Feature

At home with one of Manhattan's male strippers

Stripper. Trainer. Playgirl model. Husband.

"Antonio the Italian Stallion" is a former Chippendales dancer who now performs at a strip club in Manhattan and at private parties. I observed Antonio (not his real name) over the course of several months, both at work — where the 41-year-old transforms into a cowboy, fireman, and UPS delivery guy — and at his home in Ozone Park, Queens. There, amid his collection of fitness trophies, life-size cutouts of himself, and photo portraits of him with his wife — which have served as romance novel covers — Antonio opened up about his life and his work.

***

"As a dancer, I like to make women feel comfortable with their sexuality. I want them to laugh. I want them to remember me. I want them to remember the event. I don't mind being naughty, but at the same time I want to be classy and respectful. I want them to say, 'Wow. That guy was unbelievable, very confident on stage.' I offer a complete dream. A fantasy.

I think of myself as Elvis Presley when I'm out there. If you've seen Elvis on stage, he's very sexy, very charming, very energetic, very charismatic. And the girls loved him.

You can't think of yourself as a piece of meat. Think of yourself as an entertainer."

"I don't think a lot of the guys today really care about their performance so much. They go out there and they kinda wing it, a little sloppy. Kinda just banging themselves around. A girl's not gonna remember a dancer flipping her over and throwing her around and rough-handling her to the point where it's not sexy anymore.

(More from Narratively: Inside the last Manhattan peep shows)

You have to give every woman the same amount of attention, no matter what they look like, no matter how nice they smell or how horrible they smell. It basically comes down to the same thing: I want every girl to enjoy me. I don't want one girl to say, 'Oh he didn't like me!' For me to just dance for the girls I am attracted to would be ridiculous. I'm not really attracted to anyone — I'm married."

"I'm very hard on myself when it comes to my physical look and appearance. I started working out at fifteen years old. Back then I was hard on myself and I'm still hard on myself today. Although I know I'm extremely good-looking, sometimes I think I'm extremely hideous as well.

I turned my basement into a full-fledged working gym. I train up to 20 sessions a week, and I do really well with it. And I work as a male fitness model and [model for] romance book covers — modeling my body, modeling with other women, modeling with my wife as well. I've made a pretty good living out of being a pretty good-looking guy.

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I was always in shape, always ripped. But it's not the body or my looks why I do so well in dancing. The reason I do so well in dancing is because I'm professional and because I take my job very seriously. There's a lot of guys with good bodies and great faces but they are such idiots, they can't take anything seriously, and they don't last a year dancing.

I think when people think about being a dancer, they think you have no brain; you're just a piece of meat, a body, a sex symbol. But there's so much more than that. We can express ourselves naturally. We are free. I think dancing is therapy for me. Stripping is therapy. You become a different person for that short period of time. Any performer knows what I'm talking about. I'm not an actor; I'm 100-percent Antonio."

"I've been married now since 1999. I've been with my wife since 1993. She was cool from the start. Obviously, we don't talk about it — she's not going to hold up a sign behind me and say, 'Go Tony,' but at the same time she understands what I do and accepts it. Is she supportive of what I do? No. But at least she accepts it. "

(More from Narratively: Getting intimate with the master of a lost art)

"The girls are crazy. I can do a show and if one girl gives me a dollar bill right off the bat, they all wanna give me money. If the first girl I go to doesn't wanna give me money, nobody gives me money, so it definitely is a snowball effect. I can go to one girl and give her a hug, and she'll try to attack me and kiss me, and then they will all try to attack me and kiss me. It's really crazy. But if I go to one girl and she turns away when I go to kiss her on her cheek, they all do the same thing. They all kinda follow the leader."

Read the rest of this story at Narratively.

Narratively is an online magazine devoted to original, in-depth and untold stories. Each week, Narratively explores a different theme and publishes just one story a day. It was one of TIME's 50 Best Websites of 2013.

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