Las Vegas...98 Degrees Hotter than ever!
Like Palm Springs and Fort Lauderdale before it, Las Vegas used to sell itself as primarily straight. But "Sin City" has re-invigorated itself so many times, it's like an athlete who switches gym regimens and workout programs and trends every so often just to keep up with the times and stay in top shape. To visit Vegas now, especially at night, is to find a city that has gone majorly gay, keeping in step with most other resort spots that have embraced men-with-men travelers with gusto and more than a splash of sex.
In addition to more than a dozen gay bars around the Vegas Strip, gay-oriented hotels and annually produced gay Circuit parties, not to mention the highly promoted "RuPaul's Drag Race" finale, Britney, Bette and Cher (and when she's in the mood, Babs), they've got gay-friendly male strip reviews like "Chippendale's" (openly gay Jaymes Vaughan still resides there) and the Aussie bums in "Thunder From Down Under," and, coming soon, hunky heartthrob Jeff Timmons and his all-male "Men of the Strip" review.
On June 1, at 10 p.m. E! premieres Timmons' Men of the Strip, a backstage look at the 98 Degrees singer's all-male hunk-fest that's heading for Sin City, titillating the girls while encouraging the guys to come along for the package deal.
"Glenn [co-creator Glenn Douglas Packard] is gay," says Timmons, who rarely takes a breath while speaking, like a kid describing the newest, fastest, best roller coaster ride ever. "He's crafted this show to be a fantasy for women, but he's open to gay men. One of Glenn's questions in auditions was 'Are you comfortable dancing for guys and girls?' -- It's a non-issue."
Timmons, who’s been a supporter of gay rights and a straight ally since 98 Degrees first sang perpetually shirtless to seduce female and male audiences (a deliberate strategy, according to Timmons), adds his own smart sense.
"These guys are studs," he says with a laugh. "I picked all the guys. The dudes are always shirtless, grooming themselves. I’m not exactly sure all the guys are straight. They all say they are, and I take it at face value. But you never know."
Once again, the issue isn’t about who’s gay or who’s straight, it’s about inviting everyone to enjoy the show.
"The gay audiences have been increasing as we go on," says Timmons, who’s been working on the extravaganza for two years, touring around the country. "There were my gay fans, then we had viral videos, then men saw the guys strip, then we started getting gay couples in the audience. By the time we hit New York, about a third of our audience were guys. In Vegas, it was more than that."
Following in the footsteps of the flesh for fantasy Vegas appeal, the "Men of the Strip" special gives us a sexy glimpse of the guys.
"The guys are all pretty comfortable with their bodies," says Timmons, adding with a laugh that one guy does not feel comfortable wearing a G-string, which viewers will see. "They have no problem taking their clothes off. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how edgy they’ve allowed it to be. This isn’t just d***-dancing. Some of the guys were dancers before this, but a few had never danced. One is a former 49ers football player. One guy has been in the business twenty years."
"Men of the Strip" is still searching for its permanent home on the Strip (Timmons has offers and is trying to locate the ideal spot), and, once it lands, is more than likely to bring even more gays to Vegas. Timmons thinks that’s only natural.
"I one hundred percent think so," says Timmons on the Nevada desert’s increase in gay visibility. "It’s more widely accepted. The gay culture is becoming more mainstream, with the legalizing of gay marriage, thank God. Straight guys like myself are tolerant. Vegas has always been that way, but it’s more looked at now. It’s a great time to be straight and come out for gay people."
And when the men arrive to the show? "We single out people in the audience, and we try to find out ahead of time who’s celebrating," says Timmons. "We treat guys just like everyone else. We’ll bring you up onstage and give you a dance."
While Timmons can’t say enough about the amazing bodies of the eight guys in the show, he’s a bit shy when talking about his own sex appeal, and, more precisely, how much he’ll take off.
"I’m trying to stay in shape," he laughs. "But I’m getting older. I’m barely featured on the special; I want people to concentrate on the show. I might take my shirt off -- but you won’t see me doing it around these guys."
When I tell Timmons that his gay fans would love to see him in a jockstrap, he laughs, and adds, "A jockstrap? They’ve been trying to get me to do that for a long time." When I tell him it’s now my mission to bring a gang of gay men to the show and throw money at him until he does, he laughs again, and gives me some parting words worthy of Gypsy Rose Lee.
To get a glimpse of the "Men of the Strip" special, click here. For more information, click here. Follow the show, and Timmons, who’s releasing new music this summer, on Twitter.