Male strip-show 'pioneer' and Holloway man Bari Bacco bares all for the Gazette
PUBLISHED: 11:00 27 February 2016 | UPDATED: 11:03 15 March 2016
The founder of the male strip act The Dreamboys tells Sophie Inge about his career
In 1987, fashion magazine publisher Bari Bacco watched an advert that would change the course of his career.
It was for Levi Jeans and featured the hunky model Nick Kamen stripping off his jeans at the laundrette, while being ogled by two excited women.
“It dawned on me that it was the first time a male sex symbol was being used to endorse a product,” says Bari, 69, who has lived in Holloway for 15 years.
“Previously, we’d been used to seeing girls lying across car bonnets at car exhibitions, enticing men to buy.”
It was at that moment, says Bari, that he had the idea to create “The Dreamboys” – a male modelling agency that specialised in men with muscular physiques that would be deployed to sell and endorse products.
After rounding up 18 suitable men, he sent out invitations to the press for a launch night at the Hippodrome in Leicester Square.
Just before it took place, however, The Sun newspaper ran a double-page spread featuring a line-up of Bari’s models. It was headlined “Who’s got the best bot in Britain?” and called on readers to phone in with their preferences.
The launch itself, which Bari describes in detail in his new book, was beyond anything he could have imagined.
“Two thousand women descended on the Hippodrome,” he recalls.
“Two of the boys came out wearing G-strings, teasing the women, and the girls went into a chant of: ‘Get ‘em off!’. I didn’t realise at the time what I had on my hands. The girls started to go absolutely wild and turned into Amazon women. Then I had a lightbulb moment.”
Overnight, The Dreamboys changed from a modelling agency to a strip show, eventually taking up residency at a Soho nightclub. From the beginning, the place was inundated with women who would come straight from work to see the men perform.
Unlike their US rivals, the Chippendales, they were more accessible to the average woman, says Bari.
“Unlike Americans, English girls found the boy-next-door more appealing than someone up there looking very chiselled.”
Within a short time, the Dreamboys became a regular feature in magazines and on TV programmes and started to get bookings up and down the UK – and even as far afield as Russia and Dubai.
In 1991, they were invited to play gods in a scene with the British Youth Opera and Ballet at Whitehall Palace for a charity gala in celebration of Princess Diana’s birthday.
“At the end, she came down with a great beaming smile and, looking down at their scanty costumes, said to one of the boys: ‘You aren’t wearing very much tonight.’ One of the boys quipped: ‘You should see us in our show’,” recalls Bari.
Other highlights included an invitation to feature in the Spice Girls’ movie.
Of course, the Dreamboys weren’t always well-behaved, and Bari says he was constantly having to drag girls away from backstage.
At times, they were extremely unruly.
“Once on tour, while staying in a hotel, the boys decided to dress up as Ku Klux Klan members, cutting eye holes in pillow-cases and putting them over their heads. Then they got into the lift, scaring all the people going up and down,” Bari sighs.
The Dreamboys have since changed hands, but Bari wants to remind people of the group’s origins.
“I need to set the record straight that I was the very first person in the UK to launch a male strip show,” he says, proudly.