OILING up his six-pack, Dreamboys star Shane Finlayson practises his X-rated moves ahead of his first stage show in more than a year.
But it’s not baby oil the 33-year-old is lathering on his muscular bod, it is anti-bacterial sanitiser — and he takes great care not to get any on his, ahem, intimate areas to avoid a nasty sting.
Welcome to the future of striptease, post-pandemic. As with many businesses, the world-renowned male strip group — who have a residence in London, nationwide club nights and sellout tours — are learning how to adapt after coronavirus forced them to cancel their performances.
Formed in the Eighties, previous members of the troupe have met the likes of Elton John, Princess Diana and Spice Girl Geri Horner, and The Sun was the first newspaper to report on them.
In the run-up to the launch night at the Hippodrome in London’s Leicester Square in 1987, we invited our readers to vote for the Dreamboy with the best butt.
A decade on the group were so popular they appeared in the Spice Girl’s movie, but filming had to be stopped when one of the dancers’ purple Lycra suit split at the crotch “and his very own spice rack fell out”.
More recently the Dreamboys have based their high-energy, raunchy choreography on Channing Tatum’s 2012 hit film Magic Mike.
But their lives were turned upside down when the Prime Minister announced the first nationwide lockdown — on the final day of rehearsals for the Dreamboys’ 2020 tour. They were forced to cancel 40,000 tickets overnight.
Many of the dancers, who can make between £200 and £400 a night, were forced to take jobs as florists, roofers and builders to pay the bills.
Then they were inundated with calls from distraught brides telling them they had ruined their hen-dos. To date, Dreamboys have had to axe 600 shows, in front of around 120,000 customers, and taken a £2.2million financial hit.
While they did attempt a “look but don’t touch” performance last summer in line with government guidelines at the time, the troupe had to hire triple the security to keep “pent up” women at bay.
Dreamboys director Alice Woods, 29, told how customers “were meant to stay by their table” and “dance on the spot”, but it was “very chaotic compared to our normal shows”.
One thrillseeker even “lunged” at a dancer, shoving a fiver down his pants. But hope is on the horizon with the lifting of Covid restrictions on June 21. If the Government’s roadmap to freedom is not delayed, the Dreamboys will be back with a bang — and their clientele looks a little different.
Alice says: “While we are normally a destination for hen-dos and girls’ nights, we’ve seen a massive increase in interest from divorce parties over the past three months.”
This is likely due to a spike in break-ups during the pandemic. With the summer shows sold out and some venues expecting up to 2,000 people, Alice says it is “full steam ahead” and “back to normal”. She adds: “The shows can be pretty wild. Pre-pandemic we had a stampede of women trying to get to us on stage.”
Dreamboy Shane Tyler Finlayson, who appeared on E4’s Celebs Go Dating: The Mansion this year, says: “Now, with everyone going out and getting drunk after so long inside, who knows what the return of the show will be like. When there are 800 drunk women and men screaming at you in massive groups they turn into animals.
“It will be crazy. A lot of people want to let their hair down and have fun as it will be their first time out in ages.” The prospect of sold-out venues is welcome news to the dancers, most of whom were self-employed and ineligible for financial help from the Government.
Dancer Richard “Smike” Smikle, 34, from Stoke-on-Trent, had to take a job as a flower delivery man, sometimes cycling up to 40 miles a day. He admits the exercise has helped him retain his six-pack.
While the 34-year-old, who is renowned for his “on the floor hip thrusts” onstage, has missed the creative side of performing, he has enjoyed putting a smile on his female customers’ faces when he hands over their bouquets.
Richard, who lives with his performer girlfriend Laurie, 34, jokes: “The only problem with going back to the stage is my girlfriend isn’t going to be getting any more flowers.”
Many of the Dreamboys have performing arts backgrounds, and between them have worked for pop stars including Rita Ora, Kylie Minogue and Justin Timberlake.
Before joining the cast last summer, newest recruit Connor Stringer, 28, was an acrobat, touring with circus group Cirque du Soleil in America. Returning to the family home in Southend-on-Sea, Essex, after being at the top of his game, “was a massive shock”. Connor says: “It was the toughest year of my life. To make cash I decided to sweat my guts out doing manual labour on building sites, earning £80 per day.”
But last year he was cast in Dreamboys and got to work rehearsing for the grand opening. He says: “I had stripped before, so I wasn’t nervous. People will just see me fly through the air and do some of the craziest tricks.”
For some, the lack of work has been mentally tough. Chris Hunter, 37, from Sunderland, was about to make his debut with the national Dreamboys cast when lockdown hit. He had been dancing with the Newcastle team since he was medically discharged from the Army in 2018, where he had served for 18 years including tours of Afghanistan and Iraq.
To make ends meet, Chris became a roofer and took part in online strip performances dubbed DreamStream, sold as a means to “inject your lockdown with some sugar and spice”.
At £10 a pop, the hugely popular streams were a bargain and a welcome reprieve for fans. It saw the troupe’s fan club, known as Dreamers, grow. On his promotion to the Dreamboys national cast, Chris says: “I was gassed. Somebody believed in me a little bit. I was going to be a professional dancer and that was all I wanted to be.”
While his debut is a long time coming, Chris says he “takes things as they come”. He adds: “I just want to dance, I just want to dance and perform on stage and entertain people. I hope everyone is as excited as we are to perform for them.”
Shane, from Surrey, says he is the “lucky one out of the group”. He was introduced to stripping by Katie Price’s ex-husband Kieran Hayler, 34, nine years ago.
He managed to find work as a model and actor during lockdown and appeared on the E4 dating show on his granddad’s persuasion. Shane had been single for six years before he signed up to Celebs Go Dating and admits he still wasn’t convinced he was ready for romance.
But he quickly became infatuated with Corrie actor Kimberly Hart-Simpson, 34. On whether he found love, he says: “Yeah, I’m going to say I did. It was really weird, it was someone I would never look at or go for and that was the same for her. We clicked on a different kind of level.”
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Sadly, Kimberley announced this month that the couple had split after six months together. Now though, Shane is excited to reunite with his Dreamboy co-stars. He reveals the lads are close and spent the early days of the pandemic having boozy Zoom calls. He’s expecting some wild nights when the theatre doors reopen.
The Dreamboys Too Hard To Resist nationwide tour kicks off in Birmingham on July 29. This year’s special guest is Love Island contestant and former fireman Michael Griffiths, 29, who the promoters say “knows a thing or two about handling hoses”.
While the tour and club shows promise to turn up the heat, can hand sanitiser ever really be a good substitute for baby oil? Shane says confidently: “It’s still slimy and slippery so it will work,” while Chris adds: “You know, safety first.”
- The Dreamboys club shows reopen nationwide from June 26. Find out more at dreamboys.co.uk.