If you were to look at a photo today of four men together, shirts off or in tight clothing, lips pouting and making love to the camera, you’d think “Gay,” then read more to find out about the new homo hotties on the block. If this were 1990 and you saw the same image, you’d probably think “Damn, I hope those guys are gay,” then go about your business.
The gay world has turned 360 degrees in 15 years and Jeff Timmons witnessed at least 98 percent of those numbers. The former boy band superstar’s gay connection has always been so strong that the 2 percent of degrees left from his group’s name can be split between him—he’s straight—and his fans, which were always a mix of heterosexual women and gay men.
“98 Degrees was known as the boy band who took our clothes off,” says Timmons, 40, who talks in rapid-fire, congenial sentences, like the kid in school who’s so likeable he could convince you to join any club he’d formed—and he’d no doubt be President. “The label saw that we were athletes so they had us take our shirts off for photo shoots.”
It wasn’t just for the lady folk. “We never broke Europe,” continues Timmons. “The label strategy was to make us break into the gay market. We only played gay clubs.”
Timmons learned early on that good-looking men in Hollywood are not just aimed at the ladies (“People and Playgirl are marketed to gay men as well as females”), but for him it’s not a question of selling, well, out. “I do gay pride stuff,” says Timmons, who almost seemed defensive at having to be asked about an issue that, for him, isn’t one. “Some members of my family are gay. Some of the trials and tribulations, I hated. A gay man is putting together my show.”
Yes, folks, Timmons is back, again, singing, again, and, (we’re so glad some things never change) taking his shirt off again!
“Men of the Strip” is an all-new, live male-review extravaganza that has, as its tagline, “Taking sexy to a whole new level!” Timmons is the creator and host of the show, which features eight guys who do a mixture of stripping, singing, and even acrobatics.
“Male review is mainstream,” says Timmons, who guest-hosted Chippendale’s two years ago. “It’s no longer taboo for females. It’s no longer something that should be hushed up. Channing Tatum was voted The Sexiest Man Alive and he started off as a male stripper and then did a movie about it. It’s completely cool now. Guys think, ‘This isn’t so bad. My wife can go and then she’s coming home to me.’”
In other words, that’s entertainment. “I teamed up with an amazing choreographer [Glenn Douglas Packard]. I got a guy I really trust. It’s going to be top-notch.”
To introduce the show, which is touring now and should find a permanent home in Las Vegas by summer, “We’re doing a TV show, bringing celebrity guests in. It’s a Magic Mike sort of thing; younger, cooler, more exciting.”
Timmons isn’t exactly coming out of retirement. He’s fresh off “The Package Tour,” last summer’s 49-date fling across country, which reunited him with his band and added New Kids on the Block and Boyz II Men.
“It was great,” says Timmons. “I had the time of my life. I was lucky enough to have my family with me. It wasn’t groupies. It was changing diapers and hanging out with my wife. We’ve all had success in our own right. There wasn’t the pressure to sell records; it was a nice way to wrap our history. We got attached to our fans we haven’t seen in fifteen years.
“Girls who were eight when I was in 98 Degrees are adults and came to see the show and said ‘I saw you at Disneyland,’” says Timmons, who adds that the tour “couldn’t have gone better.”
“We had so many gay guys—my group especially. Creed, color, orientation, all this makes us more popular.”
One thing Timmons didn’t have this time around was the intense scrutiny that comes with being in one of the hottest, and most commercial, bands in the world.
“We were criticized no matter what we did,” says Timmons on former days. This time around “Our critics were gay men and older girls. We got good reviews; that was new to me.”
Timmons stays on top of the music scene, loves Usher and Chris Brown and Justin Timberlake (“he probably had the most amazing performance I’ve ever seen on the VMA’s”), and was at the ready when the inevitable Miley Cyrus awards’ performance-subject came up.
“She did it by design; the main headline was Miley Cyrus and what she did,” says Timmons matter-of-factly. “She’s a former Disney star; for her to be out there with a soul singer touching herself and twerking is a big thing to Middle America.”
Which led us to the M word. “Madonna’s at the forefront of all that stuff. Britney mimics her, Christina, now Miley. Christina’s a world-class vocalist; you would think her idol would be Mariah Carey. Ask any of them, even Jessica [Simpson], and they emulate Madonna.”
When I mentioned to Timmons that, in a way, out Country Singer Steve Grand was packaged like a newer version of 98 Degrees, only actually gay, he agreed and said he wasn’t surprised that Grand had made it to the mainstream.
“It’s way too late,” said Timmons. “The social media has helped. The anti-bullying has helped. It’s helping people not to care what other people look like, what they do, how much money they make. The acceptance of what people do is way too late, but I’m happy to hear about it. The gay basketball players, the athletes; it’s pushing people to be open-minded.”
And that brought us full circle.
For all your “Men of the Strip” needs, including their tour, see below. And see you there! Check out the videos, below.