Aussie male stripper reveals the naked truth
HE'S the real-life Magic Mike. An Aussie larrikin who traded a potential career as a trainee accountant in his dad's accountancy firm to create what is now the most successful male strip act in Las Vegas.
And he's loving every minute.
"American girls are definitely more forward," says a grinning Darren Sutton, the man behind Aussie Heat.
"They'll rub you up, grab your balls … do whatever they want - within reason, of course.
"The most common thing is that women come up to us after the show and hand us their room numbers and say, 'You're coming with us'.
"They don't filter their words - they tell you what they want. Quite often it's groups of women who approach us like this. We once got back to our dressing room after the show to find two women who had managed to sneak backstage and stripped down to their underwear.
"We have a lot of women who have done a pole dancing class or two, and want to show us what they can do at our post-show meet and greets. It's usually more funny than sexy."
Talking to news.com.au approaching the two-year anniversary of his Aussie Heat stage show's debut performance in Sin City, Darren can still remember his path to stripping supremacy like it was yesterday.
"You're going back 14 years," he says, reflecting. "I was going to start working at my dad's accountancy firm. I went in for one day, hated it, told him I was going to get some lunch and then never went back."
Around the same time, the football-playing gym junkie saw an advert for a new reality show: Channel 9's Strip Search. The prize was a full-time contract for a big Australian strip group, which piqued the interest of the 23-year-old more than accounting books.
"I thought: 'I'm fit, I'm young and energetic, I look the goods … I wouldn't mind getting my face on TV,'" he remembers. "I sent a couple of pictures and they got back to me and said they were coming to my house for an audition. I then ended up having to tell Mum and Dad as I was living with them at the time."
Getting into the top 20, he quickly found that taking his clothes off onstage struck a chord.
"Other than playing football, it was my first live performance - my first one on stage anyhow," he laughs. "I was surprisingly calm, I felt exhilarated … the crowd were so energetic and I got instant positive feedback, which was a rush. Who wouldn't want that?"
The audience adoration and his natural affinity on the stage saw him take the top spot on the show and nab the contract with what was the country's biggest male strip group. Fast-forward four years of touring, Darren decided to go it alone and start his own act. And while his current Vegas show has a strictly no nudity policy, back then he let it all hang out.
"We did a 'dirty spot' show," he says, smiling. "We'd swing it round like a fire hose, it was like being in the wild west."
And was he at all bashful about doing the full monty?
"You don't think about it that way," explains Darren. "You'd just think you're having a good time in front of a heap of girls, plus the choreography was so rigid I was more focused on where to step than taking everything off. I get more nervous about taking my top off at a pool party than on a stage."
After years performing in his native Melbourne, Darren set his sights on the big time. Heading to Vegas in 2015 with the aim of taking the show there ("there's no bigger stage on earth"). Darren shopped Aussie Heat around to various venues, before eventually landing a contract at Planet Hollywood on the strip.
While the licensing laws mean briefs and G-strings is as far as Darren and his boys can go, the show is touted as the "most hands on" male strip show in Vegas and the audience definitely take the advertising hyperbole to heart.
"You'd be shocked," he says, shaking his head. "A girl will suggest something to me and then follow it with: 'But let's be quick, my boyfriend is coming to pick me up in an hour.' Vegas is called 'Sin City' for a reason. Everyone really does leave their inhibitions behind when they arrive.
"After the show we have a meet and greet at a bar across from the venue and the girls all want to meet the guys and we'll kick on to a club together and then sometimes continue on after that … we're only human after all."
Both Magic Mike and its sequel, Magic Mike XXL, show the highs of being centrestage, and the perks of easy money and beautiful, easy women. While the story is fictional, from what Darren says, the world it depicts is definitely not.
And the blockbuster success of the movie franchise seems to have reinvigorated what was a floundering industry.
"Massively," says the 37-year-old. "It's good for us because everyone talks about it. It really has put stripping back on the map and made it cool again. It created excitement around an industry that was, quite possibly, on its knees."
The revival in stripping has also led to a surge in interest from wannabe male strippers.
"We get so many unsolicited show reels sent to us from guys who want to join the show," he says, laughing.
"Quite a few are X-rated, which is awkward. Plus there are loads of porn sites that contact us with job offers, which we politely decline. We also get a lot of requests for sex services, however being a stripper doesn't equal a porn star or a hooker."
While easy sex is offered up on a plate each night, holding down a relationship is hard. After close to 15 years of stripping and living the high life, Darren is ready to settle down, but he acknowledges that his lifestyle has made having a serious girlfriend almost impossible.
"My life on the road makes it hard to hold down a relationship," he says. "Long distance isn't easy and anyone who is in a relationship with a performer really needs to be confident in themselves. You need someone to trust you. At the end of the day though, I'm a professional. Despite doing what I do, you can trust me. I'm as honest as the day is long. It's no different from dating a pilot, who's always away with beautiful air hostesses.
"I've tried to explain it to girls, but they don't understand it and here I am today as a single guy. It's hard to find someone you love … it really is. And I really want kids. Stripping may have meant that I've sacrificed those things, but I don't strip much at the moment - I've unofficially retired - so I'm hoping things will change."
Recently relocating back to his native Melbourne - from where he regularly commutes back to Vegas - these days Darren says he's more often in a suit than a G-string as he focuses on growing the business. And though he may be retired - sort of - there's one thing that Darren doesn't plan on saying goodbye to anytime soon: his killer abs.
"I train every day no matter what," says the buff performer. "Even on Christmas Day. I call myself the 'ageless warrior'. I'm 37 now and I'm still as passionate as I was on day one."
In two years this hunky go-getter now officially has the number one adult show on the famous strip, but he has even bigger plans.
"We're going to have two groups touring the world full-time next year," he explains. "Alongside the residency in Vegas. We'll go everywhere … Canada, America, Europe and, of course, Australia. We're about to tour nationally in Australia for the first time, which is very exiting.
"I was told by a guy when I was 17 that if you do a job you love then you won't work a day in your life. That's true. I'm so lucky that I get to travel the world, training and performing … I really am living my dream."
Catch Darren and Aussie Heat on their first ever Australian tour this September and October.