Three men wearing black tank tops are standing on a street corner in midtown Manhattan, against a sign that says “Hunk-O-Mania.” The guys, who are in their mid-20s and have impressively large biceps (and other body parts), dance at this club on weekends. But it’s a weekday afternoon, so they go unnoticed until a woman wearing a spider broach suddenly approaches them.
“Can I ask you a question? A very bad question!?!” the woman blurts out. She wants to know: “You are not gay?”
“No,” the guys assure her.
She seems relieved—then she asks for a business card. What follows is an awkward exchange about how strippers don’t have business cards. She finally writes down the name of the club, before setting her gaze on me, assuming that I’m a stripper too. I’m not! She looks at me, the men, me, until we’re all creeped out. When you hang out with a bunch of male strippers, people act weird.
A few minutes later, a stripper-mobile pulls up to the curb. It’s like the Batmobile, but a van with snapshots of hunky men on the side. The driver is the club’s owner, Armand Peri, who tells me he owns male dancing shows in four states and sometimes dances himself. “I’m a proud 46-year-old male stripper!” he says. Today, he and his fellow employees are accompanying us to see Magic Mike, the new Steven Soderbergh film based on Channing Tatum’s life as a stripper.
When we get to the theater, the ticket vendor fans herself, swooning at the sight of all the hunks. Inside, another woman helpfully gets out of our way so we can sit together. Being a stripper does have its perks. I go to the concession stand and the guys all order bottles of water—not soda.
Behold: Our five strippers review Magic Mike.
Channing Tatum gets out of bed and the crowd hoots. The movie has just started and his behind is already on display. He’s had a threesome and is leaving for work as a roofer, where he meets a new temp named Adam (Alex Pettyfer).
Later at night, Mike takes Alex to a club and reveals his true profession—stripping. He introduces Alex to the club’s owner Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), who offers him a position helping the other guys backstage. They include Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez), and Tarzan (Kevin Nash). By the end of the night, Adam has become a stripper himself, after he’s called onstage to do an impromptu number.
Our panel all scored the first half of the movie well, but they said the plot gets bogged down in the middle. That’s when Soderbergh introduces a meandering subplot: Mike starts to fall for Adam’s sister Brooke (Cody Horn), who disapproves of Mike’s career as a stripper. Mike is trying to start his own furniture business, but he doesn’t have a big enough … line of credit.
Julian Mora: “The overall story, I didn’t love,” says Mora, 42, who has been dancing for 23 years. “I’ve had so many friends in this industry who are able to make their dreams come true because of the people they meet at their shows. You never know who’s in the audience.”
Armand Peri: “Obviously, the plot could have been better. The part where he was going to the bank to get a loan, we attract so many rich women! I don’t think he’d have a problem getting a loan. There are so many girls that offer that to you. If you had a desire to build furniture, you’d get a sponsor right away.”
Stan Ivan: “The second half of the movie was boring, because they started doing drugs,” says Ivan, 25, who also works as a fitness model, nutritionist, and caterer. “A lot of guys have families with kids. We are all different. They didn’t show that side.”
Our strippers all admired the group number, “It’s Raining Men,” which features the guys shedding their raincoats. They also gave Tatum high marks for his main number, which involves a lot of spinning and can best described as Step Up without pants. But they were underwhelmed by the rest of the casts’ hips.
Lajos Konya: “Channing Tatum is a great dancer,” says Konya, 39, who goes by the stage name Jean Louis and has been stripping for 18 years. “Others, no! They were very out of the league of what I do. The old guy [Kevin Nash] was terrible. He cannot move. He was just standing there, he couldn’t do the routines or anything.”
Julian Mora: “The guys in the background, if you watch their choreography, they were off a lot. There were missteps. Manganiello wasn’t that great. He was stiff. His grinding was not up to par.”
Nicholas: “Who was the weakest? The kid [Pettyfer]. When he was taking off his clothes the first time, he looked extremely awkward. I don’t think in real life he would have pulled it off” (Nicholas, 29, asked that we use his nickname because his parents don’t know that he’s a stripper. “They think I’m working in finance.”)
The red-band trailer for Magic Mike has already gone viral, with all the shots of half-naked McConaughey and Bomer. But our real strippers were not impressed by what they saw.
Ivan: “Most of the guys were good looking, but they were kind of all right. They were not big. When Matthew McConaughey took his pants off, his legs were small.”
Konya: “They should have used bigger guys! More muscular guys, at least. From the front, McConaughey was great. From the back, he was really flat. He should work on that butt. Nine of out 10 girls are looking for a really firm butt. This is what they want to touch!” Of Rodriguez, he says, his “butt was fluffy! It wasn’t tight at all.”
Peri: “Channing is a little slimmer than what I am used to hiring. We hire guys who have phenomenal physiques.”
All our strippers were horrified by the scene where McConaughey as Dallas, wearing a pair of tiny shorts, tries to teach Pettfyer how to dance by thrusting behind him in a mirror.
Peri: “That scene at the gym was totally gay. The tight mini shorts looked ridiculous on Dallas. The way he’s standing behind the kid, and he doesn’t even know how to do the moves himself!”
Konya: “That was really, really bad. I had never seen anything like this in my life! Somebody has to learn routines and another guy rides less than an inch behind him? That wasn’t good. If you are behind him like that, most straight guys are going to be uncomfortable. That’s not the proper way to teach! You have to give them rhythm in the feet. You have to have a choreographer’s routine.”
Drugs, Beer, and Sex
The strippers in the movie chug beer, pop pills, and sleep with their clients. The strippers on our panel say they aren’t allowed to do any of those things.
Nicholas: “These guys are having beer and pancakes. He wanted to go to the waffle house? We don’t do that! I haven’t seen a single guy drinking beer. If I drink, I drink a vodka soda with lime.”
Ivan: “For special occasions, like my mom’s or dad’s birthday, I can drink a glass or two of wine.”
Peri: “What happens if a girl is drunk and in the morning woke up and said she was raped? We’re going to be liable for that behavior. They are not allowed to leave with anyone.”
Tatum and Pettyfer get into trouble when they go to a sorority party dressed as cops and get into a brawl with their jealous boyfriends. According to our panel, the film really departs from reality in this scene.
Nicholas: “He took off his pants first. We would never do that! We would do it slowly. We would talk off our hat, play with the stick. Maybe 10 minutes in to a private party, we’d take off our pants. I remember I had a private party in Staten Island for a huge Italian family. I saw one of the guys’ faces, he was jealous. I thought he was tipping me, but he put broccoli in my underwear.”
Peri: “Having guys in a room nearby is never a good idea. And you take your pants off at the end of your routine. It’s sort like you’re giving the punch line away. You want to build it. It’s a tease. Everyone is waiting for the goods.”
Pettyfer is caught using his sister’s razor in the bathroom to shave his legs, a scenario all too familiar to our strippers.
Ivan: “I don’t shave with a razor. I just trim them with a machine. It’s safer. Sometimes the skin is going to break out and you’re going to have a lot of pimples.”
Mora: “I don’t know why, it just looks funny when you have a G-string on and you have hairy legs.”
Peri: “C-plus. I was hoping it would show more positive than negative.”
Ivan: “B-minus. The dancing part was good.”
Konya: “C. Average and predictable.”
Mora: “C-plus. It was slow in the middle. I felt like I could leave.”
Nicholas: "B. I don’t think it was bad. Movies are a lot worse.”