Magic Mike XXL is the most purely enjoyable movie you’ll see all year. I went to a quote-unquote “rowdy” screening at my local Alamo Drafthouse, where the theater’s usual “be quiet, or get out” policy, for this film only, was replaced with “pretend you’re at an actual strip club, and catcall as loud as you want.” Fake dollars with the faces of stars Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello and Donald Glover were even handed out for the ladies (and four gentlemen) to throw at the screen.
It’s a joyful celebration of the male physique, but things haven’t always been rosy for Tatum, whose experience working as a real-life stripper inspired the original 2012 film. Much like the titular Magic Mike, C-Tates took his clothes off in Florida and even attended a stripper convention in the 1990s. It’s depicted in XXL as the greatest party in the world, where Elizabeth Banks flirts with everyone, and young, attractive women are waiting for their kings to worship them.
But in real life, well, it’s actually not that dissimilar.
“I have no idea why it’s called a convention,” he says. “The ‘convention’ was not strippers peddling stripper technology or anything like that. It was just a big show with 50 to 70 strippers and 2,000 to 3,000 women. It was crazy. They attacked me every night.” (Via the Hollywood Reporter)
The story of how Tatum got into stripping is a familiar one. Hunky Southern boy with a football scholarship dropped out of college; to get by, the 18-year-old did odd jobs (including selling credit cards and working at a puppy nursery!!!), and after hearing a radio announcement, danced as “Chan Crawford” at a male strip club called Club Joy in Florida. That ol’ chestnut. Tatum, er, Crawford, earned as little as $50-$70 on a bad night, but the lifestyle was intoxicating.
Women, alcohol, drugs, the last of which he occasionally indulged in.
“I wouldn’t say I was losing myself in drugs because I wasn’t doing anything habitually,” he says. “Just experimenting. Experimenting, I would say. Never the big ones — crack or heroin. I never OD’d or anything. Never.” What about cocaine? “Maybe a couple times, but that was later. Drinking was probably the biggest (thing). I didn’t look at drinking as a problem. It wasn’t at that point, and I still don’t think it’s a problem. But at that time in my life, it was, ‘Let’s go out and have a great time.’ ” (Via THR)
After the release of Magic Mike, when he became one of Hollywood’s most dependable stars (give or take a Jupiter Ascending), Tatum was accused of stealing the stories of two former co-workers, London Steele and Thomas “Awesome” Austin. The latter told TMZ, of course, that Tatum “only danced for four months. How many events could have happened to him?” Tatum, who called them “interesting, intriguing, and bizarre characters,” replied, “Those guys have been trying to make money off of me since I got into this business.”
“Look, there’s nothing that’s factual in this whole movie other than that I was an 18-year-old kid and went into this world and I dropped out of college from playing football and was living on my sister’s couch,” he said. “There’s not one character that I took from my real life; this is just a world that I went into, and I had a perspective on. And we created everything from a fictional place.” (Via THR)
A large chunk of Magic Mike XXL is dedicated to the Kings of Tampa coming up with new routines, despite how dependently great “Pony” is and will always remain. Tatum’s real-life gimmick involved a Boy Scouts uniform and “You Make Me Wanna…” by Usher, “drawing on the skills he learned at the quinceañeras.” He told OUT, “I just got tired of being the tall, skinny white kid that couldn’t dance. So, eventually, I just grabbed an abuela and was like, ‘Alright, teach me how to Spanish-dance.’ ” He and Marky Mark would have gotten along in the 1990s.
There was also that time he danced in front of his sister, who brought her friends to the club to see him, and when he stripped as a clown, which went about as well as you’d expect. “It was the worst idea that I had heard,” Tatum told Real Style Network. “I was like, ‘Clowns aren’t sexy. If anything, they’re scary. Why is this gonna work?’ And they were just like, ‘Nah, nah, it kills, bro’… I danced to like, ’99 Red Balloons’ or something. I come out and… crickets!”
That should be the plot of Magic Mike 3D.
Anyway, Tatum eventually moved out of Tampa to Miami, where, according to Celebrity Biographies: The Amazing Life of Channing Tatum, he was propositioned by a male stranger: If Tatum spent the night with him, he’d make $1,500. Tatum declined, and “as he walking away, the man called after him that he had the looks of a model.” That sounds a little too good to be true, but either way, Tatum soon retired from the pole, became a model, booked a part in Ricky Martin’s “She Bangs” music video, starred in Step Up, and the rest is history.
Sexy, sexy history.