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Longboat Key Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013 5 years ago

Sin Circle: Male dancers stripped on St. Armands

by: Robin Hartill Managing Editor

A “ladies only” trip to St. Armands Circle might include spa treatments and shopping at high-end boutiques, followed by wining and dining.

But in January 1980, St. Armands was stripped for at least two nights of its identity as an upscale shopping destination.

The Longboat Observer reported in its Jan. 18, 1980, issue that the former Ruby Tuesday’s on the Circle held a “Ladies Only” show that “had the audience close to hysteria” for two consecutive Tuesday nights.

The women chanted, “We want the men,” in unison, before six male dancers from The Male Factor began their act fully-clothed but stripped down to bikini underwear by the time they finished their performance.

Restaurant owners estimated that they had to turn away nearly 1,200 women who wanted to scope out the disco dancers.

Ladies who attended ranged in age from their early 20s to over 75. Their behavior was anything but bawdy. They politely applauded and occasionally whistled at the dancers, according to a manager.

The owner told the Longboat Observer that he expected the idea to be a success but never anticipated it would draw such crowds.

Meanwhile, the disco dancers drew mixed reactions from St. Armands residents and merchants.

Ruby Tuesday’s owner said that some business owners were pleased by the event’s success. Some ladies who were turned away went to other Circle restaurants, instead.

Still, the reaction of individual members of the St. Armands Merchants Association included:

“The St. Armands community doesn’t need this.”

One merchant described it as “reprehensible.”

“The next thing we’ll have is a porno book store on the Circle,” said another.

Others saw it as a positive development.

“Usually about the time when Ruby’s closes, young males sometimes wander about the Circle pulling up plants, breaking some windows and smashing trash cans,” a merchant said. “The ladies were the model of behavior and no vandalism was reported.”

One “Ladies Only-”night patron told the Longboat Observer that she saw nothing wrong with men seeing strippers. Why then, she asked, shouldn’t women be able to watch male strippers, as well?

The dancers’ Tuesday-night appearances became a regular presence on the Circle in the early 1980s, but the Male Factor’s fame extended beyond Ruby Tuesday’s. By 1981, the dancers were preparing for a Las Vegas appearance that would become the first male dance group to perform in Sin City.

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