Even in a suit and tie, Joe Manganiello has magnetism. The actor, best known for True Blood, has ventured into directing with LaBare, his debut feature as a documentarian. I got to sit down with Manganiello following a recent screening of the film (also reviewed this week), to talk about how he got the idea for making a film about Dallas’ all-male strip club, and whether these folks are exploited … or the exploiters.
Dallas Voice: I used to live near LaBare when it was on Greenville Avenue, but I had no idea it had this wider reputation.… Joe Manganiello: LaBare is the mecca of male entertainment. I had never set foot in a male strip club until day one of filming LaBare, which led to me spending my birthday and New Year’s there — I never saw it coming!
The big reason why we chose Dallas over shooting instead in Vegas or L.A. was, I wanted real men, dudes, cowboys, or the idea of a cowboy. [Women] pay to be seduced by a cowboy. Guys are the yang — the aggressive. So many women in L.A. complain, “Where are the real men?”
How did this come about then? I had an old friend who, when I got the script for Magic Mike, was the one I called and talked to about it. He changed my perception of the industry completely going into Magic Mike. Now, coming out of it, you saw the popularity of it, and there were so many conversations about it — post-feminist sex relations and how much we have fought as a society to have men and women equal in the workplace. What I thought was so fun about this conversation [was] about female sexuality.
So you weren’t working on both at the same time? We finished Magic Mike a year before we started filming [LaBare].
In the movie, people talk openly about how much harder it is to be a male stripper than a female one. These guys have to train like professional athletes, they have to work with choreographers on their routines, they have to spend money on their costumes and there are maybe 400 female strip clubs in the Dallas area; there is one male. Think of the competition! This is serious business for these men. If you’re gonna be drunk or on drugs or mistreat women, you’re not gonna be around very long. Randy, who’s been there since 1979, is the Cal Ripken Jr. of male stripping. He doesn’t do drugs and he doesn’t drink. It’s a very different profession — it’s not that for women. But men are easy — women are complicated.
Have you had any reaction from female strippers about those comments? Sure. I was sitting next to a few from The Lodge [during the Dallas screening] and they were laughing hysterically and nodding their heads. They were laughing the hardest. When the guys say [that male stripper work harder in the movie], it may be blunt and raw, but it’s the truth, and it’s validated by the women in the film who compare their jobs to the men. One even says, “I don’t do anything.” One doesn’t even appear onstage — she just has dinner upstairs with her clients.
You didn’t mention any gay strip clubs in the movie, or that any of the strippers were gay …. That wasn’t my experience with the guys. And I wanted to do a movie about male-female relationships.
There’s a larger social discussion about exploitation, especially as it relates to female strippers, but in the movie, you don’t feel as a viewer that the men are being exploited — they feel empowered. There’s a big conversation about objectifying men. [I am asked] do you feel objectified, Joe, about your roles on True Blood and Magic Mike, and the answer is no, I don’t. I think it’s nearly impossible for a man to feel objectified because why do I care why a woman likes me as long as she does? Someone said to me once, women are sex objects, men are success objects. Something like True Blood, Magic Mike — for the first time, it’s OK for women outside of reading a fantasy novel to talk about what turns them on without societal pressures and we can celebrate our differences. I just want us to get along and I think that’s what the guys at LaBare want to happen.
Some of the amateurs featured in the film are good looking men, but they just don’t compare to the pros. There’s a grand canyon between the amateur and the professional dancer as seen in the amateur section [of the film]. What you’re talking about is a connection. One question I ask all the guys is, What do you know about women? Randy says, “I treat them like a queen, with respect.”
The funniest thing I’ve seen in a movie all year is the striper-gram scene where the girl falls on her ass. We were lucky, man. That’s the magic of a documentary because you’re watching this once-in-a-lifetime occurrence. I couldn’t have written any of this with a team of writers!