Consider the life of Billy Jeffrey, Chippendale.
Wild yet disciplined. Exhibitionistic and entertaining. Fast-moving and filled with applause. Plagued by public stereotypes that he must shrug off with good cheer.
And coming to a city near you.
Jeffrey, an Idaho native, has been a member of the Chippendales male revue for about 12 years. He tours with globe with the troupe’s productions, dancing with energy and precision, connecting with excited fans — and yes, ripping off his stage costumes for peek-a-boo fun.
During a Tuesday phone interview, this muscular guy describes the Chippendales organization as “the mecca of male entertainment.” But Jeffrey also says the show — coming to Birmingham tonight as part of its “Get Lucky Tour” via Live Nation — is rated PG-13.
Don’t be too disappointed, ladies, if you’re planning to attend the 8 p.m. performance on the main stage at Iron City. The Chippendales still bare their bods to a certain extent, tease the audience with risqué routines and make some folks blush.
But as Jeffrey points out, old-school ideas of the Chippendales as hardcore strippers are passé. It’s not “guys in G-strings on chairs, shaking your junk in a girl’s face,” he says.
Such stereotypes certainly could be applied to the Chippendales in the 1980s and ’90s — the organization has a checkered past, which Jeffrey firmly acknowledges — but the troupe cleaned up its act in 2000 and has evolved into a highly professional, tightly run company.
Fans can no longer tuck tips into the dancers’ skimpy outfits, for example, and gritty reality has been replaced by polished fantasy. The Chippendales have a long-running show in Las Vegas at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, in a custom-built theater next to Penn & Teller. (Ian Ziering of “Sharknado” and “Beverly Hills, 90210” fame has been a popular guest star.)
“I think people are infatuated with ‘he’s a stripper,'” Jeffrey says of Chippendales stereotypes. “I made that same mistake. When the Chippendales called me, I said, ‘Thank you, but no thank you.’ … They called me again and flew me to Las Vegas, and as soon as I saw the show, all the preconceived notions went out the window.”
Talk to Jeffrey for a while on the phone — he’s generous with his time as the Chippendales travel on a tricked-out tour bus — and the overall impression he conveys is of a troupe that walks the fine line between “Gee, that’s outrageous!” and “Hey, that’s safe!”
A Chippendales show is designed to be titillating but not intimidating, or, as the promotional materials trumpet, “the Ultimate Girls’ Night Out.” With that in mind, what would Jeffrey say to a potential customer who might be afraid to attend the performance here?
“I’d say, I was scared, too.’ I was the guy who had cliches in his head. ‘I was there, girl,’ that’s what I would say,” Jeffrey says. “But I’d also say that life is short. You can take a chance, and guess what? You’re not strapped in your seat. If you want to leave at any point, you can. … I’m not mad at anyone who feels that way. I almost want to work harder to make that person have an amazing evening.”
Here are some other things we learned from Jeffrey, who sounded articulate, enthusiastic and not at all defensive as we quizzed him about performing with the Chippendales.
Daily regimen: The Chippendales are late risers on tour, due to their attendance at after-parties that can last until 4 a.m. When those wee-hour festivities conclude, the men head to their hotel for sleep, showers and breakfast. There’s a bus call at 9 a.m. and a three- to four-hour ride to the next city. The Chips’ two-level sleeper bus has bunks upstairs — offering another opportunity to catch a few Zzzs — and a lounge downstairs, plus a refrigerator and a kitchen.
After the Chippendales check in to the next hotel, they spend part of the afternoon working out at local gym. (This sometimes turns into a full-on fan experience, as word spreads and admirers gather.) The troupe meets for another bus call at 5 p.m. After a short cruise to the concert venue, there’s a staff meeting with show notes, preparing for the performance ahead.
Dinner’s at 6 p.m., followed by a meet-and-greet at 7:15 p.m. with contest winners, fans and friends. The show starts around 8 p.m. and lasts for about 75-80 minutes. After the performance, the guys mix-and-mingle with ticket holders. (Selfies with fans? A must.) They hit the showers again, change clothes and make their way to the after-party. Some guys will explore a city on their own, Jeffrey says, but most will be present and partying at the official post-show event.