(First gallery image via Chippendales, all others by Matthew Rettenmund)
I went to see the Chippendales in Vegas a few years ago, and was surprised how gay-friendly it was. Returning this past week to catch the final night of Nyle DiMarco's residency as celebrity host, it had only gotten gayer—while still maintaining its unique status as the premier male burlesque stop for ladies.
The Chippendales Theatre at the Rio, plus Nyle's sexy-as-hell promo poster! (Images by Matthew Rettenmund)
The show is a nonstop parade of irresistible, hypermasculine clichés designed to elicit scream after scream—Marines, construction workers, motorcycle gangs, they're all there, as are the mostly hairless, uniformly muscled, TALL, sometimes tattooed men who thrust their way through the numbers.
So many men, including my Chippendales hubby, John, center (Images by Matthew Rettenmund)
As bulky as they are, most of the guys are terrific dancers, the music is up-to-the-minute, the costumes are on-point (and half-off!) and the newly installed LED displays let you check out every flex.
Though cool is probably not the first adjective she'd use to describe herself, Olivia Newton-John represented one side of my impression of coolness as a kid—my favorite male cousin was into Blondie, so Debbie Harry represented New Wave edginess to me, and my favorite female cousin received an ONJ album for Christmas that seemed to herald her arrival into womanhood. Both acts made me realize that keeping abreast of pop music was the only way to be true teenager.
Olivia is seemingly as busy in 2016 as she was back then, and her commitments are not only physical (she just returned to her wonderful show at the Flamingo's Donny & Marie Show Room in Las Vegas) but spiritual (she's always busy with her Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness & Research Centre, and makes environmental causes a cornerstone of her stage show).
(GIF via Universal)
As I told the incandescent songbird—now the same age Gene Kelly was when he danced alongside her in Xanadu (1980)—she looks beautiful, sounds beautiful and, most importantly, is beautiful; her centered approach to her enduring career is inspirational without being preachy, and is spreading a little more love with each passing day.
Perhaps most exciting for fans is her brand-new album, LIV ON, a collaboration with Amy Sky and Beth Nielsen Chapman, which dropped October 14. The album emphasizes the trio's vocal skill and sensitivity, nowhere more powerfully than on the single “LIVE ON,” a sonic rock on which survivors can cling while struggling to get through life's challenges. The album and single take ONJ full circle, back to her early country roots.
Speaking of her roots, I was lucky enough to catch Olivia's return to her Vegas residency following her August tour dates.
The Donny & Marie Show Room is a gorgeous space, designed like an old-fashioned nightclub/dinner-theater venue, just larger. There isn't a bad seat in the house, and Olivia didn't hit a bad note—all sung live, so you get more than just a piece of her.
Olivia looks phenomenal, isn't afraid to tease her audience and for the show's spirited numbers, especially a generous Grease segment and the stand-out from her pop/rock years, “Twist of Fate,” was frequently kick-dancing up and down the stage.
(GIF via 20th Century Fox)
If you want variety, she's got it—Olivia nimbly segues from country to pop to rock to yes, even a Latin number, to New Age. Along with singing most of her iconic hits, she threw in new work like the aforementioned “LIVE ON” and lesser-known singles like the heart-tugging nature anthem “Don't Cut Me Down.”
Somewhat surprisingly, “Physical” arrived in the dead center of the very lively show, which allowed for some of her less reserved fangirls to jump up and recreate the choreography from that unforgettably gay-friendly music video.
Just when I was thinking Olivia had exhausted her top-tier smashes, her finale—delivered in a dazzling, silver-sequined, form-fitting gown—arrived in the form of a gorgeous take on “I Honestly Love You.”
And, honestly, right back atcha.
After the show, I was escorted to the green room, where I was able to meet with Olivia, have her sign two of my cherished 45s and tell her how much I loved the show. When I randomly blurted out that I've always loved her 1992 hit “I Need Love,” she asked me to remind her of it, so I had to speak-sing to Olivia Newton-John! She gamely jumped in and sang what she could remember of the tune, which was a slinky pop number with one of the best Hi-NRG dance remixes of all time.
Then, he got vicious, and remained snarky and petulant nonstop, allowing his blows to be overshadowed by problems of his own making: Saying he has not apologized to Melania over the groping claims, pretending all nine accusers' stories have been debunked, fantasizing that the Mosul campaign was designed to help Hillary, sticking to his story that he was against the Iraq War ... when he wasn't.