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"Stripper lite' delights

Published Aug. 27, 2005

(ran PW, PS editions)

By Las Vegas or even Tampa standards, the Magnificent Men Male Revue that played the Angel Cabaret Theatre recently was pretty tame stuff.

Sure, the men did grab their crotches, and sure there was grinding, but no more than your average rap video dancer.

Even the outfits: Stripped down, they were closer to Sand Key Beach than Howard Stern _ no thongs, no backside cleavage. Language? Milder than The Osbournes or The Sopranos.

Gee whiz, Mildred. Have male strip shows been outstripped by cable TV?

Not necessarily.

"We adjusted the show for New Port Richey," said J.D. Dodds, manager and part of the five-man show from Million Dollar Men, an Illinois-based company with three touring groups. "We know the audience; we know the rules here."

Despite Pasco County's reputation as a strip joint haven, the rules for stripping, male or female variety, are strict _ no touching, no lap dancing, no getting closer than within 3 feet of the customer unless you're accepting a hand-to-hand tip, no straddling, even if there's no touching. New Port Richey is even more restrictive _ no getting within 10 feet of the customer.

Even so, the roomful of women at the first male strip show in Pasco County in 10 years seemed to be having a ball. Most were from the generation that grew up when twin beds were de rigueur in the movies, people gasped when Rhett Butler said "damn" in Gone With the Wind, and the pope condemned The Moon Is Blue because Patty (Maggie McNamara) used the word "virgin" in a non-religious context.

Real, live fellows ripping off their T-shirts and slipping down to their skivvies were enough to bring whoops of "Take it off!" and stunned _ or perhaps uncomprehending _ silence when the master of ceremonies popped sex jokes.

At least some of the women at the show were reluctant to give their names.

"My husband doesn't know I'm here," said one. Her companion, who gave her age as 82, also declined to tell her name.

She did say that this was her second male strip show. "I saw the other one in Augusta (Maine) many years ago," she said demurely.

Others were delighted to give their names and grant permission for their photos to run in the Times.

Tiny Lisbeth Pierce-LaPorte, a member of the Rubies Chapter of the Red Hat Society, glided around the room in red hat, purple dress and bright red, lace-up hightop Chuck Taylors, and barely blinked when the cameras flashed.

The many Red Hatters at the show joined others to clap and yelp as the dancers ripped off their shirts, stuffed them into the fronts of their trousers, then flung them into the audience.

Angel Cabaret owner Jimmy Ferraro was delighted that the two shows he booked were both sold out and that everyone appeared to be having fun.

"I had no idea it would go over like this," he said. He has booked the male revue again for April 24 _ again, for women only _ at $26.45, including tax.

"We're already booking customers for that April 24 show," Ferraro said.

The performers did more muscle flexing than dancing; in fact, the dancing was garden variety line dancing, with none of the leaps, spins, flips or whirls some male strippers do.

Despite Dodds' exhortations to imbibe _ "The more you drink, the better we look" _ it was a relatively sober and subdued crowd.

The loudest response came when he hollered, "If you like what you see, say, "Hell, yeah!' " The women yelled, "Hell, yeah!!"

A small slip of paper on each table warned, "There is no physical contact permitted between patrons and dancers. Tipping is permitted, but must be done hand to hand."

Dodds' rules were simpler: "No husbands, no boyfriends _ you're single for two hours."

Grandmotherly types ignored all the rules, grabbing the beefy young men around their necks for hugs like they would give a long-lost grandson.

The 100-minute show was about half skits and dances, with the rest of the time devoted to the performers' going through the crowd taking tips, selling raffle tickets for a bottle of champagne and hawking $10 T-shirts.

The T-shirt hook was that the patron could literally take the shirt off the performer's back, copping a few feels along the way.

Despite the show being "stripper lite" _ or perhaps because of it _ the crowd seemed pleased with what they saw.

Even Charles Wylie, who had driven from Redington Beach, a 68-mile round trip, to wait patiently in the lobby while his wife, Rosalie, saw the show.

"She probably was up on the stage, knowing her," said the retiree. "She's quite outgoing."

Louise Garone, left, salutes a dancer as he removes his Navy officer costume. Garone and Susan Willman, right, are both in the Rubies chapter of the Red Hat Society. The women at the first male strip show in Pasco in 10 years seemed to be having a blast.

J.D. Dodds, manager and a performer with the five-man show from Million Dollar Men, oils up his body in the dressing room before the show.

Mostly older women attended the show. The theater's owner says the strong response led him to book the revue again for April 24.