Daniel Pearl at his desk in the Transcript newsroom.
Daniel Pearl at his desk in the Transcript newsroom.

From the Feb. 14, 1987, edition.

North Adams Transcript

NORTH ADAMS -- "I've been dancing for five years, and I'll tell you one thing -- I love North Adams!"

The dancer, wearing a G-string that is barely wider than his moustache, leaves the microphone amid a chorus of high pitched shouts and gets back to loving North Adams.

He moves from table to table as feminine hands clap together. Some of the hands contain dollar bills, for which he makes his G-string a safe deposit box.

Each depositor is rewarded with a kiss, a hug, or something half-way between a hug and a re-enactment of the Death of Marcus Brutus, who embraced Strato's sword on the field of battle and succumbed with a smile.

"Why do they always get him on that side of the room?" a girl near me laments. I smile weakly. I'm praying for the dancers to stay on the other side of the room.

I'm thinking there must be 10,000 harder ways to make money then the way he's making it -- flexing his mostly naked body before 350 women for half an hour. I'm thinking there must be 10,000 easier ways to make money than the way I'm making it -- standing, camera and notebook in hand, make-up and eye shadow on face, wig on had, pretending to be one of the 350 women.

Look, there are certain challenges no intrepid reporter, trying to prove he'll do anything for a story, can pass up.

So last Friday, when a Beacon Street staffer told fellow reporter Mary Curran she could bring an associate to the historic event, but it had to be a female, well I was over at Mary's an hour before show time wearing my most girlish jeans and sporting the world's closes shave since Sean Connery's in "Goldfinger."

As Mary applied my makeup, she tried to answer my nervous questions: How should I walk? How should I talk? Should I use the ladies room? Should I brush back my hair" Purse my lips? How do girls look at other girls? At half-naked men?

We dropped in at the Transcript to pick up film and boost my confidence. I fooled all of my male co-workers for two seconds, so I figured I could fool a roomful of strange women for two hours.

I was wrong. My rouge lasted all evening, but my ruse lasted about five minutes.

We got past the doorman at Beacon Street, but hadn't taken three steps inside before we heard cries of "That's a guy!" and "Hey, there's a guy dressed up as a girl!"

I was crushed. Mary and I tried to hide, but the place was packed. Finally, we maneuvered into the deejay's booth, which had some breathing room. The mercury on the wall thermometer was pushing the 80 mark.

The boys from Apollo Productions were running late, and deejay Doug Milne was trying to keep the temperature high by promising more and more lavish thrills.

Finally, at 9 p.m. a fast-talking man with a dark jacket, designer jeans and slicked-back hair came into the booth and gave Doug the lowdown on the show.

"Okay, Vincenzo comes on, you play these four songs, then Attila, then me, then Loverboy, then we all go on stage together and you play these songs. All right? By the way, I didn't get your name. Doug? Nice to meet you, Doug,. My name's Rocky. I'll be upstairs. If you have any problems, you can talk to me."

Apollo Productions is based in Connecticut. They do one or two shows a week, mostly in New England. The $150 or so each dancer earns each night on the stage is supplemental income, since they all have separate full-time jobs. All are from the Northeast. "Attila", al large blond with blue eyes, is billed onstage as a Southern California boy, but he confessed later that he's from Connecticut. "I've been to LA once or twice."

He and "Rocky" used to dance for the famed Chippendale troupe in Los Angeles and New York, so they say they're not lying by using "Chippendale" in their billing.

Rocky, the one who's been dancing for five years, doesn't have a very high opinion of Chippendale though. Their dancers work too many hours, and they're not allowed to have bodily contact with women in the crowd, he explains.

The Apollo boys specialize in bodily contact, and they don't discriminate by age. A 60-year old was as likely as a 21-year old to find her face a few inches from a pair of gyrating hips -- and at least as likely to emerge laughing and short a few more dollars.

Of course, not all the women who sneaked out to the show enjoyed it - there were mutters of "gross" in between the war whoops and giggles.

Luckily most of the ladies were too engrossed in the boys with the bay bottoms on stage to take heed of the "girl" with the razor shadow among them. I tried to respond in a lady like fashion to those who did notice.

"You make a terrible girl," said one.

"Well, you make a wonderful girl," said I.

"How many people have noticed you're a guy?" smirked another.

"What if I were an ugly girl?" I said

"I'd be pretty embarrassed," she said.

A girl next to me felt my fake hair. I felt her hair. She squeezed my flat chest. I put my hands in my pocket.

More problematic than the girl-to-girl encounters were the man-to-mans, of course. When Rocky cam shimmying toward my corner, it was time to make my intentions clear. I did. I hid.

The dancers said later they have had men sneak into shows before for entirely non-journalistic reasons. They have had hotblooded females rip their last layer of underwear off, as happened to poor Vincenzo Friday ("luckily there was a towel nearby").

Keeping things under control is part of being a professional, the dancers told us, and requires "mental and physical training."

After talking with us, the dancers returned in street clothes to chat with their audience. By this time, Beacon Street had opened its doors to waiting males, who assumed the ladies were anxious to see them, regardless of the physical distinctions between their stubbled faces and flannel shirts and the Nautilus bodies and dimpled faces of the boys on stage.

I meanwhile, was fearful I might be victimized by a similar lack of discrimination on the men's part, especially since I had already determined that men are much slower than women to spot a fake. I sped to the men's room to remove my make-up.

Before Mary and I left, we stopped for a quick word with Laura Bosley, the Beacon Street bartender with whom Mary spoke earlier in the evening. The representative's wife seemed a bit disconcerted to see the city reporter with traces of eyeliner and lipstick.

"You should have said the other reporter was Danny," she told Mary. "It would have been okay."

Now if we'd only known that before. But you know what they say, and I'm sure the ladies who put the scratchmarks of Loverboy's posterior would agree, Hindsight is 20-20.