Friday night’s show went on as planned at Black Marlin’s on St.GeorgeIsland. Four well-built young men cavorted in tuxedos and later boxer shorts for about 60 women who seemed to be having the time of their lives.
There were two bachelorette parties and at least one birthday party in progress with drinking, dancing, selfies and lots of Facebook posts viewed across the county by those who couldn’t or didn’t venture to the controversial dance program performed by the “Men from Las Vegas” billed online as the “ultimate ladies night out.”
In spite of threats leveled at the March 1 county meeting, no protestors appeared to warn customers away from the spectacle and only two plainclothes officers were in evidence unless some of the ladies were secretly in surveillance. Owner Johnny Cadriel said police left the bar before the show ended.
Friday’s show began when four muscular young men dressed only in vests, collars with ties and long pants emerged onto a smoky stage and, after executing a few dance moves, removed the vests and grabbed clipboards from a prop stand.
“Now let’s talk about the rules,” said lead dancer, Jeff Pappas, who is known on stage as Jeff Rocker. “Please don’t come any closer than six inches to the dancers and, in spite of what your boyfriends and husbands have been telling you, this is not six inches,” he said pinching an inch of air.
The group gave a professional, and well-rehearsed performance although at times some of the dancers appeared a little bored, perhaps disappointed by the size of the crowd.
Prior to the show, Pappas granted an interview.
Polite and soft-spoken, he apologized for not shaking hands because his palm was oily from applying his stage make-up and he expressed a little anxiety.
“I’m not used to being interviewed,” he said.
Born in Delaware, Pappas is 35 years old and has been dancing professionally since 2004. He said he was in school studying physical therapy and decided to open a fitness center.
“I have never worked for anyone else. I’ve always made my own money,” he said.
Through fitness center contacts, he got a contract to perform as a professional wrestler and when that contract ended he was offered a job dancing.
“I decided to go forward with this. I make six figures annually, as much as I could expect to make as a therapist,” Pappas said.
He said he and his coworkers perform, on the average, 25 days a month and travel about 3,000 miles weekly. None of them are married.
Before performing on the island Friday night, they did two back to back performances at an American Legion post in Pensacola on Thursday as part of a fundraiser. When they finished at Black Marlin’s they loaded their equipment into a rented van and took turns driving all night to make a gig on Saturday night in Miami.
“We have no off season,” said Pappas. “We work with a 102-degree temperature or a sprained ankle or broken wrist. We tape it up and go because we have a team that needs us. We are family. We are friends. We are professional dancers. Really, we are professional athletes.”
Pappas said on an average day, he gets up in the morning and does 30 minutes of stretches, an hour of cardio and 45 minutes of weightlifting. Two or three times a week, the team has a two to three-hour rehearsal. His diet consists mainly of chicken, tuna and hardboiled egg whites.
“Our choreographer is Thomas Kelly, a former Chippendale,” said Pappas. “He’s been on the cover of ‘Men’s Health Magazine’ more than once.”
“We’re not strippers, we’re performers. We dictate the energy of the crowd. Each girl bought her ticket to be entertained for two hours. It’s our job to take her away from her troubles. We’ve had undercover police come up to us at the end of a show and tell us what a good job we did and thank us.” said Pappas.
He said he has danced in 48 states, a number of European cities and the Bahamas. When not working, he likes to lie on the beach, Jet Ski or spend time with his family.
He said he plans to retire at 45 with the money he has saved from his job with the “Men from Las Vegas.” He already owns a condominium in Central Florida.
“When asked if he anticipated trouble at the Friday night performance, Pappas said, “If I was going to do what they think I am, I would. But I am not that kind of a person. I am a professional. There are always plainclothes police officers present when we perform. I don’t think there will be a problem.”