Life and Loves of a Male Stripper, The (1987)

I’ve never been a woman. But I’ve met some, and the one thing that all three of them had in common was that they do not enjoy watching a strange man wiggle his hairy buns. Take my word for it. Seriously.

Anyway, this fact points to larger issues about the male strip club. If you’re gearing said enterprise to a female audience, and women aren’t lining up to see the lubricated gyrations of a part-time soccer coach, then your business is doomed. In the city I live in, a strip club rose and fell in barely over a year, leaving a massive pink building vacant by the river, painted with the words “LaBare: Entertainment for Ladies.” Who were these ladies, and why did they refuse to be entertained? Questions that many of us have pondered when driving by the empty building for the past decade, an imposing, barren structure populated by the ghosts of thongs and dongs.

Fortunately, with the discovery of The Life and Loves of a Male Stripper, all questions are answered. As it turns out, there ARE women who rabidly applaud for floppy bulges. Fifteen women, to be exact. And they’re all at L.A. club Bare Essense. All day. Every. Single. Day.

The entertainers there stop at nothing (except actual nudity) to please the clientele. In the film’s opening scene, two men dressed as medieval gladiators in g-strings take the stage. They battle to the faux-death, and then the victor removes his clothing. At one point, he discards his tiny underwear to reveal another pair of tiny underwear. Soon enough, almost everything has come off besides the fur on his chest.

The most popular attraction at Bare Essense is a man simply named “Rafael” (played by an actor simply named “Rafael”). He’s a dancer, a comedian, a wry M.C., and he looks like someone that would try to lure you behind a carnival ride. He fritters away his days in a baby-oiled rut, tragically squandering his true gift as a synth-rock vocalist. His girlfriend disapproves of his day job, and demands that he see a psychiatrist. He agrees, and meets his sexually frustrated German analyst, who’s played by a shrill woman in a glue-on beard. Rafael confides one of the trade secrets of his profession: “Some of the guys have their whatchamacallits surgically removed so they can fit more money down their jockeys.” Then the doctor projects a slide show of various round objects for Rafael while the two of them take turns yelling, “Tits! Big tits! Round tits!” Rafael abruptly ends this when he exclaims, “Wait! I don’t like tits!”

This is the closest the movie gets to plot and character development. No complaints here. While 70% of the film is just quasi-nude men wiggling around like blind kids in a swimming pool, there’s a constant electrical awareness that anything can happen at any moment. Scenes are interrupted by camcorder music videos, in which Rafael strains his vocal chords and contorts his face to croon about teenage lust. Men in leather do somersaults to an unauthorized instrumental swipe of “Beat It.” This is followed by a pop-n-lock breakdancer in sunglasses and silk briefs. The performers uniformly make the same surprised face whenever they pull down the backs of their own underwear. All the while, the same fifteen women shriek in agonized delight. The story eventually takes Rafael to a mental hospital where female nymphomaniacs are guarded by catatonic eunuchs.

As far as I can tell, this SOV drama was the only non-XXX feature from John Stagliano, director of 145 other titles including Anal Acrobats 8, Life is Butt a Dream, and fan favorite Buttman’s British Moderately Big Tit Adventure. While I’m not familiar with his other work, I can only assume it features the same drive and originality that this film does. Sure, critical viewers may complain that they were promised an exploration of the LIFE and LOVES of a male stripper. By the closing credits, we’ve gained little insight into Rafael’s life, and we certainly haven’t learned anything about love. But we HAVE seen five men roll around in reflective thongs. Many, many times. And we can all agree that this is the purest, truest, barest ESSENSE of entertainment.

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