Great Ex-Pecs-Tations: One Night at Hunk O’Mania
Within ten minutes of taking my seat by the bar at Hunk O'Mania, I was eye level with at least 15 different sets of pecs. Some were clad in the grey tank tops that belong to the waitstaff, working their way up to the main stage, and others in the black tanks that the dancers wear at this well-known New York male strip club. All of them seemed to be aware that I was a reporter. One of them introduced himself as Magnificent.
"What’s your name?" asked pecs.
"Oh, that’s my mother’s name!"
Two of the dancers will say this to me before the show begins. Is that in a handbook? They also all do this thing where they take your hand and put it under their shirt to feel their six packs (at a certain point, I gain a Helen Keller-esque pec-Braille shorthand and am able to also discern some actual twelve packs). Also, most of them have weak handshakes. Intentional? Are these moves all from the handbook? Where is this handbook? Can I read it?
Another dancer informs me that an 82-year-old woman once drummed on his ass. (Get it, girl.)
Most of us are now familiar with the ups and downs of male stripping—drugs, sex, money, objectification, the camaraderie between dancers—artfully chronicled by Steven Soderbergh in "Magic Mike," but there are certain aural and olfactory cues you can’t get from watching a movie. The pervasive smell of at least 25 different kinds of cologne, for example. (It took two showers the next day to wash it off of me.) At one point, I ask one of the dancers what he is wearing. He smiles. “Just, you know, a sensual smell.”
One dancer, a James Deen lookalike, is a middle school teacher in Wayne, New Jersey by day. "Luckily, my kids are too young to come here," he adds, as if this isn't obvious.
"What did you teach them today?" I ask.
The garrulous floor manager, with spiked hair and a body like a blazer-clad truck, comes over to introduce himself and offer a bottle of Champagne (I decline because I am Here For Work). He was a dancer at the club for eight years before he had a family and moved into the club administration. Soon, he declares, you might not have to stop at the ATM and break a 20 into singles before you attend Hunk’O’Mania—they plan on instituting in-house “Hunk Dollars,” credit that one can apply to drinks and dances if one is so inclined.
Outside, a dancer named Mozart—his real name, he tells me—who was cut from tonight’s show at the last minute, smokes a cigarette and works the door. He has dark eyes and slick black curls and looks, more or less, like a hybrid of a Ken doll and Aladdin.
Most of the men don't smoke, he tells me. It's not conducive to the insane amount of working out they have to do.
"So what are you expecting?" he asks me. "Something X-rated or something just raunchy?"
“I honestly have no idea.”
"It’s just fun, a little raunchy, nothing too serious. We really just try to give the women a good time."
Large groups of women, most of them dressed for clubbing and some obvious groups of bachelorettes, begin to fill out the rows of folding chairs. Meanwhile, the Hunk O’Mania dancers wait in the wings or in their dressing room, which they call their “castle.” (As in “Yo, what are you doing back here? This is our castle.” At which point this chastised reporter scurried back to her seat, drink in hand.)
On the way back to my chair, a dancer working the row of seated women casually ran his hand through my hair as I pass. I skip awkwardly back to my seat, flustered, and flag down one of the grey pecs.
"Yeahhhh, I’m gonna need that bottle."
The show begins an hour and a half later than it was billed to start, and every woman here is already shitfaced, including me. Their first routine is an exact copy of the “It’s Raining Men” umbrella dance in "Magic Mike, albeit not as tightly choreographed. Immediately afterwards, as the women scream their approval, the announcer says into the mic, “And here’s a little teaser for later.”
Before I can get my bearings, the lights change, “Harlem Shake” comes on, and the whole tone of the room shifts into sex-club lite. Dancers lead women into barely-private corners of the room and—well, dry-hump them. There’s really no other way to put it.
As a woman in the shadows directly in front of me grabs the ass of the dancer on top of her, I try not to look at them, but it seems impossible. I can feel myself turning bright red. Either my friend Mozart lied to me or my definition of "a little raunchy" is more like my mom's than I thought.
Some very helpful notes I took on the scene:
"grinding? Spanking? OMGGG whaaat"
A grey pec wanders around with electric blue Jell-O shots. Feeling way more like Charlotte York than I expected to, I notice that the couches are white. All things considered, is that really the best idea?
Half a bottle of Champagne later, the night has devolved into a semi-disorganized bacchanal, with a dancer holding a bachelorette upside down and effortlessly swinging her in the air like a baton. There is also an elaborate "Lion King" routine involving a lion head and not much else. That momentary baring of the dancers’ muscular backsides (they turn their backs to us, pop their super-muscular butts out of their Speedos and pop them back in like pale, muscled woodland creatures) also becomes more frequent as the night wears on. (Easy $1s, I guess.)
At some point, about 15 routines and a few mixed drinks later, a shirtless Mozart slides over—really, as in he leads with his pelvis and, like, oozes over in a way that a different (or perhaps slightly drunker) woman might find appealing—and puts my hands on his lower back. Dollar bills wave out of his thong, a pervier version of flag football.
"So," he says. "How can you write about this without experiencing it?"
"Um," I stammer. "I don’t have any cash."
Without missing a beat: "There’s an ATM around the corner."
"Ummmm." Something you should know if there’s ever a male stripper gyrating between your legs and looking directly into your eyes—turning him down is kind of like having to tell Mrs. Henike from down the street that you don’t have time to stop by for Snickerdoodles and milk after school. You really just don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.
“Sorry,” I mumble, and he moves along, unfazed. The show ends, and I leave and go to Shake Shack.
Subway ride: $2.50
Nervous pre-game drinks: $20
Ticket: $25 ($45 for VIP)
Experience: A grillion Hunk Dollars.
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