Famed choreographer Glenn Douglas Packard, dubbed “a dancing entrepreneur” by The New York Times, has worked with many of the biggest names in the business, from Pink to Michael Jackson. A dozen years before the blockbuster Magic Mike ignited the public’s imagination, he’d reinvented the Chippendales for their 25 Anniversary. The mainstream success the movie inspired him to team up with Jeff Timmons, founding member of 98°, to reimagine the male revue with a younger, hipper edge, and to bring a television audience along for the ride.
I caught up with Packard in Las Vegas to discuss Men of the Strip, the E! docusoap that follows along as his titans of temptation tour the U.S. and prep for their first Las Vegas performance, all with high-stakes hopes of finding residency on the famed Vegas Strip.
Packard says the eight male finalists that made it on Men of the Strip were narrowed down from hundreds.
“We went to America’s sexiest cities – Miami, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas – and once I liked the way they moved, I narrowed it down to thirty guys in each city,” he explains. “After that, they went through an interview process with me, since I was looking for personalities and back stories. After that extensive questioning, I got my final eight.”
Each of the guys, ages 23 to 32, certainly does have their own distinctive backstory. “One of the guys is a former NFL player who had to leave the league as the result of an injury,” Packard says. “One only likes large women, and one is celibate. And then there’s the bromance! This pair of straight guys will be every gay guy’s ideal relationship. They’re soul mates.
“All the performers are straight alpha men, I’m the only gay one — the mother hen,” Packard says with a laugh. “Gay and straight men are welcome at the shows and everyone who attends will be shown a good time. These guys are totally comfortable with everyone.”
Reflecting on his experience with Chippendales, he thought how interesting it would be for a television audience to see such a production built from the ground up, but getting a network on board with the idea was challenging. “The topic is still taboo. We spent many months pitching to networks until finally E! agreed to take a chance on it.”
At this point Men of the Strip has consumed the past eighteen months of his life and several of those months were on the road. “Nine guys on one bus on a forty city tour. It was like a male version of Sex & the City. Fan reaction was immediate and intense,” said Packard. “Before any TV promos even began airing we already had Super Fans who’d follow us along from city to city!”
Once the show’s up and running in Vegas, he’ll begin work on his next endeavor, which will be a gay male revue called “Boots & Boys.” “Las Vegas is the second top gay tourist destination in the U.S. with about 30,000 LGBT travelers a day! There’s tremendous opportunity there.” All bets are that Packard and his men will have no problem muscling their way to the top the Vegas Strip.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY ABEL CRUZ