California Bad Boyz: Male burlesque dancers invade Shanty Shack

There are only so many questions appropriate for an interview that centers on somebody’s sexy biker alter ego.

So while speaking with one of the California Bad Boyz, I opt for an obvious inquiry:

What separates these burlesque dancers from every other guy gyrating for $1?

“We’ve got a lot of real men in the show,” says 35-year-old AJ Steel, an MC and performer for the California Bad Boyz.

Initially, I don’t understand the “real men” distinction. I ask AJ to elaborate.

“You’ve got to know what the ladies want,” he says. “It’s all about respect. You don’t go around humping the girls.”

He’s the second male burlesque performer I’ve interviewed.

I don’t usually mention these assignments to my parents, but AJ’s no-humping policy makes our phone conversation feel surprisingly professional.

He’s spent about 10 years with the California Bad Boyz, a group that will perform at the Shanty Shack tonight. What should guests expect?

“We cater to women. That’s our job,” AJ promises.

Catering to women is best set to choreography, apparently.

The California Bad Boyz show includes your typical sexy cop and biker routines, but also features numbers centered around movies like “The Matrix.”

AJ is especially proud of the choreography that goes into his work, an element sometimes overlooked amid cries of “take it off.”

There’s also a tendency to underestimate the athleticism the job requires.

“We train every day on the road,” AJ says. “My life is dieting and my life is working out.”

Ah, the touring life.

AJ tells me that in some cases, male dancers will form connections with audience members. As in, connections more permanent than a $1 bill exchange.

“There is love on the road,” he says.

I take a deep breath before asking AJ a question with potential to damage our smooth rapport.

How do you deal with people questioning your sexuality?

“There’s haters all over the world,” says AJ, who is “happily single” and vows all the men in his California Bad Boyz group are straight.

The answer comes easily, maybe because of the question’s frequency or maybe because he simply has better things to discuss.

After all, in the same conversation, AJ offers mantra-worthy lines that aren’t confined to a burlesque existence.

“Being happy is the key to life,” he promises.

I write the philosophical wisdom beside humping advisories.

And while staring at my notes, I realize few conversations are more indicative of a real man.

Sonya Sorich, reporter, can be reached at ssorich@ledger-enquirer.com or 706-571-8516.

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