Chippendale's Review : A Fantasy Island In The Flesh, For Women Only

January 15, 1986|KRISTINE McKENNA

The men of Chippendale's are so busting with high-spirited lust, they pert near snort and stamp the ground like wild stallions. Italian stallions, to be specific. Yes, though it's been nearly a decade since those sizzling palookas Travolta and Stallone muscled their way into the American libido, their brawny blueprint for sex appeal continues to thrive.

Among America's first burlesque halls for women, Chippendale's is one of many cottage industries spawned by Travolta and Stallone, and the bedside philosophy employed in this famous Westside club is clearly outlined in such movies as "Saturday Night Fever," "Rocky" and "Stayin' Alive": Work out religiously, cut the sleeves off your shirts, and broads will beat a path to your door!

A cross between an X-rated Disneyland ride, a Vegas revue and a slumber party, Chippendale's is basically a Playboy Club for women--with a few marked differences. You're not likely to hear the word airhead here for starters, nor is it forbidden to handle the merchandise, as it is in Hefnerland. Hugging, patting and pinching are encouraged at Chippendale's, and much raucous whooping and hollering goes on. The atmosphere is more barnyard than boudoir.

Originally a disco called Destiny II, Chippendale's was bought by impresario Steve Banerjee in 1975, and it was Banerjee who conceived the club's "Male Exotic Dance Night for Ladies Only." The program was launched in 1979 and has been doing landmark business ever since. Banerjee, who also claims to be one of the pioneers of female mud wrestling (big of him to admit it), decided this year that it was time to add a new dimension to Chippendale's basic strip show--hence, the new "Welcome to My Fantasy" revue. Produced, directed and choreographed by Steve Merritt, the show, which can be experienced for an admission charge of $12, revolves around a woman's fantasy weekend of sex.

The new show does not, however, tamper with Chippendale's central and most popular ritual, which unfolds thus: A strapping specimen of young manhood takes center stage and strips while lip-syncing a hard-rock song. The disrobing takes place in a slow, studied manner. Pants are removed as if the Mona Lisa were being unveiled.

Peeled down to the merest whisper of a G-string, the hunk proceeds to bump and grind the attendant damsels into such a frenzied state of distress that they begin waving money at him.

The hunk takes pity and rewards the ladies with a kiss as he grabs the proffered tips--and we're not talking a friendly peck on the cheek here. Scampering from one eager pair of lips to the next like a monkey pumped full of hormones, the hunk is all over the ladies like a wet raincoat. These hunks are some manhood to be reckoned with, too.

Looking like the results of an experiment in genetic engineering conducted in the gymnasium of a movie studio, they have uniformly magnificent physiques, jutting jaws worthy of Clutch Cargo, blow-dry haircuts, are deeply tanned and thoroughly oiled and ooze self-confidence. Thrusting their pelvises at the audience as though they were smoking pistols, they go through their paces with amused enthusiasm and more than earn their paychecks. Prime hunk age appears to be around 28, and one assumes that these young men, all of whom resemble models or lifeguards, are pursuing careers in the movies (isn't everyone?).

The Chippendale's uniform--a variation on the Bunny costume--consists of tuxedo collar and tie, bun-hugging spandex pants and enough cologne to wipe out a small Third World village. The hunks are heavily perfumed and all seem to smell the same--the club must have a regulation scent.

Chippendale's is a popular spot for groups celebrating engagements, promotions and divorces, and the audience it attracts is a fascinating mix. Women from 18 to 80 turn out, many of them young foxes dressed to the nines and obviously intending to take a hunk home.

The look these vamps strive for is wealthy tease a la Joan Collins. For every Dynasty-style femme fatale, you'll find two nervous-looking women who seem vaguely appalled at finding themselves there. A large faction of the audience looks distinctly conservative, and Nancy Reagan in one of her goody-two-shoes Galanos suits would not look out of place here.

Chippendale's claims to have polled more than 600 women to discover popular sexual fantasies, but the results arrived at are not particularly imaginative or well developed. The show's storyline falls apart midway through the evening, but then if the club's patrons wanted great drama, they'd have gone to the Mark Taper Forum.

The show explores five specific fantasies, which are interspersed with dance routines by a quartet that doesn't strip but does pepper its routines with suggestive innuendo. The choreography is perfunctory--nothing here you haven't seen your basic TV variety-show dance troupe do. With song titles like "Where Have All the Good Men Gone" and "I'm More Than a Photograph," the music is hard rock verging on heavy metal.

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