The whole male stripper thing started off as a joke. Steve Lower was a student at UNC at the time, working on an undergraduate degree in Kinesiology. He and a weight-lifting buddy named Todd were sitting around the dorm one day, talking about money — the lack thereof, and how to get more of it. “Hey, wait a minute,” said Todd, “We’re body builders. Why don’t we put an ad in the paper and advertise ourselves as strippers for bachelorette parties?”
“Yeah, right,” said Lower.
Despite the skepticism, Todd went ahead and placed the ad. Next day, the phone started ringing and before they knew it, they were booked into their first batchelorette party. “We had no idea what to expect,” Lower said. “I’d done body-building competitions in a bikini, right? But I had no intention of taking my clothes off.”
Todd, however, had no such scruples. “He got down to his G string,” Lower said, “and the girls just went nuts, screaming and yelling and groping and grabbing. Next thing I know, they’re all over me too, and I’m down to my underpants. That was my intro into the business.”
Lower was, to say the least, intrigued by what he’d witnessed that evening. “I mean, you go to a party, they feed you, they give you money, they give you back rubs, they give you their phone numbers,” he said. “So I’m thinking, ‘Hey, this isn’t so bad. In fact, this is really great!”
They took the name “Hardbodies,” posted ads in the Rocky, and soon they were doing three shows a week at $200 a pop — each — per show. Which was a lot of walking around money for a couple of college kids in the early 1980s.
Todd eventually quit the business (he’s now an investment banker), but as for Lower, he’d found his calling. He hired a coterie of female strippers and sent them out to do bachelor parties. He hired a crew of guys and put together a two-hour all-male revue with the requisite cop, fireman, and construction worker. “We got real big in Colorado Springs,” he said, “doing two shows a week down there.”
At 34, Lower was at the top of his game, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous, doing parties, promotions, and golf tournaments for the likes of Playboy, Hooters, and the Denver Broncos. Not only was he running the business end of the operation, he was still “taking it off” for the brides-to-be at the bachelorette parties. Needless to say, this did not go down well with his first wife, who was jealous and let him know it.
“To this day I have a hard time in relationships because of this business,” Lower admits. “A lot of male dancers have this problem. They’re constantly being told that they’re hot, and so they start to believe it. They get stuck in this fantasy that they’re God’s gift to women. But really? The girls assume you’re a dummy, all brawn and no brains, even if I almost did get a masters degree.”
Lower no longer dances at batchelorette parties, but concentrates instead on the nuts and bolts of running a business. “I play golf, hire the guys, book the parties. I’ve lived a life from Hardbodies that most guys would die for; beautiful women, celebrities, tons of money. But Hardbodies consumed my life. It changed my attitude toward people. It undermined my marriages – both of them. I have a hard time trusting women. Most guys couldn’t believe their wives-to-be could do what I’ve seen them do. I’ve been doing this now for 28 years. Would I want my wife to go to a bachelorette party? Hell no.”
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