Hunk-O-Mania runs a two-hour show in Midtown Manhattan Thursday through Saturday nights, catering to almost exclusively crowds of birthday and bachelorette parties. Like in Magic Mike, there’s a stage show with costumes and dancing — more of a cabaret act than what you’d see at a female strip club.
“It’s become an American tradition to celebrate bachelorette parties with the same level of importance as bachelor party,” said Armando, the owner of Hunk-O-Mania. “Most of our customers are not the type of customer that comes on a weekly basis. These women are celebrating a special milestone in their lives.”
Around 30 hunks work at the club, including waiters and bartenders. Some hunks only work the crowd, offering lapdances instead of performing in the dance numbers onstage. The stage show often involves bringing up a woman onstage in a “hot seat” — typically a birthday girl or bachelorette whose friends have paid for the privilege — and the dancers will grind on the ladies, to the delight of the crowd. There is no full frontal nudity.
The hunks did see similarities to Magic Mike, except for the drug use and partying that occurs. “I totally don’t agree with what goes on with the drug abuse and stuff like that, because I don’t see myself doing any of that,” said Jay, a dancer. “This company that we work for doesn’t just let things like that slide. You might have a few guys here and there that are new, and they want to come to this business and just explore and have fun and do whatever they want, but here that doesn’t apply. If you get a few strikes, then you’re out.”
Will the popularity of Channing Tatum and company wiggling onscreen make a difference for Hunk-O-Mania’s business? According to a hunk named David, “the movie will make this more acceptable to people who aren’t usually thinking outside the box.”
After I met some of the men of Hunk-O-Mania at a screening of Magic Mike, they invited me to see their show. I brought along photographer Jenny Hueston, whom they allowed backstage access to their dressing room to shoot. Here’s what we saw.
Constantine: “My signature look is the white, tall, dark and handsome male. I can’t say that I have the greatest moves, that’s just what I represent. White boys can’t dance.
In order for you to have longevity in this industry, you have to be on top of your game. The work is not here. The work is during the week — what do you do, what do you eat, how do you train. If you use too many substances, eventually it will catch on to you and you will alter your look.”
Jay: “The best part is having fun, making money, and you’re surrounded by women all the time.”
Moe: “Less is more. For everything. When you dance, less is more. When you talk to the women, less is more.”
Jean-Louis: “I started in Hungary in 1994, and I traveled all around Europe. That was a really good show – 12 guys, one and half hour nonstop routines. We went to Japan multiple times. Then in 2006, I moved here, I got a contract from Armando. They didn’t have a show like this, what we have now. So I brought the experience I to here – the multiple choreographed routine, the quick step routines or even the slow ones. Different types of routines for different ladies – that was my idea.”
Andreas: “It’s not much dancing. It’s more to do with your attitude, your sexiness, your confidence on stage, how you deal with people, how comfortable you are with the girls. Even if you’re not, trust me, you become comfortable with girls.”
Phil: “My favorite part is the attention you get. You get praise for just doing what you love doing. Everyone in here loves working out, and the ladies praise you for working out and having a great body.”
Stan (right): “My parents are really supportive, no matter what I do, they support me. And they’re really cool about the job. They see that I’m able to support myself. When I started here, I was living with my parents, then this job helped me to move out of my parents’ and live on my own. I was in school at the time, and I was able to pay my school bills, pay my own bills, pay rent, buy food – and since I eat 8 times a day to keep my body that isn’t cheap. So this job really helped me to go through all the stages of moving out.”
Pumping up before the show starts.
The show opens with a “salute to America” number with a policeman, fireman, Marine, and Army costumes.
A “Matrix” themed dance number.
At the end of the show, women can purchase a photo taken with the dancers. Several dancers told me this is their least favorite part of the night because it can take a long time just standing there.
A table of bachelorette party favors for sale.
All photos by Jenny Hueston.