A ticket to a male strip show, says Sylvia Tellez, the spokeswoman for Caranso Entertainment, which will present “Ladies Only” this Friday and Saturday for 1,400 at the Star Theater in Anaheim. The Mexican-produced extravaganza features 12 famous Latino actors and singers, including ex–Menudo members Rene and Johnny, stripping down à la The Full Monty.
Tellez is not just tooting her own horn. For at least half a decade, the male-stripper phenomenon has had a hold on U.S. Latinas. It’s even spread to Mexico, challenging stereotypes deep within the land that perfected machismo.
The popularity of the shows among immigrant Latino women is a sign of deep cultural rifts, says Los Angeles psychologist Ana Nogales. Some Mexican pundits see it as a signal that Mexican women are starting to rebel against their traditional submissive role. In any event, it’s a marker that Latinas are assimilating — with a vengeance.
This type of assimilation isn’t necessarily a good thing, says University of La Verne campus minister Maria-Elena Cardeña. She compares the promotion of male strip shows to campaigns to get women to smoke during the swinging ’60s.
“I would ask of these women, what spiritual void are you trying to fill with this?” Cardeña says.
Whatever their deeper meaning, Latina-geared male strip shows are not just selling out huge venues. Latino nightclub owners in L.A. discovered some years ago that a sure way to bring in a steady clientele was to hire a male stripper. As Mario Acevedo, owner of the Salon Coronas in North Hollywood, puts it, “A male stripper brings in women. In turn, they attract men.”
The beefcake shows have leaped from the stage into the living room, says Johnny Montenegro, owner of Latin Connections, a Los Angeles talent agency that specializes in home-delivered male strippers for Latinas. Whether it be for a bachelorette party, a baby shower or simply a weekend get-together before hitting the clubs (called “women’s night out”), there’s definitely a demand for male strippers, Montenegro adds. Some U.S.-born Latinas like to shock their traditional mothers by bringing home a blond, long-maned hunk for Mother’s Day, he says.
The home and club competition isn’t cutting into arena turnouts. When his cast of g-stringed, carved-ab telenovela stars gyrate onto the stage Saturday, Tellez expects a full house. Solo Para Mujeres sold out the Universal Amphitheater last February.
I WANT MY FUCKIN' MTV!
Actually, we don’t, but that’s not the point. In a fit of boredom the other night, we tuned in to an MTV episode of Scared Straight! ’99. If you’re not familiar with the “scared straight” phenomenon, it’s an anti-drug, anti-crime docudrama concept around since the ’80s in which minors with bad attitudes and budding criminal records are taken to visit a prison, where they are berated by the hardened convicts in order to “scare them straight.” Okay, fair enough (although a young friend of ours who spent some time in jail says that the whole thing doesn’t really work).
But the thing that caught OffBeat’s interest during the program was that none of the swear words (and there were a lot of ’em, friends) were bleeped out. To be fair, there were disclaimers warning about the language at the beginning of the show and after commercial breaks. However, in light of the fact that “sexually oriented” material, obscenities and the like are regularly hacked out of videos and interviews aired on MTV, it appeared to be a clear case of selective censorship.
MTV denies censorship of any kind. “Scared Straight was a very special program, and part of our ‘Fight for Your Rights’ campaign,” said an MTV spokesperson, referring to the channel’s anti-violence and anti-hate-crime public-affairs campaign. “We do not censor videos . . . we leave that creative process to the record labels. Broadcast networks are held to industry guidelines that are imposed by the Federal Communications Commission, whereas cable is not . . . those are totally voluntary, adopted by cable television. We provide feedback to the labels that is in line with our own standards and practices, and they make the necessary changes in order to provide consideration for airing on MTV.”
The whole concept of MTV purveying moral values is an oxymoron anyway, but let’s not go there. The simple fact is that anti-censorship is parroted by MTV officials when it’s in their own interest, i.e., under the self-serving guise of “youth education.” But when four-letter words are included in something artistic, i.e., that devil rock & roll, bring on the Hays Office.
“This ain’t your mama’s church,” cracked one observer, viewing the vivid décor inside the Crescent Heights United Methodist Church in West Hollywood last Sunday. The occasion was “God’s Gaity Among the Laity,” a holy union service for Jay Fritz and William Hayes (together eight years) staged as a protest against the Methodists’ ban on gay marriage. Under a rainbow-flag “chuppa” and a torn rainbow curtain (both created by the gay insignia’s original designer, Gilbert Baker), Fritz and Hayes performed the centuries-old slave marriage tradition of “jumping the broom” (with commentary by an African-American Buddhist in a dashiki) and the Jewish ritual of breaking the glass. A transgender Native American shaman read the invocation. Folk singer Ross Altman sang “The Night Judy Garland Died,” the strings of the Quartetto Venezia played Pachelbel’s Canon, and David Nash and Laurie Franks belted out a Broadwayesque “You’ll Never Walk Alone.” At ceremony’s end, Fritz and Hayes kissed to a roar from 100 congregants and friends.
Presiding over the marriage were lay minister Scott Imler, no stranger to hubbub in his roles as director of the Los Angeles Cannabis Resource Cooperative and co-author of the Proposition 215 medical-marijuana initiative, and his partner of 12 years, George Leddy. Imler held up the Methodist Book of Discipline (“It sounds more fun than it is,” he quipped) and read aloud the section, “Ceremonies that celebrate homosexual unions shall not be conducted by our ministers and shall not be conducted in our churches.” He then compounded his open defiance by performing communion (a no-no for lay preachers).
Meanwhile, Crescent Heights United’s official pastor, the Rev. John Griffin, was at the Methodists’ General Conference in Cleveland, poised to join mass arrests protesting the gay-wedding ban. Leading the demonstrations will be former Jerry Falwell adviser the Rev. Mel White, joined by Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, Yolanda, and Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Arun. While the Methodists have mustered the courage to condemn the U.S. military’s bombing of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, and confessed to the sin of racism against African-Americans, they’re not expected to locate the guts or vision to permit humans to pair off with the mate of their choice.
The Rev. Robert L. Kuyper, founder of the gay-unfriendly Transforming Congregations movement, who was on hand for the nuptials, said nothing would be gained. “I don’t think it’ll be any more effective than blessing the drink of an alcoholic in a bar. You’re still gonna get drunk from it.”
But the happy couple felt progress had been made. “To have stood onstage and had our relationship blessed in front of friends, family and strangers . . . what more could you ask for?” said Fritz.
“Except for a real wedding,” a smiling Hayes added.
City Council Member Jackie Goldberg’s call for an investigation into the length of time she was jailed in support of striking janitors has set off a furor. Goldberg protested that eight hours was too long to spend in the pokey for an act of civil disobedience, even if she sought the arrest herself. An L.A. Times editorial accused her of treating her incarceration as a “star turn”; Goldberg responded that she was trying to get to the bottom of an overly “punitive” police response.
Now, the flap got OffBeat curious about the jail time endured by other leaders in causes of freedom and justice. Herewith, a comparison chart:
Great Moments in the History of Civil Disobedience
Jackie Goldberg W.L.A./Twin Towers April 14 8 hours
Martin Luther King Jr. Birmingham, Ala., Jail 1963 11 days
Mohandas K. Gandhi South Africa/India 1906–1948 2,338 days
Nelson Mandela South Africa 1964–1990 27 years