The boys are back in town

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You may have thought the Chippendales had hung up their bow ties and cowboy hats for good, but the boys are back in town.

 As part of their UK tour, the male striptease act are heading to the Sunderland Empire.

 We spoke to artistic director Kevin Cornell to find out more.

STRIPPING to your underwear in the glare of the spotlight for a baying female crowd sounds like one of the most nerve-wracking jobs in the world.

 But lead Chippendale Kevin Cornell say it’s one of the best. And he’s keen to dispel the myth that being in this bow tie brigade is just about getting your kit off.

 “I was the same as a lot of people: what you think the Chippendales is and what it actually is are two completely different things,” he explained.

 “Once I saw the level of professionalism there was in the Chippendales, it’s something I wanted to be involved in. It thought it was a bunch of guys in thongs collecting money, but it’s not that at all, it’s dancing, acting and performing.”

 After a five-year break from the UK, the male troupe returned to the touring circuit last year and are back for 2011 with their Most Wanted tour.

 Kevin, who hails from LA, explains: “We came back to the UK with a performance at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It’s great to be back in the UK. The crowds love it.

 “It’s a good, fun and safe girls night out. All the women walk out with a smile on their face. I don’t think there is enough entertainment that’s just for women.”

 Unusually, Kevin joined the group upon his mother’s recommendations. “My mother made me apply,” he explains. “She had seen one of the shows and was really excited by it and thought I would be good. At the time I thought she was crazy as I had never thought of myself as a Chippendale.

 “At the time I was house building and landscaping and I didn’t think it was for me.

 “Eventually I went to audition in LA, and fortunately they were looking for someone with long hair so I got the role. That was about eight or nine years ago.”

 Since then, Kevin has toured the globe, performing in Asia, South Africa, America and Europe.

 He conducted our interview from a hotel room in Germany, three hours before jetting off to the Philippines. This, he says, is one of the best aspects of the job.

 He says: “You do get girls throwing their room keys on stage, but despite what people think, we don’t do the job for the girls, the really cool thing is travelling the world with my friends.”

 There’s plenty who want to follow in Kevin’s footsteps, and monthly Chippendale auditions are held in Las Vegas.

 So what do scouts look for in a potential Chipp?

 Kevin said: “We look for guys who are at least 6ft, fit and athletic, but a good personality is also very important. We’ve have had some guys who think they are God’s gift and they never last in the job.”

 Athleticism is key to a job, which requires body confidence as well as the ability to dance to anything from Elvis to country music and rock classics.

 “I think one of the hardest things about the job is the training and constantly watching what you’re eating. It’s difficult to have a girlfriend too, because you are away for six months of the year.”

 I don’t think Kevin need fear though, I’m sure they’ll be plenty of Wearside women willing to take him on a date when the colourful show rolls into town.

 For the lucky few, some will be invited on stage to get up-close and personal with their hunky heroes as part of the show.

l The Chippendales are at Sunderland Empire on March 8. Tickets costing £21-£25 are available from 0844 847 2499, or online at SunderlandEmpire.org.uk.