefly for cigarettes and cola.
Simon rings his girlfriend to tell her he is on his way. Even Simon is now calm, his phone is no longer ringing, and know they are just ordinary communters on their way home.
I am impresed, they all love their job, there are proffwsional, and they work hard, however I Cannot help thinking, that some of them, are not unaffected by the sudden amount of attention they receive, and perhaps it takes a little time for them to settle down and get used to it all. Do they view women any differently?
Of course, they are bound to see a side to women that ordinary men will never see. So when the Chippendales return to their hotels and girls are offering it on a plate, why would they turn it down and why should they? Some might be accused of just using women for this purpose; but then again I cannot imagine that the women are being dragged kicking and screaming into their rooms. So who is using whom? Oddly some of the Chippendales have admitted to feeling like a piece of meat and being plainly used, by their fans, so it works both ways. After all it is a hard life being a Chippendale.