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L.A. at Large

Calling All Beefcake: It's Time to Party Like It's 2002

With no dancers to choose from for now, Chippendales invites potential hunks of the month to don bow ties--and little else--for a calendar audition.

October 16, 2000|SUSAN CARPENTER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Just come over to the corner and take off your clothes," said a casting agent at Culver City's Smashbox Studios. About 250 well-toned hunks were happy to oblige at Chippendales' first open call for calendar models.

"I feel sexy--like a porn star," Jeff Delfin said, after trading in his shirt so he could be photographed in the trademark Chippendales black bow tie, white collar and matching wrist cuffs. The 21-year-old actor from Anaheim looked as if he'd dropped some major cash on hairstyling products and logged serious hours at the gym.

"I work out all the time," he said, pecs bulging, hair gelled to perfection. "I've been wanting to show it off."

He wasn't the only one hoping to be included in the 2002 calendar. Chippendales, which once had clubs in Los Angeles and New York, is now an all-male dance revue. Its calendar, which debuted in 1981 and now sells about 100,000 copies a year, typically features the company's top dancers. But there weren't any to choose from this year.

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In March, a private investment group bought the male stripper shows and temporarily halted tours of the United States, Europe and Asia to update the shows' production. Early next year, Chippendales plans to resume the tours and open a nightclub in New York, its first since 1988, when the fire department shut down its last club in L.A. for repeatedly exceeding its occupancy limits.

Last week, Chippendales, which started in Los Angeles in 1979, launched Chippendales.com, a Web site where visitors will vote to determine which of the 24 men selected during Friday's audition will appear in the 2002 calendar.

It might be a difficult decision. The judges at the audition had a hard enough time narrowing the field of predominantly 20-something bronzed hard-bodies, most of whom were actors who will be paid if they make the final cut.

"We [were] looking for variety," said 44-year-old Michael Rapp, one of the original Chippendales dancers and calendar models who is now the company's personnel director. "There should be somebody for everybody," he said. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and there are a lot of beholders."

In 21 years, the Chippendales look has not changed. At the audition, 80% of the men had that look, according to Rapp, one of four judges, who included Michael Voorhees , the calendar's photographer; Jennifer Gareis, an actress formerly of "The Young and the Restless" soap opera and a recent judge of Hawaiian Tropic Beauty Pageant; and Natalie Stevenson, representative of Cedco, the calendar's publisher.

"Come over here, I need to undress you," Stevenson said to one candidate as he walked away from the judges' table. She had to remove his collar and cuffs. Later she said, "It's not bad for a day's work. I could be in my office."

Instead, she had the chance to ogle men like Jeremy Herider, 27. The blond and blue-eyed actor-model from Santa Clarita has appeared in Abercrombie & Fitch, CK and Structure advertisements.

"There's a lot of really good-looking guys here," said Herider, who made the final cut to 24 and was one of the surprisingly few blonds at the tryout.

Stephen Zimpel also stood out. Unshaved and wearing wire-rimmed glasses with a cell phone clipped to his belt, the 27-year-old actor didn't fit the beefcake Chippendales image. He had the face and was well-toned, but he lacked the bulging biceps and washboard stomachs of most of the other wannabe pinups.

"I'm not in the best shape I've been in, but whatever," said Zimpel, who lives in Hollywood. "I've walked around onstage in underwear, so it doesn't bother me."

Neither does Chippendales' reputation. Zimpel said he laughed when his agent first told him about the tryout, but like most of the men here, he's in it for the exposure.

As Los Angeles actor Marc Bossley, 34, said, "It's not like it's 1-800-Boy or something like that."

Whatever.

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