While "Magic Mike" is in theaters we're looking back at memorable movie strippers
It's hard to know what possessed Oscar winning director John Avildsen to make the very trashy A Night in Heaven (1983), and less than a decade after his Rocky triumph at that. But make it he did. This one time paycable regular is about a schoolmarm community college professor named Faye (Lesley Ann Warren) who falls for a student named Rick (Christopher Atkins) once she sees, uh, more of him at her local bar's Ladie's Night. It takes place in Florida and considering that this is the only major theatrical motion picture about a male stripper before Magic Mike which also takes place there, does this mean that Florida is the capital of pelvic thrusts and loincloths... or just ceaselessly horny?
By day Rick's cocky glibness irritates Faye in speech class where she flunks him. But by night she discovers that he's "Ricky The Rocket", a star attraction. Ricky The Rocket immediately recognizes her during his space-age routine and in the film's cleverest visual beat, he's temporarily backlit by a halo as he moves toward her.
His body may be heavenly but Rickie is no angel. And he's definitely not safe for (Faye's) work...
Rickie's routine doesn't have the dance-like finesse of Magic Mike's best moments but it is certainly choreographed, starting with a fog-machine entrance, stair case bannister humping to music that would be right at home in Showgirls "Goddess" show, costume shedding, and a circular tour of the bar for smutty time with the fans, which is the part that womanizing Rickie likes best.
Gonna blast you up to heaven with a cosmic thrill.
A galaxy of pleasure! a star spangled delight!!
He's going to do it to ya baby!
Mission control countdown.
5,4, gimme 3, gimme a 2, gimme a 1... Blast off!
Here comes the silver comet of cum.
He's your outer space love delight.
This man wants only to give you pleasure."
-emcee shouting as he dances
Christopher Atkins was no stranger to selling what his mama gave him, having spent his entire star-making feature (The Blue Lagoon, 1980) in next to nothing. His short career as a headliner, which also included shirtless swashbuckling in The Pirate Movie (1982), basically ended with this role and it's easy to see why he took it. Consider it his Fresh Meat Trilogy. But fresh meat always comes with an expiration date.
Lesley Ann Warren, on the other hand, was in a much different career position. Her decision to sign up was a little stranger. After a decade in the trenches of TV guest work with the occassional starring TV movie role, she was hot off her first (and only) Oscar nomination for great comic work in Victor/Victoria and entering her own even briefer time as a headliner (though her career had more mainstream longevity in supporting roles).
She handles her character's erotic flutterings like a pro but Faye is such a lonely housewife/uptight teacher stereotype and her arc so tiny and whiny that it's hard not to want to snatch the dumb roses from her cleavage and slap her. "Snap out of it Lesley!"
She does snap out of it temporarily after Ricky backs away from their spontaneous makeout to strip yet further and sex up the other patrons. She looks positively mortified ...which is a totally valid reaction when discovering that your new sex idol wears silver diapers!
But Faye's "what have I done?" common married-lady sense rapidly evaporates as she falls under Ricky's spell again. He pursues her hoping for a better grade while she pursues her fondness for horrifically unflattering outfits that scream "I've never had an orgasm!". After Rickie gives her one, the movie gets weirdly judgmental like it suddenly came down with a bad case of the Hays Code. Faye and her husband will be forgiven for their sins and flaws but Ricky must be punished and humiliated as the deviant sexual predator; it's all his fault! (see also: Fatal Attraction)