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Matthew McConaughey and Channing Tatum in ‘Magic Mike’: The Diva says, ‘This one’s for the (ahem) ladies’

Published: June 30, 2012 | 11:56 am
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There I was, resplendent on a golden throne, dripping in the crown jewels. A phalanx of buff attendants dressed like guards at Buckingham Palace, right down to those ridiculous bearskin hats, surrounded me.
Suddenly, the thumping soundtrack of “It’s Raining Men,” began to play, and the boys ripped away their crimson coats and stiff black trousers to reveal leather thongs studded with red, white and blue Swarovski crystals in the shape of the Union Jack.
As they gyrated for the Diva’s pleasure, I recognized one of them as Hollywood “It” boy Channing Tatum. I closed my eyes, buried my face in those washboard abs, pursed my lips and made like a motorboat . . .
But something felt all wrong; my eyes popped open, and I saw the leering, eerily smooth face of Matthewwwwww McConaughey looking down at me. Of course, he hadn’t showered in weeks. I tried to scream but couldn’t make a sound . . .
“‘Scuze me!” said a woman, stepping on my toes, as she made her way to her seat, juggling a tub of popcorn. It was then I realized I wasn’t in a London daydream but in the nosebleed seats at Regal Cinemas in Richmond Town Square along with some 400 screaming women, a smattering of glum-looking husbands and at least one adorable gay couple.
On the screen was “Magic Mike,” Steven Soderbergh’s new movie about the high-flying life and times of male strippers in Tampa, Fla., starring Tatum as the titular Mike and McConaughey as Dallas, the snake-oil salesman of an owner presiding over the talented beefcake at Club Xquisite.
The flick is so good, I’d stuff a fifty into its waistband if I could. The routines by Alison Faulk, who choreographed “Magic Mike” between working on the world tours of Britney and Madonna, are cheesy, wicked role plays involving characters such as Dr. Feel Good and Tarzan.
But it’s Tatum, with his jackhammering hips and a pelvis that appears to be battery-operated, who steals the smart, tawdry show.
Tatum once made ends meet baring his impressive tight end as an exotic dancer and gave Soderbergh the idea to make a movie about guys who bare it all for dollar bills, fives and the occasional twenty — though, as Mike says, “You don’t wanna know what I have to do for twenties.”
Oh, but we do, Mike, we do.
Though Channing Tatum sounds like a bogus name — a stagy mash-up of Stockard Channing and Tatum O’Neal that just makes me hungry for Tater Tots — his talent for dancing, disrobing and, hmm, what am I forgetting? Oh yes, acting!, is genuine.
I never much liked him and found his block head a little too Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots for my taste. Until I saw “Magic Mike,” that is.
Under the hot lights of Club Xquisite, he’s as nimble as Spider-Man, spinning like a human top, doing back flips off the stage and grinding his junk in the faces of squealing sorority girls.
A meticulous entertainment reporter, I searched out a grainy, bootleg video of him at 18 or 19, as Chan Crawford, a mini Gypsy Rose Leo. He moons an audience of appreciative women and strips down to his skivvies but keeps his tube socks on. That bit is repeated in “Magic Mike” by The Kid (Alex Pettyfer), a teenage newbie whom Mike recruits off the street and takes under his pumped wing.
The 32-year-old Tatum has been packing ‘em into theaters all spring with “The Vow” — a critical dud that still grossed $41.2 million its opening weekend — and “21 Jump Street” with Jonah Hill, which raked in an opening-weekend gross of $36.3 million.
But “Magic Mike” isn’t a weepy romance or an action buddy comedy.
It’s a glorious Hollywood rarity, like a producer dating a woman his own age — a movie populated with mainstream actors and helmed by an Oscar-winning director that makes men get naked for a change. (“The Full Monty” doesn’t count, because those pasty British blokes are as sensual as the Pillsbury Doughboy.)
While we can reel off movies about women who work the pole — “Flashdance” (Cinderella in pasties, living in Pittsburgh) and “Showgirls” (“All About Eve” in a thong) — we haven’t seen the likes of “Magic Mike,” where dudes are objectified without apology.
Consider this scene: Mike has been seeing Joanna (Olivia Munn), a psych major who likes a good threesome as much as the next Ph.D. candidate. When he tries to get to know her better, she wrinkles her nose as though she’d just gotten a whiff of those tube socks.
“You don’t need to talk,” she says. “Just look pretty.”
Despite Tatum’s newfound drawing power, the stars worried aloud in the weeks before the film’s release that “Magic Mike” might alienate some moviegoers — i.e., straight guys.
The joke is that Mike and his nubile pals live, at least for a while, a frat-house fantasy. Women clap and howl for them to take it off, ram bills into their boxers, then happily follow them to bed.
Though two “Kings of Tampa”– the Kid and Ken (“White Collar’s” Matt Bomer) –romp in the sheets with a pair of well-endowed women, none of the fellas kiss, pet or otherwise overtly get it on. Just like there are no gay leading men in Hollywood, there appear to be no gay male strippers.
And if you believe that, gentlemen, cover yourselves in honey and apply to be John Travolta’s next masseur. I hear there’s a vacancy. Get in line — behind the newly single Tom Cruise.
But if Tuesday night at the Richmond Town Square was any indication, the sexy comedy will be a hit even if every heterosexual male on the planet stays home. According to the Owens Group, the company that sponsored the free screening, the first girl got in line for the 7 p.m. show at 3:45 that afternoon. (The Diva calls that time well-spent.) Think of it as Ladies Nite at every multiplex in the United States.
Before the show, Chris Van Vliet, the dapper host of “The Buzz” on WOIO Channel 19, nattily appointed in a suit with silk pocket square, tossed out posters and other raffle prizes to restless 40- and 50-somethings in jungle prints. (Note to promoters: Next time, consider coupons that are good for “one lap dance with a cast member of your choice.”)
“You may also know me as Cosmo’s Bachelor of the Year,” he said, referring to the title he won in 2011.
“Take it off!” a woman shouted.
“Are they gonna raffle him off?” another asked hopefully.
But Mr. Buzz didn’t even loosen his tie, having become shy since sending Cosmo his winning glamour shot — a photo of himself, sans shirt, frolicking on the beach at Edgewater Park. Still, I chased him up the stairs to the back of the house where the press was corralled, a crumpled dollar bill in my hand, but I got winded. Until we meet again, Van Vliet, until we meet again.
Once the film rolled, cougars and college girls screeched like tweens at a One Direction concert whenever Tatum twitched a bicep, but were comparatively silent when McConaughey appeared, oiled up and shinning like a seal in a variety of get-ups that would make the boys at the YMCA blush: teeny leather vests, a chest-baring kimono, a dental-floss thong.
As with Cruise, I’ve always felt insincerity and hubris oozing from McConaughey’s every tanned pore, particularly after meeting him at the premiere of “We Are Marshall” in Huntington, W.Va.
Even his stats on IMDb are suspect, because if McConaughey is 6 feet tall, I am a 25-year-old, blond, big-time wrestler.
But who better to cast as Dallas, the Svengali of strippers, a charismatic user who thinks to display a giant painting of himself — shirtless, with a boa constrictor around his neck — in his living room? All that’s missing are the bong and the bongos.
Steven Soderbergh, sir, you are a genius.

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