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Jan. 09, 2006
Copyright © Las Vegas Review-Journal


Reporter gets caught with his pants down at Chippendales

Watch the video:




click on the photos to enlarge them...

Corey Levitan, center (obviously), glances at a nearby Chippendale to make sure his steps are on beat during his debut as a Chippendale dancer at the Rio.
Photo by Jane Kalinowsky.

Levitan strolls out with confidence during his free-style performance. Photo by Jane Kalinowsky.

Levitan poses for the photographer before his debut as wardrobe supervisor Rena Martinez adjusts his bow tie. Photo by Jane Kalinowsky.

Review-Journal reporter Corey Levitan works out at Gold's Gym while Chippendales dancers Nathan Minor, left, and Sean Thomas share a laugh. Photo by John Locher.

Levitan poses for the photographer before going onstage to perform. Photo by Jane Kalinowsky.


Levitan watches and follows dance captain Wes Sellick demonstrate some steps before the reporter makes his debut. Photo by Jane Kalinowsky.


Plenty of guys in Las Vegas impersonate women onstage. Tonight, I'm impersonating a man.

Standing 5-foot-6 with abs of veal, I'm flanked on the Chippendales stage by Adonises with twice my muscle mass and nearly a foot more height. Their skin is immaculately bronzed; mine is as white as Michael Jackson's. I'm a rice cake among beefcake.


Oh, and I didn't shave my body, either. My chest, arms and legs resemble the floor of a busy Supercuts.

The song booming across the stage is drowned out by the one in my head. It's from "Sesame Street": "One of these things is not like the others./ One of these things just doesn't belong."

OK, fine. So I'm 5-foot-5 and a half.

"I said do it!" Nathan Minor screams. Two days earlier, the 210-pound Chippendale from Columbus, Ohio, and his equally buff co-dancer, Dallas transplant Sean Thomas, are attempting to transform me from punk to hunk in a couple of hours. They have whisked me into the Gold's Gym on Sahara Avenue and Decatur Boulevard -- through the emergency entrance.

I never thought I could bench my weight. I was right. I don't want to say I'm weak, but I require a spotter for push-ups.

"In one day, it's gonna be difficult to do much," says Minor, 30, the spiky-haired one on Chippendales' billboards, bus ads and calendars.

The gym is not a vanity accessory to a Chippendale. It's a requirement of management, which also stipulates a minimum height of 6 feet. (Six more inches and I'd still be too short.)

Minor and Thomas, 20, treat my body like The Who treated hotel rooms. I hear cackling behind me as two stacks of 40-pound cable-cross weights induce hernias in my chest.

"It was just something funny we were remembering," says Thomas, the nicer of the two.

My dance training begins later that afternoon, and is no less preposterous. As a hoofer, I make Elaine from Seinfeld look like Gregory Hines.

"Maybe you should just watch the guys on your left," says Chippendales dance captain Wes Sellick, 28, whose job it is to train new recruits. He deserves a promotion to dance admiral after this.

I'm willing to devote weeks of training to an adventure. For some reason, however, the Chippendales people didn't ask me to. So I didn't volunteer. I figured striptease was easy. You strip, you tease.

But a performance of "Chippendales: The Show" is as intricately choreographed as a Broadway musical.

"You're gonna wait for two-eighths of piano, then there's gonna be a light thing that happens, and you'll go duh-duh-duh," Sellick says in what may as well be Mandarin Chinese.

Most dancers take three weeks to learn their duh-duh-duhs; I have two days. There is so much new information to absorb, it forces random old information out of my brain. Momentarily, my Social Security number becomes "1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8."

"See, it's easy," Sellick says.

Chippendales was founded in 1975 by Indian immigrant Steve Banerjee, who noticed that American men were unfairly discriminated against in the field of being regarded as sex objects with no brain.

Wildly popular by the early '80s -- when its trademark white cuffs and bow tie were as recognizable as the Playboy bunny -- Chippendales closed its Los Angeles and New York clubs later that decade, after Banerjee was charged with the murder of his business partner, then committed suicide.

A touring shadow of its former self, Chippendales was purchased in the '90s by a man responsible for an even more heinous crime. (Louis Pearlman created the Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync.) He rooted the show at the Rio in 2002.

"We're getting there," Sellick says after my second day of taking the short bus to dance school. "I think you can do it. And you have two more days to learn it better."

Sellick is unaware that I'm making my debut the next night.

"Oh (expletive)," he says.

I'm backstage now, minutes before showtime. Some Chippendales seem to know why I'm here, some don't. One guy says hello then does a double-take. Most who know suspect I'm here to make fun of them. The shoulders they give me are as cold as they are broad.

"How you doing, boss?" one dancer says as he pushes past me without waiting for an answer. Another mists his hair while I stand behind him in the Aquanet debris field, clearly visible in his mirror.

"Tonight we have a reporter dancing with the crew, so please give him a hand," announces stage manager Ron Gaurnieri, who couldn't honor my request to go undercover because, he said, "we don't want people to think they're getting screwed out of their money."

"Take it off!" someone in the audience replies in a high shriek. "Wooh!"

Excuse me while I interrupt to settle a personal score with my middle-school bully ...

Hey, Charlie Greenvald! Remember me? Corey the loser? Well, women are yelling at me to disrobe. When's the last time that happened to you? Probably when your mom wanted to wash your dirty Underoos. Who's the loser now?

I sense my cue (a slap from the dude behind me after missing my cue) and bolt toward the stage. This is the opening number, "Release Me," in which we dance around in sweaters and leather pants for two minutes to a Chippendales-commissioned dance track.

The only thing faster than the moves is the speed with which the memory of how to execute them flies out of my head. I simulate about one of every three, my head permanently glued to my left to watch the next move I'm too late to correctly start.

Finally, a "zzzip" noise wafts from the P.A. That signifies the end of the routine, when we all move toward the front of the stage and undo our flies.

Years ago, when my mother imagined what the future might hold for her only son, I doubt that dropping trou for the entertainment of 350 shrieking women -- and a few probably gay men -- entered her thoughts.

But I'm less embarrassed than relieved, since the dancing part is over. Besides, we're not even naked underneath our G-strings. We're wearing "(expletive) socks" made of pantyhose nylon.

"Make sure you request a new one," Minor warned. So I did.

As a Chippendales dancer, Sellick says I fared "about the same" as Jeff Beacher, the Hard Rock Hotel comic who last year did a cameo for a TV pilot.

"He was good in rehearsals," Sellick says. "But when the lights came on, nothing."

My next and final routine is bumping and grinding with the crowd dressed as a fireman. It's free-style, no choreography to worry about.

I slink onstage to Nelly's "Hot in Herre," my lower lip in the embarrassing grip of white man's overbite, that genetically unavoidable facial tic that occurs whenever one of my kind approaches the boundary of his funkiness. My yellow vinyl pants ride nearly up to my nipples. (Wardrobe supervisor Rena Martinez refused to snip 7 inches off, as she did with my leathers.)

After I descend a staircase into the crowd, I discover who most of the cheering has been for: not me. If tipping strippers in a casino weren't against gaming rules, these ladies would demand change for their $1 bills.

One woman in her 60s recoils with confused horror as I tease her with the hot bod I worked out from 2-3:30 p.m. the day before to obtain.

I explain that I'm the reporter who was announced earlier. She has no idea what I'm talking about and motions me to leave.

Maybe she's shy, I tell myself, and doesn't like being teased by a hot Chippendale fireman.

This is not a good guess.

"Can you get your friend to come over here instead?" she asks me, pointing at Thomas.


Fear and Loafing appears in the Living section every Monday. Video from this adventure can be seen at www.reviewjournal.com/video/. If there's an adventure you can help make happen, e-mail Levitan at clevitan@reviewjournal.com. See Levitan's previous adventures at http://www.fearandloafing.com/.



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