George Durham has been called "the Bill Gates of male dancers," but most folks just call him Horseman. And, of course, we could make wisecracks about how he acquired his equine nickname -- he says an MC gave him the name when he first started out and showed up onstage whinnying and neighing -- but for now let's focus on his package of accomplishments, and not his package.
At 39 years of age -- yes, folks, he's middle-aged and that buff -- the five-foot-six, 201-pound Houstonian has turned stripping in front of women into a lucrative business opportunity. Twenty years ago, the high school dropout and erotic-dancing dabbler would not have dared to dream that he would one day become the head of his own entertainment empire, which now includes a nightclub and a bookings/ promotion company.
Horseman's trail began in his late teens when he became a competitive bodybuilder. People encouraged him to go into stripping when they saw his rhythmic routines. "I used to win all the competitions because the other guys would just pose," remembers Durham. "When I got into it, I started dancing."
Soon enough, Durham heeded his friends' advice and became a table dancer at that venerable male-stripper Babylon La Bare (6234 Richmond). After five years he ventured out as an independent, launching his own touring table-dance crew known as Horseman Productions and performing at such long-gone spots as Jam City, The Gucci Club and The Palladium.
Back then, it was just Durham and two other guys in custom-made G-strings shaking what their mamas gave 'em. Now, Horseman's stable of dancers is about 20 strong. (As the number of dancers has grown, so have the pants the guys have to wear. Today, male dancers in Houston strip clubs must wear custom-made bikini briefs, as thongs are illegal.) While Horseman and his fellow stallions wiggle it just a little bit at spots all over the country, you can often catch them here at Hardbodies (3722 South Gessner), Durham's very own club.
Encouraged by the success of "Ass Night," a monthly male-dancer-filled extravaganza Durham hosts, he decided to buy the venue four and a half years ago. Changing the stereotypical image of a male strip club is his main challenge. "Some ladies have never been to a strip club before," says Horseman. "They have a bad vibe about male strippers. Somebody probably told 'em that they jump all on you, dive on you, grease your clothes all up. Or it's nasty -- the whole club smells like ass or something. But once they come here, their whole perspective of dancing completely changes, because it's strictly entertainment. It's clean fun, it's very professional, and it's glamorous, like Las Vegas."
Durham and his longtime employees insist that if you can shake your ass for the ladies at Hardbodies, you can shake your ass anywhere. Says Hardbodies manager-dancer James "Sexual Chocolate" Williams, "I've seen some of the best [dancers] in the country come here and -- whew! I'm talking about--"
"Fall on their face!" interjects dancer Lorenzo Johnson, a.k.a. "The Master of Seduction." "If you don't have energy on stage, they're gonna read you and they're gonna feed you to the wolves."
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Hardbodies is more than a venue for Horseman's dance troupe. It also plays host to the concerts he sets up. You see, Horseman isn't just some piece of meat for the ladies (and some guys) to ogle, he's also a businessman. For eight years, Durham has headed Horseman Promotions. He and his small team (including his teenage children, George Jr. and Mimi, doing street work) book concerts and promote artists in Houston and other cities, whether they be rappers looking to hype up a CD or actors in town plugging a movie. (He's currently involved with publicizing the upcoming all-star Houston Music Festival, featuring Nelly and Ashanti at Reliant Stadium on November 9.)
Though he describes himself as "mainly a promoter," don't worry, ladies (and you guys), he's gonna keep on dancing. Despite the fact that he's about to hit the 40 mark, fans keep pulling him back in, looking to get one more lap dance from Horseman. And for Horseman, quality is job one. As he explains, "I have a high standard on quality. I'm hard on my kids. I'm hard on my dancers. I'm hard on myself. So I'm not gonna half-do nothing."
Halloween's here, and unless you have kids in actual costumes coming to your house asking for candy instead of kids in street clothes showing up at your doorstep claiming to be ballas or hustlas, you may wanna check out the following night gatherings. Last week, we told you that Spy (112 Travis) is having the second annual Pimps, Hoes, Vamps and Vixens Ball, but if dressing up like Rudy Ray Moores doesn't scream out "good time" for you, there are other alternatives: Rich's (2401 San Jacinto) is holding a party aptly titled "Wicked" on Halloween night. And speaking of wickedness, The Social (3730 Washington Avenue) is hosting an "Exotic Erotic Halloween Bash," while the "Monster's Ball" will be thrown at Bella Terrazza (2640 Chimney Rock). There will also be two parties with '80s themes: The "Texas Turntable Massacre," where patrons can dress up like their favorite Reagan-era icon and dance to visiting Austin spinner DJ Mel, is happening at soon-to-be-shuttered Hyperia (2001 Commerce), while out at the southwest side karaoke bar Glitter (6260 Wilcrest), cats and kittens get in free if they show up in '80s gear. There will be something for everyone this Halloween, so vegging on the couch scarfing leftover Snickers miniatures is not an option.