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it’s my life

Saturday, June 5 – Sunday, June 6, 2004

Why male strippers like to be slippery KENNY RYE MALE STRIPPER (Gap Club, Hove)

I’ve been stripping for ten years. I got into it when I was working for a door security firm. A man approached me and asked if I’d like to join a group called Climax. At the time, Climax was the only male revue group in the UK to do a full strip. The rest stripped down to G-strings. I had just one weekend to learn the routines. On the following Tuesday, I was removing my clothes in front of 1,200 girls. I had an idea of what to do but it’s difficult to remember your instructions when faced with a crowd of screaming women. It helped that I was into bodybuilding. I’d previously been Mr South Britain and Junior Mr England, so I was used to going on stage in a small, pink G-string – although I wasn’t used to taking it off. We stripped in venues throughout Britain and did 30 shows a month. The Club 18-30 reunions at Minehead were the biggest events. Sometimes, we would strip in front of 5,000 girls. These days, I stick to the Gap Club in Hove. I don’t travel so far for my work as I’m much pickier and I’m getting older now. I still get butterflies before a show, even though I know my routine backwards and don’t find my job challenging any more. It used to be so bad the butterflies would start as soon as I arrived in the town where we were performing. To be a successful male stripper, you must be a fun, outward-going person. I was always quite shy but I’ve learned to deal with that and stripping has helped. When I was aged 18 to 20, I wouldn’t even talk to girls. That’s all changed now – but you have to be thick-skinned. Physically, you need a big smile and it helps to be in good shape. Your earnings won’t be great if you’re not well-proportioned. I’ve never had anyone say, “Why are you stripping?” I have different outfits for my show, including aviator, fireman, officer and gentleman and New York cop. I like the cop outfit best as I think it’s sexy, unlike a UK policeman’s get-up. It’s important to appeal to people and feel sexy yourself. Although my outfits change, the routine remains pretty much the same. If something isn’t broken, don’t fix it. My show at the Gap Club lasts nine minutes. I start off dancing to Christina Aguilera’s Dirty and involve one of the hen night girls. Then I start stripping to Mariah Carey and Bust da Rhymes’ I Know The One. I wash myself down with water from a bottle and flick my hair, before inviting another girl on stage and smearing her legs with yoghurt. Towards the end, I do a full strip. I enjoy my work most when it’s a good audience and I feel appreciated. That’s the biggest buzz you can achieve. I’m only as good as my audience and the owner of the Gap Club has realised that over time. When girls are in a group together, they can easily get carried away. It pays to oil yourself before going on stage so they can’t grab you easily. A girl once broke her nail on me, it became embedded in my chest and I walked off stage with it still stuck there. Sometimes, things do go wrong. I once had to stop a show because a girl slid on the oily floor and split open her chin. On another occasion, when we were performing in Belfast, the club let in some guys to make up numbers and they started throwing bottles at us. We had a riot on our hands and had to be escorted out of the back door. I’ve done five gay shows in my ten years as a stripper. In three cases, I didn’t know the audience was gay. It’s different to performing in front of a female audience. The gay audiences tend to be quiet and clap at the end. As I’m a straight man, I don’t really enjoy doing gay shows, so I stick to stripping for girls. I can’t say stripping has affected my relationships with partners. My last relationship was with a dancer. She avoided my shows, as she didn’t like to see other women grabbing me. However, it’s just a job and taking off my clothes on stage doesn’t mean I’ll cheat on a partner. In a relationship, I can be trusted. My family doesn’t have a problem with me stripping. My mum has posters of me on the wall and she once came to see my show. When I took off my G-string, one of the other performers stood in front of her. My brother is a builder – we’ve gone completely different ways. In my free time, I listen to classical music, which helps me chill out. I like everything from Barber’s Adagio to opera. I’m also into photography and I write poetry. I won an American poetry contest in Worthing last year. My other main interest is sport. I’ve got a lot of sporting hobbies, such as going to the gym, body-building, scuba diving, tennis and the occasional round of golf. It says something that I’ve lasted in my career for so long and can still strip at 35. I wouldn’t talk other men out of stripping if they had the right mentality. Not everyone can get on stage and take off their clothes...

interview: Jo Chipchase

picture: Terry Applin

Weekend 3

Argus - My Life - Kenny Rye