It was Christmas Day, 1995. The city was quickly becoming blanketed by one of those epic snowfalls you see on illustrated postcards or Norman Rockwell paintings, and I’d just suffered through one of the worst Yuletide celebrations in personal memory. My guests had included a dementia-ridden senior citizen whose holiday vocabulary consisted largely of the word “bitches” and a seven-year-old terror who thought that peeing in the cats’ litter box would be the height of hilarity. Ho fucking ho. So, after I shovelled the lot of them out into the blizzard, my dear friend David Bateman suggested a therapeutic jaunt down Yonge St to a strip club called Remington’s.
I’d never been to a peeler bar of any sort, and certainly not one with male strippers. But I was depressed, bloated and horny, so off we toddled to see hot men taking off their clothes. Now I won’t lie to you . . . one can’t expect to find the crème de la crème stripping on Christmas Day: the headliner was built like a deer tick, and, sadly, hung like one as well. But it was quite liberating, hooting and hollering at the dancers alongside a surprisingly large crowd of gay brethren.
It was nearly 10 years later that I returned to the club, again with my stalwart pal. Things had definitely changed, and not for the better. The place was clearly run down, the bar service surly, and many of the dancers sported a suspiciously vacant look that inspired anything but lust. The crowd was small, even on a Friday night, and it was clear that Remington’s desperately needed a major makeover.
“The place had gotten such a bad reputation,” says Dave Auger, the club’s general manager. Auger was brought in nearly three years ago, shortly after a massive renovation undertaken by new owners that saw the main room gutted and completely rebuilt. “They put in a new stage, new seating and double poles,” Auger says. “And we’re still not completely done.”
Up next is a brand-new façade to celebrate the club’s 19th anniversary, replacing the admittedly tired one that fronts onto Yonge St and bringing Remington’s renewal to an architectural climax. “We tried to get it done for Pride, but there’s just too much bureaucracy,” Auger says. “It’ll be done soon, though, and it will be sizzling hot.”
Sizzling is a good way to describe the current establishment. The lighting and sound is now state-of-the-art, and the décor is a sophisticated blend of urban modern with touches of art-deco chrome. The dancers are certainly a vast improvement over the Christmas tick and the zombified peelers of yesteryear; some of these guys would make the muscle bunnies at my gym break down and weep, and the more twinkish dancers are so cute my teeth ache. One particularly gorgeous hunk named Jersey saunters over for a chat.
Jersey’s been dancing at Remington’s for nearly two years and is one of the establishment’s most popular entertainers. He’s impossibly ripped and classically handsome, with an engaging personality that seems confident without being overly cocky. He clearly loves his job.
“It’s a great place to work,” he says. “There’s some good money to be made. But also, I’m from New Jersey, and it’s very hetero there for a bisexual male growing up and not able to express himself. Being here is like night and day.”
Performers rely strictly on tips and private dances for income, and Jersey sees his body as an investment, duly putting in the gym hours to keep it in top form for his clientele. “I spend maybe two hours at home a day. The rest is at the gym or here working.”
I’m a little hesitant when asking whether his family knows about his job’s dress code, or lack thereof — after all, I’m of a generation where such things are kept strictly under wraps. Jersey laughs. “My family knows, and they’re all for it. They say to use the body while you’re young.”
I have to say I’m a little surprised at how businesslike and natural everyone seems. Auger looks like your typical professional, nicely dressed and friendly, and he clearly cares for his staff. Everyone seems to actually like one another, and it’s a nice atmosphere to be in, even without the drool-worthy men onstage.
“We’re like a family,” Jersey says. “And in this business, you really do need to get along.”