(Lenny Gilmore / RedEye )
Everyone has had friends ask them about former jobs. The questions “Magic Mike” star Channing Tatum receives aren’t exactly, “So, did you like being a camp counselor?”
“‘Were you naked? Were you butt-naked? How many girls did you take home?’” Tatum recalls being asked about the eight months he spent as a male stripper when he was 18 and 19. “[Guys] just want to know [everything]. It’s something that I think they never really thought of.”
The actor, who adds that many women are similarly fascinated by uninhibited aspects of female stripping—“They might judge it,” he says, “but there’s an interesting thing that happens on Halloween where girls always are like the slutty version of a ketchup bottle”—says he didn’t have a plan when he took the job at a Florida club, only to “make as much money as I possibly could.”
In “Magic Mike,” opening Friday, male stripper/furniture designer Mike (Tatum) takes a new stripper (Alex Pettyfer) under his wing and gradually discovers what he may never achieve while holding his revealing, late-night job. The film is both the hooting-and-hollering entertainment that the trailers suggest and a funny, often-sad drama given weight and style by director Steven Soderbergh (“Traffic,” “Ocean’s Eleven”).
“Magic Mike” is not, however, based on Tatum’s actual experiences. Read on for true stories that the 32-year-old Alabama native (who’s already having a huge year with “The Vow” and “21 Jump Street”) shared at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel, including stripping while dressed as a clown and packing eight “meatheads” into a U-Haul to attend a stripping convention.
When you were involved in stripping, how much did you use costumes? Did you have any favorites or least favorites?
Yeah, my favorite was I did an Usher routine. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen the “My Way” music video where he has “A Clockwork Orange” thing with a bowler and a trench coat and he dances. That was probably my favorite. Least favorite was the owner made me do a clown routine one night. Literally to “99 Red Balloons” or whatever. Such a weird act. I was like, “This sucks, dude, let’s not do this.” And he was like, “No, no, it kills bro, trust me!”
You were wearing a red nose and floppy shoes?
Yeah. Literally. Like a clown outfit.
How do you take that off in a seductive way?
You can’t. It opened to crickets. There was no one cheering. Generally, you can’t screw it up. You can walk out on stage, fall down and break your leg and people will still cheer. That’s just what it is. It got NOTHING. I was just like, “Well, not doing that again.” [Laughs.]
I haven’t seen many people asking you about the story in “Magic Mike,” and when I tell my wife and colleagues I really liked the movie they laugh. How much do you think people are expecting just a two-hour strip show?
[Laughs.] Um, I think probably a lot. It’s really funny. Soderbergh and I, we had a really hard time trying to figure out, how do we do it? Because every single dance ends the same way: You dance a little bit, you dance for a girl a little bit, you take your clothes off and you get naked. It all ends the exact same way. So once you see it once, what are you going to do? See it exactly again? It just gets redundant. So you can’t show it all. You can’t show the whole dance. And once you’ve seen it once, how do you keep making it interesting? It’s not probably what people are thinking. Even though there is obviously stripping in the movie.
You’ve said that stripping for guys is almost inherently comic. Why is it funny for guys to do that?
Because there’s no other way to do it other than the cheesy way. Because when a guy tries to be sexy it’s so corny that it’s ridiculous. Women don’t even really go for the sexual turn-on. That’s not why they go.
There’s no “Red Light Special” scene in this.
Yeah. It’s more, they go to laugh and to enjoy themselves. They go for really the entertainment. And the entertainment is not so much even on stage but it’s their best friend next to them when their face gets red when a guy gets on top of her. The embarrassment of that is the entertainment. And that’s why it’s just innately different. Men go for a completely different reason. We go for a visual, carnal thing, and I don’t think women do that.