By Joel Warner
By Michael Roberts
By Alan Prendergast
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By Patricia Calhoun
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Reyel Simmons knew he was in trouble when his mother-in-law told him about the poster she'd seen at her nail salon--the one that screamed "Hardbodies Presents the Best Built Male Revue in the U.S.A." Featured were six male strippers in various stages of dishabille, including one naughty number who looked a lot like a certain son-in-law.
"She said, `I thought you weren't doing that anymore,'" Simmons recalls. "I told her I wasn't. But she'd seen the poster a couple of places--the nail salon and a health spa--and she didn't quite seem to believe me. That's when I started getting a little worried."
Simmons had to admit that was his photo on the poster, striking his "sexy stockbroker" pose: standing next to a Porsche in a tight suit, jacket open, "looking real provocative. I'm a bodybuilder, so I'm pretty well-defined, and you could tell what's there."
The 1991 photo was a relic of Simmons's well-defined efforts as a male dancer and model. Turn-ons: appearances in Playgirl and hunk-of-the-month calendars; making up to $600 in fifteen minutes by shaking his booty in front of hordes of hooting, dollar-thrusting female bar patrons. Turn-offs: Don't ask. It was a good living in a rough business, Simmons says, but it's all behind him now--or so he thought.
Since those days of grind and poses, Simmons has married, started a family, worked for security services and as a bodyguard and has applied for a job with the Denver Fire Department. Now 27, he says he'd rather hose down blazes than ignite the passion of some smoldering bachelorette. But for months Simmons has been trying to put out a three-alarm fire from his own overheated past: the sexy stockbroker poster.
Last May Simmons filed suit in Denver District Court against Hardbodies Striptease, an Arvada booking agency, complaining that Hardbodies had continued to use the poster to promote its strip shows long after Simmons had given up dancing, thereby subjecting him to humiliation, embarrassment and "severe emotional distress." The suit claims invasion of privacy, breach of contract, defamation, outrageous conduct and a host of other wrongs and seeks no less than $500,000 in damages.
Simmons says he agreed to pose for the poster but was told it was only going to be used to promote a single event. After he left the business, he says, he kept hearing from people--his wife's friends, old customers--who'd seen the poster at a bar or a beauty salon and wondered if he was still dancing.
"A bar owner called me, all upset because I wasn't at his bar," Simmons says. "He said Steve [Hardbodies president Steve Lower] specifically said I was going to be in the show. From what I hear, a lot of the females that were there--the little guests or groupies or whatnot--were also wondering what happened."
Simmons fears that the sporadic sightings of the sexy stockbroker may jeopardize his chances as a fully clad firefighter. "It's hard," he says, "especially when you're in public safety and you're trying to get that career going--and everybody knows about your past."
According to Simmons, appeals to Lower to stop using the poster went unheeded. He claims the company offered to sell customers the poster for $10; he also says he called Hardbodies, posing as a bar owner, and was told Hardbodies could deliver Playgirl celeb Reyel Simmons for an upcoming show. "Anyplace where Steve was doing a show, that's where my picture was," he says.
Lower denies virtually all of Simmons's allegations. The poster cost him $8,000, Lower says, and was intended to be used over a period of years to promote various shows, but it was never offered for sale. His agency was still booking shows for Simmons as late as 1994, he adds, and received no complaints from him about the poster (which Hardbodies no longer uses) until the lawsuit was filed. And Lower says he has a standard release, signed by Simmons, authorizing use of his photos for "art, advertising, trade or any other lawful purpose whatsoever."
Simmons insists the signature on the release is a forgery. Lower characterizes Simmons as a "con artist" and "an absolute liar." Although the case is currently in the midst of settlement negotiations, Lower says he agreed to settle the matter--for considerably less than half a million dollars--only to avoid the expense of a trial. "This guy would be a laughingstock if this went to court," he says.
About the only issue on which the two sides agree is that the performers at Hardbodies shows weren't always the same as the ones on the poster. Lower says that he "tried to bring at least two of the people on the poster" to every show but that the poster was merely supposed to be representative of the type of male revue the company could deliver. He has never had any complaints about the quality of his shows, he says.
Dan Schendzielos, Simmons's attorney, suggests that consumers should be wary of striptease services that promise more beefcake than they can deliver. "Generally, I think these adult-entertainment services serve a legitimate purpose," he says. "But imagine advertising a lineup of Playgirl models on a poster--and then having a bunch of slugs show up."