Columbus, Ohio
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Workin' hard for their money
February 2005
by Anna Jones

Photo Doug Fordyce
In 1997’s hit movie, The Full Monty, six unemployed English steelworkers take it all off to make a few bucks. After weeks spent preparing for “The Big Show,” perfecting choreography and tailoring costumes, these average men deliver a seductive striptease so fun it makes the cheesy, overblown Chippendales act soft by comparison.

After all, everyday men stripping on a stage while dancing to music isn’t the first thing most people probably conjure up when the lights go out. It can’t be taken too seriously or it loses some of its appeal. At 8:30 one recent Wednesday night, I ventured into The Full Monty in the Short North to see if our hometown boys would be more Chippendale – or Chip and Dale.

After forking over my fifteen bucks to get inside, I entered and took a moment to let my eyes adjust. The only lights illuminating the interior were a disco ball perched high above the floor and blue Christmas lights adorning the 12 x 12 stage in the center of the room. I found a corner table and settled in, waiting for the action to begin. Assistant manager Jeno Johnson warned me that I shouldn’t be too critical of the guys – the heating system wasn’t quite up to gear yet, since the place had just opened for the night.

As the dancers began to congregate, I peered into the back of the room. Video games sat against the walls, and to the left of the stage were white swinging doors marked “Private Entrance.” One of the performers later told me that that’s where the lap dances were given. The place had the feel of someone’s basement. White plastic chairs were neatly lined up around the stage, and as the first dancer, “Rabbit,” took the stage, a mid-40s balding man in sweatshirt and jeans moved up to a front-row seat.

Tom Petty’s “You Don’t Know How it Feels” started to play and Rabbit, looking all of 19 but later claiming to be 25, began to move to the music. First his sweatshirt came off, then the white tank top beneath, revealing a pale, chiseled body complete with a tattoo on the left side of his chest.

Rabbit grabbed the pole in the center of the stage and flipped upside down and around. I considered applauding his acrobatic maneuvering. When he landed back on the stage, he shuffled his tennis shoes off into the corner, then dropped his jeans. Wearing only long, loose, black boxers, he moved to the edge of the stage, teasing the balding man now ready with dollar bills in hand. He let a few club moves fly before dropping the boxers and leaping back onto the pole.

I tried not to gawk, tried to play it off: no big deal; half the world has one – but he’s so, well, nekkid. I want to give him a dollar bill, but where would I put it?

I asked Rabbit this when he came back into the room, clothed, for the meet-n-greet portion of the evening during a lapse between dancers. He shrugged and said most people put the money into his boxers, or on the stage. He grinned at my obvious discomfort and stood way too close. Then he picked up my hand and put it on his chest, over his tattoo.

I smiled politely and snatched my hand back, trying to remain professionally aloof and in control. When he realized I wasn’t getting out any money, he moved on to the men sitting a few seats from me. Rabbit stood in front of one and let him slip a dollar bill into his jeans. I surmised that the men were regulars because they talked with the dancer as though they’d known him for a long time.

A tall, black-haired guy soon took Rabbit’s place, plopping down beside me and introducing himself as Dante. He said he was 19 (but he looked 25) and had been dancing at The Full Monty for about a year. He was so engaging and personable, I couldn’t focus as much as I wanted to on the silver piercing running through his chin.

He informed me that 50% of the customers are men, often in their late 40s, who are looking for “companionship” as much as anything else. His candor was refreshing and I found myself intuitively trusting what he said. Before I could ask him about lap dance prices, he headed toward the stage as the DJ announced him.

Hip hop music started playing and Dante danced as though he were on the dance floor in a night club. He wasn’t self-conscious, and frequently scooted to the edge of the stage to collect a dollar bill or two. He was the biggest and most buff of all the dancers, and when he jumped onto the pole, it rattled in its socket so much I feared it would come out of the ceiling. When the balding man in his 40s stood up to slip him a dollar, Dante knelt down and with his hands on the man’s shoulders to steady himself, let the man slip the bill into his black boxers.

I impulsively seized a clump of bills in my purse but before I collected my nerve, he was naked and there was nowhere to put them. Then I wondered if it was an etiquette faux pas to tip one stripper and not the others. Or should I be fair and give each one the same amount? I decided to err on the safe side, slid my dollar bills back into my purse, and continued my reporterly note taking.

After watching a few more sinewy strippers take to the stage, I cornered Jeno, the assistant manager, and asked him if all the dancers are as young as the ones I’ve seen.

“Oh, no,” Jeno replied. “The oldest dancer we’ve got is 36. He’s just not here tonight. They work on a rotation because we’re open seven days a week, 8 p.m. to
4 a.m.”

And what about costumes? I asked. I’d heard that the guys dress up like baseball players, cowboys, etc.

“Oh, yeah,” he assured me. “They do. You just have to call ahead and request what you want, and they usually only do it on the weekends. Friday and Saturday nights are our busiest nights of the week.”

I waved goodnight to Jeno and the guys, and slipped out into the cold air, avoiding eye contact with the cabbie waiting in front of the building. “Columbus’ Full Monty,” emblazoned in purple neon letters over the doorstep, is a little Chippendale with a whole lot of Chip and Dale (or “Bam” and “Rabbit,” in this case) thrown in.

The Full Monty is located at 870 N. High Street in the Short North neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio.
They can be reached at 614-291-3127.

© 2005 Short North Gazette, Columbus, Ohio. All rights reserved.