By Robin Leach
With rehearsals underway for Men of the Strip, 98 Degrees singer and founder Jeff Timmons has locked up a three-month introductory U.S. and Canadian tour. It will start outside San Antonio as a Halloween kickoff and run through 30 dates in a sponsored tour bus to Dec. 23.
Jeff, fresh from the success of this summer’s high-grossing “Package Tour” of 49 dates with New Kids on the Block and Mirage headliners Boyz II Men, told me: “I’ll perform and host. I’m partnered with Emmy-winning choreographer and producer Glenn Douglas Packard. It’s a full-spectrum, contemporary production with each of the performers singing and dancing with dynamic acrobatics. It’s a revolutionary twist on the male-revue concept.”
For the opening, Jeff has eight performers, including former college football star Chris Boudreaux and stage performer Kyle Efthemes, both from Las Vegas; group fitness trainer Dwayne Baldwin; radiologist Garo Bechirian; minor league ballplayer turned Latin soap heartthrob Joel Saigon; stage actor Keith Webb; wrestler Nate Estimada; and jiu-jitsu trainer Charles Dear.
Men of the Strip aims to have a home on the Strip as a residency next year
“We’ve already been talking to a couple of different properties. We’re filming a reality TV show around it, and some properties want cameras on there, and some don’t. Once we get the network finally solidified in the next week, we’ll shop the deal for the Las Vegas residency and aim to launch the show next May.
The big question is how different is this from Chippendales? You’ve been in Chippendales. Glenn was involved with that show, too. How different is it from Thunder Down Under? How different is it from any of the male strip shows?
Chippendales is a great brand, it’s a legendary brand, but it’s sort of closed its eyes in regard to a new production for a long time. It was a great experience for me, the guys are great, but I really see a mainstream way to promote this nationally and internationally.
I have a mission. I believe there can be a lot of good things to develop with this kind of a brand. Once the TV show is on, people fall in love with characters, and we’ll be doing things like the iHeartRadio Music Festival because the guys sing and dance.
Glenn is talking about bringing in different elements that haven’t been implemented into a male review before: Cirque du Soleil kind of things, silks, breakdancing, added production values that surpass what Chippendales, Thunder and American Storm do. Their guys dance and take their shirts off and do sexual scenarios that are fantasy. We want ours to be more of a well-produced show that’s a younger version, with more of a “Magic Mike” appeal.
Are you hosting or stripping?
I’ll be hosting. I’m the quarterback and ringleader. I’m sure that there will be an obligatory shirt ripped off, but, and I’ve said it many times, I’m not in the kind of shape these guys are in. I’m merely here to present it, host it, bring people in, get people some excitement about it, bring some national press in, get some hype in, and of course I’ll sing. I’ll do maybe a number with the guys, and then I’ll probably stay in the show six to eight weeks, and then we’ll bring somebody else in. I’m going to rotate out, and, once it’s launched, I’ll keep promoting it. We want this show to be the place to be for starlets, like Playboy After Dark used to be, where it was a little irreverent, but celebrities would show up, hang out, get interviewed by Hugh Hefner. It had a sexy mystique to it.
That’s the kind of face we want to put on this brand. We want it to be a cool kind of a thing. Of course you can have your ladies night out, a place for girls to go out and escape, party and have fun. We definitely want to put a style and face to the whole image of the brand.
We’ve talked about “Magic Mike.” Is your show more toward what was in the movie than what we’ve seen so far on the Strip?
Yeah, in the movie, the choreography was pretty amazing. It was a little sexier than some of these shows. All the shows are great out here, and I’m not ripping on any of the shows. But, look, a lot of these guys here are huge, giant bodybuilders, and not all girls like that. So Glenn cast our guys who he thought were more realistic-looking but stunning-looking guys.
It’s a more realistic approach toward the sexiness, and having choreographed for Michael Jackson and all those big Grammy and other award shows, he wants to add a lot of production value and things that you haven’t even seen here on the Strip.
It's not just about guys and their sexiness. You get to see a full-on, tantalizing, titillating, visual and high-volume show, as well. He’s got some great music picked out, and we’re also composing great stuff. We’re already taking the production a few steps higher.
I’m so pleased to be doing this. I just got off the highest-grossing tour of the summer, and I had the opportunity to go out and do my own thing and put a record out on my own. Now I see the potential as an owner of a brand like this with the potential of cross-promoting all the people who I know and growing it into a very, very successful and lucrative business.
In the long term, owning something like this, developing something like this, franchising something like this, putting this on television, will end up reaping more rewards than just me going out doing my own tour and doing songs on the radio.
I’ve done that already. I’ve been doing that for almost 20 years. It’s great, I’m blessed, but I want to be creative and start creating shows. This is my baby, the first one. I’m really hands on with it; I’ve got some great partners. We’ve got some great momentum, and I think it’s a great first start of hopefully many types of different shows that I end up doing here in Las Vegas, Broadway and also overseas.
So you’re trading in the boybands to become an impresario?
I’ve always studied behind-the-scenes when we were in the boybands. We were blessed enough to have the rewards that came along with being called a boyband. In that process, I learned everything I could, from the production to the marketing to the retail because I knew I wasn’t going to be a young man forever.
I had to look to my future and think about what am I going to do next. I’ve got to take care of my family, and I couldn’t go out onstage on the road forever. I have to think of different ways to be able make money and have a career. This seemed to be the first opportunity that I’ve had to do that.
Do I sense that there will be more than one Men of the Strip?
Your senses are correct. We’re hoping to have success with this one. My attraction is to the TV show element of it with the individual guys and how they interact off the stage. You’ve got guys who are rock stars, guys that are family guys, guys putting themselves through school, football players who are bananas out of their mind, and they all live together and somehow are able to co-exist.
They have type-A personalities and are all jacked up. We plan on having Men of the Strip Atlanta, Men of the Strip New York. Think of the success of “Real Housewives,” and this is even more dramatic and edgier.
Jeff, to clarify: You’re going to rotate your hosts sometimes with Playboy cover girls?
One thing that’s different with our brand is that we want to bring sexy females in there, as well. Female Playmates to host, female comediennes to host. It doesn’t just have to be a guy who takes his shirt off. We want it the place to be when Kim Kardashian comes to town; this is the hot show, she stops there.
A lot of times guys go to strip clubs to do business, right? They’re not even paying attention; it’s just the atmosphere. We want to create an atmosphere where people just go and have a good time, and it’s not necessarily about the stripping; it’s about the show. It’s about the place to be … that’s what we’re hoping to accomplish with this brand.
My final question: 98 Degrees was back and very much alive this summer. Could you do this “Package Tour“ all over again because it was so successful? And would you?
For me to be able to tour with Boyz II Men and legends like New Kids, who have sold a hundred million records, I don’t think I can top that. Now if they ask for me to do that again? In a heartbeat because I got to take my family with me on the road.
I had my own bus with all my kids and nieces, and everyone was with me the whole time, so I got to share that experience in a different way than I had in the past. I got to share it with my family. It was the time of my life, Robin, the best tour I’ve ever been on. If they asked me to do it again, of course I would!
Saturday, September 28, 2013