A correspondent cheekily suggests that I audition for a new show in London. It features five pot-bellied men who cavort on stage while embracing a vertical pole. Rather than shaving and oiling their skin, they proudly display their body hair, a gimmick which inspired them to name their act “Bearlesque”. It has attracted a large following of middle-aged women, thrilled at the spectacle of these human potatoes pawing the pole like bears searching for honey. The performers never remove their underpants – there are some sights which even the raunchiest matrons would prefer to forgo.
As one who has flexed his own limbs expansively in the circus, I am not without empathy for these podgy pole-dancers and wish them every success. I need hardly point out, however, that they are a long way from being bears, let alone gorillas. As any wild creature knows, all the hair in the world is useless if you lack mobility. These fellows would clearly be out of breath if you even mentioned the idea of climbing a tree or chasing marauding baboons. Not that they’d be capable of doing much if they actually caught up with the baboons. In all probability, the baboons would make mincemeat of them.
It’s a far cry from the feats I performed in the circus. I don’t deny that my most enthusiastic fans were women, but I earned their adulation in a manner worthy of a jungle ape. After years in the ring, I found that what the human female admires most about gorillas is our long, strong, hairy arms. All I had to do to induce excited gasps from heaving bosoms was grasp a fleeing dwarf by his ankle and swing him around my head like a shepherd’s sling. It was stunts like this that motivated the ladies to queue for my autograph and other mementoes. There was no need for me to straddle a shiny pole or mince about in a sexually ambiguous fashion.
Yet I’m not the sort of ape who fails to give credit where it is due. Let no one belittle the fact that Bearlesque has put bums on seats, albeit rather large ones. The reason for the show’s success seems to be that its female fans enjoy ogling men who look like their husbands. It’s really a very clever piece of psychology on their part. Men who see their wives hooting at fellows no better than them will naturally feel more confident about their own sexual allure. And this restored confidence will lead to a general rising of the sap, prompting them to give the missus a thorough seeing to when she gets back home. Anything an honest wife can do to enhance her husband’s self-esteem will be re-paid with interest when her furrow needs ploughing.
The importance of flattery in human fornication reminds me of the finale of a film called Carnal Knowledge, which starred the redoubtable Jack Nicholson. By the end of the movie, Jack is a middle-aged man with a string of failed relationships behind him. He is contemptuous of women and utterly cynical of the idea that male and female can co-exist in healthy symbiosis. Yet he is not celibate. In the final scene of the movie, he enters the abode of an attractive lady who stimulates his waning sexual appetite by sweet-talking him in the most exaggerated manner. But then she fluffs a line, and we discover that she is actually a prostitute speaking from a script that Jack had written for her! Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear! I leave you to draw your own conclusions from that sorry denouement – there are surely profound lessons there for humans of all classes, genders and persuasions.
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