Name of the Game: When Poker Night Stories Become a Documentary About South L.A.'s Male Exotic Dancing Scene
Main Image: POC and Mike Jones pictured in Name of the Game courtesy of William Forbes.

William Forbes and Douglas Skinner’s eye-catching documentary Name of the Game sheds light on the little-known history of the male exotic dancing scene that had its heyday in South Los Angeles clubs like The Right Track and The Boom Boom Room in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The resulting documentary offers interviews with the men who once brought the Black male exotic dance scene to life. But be warned: this isn’t like Chippendales, and it certainly isn’t Magic Mike.

Skinner told the crowd at the film’s world premiere screening at the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival on Saturday how a poker night with Forbes and some of their best friends turned into a storytelling session about their friends’ experiences as young men making an impressive living as male strippers.

The Idea for Name of the Game Started at Poker Night

“So we’re at my house, we’re playing poker like that on tridewa slot,” Skinner told the crowd in a Q&A after the film’s world premiere. “Dark, [who] you saw in the film, he talks to BJ Midnight. ‘Man, remember we used to dance?'” Skinner recalls.

“I said, wait a minute, you gotta be more specific. What do you mean? Hip hop and things like that, I’m thinking? He said, ‘Nah, man. We used to strip.'”

This was news to Skinner and Forbes.

Also Read: Is Otis McCutcheon, the Lone Black Dancer in Welcomes to Chippendales, Based on a Real Person?

Many of the directors’ friends who used to be strippers still go by the nicknames they had in the exotic dance world — among them are Dark & Lovely, BJ Midnight, and XTC, who is one of the few men comfortable with using his full name: Featherstone Brewer, who was in attendance at the world premiere, and who plays a central role. in the documentary.

At first, Skinner wasn’t sure he believed that his friends had once been strippers.

“They’re not the most attractive men,” he joked as the crowd chuckled.

But then again, their careers began thirty years ago in the early 1990s. A lot has changed since then.

“They were much different back in the day,” he said.

When Skinner and Forbes saw the pictures and videos from their friends’ exotic dance routines of decades past, Skinner and Forbes knew they had to make a documentary about them.

“I was like, what the fuck? I’ve known you guys for years, and this never came up in conversation?” Skinner laughed. “Will is sitting next to me. We’re looking at each other like, what the fuck did we miss? How did we miss all this? Next thing you know, he calls me and I call him and we said, man, we need to put this on film because no one has seen anything like this outside of Magic Mike, which was kind of dripped down.”

“This is Black male exotic,” he added. “It’s a little different. There’s not really a category or a lane for this. So we said we’re going to be the ones to spearhead this and get this out.”

The documentary not only covers what the men’s lives were like as strippers, but what they’ve been doing since leaving the exotic dancing industry. Brewer talked to the crowd about how he has since become a preacher.

“I was raised very religious. So me making that decision to be a stripper, I was a black sheep by family, and was ostracized for making bad decisions,” Brewer said. “But I put my daughter through college stripping. So I don’t have any regrets.”

Name of the Game won the Mammoth Lakes Film Festival‘s Audience Award for Best U.S. Documentary Feature on Sunday. See the full list of winners here.

Main Image: POC and Mike Jones pictured in Name of the Game courtesy of William Forbes.