Ireland's Full Monties: 'It's not as simple as getting your kit off'
Anthony Brady struts his stuff (image modified to avoid identification of subject).
‘As soon as the weekend hits, I get the tan and the thong on and I’m out the door,” says 29-year-old stripper Anthony Brady. We’re sitting in the back of his van at a housing estate in a rural part of Co Carlow.
Brady changes out of his work clothes (he has a day job working with vending machines in the Dublin area), and into a fireman outfit. Inside the back of his van are fitted shelves like those you see in any tradesperson’s vehicle, except in his case the tools have been replaced with thongs.
Inside one of the rented holiday homes opposite, a hen party is awaiting his arrival, having booked him to be their scantily clad waiter and fireman for a night. I’ve tagged along to get an insight into a profession some men are considering as a way of earning extra income since the downturn.
Men at work
Brady is one of Ireland’s most experienced male strippers and in recent months, he says, there has been an increase in the number of men phoning him looking to get into the business. For some, the downturn has forced them to consider employment they might not ordinarily have chosen. Others have simply watched The Full Monty one too many times.
“People are asking us for jobs all the time especially since the recession kicked in,” says Brady, as he sprays on some aftershave and knocks on the door of the party house.
Brady is not the only one noticing an upsurge in Irish men eyeing up stripping as a way of earning additional income. John Lawless from Strip Ireland has been in the business since 1989, and he too has observed many more men looking to try their hand, and oiled torsos, at stripping.
“We’ve noticed loads of Facebook pages have been set up by guys claiming to be strippers,” he says. “People need to be careful though, as many are not in it for the money. They just want to meet girls on a Friday or Saturday night. Some of them will work for as little as €50 a night, and may be relatively inexperienced or have received little training.
“Anyone starting with us has to go through training. Just looking good isn’t enough. It’s not as simple as getting your kit off and everyone cheers and claps. You need to entertain.”
One of those new to the stripping game is 25-year-old former construction worker Andy Murphy. He moved to Ireland from the US soon after having a child with an Irish citizen, and found it very difficult to secure work in construction here. “I arrived in 2009 and had to go back to the US in 2010 to get some work,” he says. “I managed to save some money and return but there was still no work in Ireland. I was getting a day here and there, but nothing concrete, so I was spending a lot of time in the gym just to keep myself sane.”
In the gym one morning, a friend suggested Murphy try his hand at stripping, and, as Murphy’s finances deteriorated, he began to give the idea some serious thought.
As a youngster, he had taken part in talent shows in the US, and so performing in front of strangers wasn’t an unfamiliar experience for him. “My finances were so bad at the time that I didn’t have enough money to provide for my child,” he says. “I couldn’t even go out on a date once a month. So I did an online search of stripping in Ireland one night and came across stripireland.comand gave them a call.”
The first time, Murphy was nervous, and prepared in advance by watching other “acts” online. The cheering and clapping as he entered the party he was booked for helped ease his nerves though. “They were screaming and slapping and pinching me. It was unreal,” he says.
He now performs several times a month and the money helps him get by while he looks for something more permanent. “If I could get a job with decent money I may not do it long term,” he says. “I feel like I am exploiting my own body sometimes. It is a thought that lasts a second and then goes right back out of my head when I walk into a room and the women are shouting and there’s a great atmosphere.”
Generally a male stripper will cost between €150 to €220 to book, or more if the booking involves travel. Murphy has talked to his family in the US about his new part-time career and they are largely supportive, considering the limited opportunities in the construction industry in Ireland.
“My sisters were just laughing at me,” he says. “My mom wouldn’t want me doing it ideally, but you got to do what you got to do.”
Back in Carlow and dressed as a fireman, Anthony Brady has entered the hen house. I watch from the back of the group as women shout and scream at every gyration of his toned body. One woman keeps shouting “giddy up” as Brady’s fireman outfit is discarded piece by piece.
Once the striptease is over, Brady’s work is not yet done. Dressed as a topless waiter, he serves drinks and bows to the whims of the party for several hours. Some of the women throw rubbish on the floor and take great delight in handing him a brush and pan and asking him to tidy up, while he expertly avoiding what he calls “the thong grab”.
Brady might do two or three parties on a typical weekend night and his personality is his greatest asset.
Brady says his own parents have never seen his act, although his grandmother is supportive, even booking him for a party once. “She and a few of her friends, including my aunt, booked me for the craic. It was great fun,” he says.
Could any of the women present imagine their husbands or boyfriends getting involved in this line of work as a way of bringing in extra income? “The country would want to be in an awful state for someone to consider paying my fella to get his gear off,” says one.
The act causes one mother to reflect on how much her son loves Fireman Sam. “He’s only three years old, so who knows, maybe this could be a career path for him,” she says jokingly.
“If I learned my boyfriend was up to these kinds of antics with the lads and a female stripper, I’d think it quite sleazy,” says one. “I guess there is a hypocrisy in that. But who cares?”