‘Not every man can be a Hunk of Desire’
The Hunks of Desire have been in the media after a court case arising from an alleged incident at an Ann Summers party. So what’s life like for Ireland’s male strippers?
Naked ambition: Dan Paul. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons
Tonight at Dublin’s Red Cow Inn, to celebrate International Women’s Day, over 200 women from Dublin’s Russian and Romanian communities will scream as hunky “navy officers” wiggle their shoulders and disrobe. If, as an aficionado of military drills, you find yourself thinking – “I don’t recognise these manoeuvres. What navy are they in?” – you’re probably in the wrong room.
In a hotel in Temple Bar, I meet Dan Paul, member and manager of the stripping troupe Hunks of Desire. The Hunks cropped up in recent media reports of a court case arising from an Ann Summers’ party they performed at in Dublin’s Loughlinstown Inn.
A handsome Romanian 30-something with slightly accented English and a tightly cut Mohawk, Paul has a background in dance, choreography and fitness instruction and has a day job exporting timber. He cofounded the Hunks, aka “Ireland’s Hottest Beef”, in 2002.
He’s here, a little incongruously, in the company of a retired Irish quantity surveyor with ash on his forehead. “I’m not a stripper!” the older man says. “We’re just meeting for dinner. I’m a friend of the family.” (Later, he tells me that Paul is “one of the kindest chaps I know”.)
Paul’s a little wary. “ The Irish Times doesn’t usually write about strippers and that sort of thing,” he observes.
I’m trying to change all that, I explain. So he tells me about his stripping career. It all began, he says, in 1998 when on a holiday in Portugal.
“I’d done dance at school and there was this opportunity to strip in a nightclub,” he says. “It was scary. You couldn’t even hear the music over the screaming. My adrenalin was pumping. But it was fun. It was nice to have a round of applause and be in the middle of the attention.”
Since he set up the Hunks, they have done everything from 12-man tours of Europe, in which they wrangled beds on stage for props, to two-man stripograms for hen parties in the bar across the street.
Sometimes he gets sent photos from men who want to become “hunks” but who, he says, “do not really look like strippers”. The look on his face suggests this is a significant understatement.
Other wannabe strippers are good-looking but freeze on stage. “Not everyone can do it. Some guys are just made for it. In the end you have to get naked. You’re not going to stay naked the whole night. It’s a flash, but part of the shows are full monty . You have to be okay with that.”