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Once upon a time, go-go dancing only involved waxing your abs and shaking them around for tips while unimaginatively bumping to the music.
But thanks to the increasing sophistication of clubgoerscombined with the fact that the long-running burlesque revival isnt going away due to the need for sexual entertainment in a whitewashed citya lot of extra pressure has been put on go-go dancers pelvises. Suddenly they have to move in more interesting ways, and from a sexual bump-and-grind, its basically become performance art and a way higher form of half-naked club entertainment.
At the forefront of this movement is New Yorks most bodacious go-go boy, Go-Go Harder, 25, who doesnt just strip, he plans it, plots it, disrobes it, presents it, and truly works it.
I spoke to the rising club star about the artistic vision behind his mojo.
Hi, Go-Go. First off, where did a disrobing guy like you come from?
North Dakota. A little town called Minot, but sometimes they call it Min-OH if they want to sound sophisticated.
And your dream was to come to New York and strip?
No, I moved here to be a very serious actor. I thought Id be Biff in Death of a Salesman or something, but I fell into nightlife and enjoyed it, so I started taking that to the next level. I lost my job as a waiter, and then a friend of mine got me a job at the Cock.
Did you have to audition?
No. I just showed up. I met [promoter] Daniel Nardicio shortly after that, and he helped launch me. He started employing me on Fire Island, and then I met performers World Famous *BOB* and Dirty Martini, and they set me on the path of burlesque. Daniel decided to have a Boylesque party, and we had to have numbers, which *BOB* and Dirty judged. I still do the same number, Hot for Teacher, where Im a horny schoolboy.
How would you describe your stage presence?
I think Im an edgier boy next door. I have this apple-pie quality that I think people find charming, and when you couple that with a striptease, it takes on a dirtier edge that titillates a little more. Im a sluttier Richie Cunningham [from Happy Days].
Do tattoos up your naughty-boy ante?
I only have one right now, but I started working at the Glamour Garage in Brooklyn, and theyre going to hook me up with really cool ones.
Whats the key to neo-burlesque appeal?
Theres a lot more time and effort that goes into burlesque as opposed to straight stripping. Theres always a gimmick or a scene. Theyre three- to five-minute numbers that you create, and theyre usually funny and worked out. In New York, we do crazier comedic pieces that are political, too, though mine arent that political. A lot of people think the act of being naked or stripping is a political statement in itself. I just really enjoy it. Im attracted to pieces that are strong and entertaining. Im like Cher in Burlesque. I just want to be wild!
Why is the burlesque revival still going so strong?
I cant really speak for women, but there are a lot of boys getting into it because its not just dancing. People have an exhibitionist side that they want to explore.
How long do you prepare a number?
A number is like a monologue. No good actor would walk into an audition without really having researched the piece. The performances Ive given are the same way. Youre creating this monologue, from the costume to the dance to the actual removal of the costume. It takes at least a solid month. The Hot for Teacher one I feel like Ive finally finished, and Ive been doing it almost two years.
Where do you do better: straight events or gay ones?
I find that usually I can go over better with straight audiences. Gay men tend to be a little more pessimistic or weird about it because its not a drag queen.
Do audiences get sexually turned on by what you do, or is it just entertainment?
My shows are intended more to entertain, but the line between entertaining and sexually turning them on is pretty thin.
Like the G-strings! Does anyone ever cross the line and start grabbing you?
Sometimes when Im go-go dancing, I have to really smile hard at someone and get their hand off me. But usually onstage, no one can get at you. People are intimidated by that fourth wall.
Do you ever get totally naked?
Of course. Theres a show called Revealed [at Under St. Marks], where thats the whole gimmickeveryone takes everything off by end of the number. I dont do that everywhere. I practice selective nudity!
What has been your wildest costumeor lack thereof?
I have this great costumea big red sparkly gas mask and a giant purple boa with tassels on it. I wore it for the piece where I visually interpreted Allen Ginsbergs poem America at the Low Life 5: Flaming Queens show at the Howl! Festival last June.
People must have howled. When you look in a mirror, do you see someone devastatingly gorgeous?
I wouldnt say that. But I think after moving to New York, I realized people found me attractive, especially working in nightlife. I guess Ive always felt lucky because I was the awkward theater guy in college, always off in corner reading Arthur Miller. I didnt come into my sexual prime until New York.
Would you ever go back to legit acting?
If I found roles that interest me. But what attracts me to burlesque is its a way to create, to make a number. Id miss having that control.
Its no Arthur Miller play! How do you get your discarded clothes off the stage after the show?
Theres usually a stage kitten who runs out and collects the clothing, but at plenty of bar shows, Im backstage saying, Oh God, Ive got to get that stuff. I try to get a friend or promoter to do itotherwise people will steal your things. At Bowery Poetry Club, someone stole one of my favorite jockstraps, which I threw into the audience. I didnt know whether to be flattered or angry.
Im sure you can get it back on eBay.
Whats your relationship with Daniel Nardicio?
Were lovers now. We live together in Brooklyn. Id say were pretty happy. If he tells you something different, shoot me a message on Facebook. [Laughs.] Hes a former actor, too. He has a respect for performers who sometimes get lost in nightlife. When you come from a performing background, youre a little more sensitive to the performers needs.
Can we say your birth name?
Sure. Its Chris Harder. My last name is actually Harder. [Pause.] Again, it never really made sense until I moved to New York.