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|The 80s were an amazing time for me, and Chippendale’s was my first big New York job. I came to New York City to become a star so that everyone in the whole world would love me. When I was hired to be the MC at Chippendales, it was the hottest show in the city that never sleeps: movie stars, fashion Titans, movers and shakers shaking their booties and grooving and cruising. And I was right in the center of it, in tuxedo top hats and rollerskates. This book is about a culture of excess and madness spinning out of control, where greed was good, Wall Street was swimming with $, and bankrupt farmers were committing suicide. Where President Reagan’s designer clad Stepford first wife was giving grateful drug addicts everywhere the key to sobriety: Just Say No, even as her husband, flush with the rush of reelection, was funding drug thugs.It’s about a man, Nick de Noia, who was the visionary genius behind Chippendales, a man who wanted to change the world, to fulfill the promise of Women’s Lib, to make a fun, safe sexy place where women could fondle, ogle and sexualized hot man flesh for the first time in history. And he wanted to get rich doing it. He was a tyrant who ruled with a combination of cruel abuse and buttery flattering charm. He was my boss, and this book is about what it’s like to work for a man who gets assassinated. It’s about performing in front of 600 flesh craving, money waving, booze fueled ladies, with the estrogen bouncing off the walls. It’s about working with beautiful half-nude dudes, and never getting laid. But, in the end, it’s about failing at fame and succeeding at love. From Library Journal:“Master of Ceremonies” is the dizzying, tender, and true story of a fledgling actor whose first break results in a two-year stint as the emcee at Chippendales, in this work that is resplendent with seedy glamour, hilarious backstage madness, and unflinching honesty. Sterry chronicles his adventures as a struggling comic after he is hired as
the host of the popular all-male strip show Chippendales in the early Eighties. He more than delivers on the promise of his title, and readers looking for sex, drugs, and New York-style debauchery will find it in spades. There is a tabloid-level sleaziness inherent in the material, which Sterry utilizes for maximum entertainment value. He
avoids providing direct sociological commentary on the sexual power dynamics at play in Chippendales, preferring to let events speak for themselves. There are two underlying love stories, one between Sterry and a coworker, and one between Sterry and his craft; both enrich the narrative with genuine heart. Sterry possesses an engaging writing style, and fans of his earlier memoir, Chicken: Self-Portrait of a Young Man for Rent, will not be disappointed. Recommended for large public library collections and cultural and media studies
collections.-Katherine Litwin, Chicago Library Journal (07/15/2008)To read piece in London Times Sunday Magazine go to, click here.
UNZIPPED: A TRUE STORY OF
SEX, DRUGS, ROLLERSKATES
& MURDER (Canongate/Grove Atlantic)
Manhattan, mid-80s: Madonna is wearing her bullet-bra, and Wall Street is cash-happy, while at Chippendales – the world’s most famous male strip club – it’s raining men, and girls just wanna have fun. David Henry Sterry was at the centre of the madness as the roller-skating emcee, fanning the flames of lady lust while Rome burned.
Ultimately, though, all great parties must come to an end, and the gangland-style assassination of his boss, the man responsible for the phenomenal success of the beefcake boys, marked the beginning of the end for the party-all-the-time 80s in New York City.
In Manhattan of mid-80s: Madonna debuts her bullet-bra at Danceteria, a 50-foot Brooke Shields jeans ad adorns Times Square, Wall Street is cash-happy, while at Chippendales – the world renowned male strip club – it’s raining men, and girls just wanna have fun in the club that’s infamous for late-night well-fuelled parties that just don’t stop. Acclaimed memoirist David Henry Sterry, author of “Chicken”, was literally at the centre of the madness as the roller-skating emcee of the nightly beefcake parade.
“Unzipped” is the action-packed, compelling true story of a fledgling actor whose first big break results in a two-year stint as the emcee at the world’s most famous and hedonistic strip club. Ultimately, though, all great parties must come to an end, and the gangland style assassination of his boss, the man responsible for the phenomenal success of the beefcake boys, marked the beginning of the end of the party-all-the-time 80s in New York City. Seedy glamour, dirty little secrets, hilarious backstage madness and unflinching, brutal honesty make David Sterry’s “Unzipped” an entertaining and moving memoir.
INTERVIEW! David Henry Sterry sat down for this interview just before the release of his new book, Unzipped: A True Story of Sex, Drugs, Rollerskates & Murder (Canongate, 2007)
Q: What was it like to work at Chippendales male strip club in New York City in the craziness of the mid-80s, when it was the hottest show in the city that never sleeps?
A: It was absolutely mad, like being in the middle of a Fellini movie. The mid-80s were insane, big hair, tiny skirts, cash-happy and coke-crazy, back when girls just wanted to have fun and it was raining men. 600 flesh-craving money-waving women packed into this tiny club, going berserk, I swear I was high on estrogen every night. To me, watching the women was more fun than anything at Chippendales. They came from all over the world, in every shape and size, bimbo in limos and booming grannies, supermodels and super virgins, hen parties gone wild and desperate housewives behaving badly. Most of these women were so sweet, honestly, I fell in love every night. But some of these ladies, they were absolutely savage. Night after night I would watch them, drunk out of their minds, digging their nails deep into these men, often drawing blood. I remember so clearly on my first night at Chippendales as I came into the tiny stinky dressing room after the show, there was Prince Charming, (that was the name of the character he played in the show), standing in front of a full-length mirror, an enormous $1,000 mountain of wrinkled and sweaty cash in front of him, and as I scanned my eyes down his huge, nude, oiled up perfect body, I saw these teeth marks in his exquisite ass cheek. They were deep and red and angry. Some lady had really sunk in her choppers into him. Seriously, you could have identified her dead body from those teeth marks. I remember thinking, America, what a country! In some ways it was the best job I’ve ever had: four nights a week, two hours a night, making big bank, celebrities like Brooke Shields and Calvin Klein in the audience, it was so much fun. But it was also one of the most frustrating jobs I’ve ever had. You see, I was the master of ceremonies, the MC, the compere, I wore a tuxedo, top hat, and rollerskates. And being a great MC at Chippendales was kind of like being the greatest downhill skier in the Sahara Desert. You may be amazing, you may be the best, but nobody gives a shit. One of the threads of this book is what it was like to be the ugliest man at Chippendales, starving for sex in the middle of hundreds of women every night, and never getting laid.
Q. Were you working at the club when the world-famous Chippendales murder occurred?
A: Yes, in fact the man who was murdered was my boss, the visionary genius behind Chippendales, Nick de Noia. This book is also about what it’s like to work for a charming tyrant, kind of like The Devil Wears a G-String Nick moved with the muscular grace of Gene Kelly, he had salty, peppery, perfectly-coiffed hair, sparkly eyes, and a 20-gigawatt bright-white mile-wide smile beaming in the middle of it all. Nick de Noia wanted to change the world, liberate women so they could ogle, fondle and sexualize hot male flesh. And, of course, he wanted to get rich doing it. He ruled with a combination of cruel brutish abuse, and charming buttery flattery. He designed a life in which he surrounded himself with ridiculously handsome dudes who liked to make $ taking their clothes off, and needed him to love them. And yet he presented aggressively hetero, had been married and divorced to and from supermodel movie star Jennifer O’Neil, star of the hit movie Summer of 42. Nick saw himself as equal parts Julius Cesar, PT Barnum, the Marquis de Sade, and Bob Fosse. And Chippendales was his legacy to the world. After he was shot, the police came and interrogated everyone at the club. When they asked me if I knew anyone who might want to kill Nick de Noia, I said, “Do you want the short list, or the long list?” I mean, I myself had muttered several times under my breath that I’d like to kill Nick de Noia. But I’ve often thought, what does it take to go from casually contemplating killing someone, to actually hiring a hitman to blow their brains all over a wall?
Q: What exactly was your job at Chippendales?
A: It was my job to skate around in the middle of the Pit, as we called it, and recite a 200 page script. As I said, I was the ugliest man at Chippendales, and I was the only one who talked in the show. Coincidence? I think not. I would introduce the men, and I was responsible for cueing all the light and sound change, as well as for the removal of every article of clothing by the Unknown Flasher, the Barbarian, the Construction Guy, the Hot New Guy and Prince Charming. It was my job to yell out “jokes” like, “You’re going to love our next guy, in his spare time he’s a professional bowler, and believe you me ladies, he’s got a pair of 16 pound balls.” And I was responsible for teaching the women most important thing in the Chippendales show. When I would yell, “Whatttayaaaa wann’ ’em to dooooo?” they would yell, “TAKE IT AWWWFF!” And then a stripper would take off an article of clothing. Let me tell you something, on a Saturday night, when the place was packed to the tits, the sound of all those women screaming was, pound for pound, the loudest, most female noise I’ve ever heard in my life.
Q.: What were some of the craziest things you saw while working at Chippendales?
Q.: Is it true that most of the Chippendales guys were gay?
A: I’d say about 60% of the Men of Chippendales seemed like if there was money to be made, or they were horny enough, they’d fuck pretty much anything that moved. In fact, it didn’t even have to move, they’d fuck it. About 25% seemed completely gay. And maybe 15% seemed no-questions-asked breeders. But these figures are based on my own survey, which, frankly, did have some methodological problems.
Q.: Your first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller, has been translated into many languages, and is being made into a Hollywood film: what were the repercussions of revealing that you were a teenage gigolo servicing Hollywood women, and was it more difficult to write than Unzipped?
A: I didn’t even really think about what the consequences of writing Chicken would be. I just knew I had to write it and get it out of my system. I know it sounds melodramatic to say this, but it really saved my life, helped transform me from an angry raging addict into a semi-normal human being. But of course there was much fallout. My people come from Newcastle, they are Geordies, and my father has never forgiven me for writing this book, he hasn’t spoken to me in many years. Lots of people who I thought were my friends said nasty ugly to me. Many people in the press attacked me personally, especially in the UK. I guess I was unprepared for the vitriol that would come my way from the media. At first I took it personally, but the more I thought about it the more I came to believe it’s got a lot more to do with the post-Victorian terror that the English seem to have about sex, that marvelous combination of titillation and repulsion that appears to be at the very core of British life. And I have taken to heart the words of one of my favorite writers, an Englishman, Oscar Wilde, who famously said, “The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” I guess in the end I’m just happy that people paid attention at all. That being said, for every negative thing that’s happened to me as a result of revealing my sordid past, there have been a hundred wonderful, incredible, amazing things. I remember when I was doing my one-man show version of Chicken at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, after I finished a performance one night, a tiny little Scottish granny came up to me grinning like a schoolgirl coquette and asked me in a thick brogue, “Can I have a wee kiss?” I bent down and she gave me a sweet peck on the cheek. Then she giggled and said, “Now I can say I’ve kissed a gigolo.” I’ve gotten e-mails from people all over the world thanking me for writing Chicken, telling me how much they enjoyed the book, and that they don’t feel like such a freak anymore. And whenever I do my show, afterwards there are always a couple of teenage girls hanging about, shuffling their feet and averting their eyes. Shyly they approach me, and reveal their own terrible stories of sexual abuse at the hands of a relative, a friend, even a priest. It’s obvious that many of them have never told anyone their story, and oftentimes it comes flooding out of them like a geyser, the words pouring out in torrents, and when they’re done they look so happy and relieved, like the weight of the world has been lifted from them. I had no idea that there was this epidemic of sexual abuse going on in our society, it’s horrifying actually. I read about a study in which scientists had people write down the worst things that ever happened to them. They found that when people did this, their immune systems were boosted. When I first read it that seemed unbelievable to me, and yet I can attest that for myself this has been true. Since writing Chicken, I haven’t been sick a day in my life, my immune system is like the locks on Fort Knox. I’ve also had the opportunity to lead writing workshops sponsored by the United States Department of Justice in which I helped teenage girls write about how they’d been used as sex slaves by pimps, beaten with coat hangers and burned with cigarettes, raped by the police, absolutely shocking stuff. It was amazing to watch how they went from being reluctant to wildly enthusiastic about writing their stories. At the end of a conference, four or five of these girls got up and read their stories in front of a packed audience full of politicians, social workers and friends. It was one of the greatest moments in my life to watch the joy that came over their faces when they received standing ovations. These girls often see themselves as only having a value in regards to their bodies, their sex. For them to get so much love and affection for their talent, for their bravery, and for their writing was utterly transforming for all of us. Writing Chicken has also opened up a whole new world for me in that I have spoken and presented at colleges, high schools and universities all over the world, from the University of Amsterdam, to the University of New Orleans, to the Gold Coast of Australia. It was very difficult to write Chicken, for several reasons. One, I had to never written a book before. I’ve been a professional screenwriter, but I always wrote movies that had nothing to do with my own experiences. To reveal the worst, most horrendous, horrific things that ever happened to me, to say publicly that I was a prostitute, one of the worst things you can be in our society, was difficult, it was very painful to relive those events, but in the end it was tremendously cathartic. I used to have nightmares in which I would relive when I was raped, and I used to be obsessed with revenge fantasies where I would kill the man who attacked me in disgusting bloody ways. But as soon as I started portraying him on stage in the one-man show of the book, those revenge fantasies stopped, as did the nightmares. But I recall very distinctly as I was writing the book, many times tears would start flowing down my face, my guts would knot, and my chest tighten. Writing Unzipped was not like that. While there were certainly many frustrations during that time in my life, it was also so much fun to live through it. The glitz, glamour, the drugs. And of course I also met the woman who would become my first wife at Chippendales, she was the costume mistress, an extraordinarily beautiful, sexy, smart woman, who chose me over all those studs. To this day I can hardly believe it. In fact one of the most difficult things about writing Unzipped was trying to protect the anonymity of the men who I worked with. Everyone is so terrified of being sued these days, so I had to be very careful. Plus, I didn’t think it was fair to reveal things about them that they would not want revealed to the world. Many of them are married now and have children. They didn’t choose to write a book, I did. So it was a tremendous challenge to present all the facts, and to show the truth of what happened in that crazy, ridiculous world, while still respecting the privacy of these men. But I worked very very hard at doing that. And of course I did change the names and some of the physical characteristics of the men. But I had a wonderful time writing this book, I enjoyed it so much. I feel like I was very lucky to be right in the center of this moment in history, like I was Nero fiddling as Rome burned.
Q.: What are your next project’s?
A: Well, I have just written the twelve draft of the screenplay for Chicken, it’s being made into a movie by the producers who did the Peter Sellers movie with Geoffrey Rush. It’s pretty amazing to have gone from living it; to not talking about it for 20 years; to writing a book about it; to making a one-man show out of it and portraying all the characters: from the man who raped me, to my pimps, to the women who paid me to have sex with them; to now finally writing the screenplay and thinking about who’s going to play me in the movies. It looks like Jamie Bell, of Billy Elliot fame, is a prime candidate to play me as a 17-year-old rent boy. Naturally he’s a lot more handsome than I ever was. Also I have just finished putting together an anthology of writings by people who have worked in the sex industry, from college professors to homeless crack addicts, from goddess diva Annie Sprinkles to a 16-year-old girl who was sold into prostitution at the age of nine by her dad. I’m very proud of this book, I don’t think there’s ever been anything quite like it, and it comes out of my desire to humanize prostitutes, to show the real people behind the image that society glamorizes and reviles, to take away the stigma from people who have sex for money. At the same time I’ve written two books for 12-year-old girls, under a false name naturally. One is about how to throw a great pajama party, and the other a personality quiz book to help girls figure out exactly who they are and who they want to be, to encourage individuality and self expression in girls. And I just found an amazing illustrator for a graphic novel I’ve written. I’m also finishing up the second book in a series of young adult novels, again written under a pen name. And I’m just embarking on the third book in the trilogy I’m making out of my life. It’s about my time in show business and as a sex addict. Besides being the master of ceremonies at Chippendales, I made my living as a standup comedian, acted in a thousand TV and radio commercials, in dozens and dozens of plays, TV shows and movies, including The Fresh Prints of Bel Air, with Will Smith, worked with everyone from Michael Caine to Zippy the Chimp. I also had a three picture deal with Disney, and made a living as a screenplay writer in Hollywood. All the while I was running rampant sexually, having affairs with glamorous actresses and lovely college girls, going on sex binges with prostitutes that would last for weeks at a time. I tried to figure it out one time, I estimate I probably had sex with 1000 women. The amazing thing is that it was a lot less fun than you’d think it would be. But perhaps the most important project in my life is the new baby that’s on the way. It’s my first, it’s due September fifth, and I’m over the moon. I just could not be more excited about being a father. I’ve wanted to be a dad for a long time, but I knew I wasn’t ready, I couldn’t put someone else’s interests in front of my own, I was too twisted up inside. But now, with the help of my lovely and talented wife, I finally feel able to do that. Although I do worry sometimes what I’m going to say to my child when he asks me, “Should I be a gigolo like you when I grow up?” I haven’t quite figured out the answer to that question.
Excerpt from Master of Ceremonies: a True Story of Love, Murder, Rollerskates and Chippendales (Grove Atlantic, Canongate), slightly tweaked.
Master of Ceremonies
1985. Smack dab in the middle of the cash-happy coke-crazy 80’s, a decade dedicated, if not to love, then certainly to sex and madness, when Girls Just Wanted to Have Fun and it was Raining Men, and we all sat around watching Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous, and Dallas and Dynasty, hey, greed’s good man, haven’t you heard? Let’s go watch Rambo blow away some gooks at the movies while we drink New Coke, and Michael Jackson’s hair catches on fire. Reagan, flush with the rush of re-election funds drug thugs while his designer-clad Stepford Wife First Lady gives grateful addicts everywhere the key to sobriety: Just Say No! In the midst of this flood of money, in San Diego a guy walks into a McDonald’s and guns down twenty citizens sucking down Happy Meals; while in Iowa a bankrupt farmer kills his wife, his neighbor and his banker. His wife and his neighbor I can understand. But his banker?
1985. That’s when I get hired to be the Master of Ceremonies at the greatest male stripping empire the world has ever known: Chippendales. You know, the too huge, half-nude dudes, in the tux cuffs’n’collars and skin-thin black Spandex with the bulging crotches, mountain peak pecs, 6-pack man wrack abs, and cheekbones for miles. When I first started working with these guys, every night when I walked into the club, I could actually feel my testicles shrivel.
Nick de Noia. He’s my boss, the visionary genius who transformed a dank dinky little male exotic revue into the Kingdom called Chippendales. He moves with the muscular grace of Gene Kelly, he’s got salty, peppery, perfectly-coiffed hair, eyes sparkling and shining, and a 20-gigawatt bright-white mile-wide smile beaming in the middle of it all. When I meet him, I really want him to like me. That’s the kind of guy he is. But I get the feeling he really hates me. That’s the kind of guy I am. Nick de Noia wants to change the world, liberate women so they can ogle, fondle and sexualize hot male flesh, to display their lust, and be celebrated for it. And, of course, he wants to get rich doing it. He rules through cruel brutish abuse, mixed with charming buttery flattery. He’s designed a life in which he’s surrounded with ridiculously handsome dudes who like to make $ taking their clothes off, and need him to love them. He presents aggressively hetero, has been married and divorced to and from supermodel movie star Jennifer O’Neil. Nick has sees himself as equal parts Julius Cesar, PT Barnum, the Marquis de Sade, and Bob Fosse. And this show is his legacy to the world.
My uniform is a tuxedo, cumberbund, tophat and roller skates. I’m the only one in the show who talks. It’s my job to skate around in circles in the Pit in front of 600 flesh-craving, money-waving, booze-fueled woman, as rampant blasts of estrogen slam off the walls. I have to teach them the most important thing in the show. When I yell, “Whattayaaa-wann’emmmmm-to do?” they yell, “TAKE IT AWFF!!!” “Whattttayaaa-wann’emmmmm-to do?” “TAKE IT AWFF!!!”
On my Opening Night the teeny tiny Dressing Room mirrored walls are cramjampacked with the man-skin of a dozen primping, preening, iron-pumping, oiled-up, slicked-down, tanning-bed-browned, blow-dried, hair-product-stiffened Men of Chippendales. It’s like being inside a thermo-nuclear Man device ready to blow.
In the corner stands a lanky Man with sandy hair wearing nothing but tux-cuffs’n’collar, and black spandex pants, unzipped. He pulls on his unsheathed penis like it’s modeling clay and he’s making it longer, one stroke at a time, until it’s at full extension. Then he meticulously lays his most prized possession on the inside on his thigh and snaps the spandex over it fast, yanking his pants shut, then quickly slithering his zipper over black Velcro-covered hip. Into a mirror he admires his throbbing Johnson knob, nodding his cocky head, like: Wow! I do look hot.
He’s just done the Dick Pull. The principle is simple: if you snap the spandex over your penis fast enough, you can cut off circulation to your member. In a correctly performed Dick Pull, the blood remains trapped in the penis, creating a permanently erect hammerheaded trousersnake.
The Man catches me checking him out. So he cocks his fud and busts a gust of loud foul gas that explodes out of him like a sick goose honking on a foggy morn. Then he scrunches up his face and squawks in a cartoon voice:
“Hey Ma, I fahted!”
Everybody cracks up. Well, not everybody. Only those not lost in the Mirrors of Narcissus.
I hee-haw and guffaw long after everyone else has stopped. I’m slightly embarrassed, but that vanishes when I realize no one is paying the slightest bit of attention to me. It’s a feeling I will become increasingly familiar with.
I hang up my green Cossack jacket and my black drawstring pants in my locker. Now I’m naked but for one red sock and one blue sock. I turn around. Caught in the mirror with all those beautiful nubile nudes is a puffy white Marshmallow Man.
Marshmallow Man chuckles. I’m embarrassed for the guy. If only he could see how grotesque his pallid fatness is next to the Love Gods of Chippendales.
I stop smiling, and shake my head.
He stops smiling, and shakes his head.
Wait a minute-
I AM THE MARSHMALLOW MAN!
Mortified, I grab my tux and hightail my fat ass into the Costume Room, disappearing like a chubby cottontail into the bush.
After I’m dressed and ready, I claw my way through the flesh-packed Dressing Room: duck a dumbbell, dodge a cock, and slither through all that oily hard tanned skin to my locker. As I pull on my roller skates, I’m interrupted by angry voices pounding out of the Upstairs Office, where all the $ lives. Can’t make out the words, but I can sure feel the rancorous anger.
Mister Nick de Noia busts outta the Upstairs Office door like a salt and pepper tsunami, and slams it so hard the wall shakes. He jams down the shitty rickety spiral staircase, and we hold our collective breath like a cranky psychokiller’s got a loaded Uzi in the room. Nick bumrushes pissed-off down the stairs, shoots through the Dressing Room, and yanks open the door. Music floods in. With another slam he’s gone, and the music mutes.
The Edwards Brothers, Nick’s NY $ partners, appear on the landing of the Upstairs Office, in their dark hair and suits. There’s a heaviness that hangs around the Edwards Brothers. The Old Gray Man, their silent partner, joins them on the landing, looking like a vulture that hasn’t eaten in a while. He’s 70 going on dead, with sickly thin translucent skin, a wicked comb-over covering his bald skull, and a big hook nose. A coke-laced Teen Queen in a little bitty miniskirt hangs from his withered arm in an I’m-hot-and-blowing-a-guy-old
I heave a sigh and roll out to start my first show. On Opening Night, when I roll into the Pit, there are bevies of bachelorettes, and blowsy bluebloods, coeds gone wild and booming grannies, models and supermodels, virgins and supervirgins. Shapes and colors swirl in shooting pools and points of light around the club, like a Monet painting of panting women during a lightning storm. The sheer volume of the vulvic volcano eruption that rumbles out of them is staggering. To this day, it’s still the most carnage-charged powderkegged atmosphere I’ve ever been in. A random picture pops out of the crowd: A wrinkled, pearled, high-collared Grandma with blue hair sits with her granddaughter, who’s got a mohawk that’s a remarkably similar shade of blue.
During the Construction Guy number, the mucho macho Construction Guy tenderly, lovingly, longingly lipsynchs the haunting Lionel Ritchie classic, “Hello?” to the red rose he holds. A Big Beautiful Sista wails like she’s just seen Jesus in a G-string. He parades her to the middle of the Pit, gets down on one knee and lipsynchs right into her eyes, “Hello, is it me you’re looking for?” while she screams and pants and Lawd Almighty’s. Naturally this ignites the moist center of the crowd, which flares and rages again. It’s great theater: a thick beauty getting to be all sexilicious in public, safely and sweetly, with no danger or shame. She really does seem to be releasing centuries of pent-up sexual repression and aggression. She really does seem to be having the time of her life. As do her friends. Looks like they’ll be telling this story for a very long time. And I think, Nick really did it: unleashed centuries of pent-u lust.
During my one break in the show, as I trundle and harrumph across the carpet on skates that won’t roll, a large mule-toothed blonde-bleached babe blocks my path. She has her hooks into Large Mark. He’s uber-pumped and ultra-cut, head neck and chest all swolled up, with a washboard man-rack belly. He’s a huge Terminator-type bodybuilder, complete with mammoth sweptback jacked-up hair. On Large Mark’s vast tanned back lives a constellation of angry little zits, an Orion’s Belt in pimples. Gotta be ‘roids: this dude is juicing big-time. Perhaps this would explain his black manic menstrual-like mood, and the muted but palpable diamond-hard rage beaming out of him. I shudder at the thought of his poor wee testes shriveling like grapes being dried into raisins. Bleach Blonde blocks Large Mark’s way, places her hand provocatively on his arm, glares hard into his eyes, and spouts, loud and proud, so everyone within earshot can hear: “I’ll pay ya 500 bucks to snort a line of coke off your dick.” This is officially my Welcome to Chippendales moment. Large Mark pulls out of her grip, curls a lip, and with a massive blast of snarling testosterone growls: “Hey, get the fuck awffa me!” Large Mark gives Bleach Blonde the big-time brush, and bumrushes away, leaving her standing in a cloud of his foul fumes. Immediately I have two thoughts: 1) Large Mark shoulda let her do it – $250 an inch is nothing to sneeze at; and 2) I’d pay good money just to watch her chop it up.
After the show, in the tiny mirror-walled Dressing Room, the Perfect Man stands totally nude in front of his huge Money Mountain, and it’s not just 1s and 5, there’s 50s and hundreds in there, on a good night the Perfect Man can make $1000 cash money, for thirty minutes work. My eyes wander down to his perfect ass, and I notice a sexy scar is crawling across one perfect cheek, and I’m thinking that is one sexy scar, damn! But on the other perfect cheek there are teeth marks: uppers and lowers, deep red and angry. Man, some chick really locks her jaws into his perfect ass. You could identify her dead body with those teeth marks. The scar. The bite mark. The mound of $. The risk and reward of LUST. America, wot a country!
On April 7, 1987 a man disguised as a messenger walks into my boss Nick de Noia’s office on 364 W. 40th Street and shoots him in the head, killing him dead. The cops interrogated all of us. When they asked me if I knew anybody who might wanted to have killed him, I said, “Do you want the short list or the long list?” I mean hell, I myself muttered that I’d like to kill Nick. But what does it take for someone to go from casually contemplating the murder of another human, to actually hiring a hitman to blow their brains all over a wall?
I used to wonder what made Nick de Noia so cruel and abusive. Until one time I dog-sat for Nick while he was in Japan, or Alaska, or Guam, expanding his male stripper kingdom. As far as I’m concerned, one of the great pleasures of apartment-sitting is getting to rummage through all the skeletons lurking and skulking in the dark corners of people’s closets. So me and Johnny, the Costume Mistress, and now my best friend, we’re are on a scavenger hunt to discover the dirt behind the man that is Nick de Noia. Sure enough, at the back of a closet, buried under a pile of innocuous tax returns, is a stack of magazines and videos. Get a load of the titles: Big Black Boys Uncut, Dark Meat & Dark Chocolate, Mandongo, Top Cock, and Big Black Boner III (I and II, sadly missing). I find myself wondering: Could you follow the story of Big Black Boner III if we haven’t seen the first two?
I recently went back to 61st and 1st, on the Upper Eastside of Manhattan, where the club used to be, to get a look at the old place. Turns out Chippendales has been replaced by a Bed, Bath & Beyond.
Excerpt from Master of Ceremonies: a True Story of Love, Murder, Rollerskates and Chippendales (Grove Atlantic, Canongate), slightly tweaked.
The Case of the Missing G-String
Slick Rick is wet from his champagne shower, naked but for one small shiny green g-string, dripping and radiating, his sleek muscle-pumped body engorged and pulsing, standing on a platform above the Pit, looking down at 600 flesh-craving money waving Ladies.
Ho hum. Another night at Chippendales, at the greatest male stripping empire the world has ever known. It’s 1985, and I am the Master of Ceremonies at the hottest show in NY, NY. Frankly, I’m fading. My happy I-love-everyone coke high I had an hour ago has long gone bye-bye, replaced by a chemical lockjaw poisoned discomfort sinking ill-defined lowness that has my face frowning for no apparent reason. I just have to get through Slick Rick’s Kiss & Tip, get the Perfect Man on and off, whip through the Grand Finale, and then I’m done for the night.
Because I’m a bit preoccupied waiting for Slick Rick to begin his Kiss & Tip, I don’t see exactly what happens next. But here are the facts as I’ve been able to reconstruct them.
When Slick Rick pulls on his g-string and threatens to take it all off, silently asking the Ladies with his face and body if they’d like to see his penis, like he does every night, the thin elastic that attaches the triangle of bright green fabric breaks, and the fabric droops forward.
Have you ever heard 600 women gasp as one? I hope you have the pleasure of that experience, because all that Lady lungpower drawing all that startled breath in at the same time is breathtaking.
Why the gasp? Because Slick Rick’s dick pops out. By the time I see it, the penis is already exposed, swinging, big and fleshy, about half-hard. I believe there is an illusion of erection, created by the Tie-Off, which, as I understand it, was first pioneered in male stripperdom in the wilds of Canada, where men are allowed Full Monty nudity. But it has certainly been used in various contexts for centuries. It’s a simple but dangerous technique. A thin leather or elastic strip is strapped around the base of the testicle/penal unit, when the unit is engorged with blood. When you tie-off, the blood is trapped in the unit. This creates the impression of erection, even when there is no sexual excitation. The danger comes when you tie-off too tight for too long. The penis begins to turn a frighteningly deep purple. Perhaps this is the origin of the expression blue balls. There’s a male stripper urban legend that one dim Canadian stripper woke up the morning after an alcoholic blackout to find his blackened cock popped off and laying like an andouille sausage on the floor.
I happen to know that Slick Rick was familiar with, and used, the Canadian Tie-off. I cannot say for sure that he Tied-Off that night, but from the look of his engorgement swinging around in front of all those shocked Ladies, I’d almost bet my left nut on it.
Slick Rick’s penis seems overjoyed to be released from its incarceration in that tiny g-string prison, looks like it’s ready to be adored and loved by the fawning female fans.
Holy shit, Nick’s gonna pitch a fit! That’s my first thought. Nick de Noia is our boss, the visionary genius who transformed a dank dinky shitty little male exotic revue into the Kingdom called Chippendales. Nick de Noia wants to change the world, liberate women so they can ogle, fondle and sexualize hot male flesh, to display their lust, and be celebrated for it. And, of course, he wants to get rich doing it. Nick sees himself as equal parts Julius Cesar, PT Barnum, the Marquis de Sade, and Bob Fosse. And this show is his legacy to the world. He rules through cruel brutish abuse, mixed with charming buttery flattery, and loves nothing more than to publicly humiliate ridiculously handsome men. I imagine he’s going to rip Slick Rick several new assholes. Hope I get to watch.
It’s been drummed into us that any public display of one silly millimeter of penis could result in Chippendales losing its cabaret license. Which would mean closing the show, killing the cash cow, slaying the golden-egg laying goose, and the unemployment of us all.
Bug-eyed jaw-dropped silence is followed by a piercing eruption of gleeful female screams. I still believe that pound-for-pound this is the loudest sound I’ve ever heard.
Slick Rick looks down at his unsheathed penis. Then back up in shocked surprise. But the whole thing feels planned, canned and reeks of pre-meditation. I have no evidence of this, it’s just the feeling I get: like Slick Rick rehearsed the moment. And he’s always so obsessively meticulous in his preparation. Plus he doesn’t cover up right away. He milks the hell out of his cock-flop: Wow, I can’t believe my penis popped out!
Finally, after what seems like about a month of Slick Rick’s naked flailing phallus flapping in the breeze, he hops off the platform, and disappears for a coupla seconds, then re-emerges wearing a new bright green g-string, and dives into his very lucrative Kiss & Tip.
Wait a minute. If Slick Rick didn’t plan this whole fiasco beforehand, why was there a stashed g-string all ready for him to slither into?
“It’s Hide the Salami night here at Chippendales!” I scream my ad lib into the absurdly expensive mic, and that gets a nice rise outta those who are paying attention.
And the show goes on.
Slick Rick makes a bloody fortune during his Kiss & Tip. Hundreds of green shoots sprout up and wave in the wind. Slick Rick harvests the cash crop with kisses. A beautiful bride-to-be shoves bills into his G-string like it’s a bank and she’s making direct deposits. Then he buzzes like a sweet bee straight to Big Alice’s honey. She’s the regular’s regular, big and thick and in the Pit more nights than not. She buries her face in his new G-string, nose-deep in dick. With a huge Comedia d’elle Arte-sized surprise-face Slick Rick plays the whole room as the roar deafens.
Classic de Noia: the bawdy, lip-to-lip with the silly, it ends up being naughty instead of graphic, teasing instead of sleazy. Nick in a nutshell.
Slick Rick rubs up against Big Alice like a housebroken 3-balled cat, and the place goes ballistic. It’s like I’m in the cockpit of a rocket fueled by pure Lady love.
When Big Alice shake’n’bake shimmies, a dollar peeking out of her cleavage takes on a life of its own. She plants Slick Rick’s face like a flag in the continent of her décolletage. When he moves his head away from Big Alice’s heavy cleavage he has the Magic Dollar clamped in his teeth. It’s actually attached to another dollar with tape you can’t see. And that dollar’s attached to another dollar. Which is attached to another dollar. As he pulls on the line of dollar bills they snake magically out of Big Alice’s cleavage. It’s the old endless-handkerchief gag, only with money and breasts, instead of kerchief and pocket. Looks like a moving Escher painting.
The Ladies give Slick Rick much love as he takes Big Alice back to her seat on the Pit bench, kisses her hand like an old-fashioned chivalrous gentleman in a G-string.
This is the philosophy of Nick de Noia. Don’t bring the thin beautiful babe out into the Pit. Bring on the large Lady live wire, the Big Alice. Celebrate the sexiness of the fat and the homely and the old and the lonely.
As Slick Rick bows and trots off, his two beautiful ass cheeks disappears into the Dressing Room. He makes over $1,000 in cash that night for twenty minutes work.
By the time I finish slogging through the rest of the show I’m irritated, annoyed, exhausted, disillusioned, dehydrated, and I’ve fallen out of love with life. But I’m very curious about the fallout from Slick Rick’s missing G-string incident.
When I enter the Dressing Room Sloppy Sam, the stage manager, and the man ultimately responsible for the bolts and nuts of the show, is already grilling Slick Rick. Much to the amusement of the uber-huge Large Mark and longleanlanky Larry Glitter, who seem hungry for the blood of Slick Rick, the man they love to hate.
Slick Rick defends himself vehemently. A bit too vehemently: methinks the Lady doth protest too much.
“No, I swear to God, the thing just came apart. I guess it was loose. I don’t know, man, but I just did what I do every night, and all of a sudden, the thing just came apart.”
Sloppy Sam shakes his disgusted head:
“Look, all it takes is one chick to complain. Or one cop to be here under cover, or whatever, and they yank the fucking cabaret license, and they shut us down, and-”
“I know, man, but it’s not my fault, the thing just came apart, it just came apart-”
The way Slick Rick keeps repeating the phrase ‘the thing just came apart’ seems highly suspicious to me. But again that is strictly subjective speculation.
“I don’t give a fuck.” Sloppy Sam is seriously hot under the tux collar. “It was your dick that popped the fuck out, and if it happens again, you’re gonna get suspended for sure, and fired, if I have anything to say about it. You understand?”
“That’s not fair, man. It wasn’t my fault,” Slick Rick’s all palms-up-shrugging, bunny-eyed innocence.
“I don’t give a fuck. Don’t let it happen again. You understand?” Sloppy Sam demands.
“The thing just came apart, man-” Slick insists.
“Do. You. Understand?” Sloppy Sam looks like he’s ready to rearrange Slick Rick’s pretty face.
“Yeah, sorry, sure-” Slick Rick starts to say something else, then thinks better of it. The effort brings a twitch to his lip, then his eye, as he cracks several knuckles.
Sloppy Sam storms off into the Costume Room to confront Johnny, the Costume Mistress. She’s a 20ish wildchild Latina Marilyn Monroe, and my best friend at Chippendales. I exchange a glance with Arnolpho d’Alencar Araripe Pimenta de Mello, a Brazilian back-up dancer, and my second best friend at Chippendales. Arnolpho does a little Brazilian headshake eyeroll, silently indicating that he’s not buying a word of Slick Rick’s story.
Large Mark, all pumped up like a ‘roiding blowfish, strides right into Slick Rick’s face, invading his personal space.
Slick Rick tries to hold his ground, but a twitch in his right eye betrays him.
“If I find out you did dis shit on poipose, I’m gonna kick yer ass awll de way up Foist Avenue, you unnuhstand?”
“Hey man, I didn’t-” Slick Rick gets shut down quick.
“Shut de fuck up!” Large Mark growls.
Slick Rick shuts the fuck up.
“If dis shit evvuvh happens again, dat’s it!”
Large Mark makes a massive fist and swings it at Slick Rick’s jaw. Slick flinches back into the locker behind him with a bang. Large stops the fist an inch before it smashes into Slick Rick’s face.
“Hey, what the hell!” Slick Rick protests.
But Large Mark is already gone. Larry Glitter follows smugly shooting a sneer at Slick Rick as he trails like the tail of a comet.
Danger momentarily averted, the Men go back to the task at hand: sorting and counting their mountains of $, while I retreat to the Costume Room, to see if Johnny needs the Cavalry.
“No fucking way, man!” Johnny’s utterly adamant, shaking her krazy kurls. “I checked that g-string tonight, I swear to God. And before he went on, I saw Slick Rick fucking with the seam. I didn’t think anything of it at the time, but now it totally makes sense.” She doesn’t look like she’s fibbing. But maybe Johnny’s just an excellent fibber. Still, she doesn’t have that shakiness that guilty people so often display. That Slick Rick just displayed. She has more of the I’m-being-framed-and-I’m-not
Sloppy Sam purses his lips, shakes his deeply troubled head, then says:
“Where’s the g-string?”
“He says it’s gone,” Johnny nods her head slow, like she’s not buying a word of it, that in fact Slick Rick losing the g-string is more proof of her innocence and his guilt.
“What do you mean it’s gone?” Sloppy Sam’s making sure he has all the facts straight for the Nick De Noia Inquisition he knows is on its way.
“As soon as I heard what happened, I tried to get my hands on that g-string, to see if he really did fuck with it, like I saw him fucking with it. And all of a sudden, it’s gone. He can’t find it. Yeah, right,” Johnny’s face can barely contain her disgust.
Sloppy Sam mulls, gives a little tsk, then exclaims:
Johnny shakes her disgusted curls, picks up some funky fur leggings and angrily dumps them in the fur legging box, then stops and proclaims::
“Unfuckin’believable… un… fuckin’… believable…”
Suddenly Arnolpho flits dramatically into the room:
“Ohhhhhh, you should hhhave seen Miss Thing!”
He launches into a spot-on Slick Rick impression:
“It wasn’t my fault! I don’t know what happened, really I don’t. The thing just came apart, and next thing I know, my cock just popped right out!”
Arnolpho becomes Slick Rick standing there with his dick accidentally-on-purpose out, making a big-eyed face while miming an exposed penis so well you can almost see it.
O, how we laugh, Johnny and I, really let loose.
“Ohhhhhhh bay-bee,” Arnolpho touches Johnny on her chest while placing his other hand over his own heart. “You shoulda seen hhher, what a performance! Miss Slick better hope she never has to testify on hhher own behalf cuz hhhoney, it’s gonna be, ‘Guilty! Guilty! Guilty’!”
“Oh my God!!” Johnny gasps through her laughs.
Luckily for him, Slick Rick was never put on trial for exposing himself, and as far as I know, he completely got away with it.
Nick de Noia, on the other hand, was not so lucky.
On April 7, 1987 a man disguised as a messenger walks into my boss Nick de Noia’s office on 364 W. 40th Street and shoots him in the head, killing him dead. The cops interrogated all of us. When they asked me if I knew anybody who might wanted to have killed him, I said, “Do you want the short list or the long list?” I mean hell, I myself muttered that I’d like to kill Nick. But what does it take for someone to go from casually contemplating the murder of another human, to actually hiring a hitman to blow their brains all over a wall? Turns out: money. Seems Nick’s money partner, Steven Banarghee, was so convinced that Nick fucked him over, that he had Nick assassinated. Banerghee went to prison, where he hung himself.
The Case of the Missing G-string, on the other hand, remains unsolved.
Master of Ceremonies: a True Story of Love, Murder, Roller Skates and Chippendales
About David Sterry
David Henry Sterry is the author of 16 books, a performer, muckraker, educator, book editor, activist, and book doctor. His first memoir, Chicken, was an international bestseller, and has been translated into 10 languages. “As laconic as Dashiell Hammett, as viscerally hallucinogenic as Hunter S Thompson. Sex, violence, drugs, love, hate, and great writing, what more could you ask for?” – The Irish Times.
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