by Joseph Erbentraut for ChicagoPride
The Stage Door Johnnies, Chicago's premier men's burlesque crew, might just be one of the best, if unlikeliest, examples of arranged marriage in the modern world.
The Johnnies, who can be seen taking it off weekly on the stage at Hydrate's Effen Thursdays, first met through gigs dancing back-up to the Windy City king of burlesque and TPAN's Chicago Takes Off co-producer Hot Toddy ( Todd Kiech ) .
"One day, [ Hot Toddy ] called the three of us up to meet him," shares Bazooka Joe, one-third of the Johnnies. "We got there, he turned to us and said we had our first gig in three weeks, a photo session next week and needed stage names, personas and numbers by then. It was a real 'throw the baby in the water' introduction to burlesque."
The Johnnies, who borrowed their name from the term given to the male "groupies" to female performers of Vaudeville, have certainly learned to swim quickly. In just over a year since the troupe's inception, Bazooka Joe and his troupemates Ray Gunn and Jett Adore have come a long way since their debut at Roscoe Village's Waterhouse, where the audience reportedly consisted of straight men, their girlfriends and Joe's mother. They say they've formed a family, of sorts.
Photos by Anthony Meade