From the 1980’s steaminess of “A Night in Heaven” to the semi-autobiographical aspects of “Magic Mike,” male dancers have carved their own niche in Hollywood. As “Mr. Mom,” Michael Keaton, in his pre-Batman days, even sat in a strip club with female friends in one funny scene.
On TV, the late Chris Farley actually auditioned to be a Chippendale’s dancer in a memorable “Saturday Night Live” sketch opposite a buff Patrick Swayze. It was a funny bit, one that showed exactly why women are drawn to male dancers in the first place.
But how much of that late night world is simply a Hollywood fantasy? Director Joe Manganiello and his producing brother Nick strip away all the glitter and dollar bills in “La Bare,” a documentary about one of the original male dance clubs in the country. It’s a raw, sometimes brutally honest look at an industry that many shy away from.
The film focuses on the men who dance at La Bare in Dallas, Texas. Much of the wit and wisdom of the piece comes from Randy “Master Blaster” Ricks, who acts as a Jedi Master for the inexperienced dancers. With his mom as his chief supporter, dietician, and fan, Ricks has spent 33 years in the industry.
Ricks definitely comes across as one smart cookie, though. Knowing this is a business, the “Master Blaster” prepares a manual simply entitled “How to Make Money” for his colleagues. Ricks points out that a dancer can make $100,000 per year if they are serious about their craft. That means a rigorous exercise and diet program combined with a healthy attitude.
Gentleman’s clubs never seem to run short of male clientele, but female patrons of male revues are more discriminating. “La Bare” shows the men working out up to the moment they head through the curtains. The guys even create little sketches and skits to involve the ladies in the audience. The more creative the dancer, the better the tips.
That being said, “La Bare” doesn’t shy away from the fact that exotic dancing is a cash business. One dancer tells the camera about a fan who placed stacks of dollar bills on his stage. Over time, this woman gave him enough cash to buy a brand new motorcycle. Many dancers will never cross the line between fantasy and reality, however.
On the flip side, there are plenty of husbands and single dads who dance to make a living. It’s easy to assume these men party 24/7, but they have bills to pay just like everyone else. In one scene, Randy Ricks even goes to a therapist to deal with his tendonitis and the effects of growing older. In his words, he’s “205 lbs. of twisted steel and sex appeal,” and he obviously wants to stay that way.
“La Bare” is an intriguing, behind-the-scenes look at male dancers. Director Joe Manganiello, who starred in the cult hit “Magic Mike,” and his brother get to the heart of this business. Their documentary doesn’t judge, but it does its best to show the reality behind the pumped-up fantasy.
“La Bare” currently is playing at:
Laemmle Monica 4 Plex, Santa Monica
Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood
Laemmle Music Hall 3 – Beverly Hills