Authors: Greg Raffetto
Chippendales employees often got sidework doing daytime promotional gigs for various large and small venues, sometimes local, sometimes not. One local gig a bunch of us did one time was the Bridal Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Six of
“The World Famous Chippendales”
were featured at, of all things, the Slim Fast
booth…you know, the diet beverage that’s supposed to help you lose weight, right? Well the Slim Fast
booth offered complimentary fresh, chilled and whipped Slim Fast
from inside one of those Orange Julius
machines. We all thought this new product Slim Fast
tasted pretty good…like a milkshake really, so we started drinking it, sample cup by sample cup. Now this was in the days when Slim Fast
had first come out and I guess they hadn’t perfected the formula just yet, because what we found out about 45 minutes later was…ooooohhh!!! Suddenly, all six of us just about crapped in our spandex pants! At the same time, we all got the farts, we got the runs, and
we spent the next two hours literally running back and forth to the bathroom, trading off, taking turns making a beeline to that men’s room.
Now as luck would have it, the gastric wars had subsided within a few hours, just as we were being called on stage to make some sort of an impromptu appearance. We each introduced ourselves. As I made my introduction, I said, “Hello ladies, my name’s Greg Raffetto, and my mother has no idea that I’m a Chippendale!” I got a pretty good laugh with that one. Frankly, between you and me, that wasn’t even the half of it. I had been working as a Chippendale for over a year now, and my face was in the calendar now, but I still hadn’t told my parents that I was working for the famous strip club. I was worried as hell as to what they would say, and what the folks at our church would say, since I had grown up in the same local Lutheran Church in Huntington Beach. I was terrified, really. Christmas season calendar sales were beginning to increase, so they were bound to find out soon. But not just yet, I wouldn’t tell them. I was just too plain scared.
Another sidework promotion I did was with a good friend by the name of Jeff Buck
well, at the Viscount Hotel down by LAX airport. It was a huge reception for the local Travel Agents’ Association, attended by not just travel agents, but also a large contingent of locally-stationed flight attendants as well. The décor was Roman-themed, and Jeff and I were to simply stand at either side of the doorway, acting as live, oiled-up statues of David or something.
When Jeff and I arrived, we were instructed to go upstairs to the suite that had been rented supposedly just for us for changing and breaks. We did, and it was quite a nice suite. We quickly changed, left our jackets and our gym bags by the door, and went downstairs to do our job. Now the act called for us to remain mostly still and statue-like, but that just didn’t happen…there were way too many women (and a few men) that wanted to take pictures with us. We were happy to oblige, as we were used to the flirting and mugging for photos that went along with these things. Throughout the promotion, we kept smelling the delicious aroma of the banquet that was set out in the ballroom for the guests. We were both
hungry, as we usually would be for most of these gigs…you just don’t eat until you’re done, because you want to look as lean as possible.
Finally, when it was all over, we snagged a boatload of finger foods and headed upstairs to pig out. The man who had hired us, a short, stocky gentleman in his late fifties, kept telling us downstairs that he would be up there shortly, as he had a bag up there as well, a fact of which we thought little of at the time. As we entered the suite, however, we noticed one thing was different—the bed, a big king-sized one, was now covered in papers or magazines of some sort. Jeff and I approached the bed and investigated closer, only to discover that the guy who had hired us had literally plastered that bed with magazines of a pornographic nature—all of them gay. I mean, this was a veritable cornucopia of gay porn, here…an orgy of gay porn, if you will. It was obvious that this man was hoping to set the stage to have sex with us! Ugh! I mean, if either of us was gay, (and we weren’t,) we wouldn’t be going after
guy, much less gang-banging him!
[God bless gay people though…you’ve still got to be flattered on some level that they are attracted to you regardless of whether or not you yourself are gay. I mean, take your compliments where ye may, I say!]
That being said,
I don’t think either Jeff or I has ever changed and fled the scene any quicker than
we did in
. I didn’t
even take off my
I just threw my jeans on over them. No shower to get the baby oil off, no pigging out on pigs in a blanket and mini spring rolls, we just left all that stuff there and ran out of there like the place was on fire. Jeff and I picked up some burgers on the way home, and by that time, we were laughing our heads off over the incident.
Finally, there came a time when soon I could no longer avoid the issue—at long last, I would HAVE to tell my parents that I worked for the world-famous Chippendales. This was because all of the Chippendales calendar men were soon to be flown to New York City to appear on the Geraldo Rivera show. Each would be featured in their own short piece, showing their likes, dislikes, turn-ons, turn-offs, etc., in addition to several dance numbers. There would be no getting out of it now. Everyone watched “Geraldo” back then, most importantly, to me anyway, the people in my family’s church’s rather sizeable congregation back in Huntington Beach, California. I really hoped that it would bring no shame to my parents, who were considered rather highly in the congregation and were big donors to and participants in the church.
I formulated a plan whereby I didn’t tell them face-to-face. I just left a copy of my calendar photo on my folks’ kitchen table and wrote the following note, in silver marker, off to the side of my picture,
“Dear Mom and Dad, I know you don’t understand everything that I do, but I hope you’ll
be proud of me one day—I just couldn’t pass up this opportunity. Love, your son, Greg”
When I talked to my mom later that evening, she was, understandably, shocked. I was correct in my apprehension about the people as to the opinions of the people at church—she was worried as well. When she queried whether they would find out at all, I had to tell her about my upcoming gig on the “Geraldo Rivera” show. “Ooohh….” Came her trailed off reply…I couldn’t tell whether she was sad, or just bewildered. At that, she decided to put my father on the line. There was some whispering, and then my dad got on the line, but with a different take on the matter. “Greg,” he said, with conviction, “I don’t care what the people at church think, I’m proud of you.” I was dumbfounded for a moment, then overtaken with emotion, all I could spit out was, “Thanks, Dad!”
I wish that I could insert that calendar photo for you here, but I do not own the rights to that picture, sadly. Chippendales does.
So the time had come for those of us West Coast Chippendales who were in the calendar to fly to New York City to do the Geraldo Rivera Show. The flight from LAX to JFK airport was not uneventful in and of itself. Bernie Tavis was being his usual obnoxious but funny self. You have to understand, Bernie goes about 6’3” and is built like a professional wrestler—he looks a lot like pro wrestler Bret Hart, long, flowing dark hair, and he dressed like a stripper as well. You’d never guess he was a classically-trained concert violinist. Bernie was in true form that morning of the flight, just making strange outbursts and noises to get a rise out of people, knowing full well that he was just too imposing of a figure for people to dare react at all to. He continued to blurt out strange animal noises on the plane, even moreso after a few beers, just to see if anyone dared say anything. They didn’t. The other group of usual suspects on the plane were some of the other calendar guys, Gary, Tom, Steve, Paul, Joel and Carl. Gary was a well-mannered guy who did the perennial standard “Officer And A Gentleman” act. Gary had a great physique as he had cornered the market on Anavar (a great, but difficult to obtain steroid) some years back. Paul
and Joel were twins, they did some legit modeling work. Tom did an act called “Chair” where he worked closely with a chair as a prop, and Carl was a private model whom hardly worked at the nightclub at all.
When we arrived at John F. Kennedy airport, we were taken by limousine to the prestigious Carlyle hotel, where we were each assigned our own room. After unpacking, we all headed down to the main dining room for a sumptuous steak dinner. We were prohibited from going out to enjoy New York’s rich nightlife the night before the Geraldo shoot, so we all hit the hay early. The nightclubs would have to wait one more night for the famous Chippendales.
After a light breakfast the next morning, we were all taken by limousine to “Club Magique” which is what the New York City Chippendales was and still is called, for this is where the Geraldo show was to be shot. The day was to start early, because we were all to learn new routines to be performed that very day of filming.
When we arrived, I was first stricken by how much cleaner and nicer the New York City club was than was ours. There were throngs of “background” Chippendales milling about—the hosts and waiters of Club Magique who were not themselves lucky enough to be in the calendar or the show. It was a closed shoot, but there were even some family members of
those same hosts there, with calendars for us to sign—one guy’s mom even made me give her a kiss on the cheek, which she then turned suddenly into a big sloppy kiss
on the lips
, in front of her son AND
Another thing I noticed was that there seemed to be a greater prevalence of steroid use among the New York Club Chippendales, with all the signs like uncannily bulging muscles with telltale stretch marks and stray hairs coming out of nowhere (like Jeff Goldblum in “The Fly”) on their backs. The New York Club Chippendales were also, sad to say, not, on average, as naturally good-looking as the Los Angeles Club Chippendales. I guess California people really are better looking.
The dance choreographer got us that would be in the show started pretty quickly. The main act was called “Black Cat” to the tune of the Janet Jackson song…it was sort of a “West Side Story” jeans and t-shirts motif where there was a front half of an old Chevy with headlights on, and a tall, cyclone fence that it was my job to scale up and leap over. Even at age 21, my knees hurt after leaping up over that 10-foot wall some twenty or so practice times before shooting.
Just before the filming was to begin, Geraldo Rivera came down to give us all a pep talk of sorts, and tell us all what a great episode he thought this was going to be. The opinion floating around was that most of the guys
tended to think that he was kind of standoffish, but I didn’t think so. One of the guys remarked that Geraldo’s real name was “Jerry Rivers,” as though that was some sort of a dig. Like it mattered!?! Geraldo used to work as an attorney-at-law in a white man’s world…of COURSE he used to use the white equivalent of his Hispanic name. I still like Geraldo to this day, but perhaps that’s because I went to law school myself, and I am currently studying for the bar exam…I don’t know, but I’ve got a lot of respect for the man’s body of work.
Anyway, when the filming began, with the lights and fake smoke, everything got really surreal. Thank God I hit all my cues and I didn’t slip on that damned fence. It all went off without a hitch and for once I actually remembered all my steps and eight counts…maybe because there weren’t too many of them and the steps were not too complicated, since we only had half a day to memorize them. If you recall, I sucked at remembering choreography, so this was a major triumph for me.
Once we finished with the main routine, we started the individual filming of the guys featured in the calendar. They had me dress in approximately the same thing I wore in my calendar photo—white shorts and a Hawaiian floral print shirt. My likes were brainy gals and pizza
(because my last name was Italian); my dislike was final exams (because I was a college student, headed for law school).
Finally, the shoot was a “wrap” and everybody swarmed us L.A. Chippendales for a bevy of “attaboys”, more calendar signings, and posing for more pictures. When all of that came to an end, we all left in limos for the Carlyle Hotel again, this time for a night out on the town in the big apple.