New movie Magic Mike shows Hollywood's version of a male stripper. NZ MEN investigates what life is really like for the men who get their kit off for a living.
It's the stuff of dreams for the nation's womenfolk as Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer and Matthew McConaughey get their kit off in male stripper movie Magic Mike. Of course, you might be forgiven for thinking that having women gawp at you for a living is as good as it gets. But what's the reality of life as a male stripper?
Is stripping a dream job?
"I have challenged people for years to find me one that's better," 35-year-old Billy Jeffrey says. Billy is one of the world-famous Chippendales. He landed a role with the Vegas-based showmen after being spotted on a reality TV series.
"Our show is around two hours long. The rest of the time you're hanging with your friends, getting your workout in, travelling the world, eating at the finest restaurants or food prepared by our private chef, partying at the hottest nightclubs; we basically get a 'key to the city' and did I mention the girls?"
It's a similar story for Tristan Edwin Everard Mills who operates in the UK. "I've been a male stripper since 2000. Since then I've travelled the world and been paid to drink and party with pretty ladies."
Is it easy to pick up women?
For many men it may sound like a dream job, but is all the female attention as enjoyable as they might think?
"I love it," Tristan says, "you become a junkie for the adrenaline extreme sports have nothing on this." But sometimes female fans can go overboard. "There are always a few who have had a few too many drinks and get a little 'handsy' but that's part of the job," 32-year-old Jace Crispin, another Chippendale, says.
Billy tells me that you can feel like a piece of meat: "but never during the show like you would think. Some of the women think that because they bought a ticket to Chippendales that includes you for the rest of the night. I guess in some cases that's a good thing. But it's after the show when girls sometimes think its ok to grab your ass or other parts of your body for that matter. It's a small percentage of the women, but I find myself feeling like a piece of meat when it happens."
The guys reveal that, by and large, the job means that they don't have a problem when it comes to getting girls' phone numbers. "Not the nice ones though," Tristan says, "I like nice girls, but nice girls don't date strippers... I once had a wonderful girlfriend who finished with me because the scratches over my back from an audience member were so bad sad times." It's a similar story out in Las Vegas. "There is a reason why I'm 35 and single," Billy tells me. "It's very difficult to find a partner [who] is what we call, 'someone that can handle the gig'."
What about the nerves?
For many people being naked in public really is the stuff of nightmares, so were the guys nervous the first time they got their kit off on stage? "God yes, think I threw up twice," Tristan admits.
"I remember the opening night like it was yesterday," Billy says. "We were in Ljubliana, Slovenia and 4,800 girls packed into the arena. The curtain opened, the girls were screaming so loud I couldn't hear myself think."
As you might expect the guys have their fair share of embarrassing experiences, after all it's a live show and almost anything can happen.
"I have a list the length of my arm," Tristan explains. "The time I did a somersault and fell off stage into the orchestra pit, the time a jealous Chinese husband put his finger [somewhere inappropriate] because his wife was getting too excited over my lap dance, or the time I put my hands on a lady's pregnant tummy and asked when it was due into the mic only to be told 'I'm not pregnant'. They're all times when I wished the ground would open up and swallow me."
What are the downsides?
Decent money, a glamorous lifestyle and hordes of female fans; there's got to be a catch? "The hardest part is just knowing that we have to always watch what we eat and work out to stay in shape," Jace says. "There are only 24 Chippendales in the world and lots of guys that want to take our spot...the show can be very physical too, so you have to be careful to not get hurt. I've dislocated my shoulder, broken my wrist and have had a few other things happen."
"As with anything, any path you take can close doors as well as open them," Tristan says. "But I believe for me, the industry's positives have outweighed the negatives. I would be a nightmare working in a bank."
Of course not all of us can be an onstage Adonis, no matter how good it sounds. But as Billy tells me, even though they're now fighting women off with the proverbial stick, it doesn't mean that it's always been like that.
"I was the skinny, quiet, zit-faced kid in high school," he says. "I sat on the bench in sports, didn't get the girl and it always seemed like I was going [in] a different direction than everyone else. In some ways I guess I still am."