Authors: Greg Raffetto
After the Geraldo Rivera Show, several of the L.A. Chippendales and I gathered downstairs at the Carlyle Hotel to decide where to eat out, and it was decided that we’d go to the PostHouse steakhouse. We called ahead, and made a reservation for seven under “Chippendales.” When we got there, we were seated immediately, like royalty, despite some of us being under-dressed. Despite having several cocktails, Bernie behaved himself, relatively speaking…as we were all something of a loud and boisterous group that night anyway. It was decided during dinner that we would go to the famous LimeLight nightclub that evening, but that place didn’t get going until around 10pm at least, and it was only 7pm, so we made up our collective Chippendales mind to get semi-tanked at a nearby jazzbar first, upon the recommendation of our waiter, Chas.
Upon exiting the PostHouse steakhouse, we were in for a rude awakening at that point, as we walked the block and a half to the jazz bar. Along the way, we encountered several New Yorkers at their finest. “Get outta the fuckin’ way” one fellow screamed at our group, undeterred at our
individual sizes or our numbers. Another several women were unimpressed by our flirtations, and responded with various retorts that all began with or contained the words “fuck you” and “asshole.” We were not used to such treatment. When we reached the jazz bar, there was a line, which Bernie immediately went to the head of and explained that WE were the famous Chippendales…blah blah blah…to which the big fat bouncer resoundingly blurted back from his barstool “Get in da back a da line like everybuddy else, muddafuckah!” Not knowing the local clubs or where else to go, we all slunk to the back of the line, which, though short, was not any less shameful for our retreat. When we were admitted, after a $10 cover each, the crowded club was no more forgiving on the inside. I personally got an “Outta da way, fuckhead” just while going down the main stairway into the bar.
After a couple of hours of enduring the rudeness of the jazz bar patrons, and waiting in line to pay six bucks each for watered-down drinks, and with hardly any actual jazz to be enjoyed, we all collectively decided it was time to embark to the LimeLight, where it was hoped that attitudes of New Yorkers would be better.
After a lengthy cab ride to the LimeLight, we were greeted by a line which we WERE able to circumvent with our celebrity. We got right in. The LimeLight is a huge old church which has been converted into a nightclub. It
was not quite yet in its heydey back in the early 1990s, and so its patrons were mostly normally dressed, rather than the more famous colorful “club kids” who wore outrageous costumes of feathers and makeup you so often have read about in conjunction with this famous nightclub. Still, the patrons were a colorful lot, many of them obviously gay, and so the group of L.A. Chippendales were welcomed at the nightclub, as some sort of novelty or something.
I remember when I went to the restroom, one obviously gay fellow said to me, “You’re one of those Chippendales, aren’t you?” To which I replied, “Yes.” And then, this guy asks me, “Now I’ve heard that a lot of you all are gay…is that true?” I had to respond truthfully, “No, that’s actually not true. There are only a couple of back up dancers that are gay.” “Oh…” the fellow replied, sounding disappointed, “..so YOU’RE not gay?” “Nope,” I laughed, “a person can’t help who they are,
happen to be
straight. But if
gay, and that’s what makes
happy in life, then you should be gay. Screw what other people say or think.” The fellow smiled and said, “Well that attitude is refreshing.” I went off feeling that I’d struck a blow to help gay/straight relations…and you know what? It
kind of refreshing.
Afterwards, I sat down at the bar, a few seats down from Bernie, and, getting pretty soused, I decided I’d either buy him a drink, or tell him off for being the big obnoxious prima donna that he is. Turns out I did both. First I challenged the big balloo on the fact that he acts like he’s better than everybody, then I bought him a kamikaze with cranberry. A couple of minutes later, he sent me one back. Classy, I thought. You couldn’t help but like the guy—obnoxious or not, he never pretended to be anything he wasn’t—you always knew what you were getting with Bernie Tavis, and I’ll take that any day of the week over the usual back-stabbing prima donnas that populated the rest of the Chippendales brigade.
So by the end of the night, I was good and blotto, and most of the rest of the other guys had gone back to the hotel. I realized, besides credit cards, I might be short of cash for a taxi, so I was in quite a quandary being God knows how many blocks from the hotel. Just as I was asking the bartender if I could get a cash advance on a credit card for a cab, the folks to my right, whom I had bought a drink earlier, said, “Hey, why don’t you come with us?” This nice guy and gal had a stretch limo waiting outside and they bonused me out with a lift right to the front door of the Hotel Carlyle. My faith in New Yorkers was restored!
The next morning, nursing quite a hangover, I packed my bag and went downstairs for breakfast, dining on steak and eggs benedict. Perfect hangover food. We embarked in the limousine to the airport. The flight home was uneventful.
I had told a number of friends when the Geraldo Rivera show would be airing, but as things turned out, I was at home, all alone, when it finally came on. I taped it…matter of fact, I also taped the flash blurbs that advertised the upcoming show later that day, and you know what? It was a good thing I did, because when the five-second “The Chippendales, on Geraldo at two” came on, you know who they showed? ME! Out of all the Chippendales they could have showed, they picked ME! I was flattered as all get out!
When the show came on, finally, I was amazed at how good I looked…and the camera didn’t even seem to add on that evil extra ten pounds, either. I thoroughly enjoyed watching myself and my Chippendales cohorts on TV—it was a real blast.
The next Sunday afternoon, I got an excited telephone call from my mother. Turns out she was now proud of me too, because the folks at church were not aghast at my performance on Geraldo, but rather, they thought it was “neat.” Sure, it would have been nice if she had been like my Dad, and
had been proud of me all along, but, heck, what are you gonna do? Church is important to my folks. I was just glad that I had not brought shame to the Raffetto name. My mom’s and dad’s kudos was really just a bonus.
So it was back on the road for me to do more promotions for the club, signing my calendar picture at local malls across America. This really beefed up calendar sales for Chippendales, and upped Chippendales’ profile in local towns nationwide, and most of all, the shopowners loved it, so it was good publicity all-around. I shouldn’t say this as though Chippendales picked up the tab for the junket—it was a courtesy offered for a fee to the store owners whom carried our calendars. They had to pay a $1500 fee for us to appear there for the day, but they usually got newspaper coverage, and sometimes television coverage as well for their store, including all the other types of merchandise which they carried. And of course, they profited from the sales on each calendar, for which most charged fifteen dollars apiece.
I remember the first time I did an out-of-town trip for such publicity; it was not a normal retail outlet publicity appearance, it was actually for a wholesalers convention in Frankfort, Illinois. We were there to attract wholesale business from a multitude of retailers whom we wanted to carry
our calendars, so this was apparently even more important than the usual appearances, and we therefore had a chaperone from the main office, Steve
, the guy whom I had initially interviewed with, if you recall, in order to get my job at Chippendales. The two guys selected were myself, and this other guy, Alan, who was just a host. Alan was from Australia, and he was the only other blonde, surfer-looking fellow, like myself. But this was Alan’s first time doing promotions, so I had to teach him the ropes. Alan had the looking-good part down pat, but not the talking and flirting part, especially not with customers whom were not already inebriated in our darkened home nightclub. Alan just was not all that adept at talking to people…he hadn’t much to say, and was not the least bit articulate, as I was. Suffice to say, Alan was kind of dumb.
This was to be a two-day, mid-week gig, so we arrived on a Wednesday night, early. We went to dinner, wherewith we had a number of cocktails, and then Steve
a invited me, but not Alan, up to his room to continue the cocktail hour. We had several rounds of kamikaze with cranberry (my favorite) brought up to the room, all on the Chippendales corporate card. Although we were having a great conversation and he is a really interesting guy, I kind of got the feeling that Steve was trying to pick
up on me, so, between that and the fact that I’d already had a lot to drink and had to be fresh for work in the morning, I decided to call it a night.
The next morning’s promotion, Thursday, started off kind of weird, partly because I’d never done a promotion that had began this early, and partly because some of the wholesale customers were asking me questions about the wholesale prices and shipping—questions I just couldn’t answer. I kept having to redirect them to Steve, who was waiting there behind us to negotiate and take orders. We were there for fluff—simply to attract attention and to take pictures, and to give the shopowners and buyers a taste of the extra promotional attractions we could create with our live presence. There were fewer people to meet and greet, more business being conducted…all in all a more serious atmosphere with much less of the usual throng of overly-excited women all clamoring for autographs that you’d see at a normal retail promotion.
At the end of the day, we went out to eat, and then we decided to go out to a nightclub called Earthquakes, which was packed for a Thursday night. I was getting lots of interest from women there, including a few phone numbers, but Alan wasn’t having much luck, and Steve, well…Steve I
was pretty sure at that time was gay [turns out that yes, he was and is still
, God bless him
]. Anyway, a
t around 11pm, Steve decided to call it a night for all of us, and so we returned to the hotel.
When we got back, I was half drunk and pretty horny, and so I made up my wild mind to take a taxi back to the nightclub and try my luck alone without my two sandbag sidekicks. I hit paydirt pretty quickly with a beauty named Betty, who was a schoolbus driver. Betty and I went back to her house, mixed up a batch of margaritas, put them in a pitcher, and proceeded to drink them for sustenance whilst we made love all night long. Come morning, Friday, we were both still half-drunk, and then Betty tells me that she has to go to work—driving her schoolbus! I had to go to work too, but I was going to take a taxi—she was going to drive schoolchildren around. Schoolchildren…half-drunk! I was a bad influence, I felt, but that couldn’t be helped. We said our goodbyes and I, running late already, took a taxi to the hotel. I called Steve
na, who was pissed, but forgave me, and after a quick shower, took a taxi to the convention center where the wholesale buyers convention was being held, nearly two hours late. I was still a bit drunk, and I tried to cover the smell with gum and cologne…I was woozy I tell you. Even so, I was much better with the people than Alan was. Still feeling guilty, I kept hoping and praying that Betty hadn’t crashed her bus full of schoolkids into a ditch. As the later hours brought on my hangover, I
have to say it was a rough day…but like a tough Chippendale, I powered through it.
One of my odder recollections about doing promotions was the time that I was “raffled off” as a prize at a promotional gig in Redding, California. I wasn’t the prize per se, but rather a dinner with me was the prize. It was the first time I had been raffled off, so I didn’t know what to think of it.
The day itself went quickly—I was busy most of the time with the usual calendar signing and flirting. I do recall these two children showing up with their mother, and when she introduced me to them, they burst out crying! What was this, then? The reason for their crying became obvious when one of the kids says, “Mommy, that’s not Chip and Dale!”
Turns out that these two p
oor children had apparently been looking forward to meeting those two beloved chipmunk characters from Disneyland…and here their mother had brought them to meet
half-naked man instead! Imagine their disappointment!
So anyway, there was much ballyhoo over the store’s raffle publicity stunt and tons of women showed up for the calendar signing and there were upwards of 400 women around at 5pm when the raffle took place—you had
to buy a calendar to get a ticket was the deal. The thing was, that, at the end of the day, the raffle ticket that was picked out was the shopowner’s best friend whom was also the lady who had set up the promotion! Now what do you suppose are the mathematical odds of that—what do you suppose were the odds that that lady even
a single calendar in the first place? What bullshit!
Like a good soldier, I didn’t say anything and I went along with it, and went out to dinner with the lady, but it sure didn’t seem fair to all the other women who bought calendars and EXTRA calendars for a shot at going out to dinner with me, not to mention all the hot women who I might liked to have had sex with after that dinner should they have had their fair shot at winning dinner with me. So really, it wasn’t fair to me either. But again, I still didn’t say anything, even though the whole thing seemed beyond odd and fishy to me.