Red carpet events featuring glamorous Hollywood stars may be commonplace in South Florida, but the VIPs walking down the red carpet at a film premiere this weekend will be local celebrities, of sorts.
Owner Matt Colunga and the employees of his Wilton Manors gay strip club, Johnsons, are the subjects of “All Male, All Nude: Johnsons,” a documentary that will be screened for the very first time on Sunday, Sept. 15 at the Classic Gateway Theatre in Fort Lauderdale.
The film was directed by award-winning filmmaker Gerald McCullouch, who spent more than 10 years uncovering the world of male strippers. His first documentary, “All Male, All Nude,” chronicled the lives of dancers at the former Swinging Richards in Atlanta. That’s where he first met Colunga.
“It is kind of a sequel,” said McCullouch, who also appeared on TV in “CSI” for 10 seasons. “Matt’s journey is really inspiring. People may have judgements about the industry he has chosen to pursue his dreams in, but, as a filmmaker, I’ve been charting this person’s life for 10 years. No one gets to do that.”
Like “All Male, All Nude,” the documentary introduces many of the dancers, revealing young men with aspirations and dreams that extend beyond the club’s stage and VIP rooms. There’s “Alexander” who entertains children dressed as Spiderman and video game characters during the day, and “Yankee,” an accomplished artist and now gallery owner. Others speak frankly about the challenges of performing and the temptations that come.
“There are two big differences from the first film,” McCullouch said. “Matt allowed me access. The first film we had to shoot guerilla-style…and then there’s the issue with the title. The dancers at Swinging Richard’s got totally naked, which is not allowed in Wilton Manors. I got to spend time with the guys outside the club, in the locker room. Skin presented itself.”
But, don’t expect porn, although McCullouch did accompany one of the employees to a porn shoot one afternoon that made its way into the final cut.
“People may have a misconception about what the film is about…The title isn’t necessarily the journey, or maybe it’s a nice metaphor in that these guys reveal themselves in the film in a way that people don’t see when they go to the club,” he explained. “The biggest surprise for me was my own preconceived notions of why people fall into this lifestyle.
One of unexpected stars is the city of Wilton Manors, the director pointed out.
“When I began this project, I was not familiar with Wilton Manors at all. I fell in love with that unique island city and wanted to make it a character in the film,” McCullouch said, noting former mayor Gary Resnick appears prominently in the film, discussing how the city became a haven for LGBT residents, businesses and nightlife.
McCullouch and his crew shot the film over about five months, enough time to both develop relationships with his new subjects and “let their lives evolve.” Needless to say, many hours of compelling stories were left on the cutting room in order to finish the 83-minute 5documentary.
“That’s the quandry of a documentary filmmaker,” he sighed.
Colunga, who is planning to franchise Johnsons, expects the film will improve the public’s perception of gentlemen’s clubs—both gay and straight.
“I really wanted to add new life to this industry,” Colunga said of the project, “since it’s had such a bad reputation. After seeing (the film), I think people will want to check out clubs.”
Colunga is anxiously awaiting the premiere, but, thanks to his previous experience, expects the portrayal to be balanced and accurate.
“I’m thinking it’s going to turn out great,” he concluded.
“All Male, All Nude: Johnsons” will receive its world premiere on Sunday, Sept. 15 at 6:30 p.m. at the Classic Gateway Theatre, 1820 E. Sunrise Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. An afterparty benefit for OUTshine LGBTQ Film Festival will be held at 8:30 p.m. at Johnsons, 2340 Wilton Dr. in Wilton Manors. For more information and tickets, go to OUTshineFilm.com.