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Living: And Now, Bring on the Boys

5 minute read

It’s equal time as the males strip and the women patrons cheer

Peeling in public for pay is a venerable occupation, but in the old sexist order the clothes came off a woman and the cheers came up from an audience ol men. But today at the Sugar Shack in Lake Geneva, Wis., or at the Red Pussycat in Salina, Kans., or the El Matador in Odebolt, Iowa, the women are watching and the men are bumping and grinding.

At Lake Geneva’s Sugar Shack, a spacious, somewhat rundown nightspot, there is runway action thrice nightly. For a $4 cover charge and a two-drink minimum, a female customer can catch a 1-hr. 45-min. show—and usually a pinch of beefcake too, if she feels the urge. The revue begins with Guy Garrett, 24, a former construction worker who parades onstage dressed in a white satin vest and glittery pants. Gyrating to the blast of disco music, he invites women to help him unzip, and for a close he allows a giggling fan to rip off his G string. Unadorned, he leaps into the audience for one last strut, hugging and kissing customers and getting goosed in return.

The next performer, a onetime professional carpet layer named Turk Johnson is more exotic. Dressed as Star Wars’ Darth Vader—complete with mask and laser sword—Johnson, 32, not only wriggles out of his elaborate costume but along the way he also executes a ribald torch dance, pours flaming alcohol over his body, swallows a lighted torch and twirls sparklers. The third and final ecdysiast is Larry Slade, 32, who once worked as a bodyguard for the pianist Liberace. To feminine cries of “Take it off, take it all off!” Slade slowly peels away his tight black outfit and then performs a slinky number with a towel under the kaleidoscope lights before he parades among the tables of appreciative women.

The Shack’s proprietor is hefty, fortyish Dana Montana, who at 23 lost her job as a Playboy Bunny because she was considered too old and haggard. For ten years Montana ran the Shack as a desultory go-go spot for males. Then in 1976 she decided to try exotic male dancers, insisting on a “classy, sophisticated, macho” program that would appeal strongly to women but would discourage gay customers. She has succeeded: the current stage show appears to strike the right sensual chords for women of all ages but attracts few male patrons. The revue also hits the right cash register keys: 150 to 200 customers flock to each performance. The audiences seem a notably wholesome and ordinary cross section of women. Entire tables are booked for “bachelorette” and birthday parties, and one large group celebrated a just-obtained divorce of one of its members there. A throng of female bus drivers from Chicago convened at the Shack, and a group of nurses brought a retiring colleague there as a surprise. Many come simply to gape or giggle, but Montana also detects deeper motives: some visit the Shack, for example, “as a kind of flout to their husbands and boyfriends.”

And having worked both sides of the go-go fence, she notes that women in some ways respond more openly than men as audiences: “Women get turned on more than men do. They reach right out and grab.”

Just as successful—if slightly more circumspect—is the Pit Stop Lounge in Coldwater, Mich., some 100 miles west of Detroit. Like the Sugar Shack, this establishment is owned by a woman—a former bank clerk named Glenda Brewer—but here male customers are banned from the club during the two-hour show. What they miss is a group of dancers called Fast Freddy and the Playboys, who strip down to bikini briefs and then swivel through the throng, always staying slightly clad and out of reach. “I think they’re terrific,” says Kay Love, 45, a factory worker. “Men see it all. Why can’t the women?” Adds Marsha Stempien, 21: “It’s our night out. We don’t have to be worried about being picked up by some weird guy and we can say and do what we like.” A more matronly patron says simply: “It beats going bowling.”

For the dancers themselves, the rewards are as much psychic as financial. “It’s an ego trip for everybody,” claims Stripper Garrett, who makes $600 a week, excluding the tips that women stuff into his G string. “It’s hard later to put yourself back in the world with everyone else.” There is, of course, the occasional occupational hazard: late last June, for example, Sexy Rexy, one of Freddy’s Playboys, moved so well that an excited patron ripped off his bikini. An on-duty policewoman happened to be in the audience, and Rexy was subsequently arrested for indecent exposure and the club fined for not having an entertainment license. Though booked elsewhere, Fast Freddy and the Playboys are still waiting in the wings at the Pit Stop, and nearly 100 loyal patrons have staged a protest rally. Complains Stempien: “We’re put off to think that we can’t have that entertainment any more.” For now, it’s back to the bridge clubs and bowling alleys in Coldwater.

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