Two bright-eyed dreamers from South Dakota and North Dakota respectively, Bradford Wakefield and his boyfriend Justin Heim–aka Don Chipotle and Apollo Dioni–are now New Yorkers heading Bad Apple Boylesque, a sexy and talented troupe of performers thirteen-strong. Bradford dishes with Thotyssey about how all this sexiness came about, and what’s in store for them… and us!
Thotyssey: Hi Bradford, thanks for talking to us! Your next show with the Bad Apple Burlesque troupe at the Triad is May 13th. How much rehearsal do you guys do for it? Or is it largely improvised?
Bradford Wakefield: Everything is definitely rehearsed, but we discovered pretty early that it’s nearly impossible to get thirteen young artists together at the same time [to rehearse]. All of the boys are so talented. They work really hard at coming up with something that the audience hasn’t seen before.
I’m not that familiar with the Triad, what kind of venue is it?
We love the Triad. It’s a smaller, cabaret-style theater off 72nd and Broadway. When we began our show, we were at the Stonewall (and we love the Stonewall. Mike Salinari is an angel among mortals), but most of the audience had to stand. The Triad has a balcony and a front curtain, and there’s table service by a really incredible waitstaff. We’re really grateful to have an ongoing show with them.
Sounds great! So let’s step back for a bit And talk about you.
I love to talk about myself, so thank you for asking!
Where are you from… and how was Growing Up Bradford for you?
I’m from Sioux Falls, South Dakota and my boyfriend and co-owner of the show Justin Heim (aka Apollo Dioni) is from Ashley, North Dakota. Growing up was hard in some ways, because I was a pretty feminine little boy, but I have amazing parents who have always supported me.
Only two months after Justin and I started dating, we decided to move to New York together, and they said, “Go for it.” Then, when we were initially playing with the idea of creating Bad Apple, they said the same thing. And Justin’s parents, too. We’re both so incredibly lucky.
I decided last summer when we were planning how the show should run that I would host the first show, so that we didn’t have to pay anyone else to do it. I was in competitive public speaking for eight years, and I felt pretty confident. But now, after eight shows, I’m never giving it up. It’s my favorite thing, to stand on a stage and say mean things, and have people clap for me.
So, do function solely as the MC, or do you partake in the burlesquing?
I keep saying that I’m going to put together an act, but I keep putting it off. I love to host, so I don’t want to take away from that. But also, the guys in our show are so fucking hot that I would have to commit myself to working out for three hours a day for six months to not feel self-conscious onstage next to them.
The one thing I have going for me is my ass, because it’s huge. So I do what I call “Donald Ducking It” every performance, which means that I just host in a t-shirt and a jock strap.
So, what exactly led to you deciding to build this troupe? And how did you find these guys?
Justin and I had lived in the city for about a year and a half, and we realized that we were both working at jobs we hated just to make rent. And we weren’t doing what we came here to do, which was to make art. So just over a year ago, we were at a party with all of our straight friends and we were all pretty drunk, and Justin and I confessed that this is something we were thinking about. And they all just started screaming, “Do it! You guys should just do it!”
So we held auditions in July, with no idea what we were even looking for. But there were definitely standouts, and we’re so happy to still have them performing with us today.
Why burlesque as opposed to, say, gogo-ing? Burlesque is definitely happening lately, but sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint the exact difference from other types of strip-dancing.
I totally agree. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll stare at a gogo dancer any day and happily tip them. But that’s just not what we do. We hold our men to a pretty high standard. We make sure that there is a story, or a showcase of talent. And the acts vary wildly.
Jackie Nova and Carmel Crush do an amazingly choreographed number about two sailors meeting and falling in love. Tim Furry writes, sings, and plays at the piano his own original songs. And King Kush ‘n Tush is one of the most incredible athletes on a pole.
And they do all of these things while taking their clothes off.
We want it to be sexy, of course, but we also want to to be compelling.
So, you basically looked for hot, in-shape guys who were unafraid about stripping but also had other talents that could be worked in. Sounds like a genuine variety show that we can all masturbate to later!
It is! And it’s also really hard to find hot, talented guys who are willing to take their clothes off!
And now it’s a whopping 13 guys! How does everyone make money, if you don’t mind me asking? Do you split the cover charge between you all? Is there tipping?
The boys do receive tips, and half of the ticket sales. The other half just goes back to Bad Apple, because Justin and I both know that we would just be spending that money on the company anyway.
Are your audiences mainly men, or do you draw a lot of women?
I could have never predicted our audience trend. For the first few shows, we had what I’m pretty sure was a primarily straight audience, with an even mix of men and women. Then, all of the sudden at the last show, the entire house was all super good-looking gay daddies. The next show will be all lesbians, for all I know.
I guess there’s something very unifying about burlesque!
I hope it’s unifying. I’d be very flattered if that’s how someone described our show.
By the way, I love those posters you are putting up of the guys online, very simple and sexy. Who’s making those?
Our whole goal was to make an advertisement that didn’t have five different fonts and a crazy photoshopped background. Our photographer is Nick Pierce, the nicest, most talented man alive. He’s done all of our campaign photos since we started. He’s always looking for fun work.
I’m featured for the poster for the May show, and Nick really delivered. I was such a mess that day. I was getting over a cold, I had pink eye, and I had just started Truvada, so I was really suffering from fatigue from the side effects and somehow he made me look like a person.
And I see Marti Gould Cummings is hosting your show on the 13th! Do you know her well?
Marti is like one of the coolest people I’ve ever met. She’s so sincere and funny, and I was thrilled that she wanted to do the show with us. I’m super-excited to co-host with her. But I’m terrified, because she’s so good that I’m scared I’ll just look like an idiot in a jockstrap next to her.
Aw, you’ll do great! So, what’s the future of Bad Apple, do you think? Are you looking for more venues?
We’re always looking to the future for how we can expand and grow. It’s very clear to us that this isn’t a hobby. I don’t want to be complacent. We’re hoping that we can expand to private shows and maybe even touring. We’re very happy at the Triad now but we’re going to take this as far as we can.
And Bad Apple is always once a month at The Triad?
Well, usually. We tried really hard to get a regular schedule down, and then once we had a pattern we had to go mess it up. The next show is May 13th, which is Friday the 13th… and I think we’ll have a Friday the 13th-themed act! Then, we’re taking a break for June as the NYC Boylesque Festival is taking place when we would normally have our show. But we’re very excited for that, because Jackie Nova was accepted as a performer!
Then, July 8th. And then August we will have a show, but someone booked the second Friday even before the Triad took us on, so we’ll be the first or third for that month.And [FYI], I’d like thank Matt Knife of Homo Erectus Boylesque and Mister Gorgeous of Cirquelesque: Boys Night Revue for their precedence, and being such cool nice guys.
Finally: in this world where most of the people are prudes and the rest are just endlessly thumbing through apps, how can burlesque save us?
I think that we’re saving people from shit they would otherwise be doing. My house is a disaster, and I still haven’t done my taxes yet because I’ve been working on burlesque. The people who come to our shows could be doing laundry, or answering emails, or a variety of things that are boring, and yet still exhausting.
Bad Apple Boylesque is thrilling and funny. I don’t watch the show. I watch the audience during the show, and I can tell that people are genuinely surprised by what they see. We can’t save anyone, but we can save them from doing shit that they would’ve done today that they can still do tomorrow.
Bradford Wakefield (aka Don Chipotle) will co-host bad Apple Boylesque with Marti Gould Cummings on May 13th at 9:30pm. Bradford can be followed on Facebook and LinkedIn. Bad Apple has a website, and can be followed on Facebook and Instagram.