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Too sexy for my shirt (and trousers)

They're Britain's answer to the Chippendales. Most of them can't dance - but when you've got biceps like these, who cares? Steve Boggan joined the hopefuls auditioning for the Dreamboys

"The Dreamboys are a class act, the cream of the crop," says David. "And they always keep at least a G-string on, which is nice." David Richards, a cheerful, well-built 20-year-old, was one of 10 hopefuls who gathered last Thursday to audition for Britain's answer to the Chippendales.

"The Dreamboys are a class act, the cream of the crop," says David. "And they always keep at least a G-string on, which is nice." David Richards, a cheerful, well-built 20-year-old, was one of 10 hopefuls who gathered last Thursday to audition for Britain's answer to the Chippendales.

If successful, he will become one of the country's most desired men. He will strip in front of thousands of baying women, he will have offers of sex thrust upon him, he will be able to sell his adventures to the News of the World, and he won't even have to go the full monty.

The Dreamboy wannabes gathered on a cold afternoon at Esporta gym in Islington, north London, a place more usually frequented by professional young women than strapping young lads. There to meet them was Bari Bacco, who looks like Islington's answer to Lou Reed, and says he is "aged between 40 and death", wearing his impresario's shades, louche and confident in his mustard moleskin suit. Bacco, an engaging, well-spoken character, is the mastermind behind the troupe and, in spite of his profession and a tendency to wear dark glasses indoors, has not the merest hint of spiviness about him at all.

"I first put on a Dreamboys show in March 1987 because I was starting up a model agency for guys and I thought it would be a good way for them to be seen," he says. "We hired the Hippodrome in London's West End and had 18 young guys on stage. Well, the audience went wild. It was an overnight sensation. No one had done this before in Britain and the media went crazy over it - The Sun loved us - and then I put on more shows and was being interviewed by news organisations from all over the world.

"I thought, sod the modelling agency - I obviously had a really big show on my hands."

Since then, the troupe has toured the country dozens of times and performed as far afield as Russia, Greece, Spain and Dubai. Usually, controversy and angry hotel managers follow. Former members have described in glorious colour rampant "sexploits" involving frenzied fans, desperate groupies and even an encounter between a Dreamboy, a woman and her grown-up daughter.

"I once got a call in my room from an indignant hotel manager who said there had been goings on between five Dreamboys and one girl in one of his rooms," says Bacco. "I was sorry to have to be the one to tell him it was his daughter..."

None of these tales has deterred the latest batch of hopefuls from auditioning for the troupe. All handsome and muscular, they fill in forms and have their pictures taken, then they strip to the waist. And that's when the hard part begins. Kevin the choreographer puts on a selection of boy-band music and introduces them to some basic steps. For some, particularly a huge, excruciatingly good-looking long-haired hulk, this spells disaster; they clearly can't dance.

That minor detail has done nothing to stop a small but growing group of women from gathering in the corridor outside, pressing their noses to the glass.

"Oh my God!" shouts one. "What is that thing down his trousers?"

"Well," replies a woman from the gym's cafe, "he did buy a banana when he came in..." And so on.

The giggling is soon replaced by phwoars. It emerges that the hulk is their favourite; they have nicknamed him Tarzan.

"But he can't dance," says one.

"Who cares?" shouts another.

Bacco, a consummate showman, steps outside, and explains to the delight of the group of women how he came to be auditioning this particular bunch of mismatched non-dancers.

"You see, I try to find these guys from the street, so they're not always professionals to start with; that's what makes them so raw," he says. "They have to have sex appeal and personality, and they have to have good bodies and be able to dance - but we can work on those. These aren't professional dancers."

"Do you really think we're looking at their dancing?" shouts one of the women, and they all guffaw.

It is an astonishing phenomenon that Bacco is exploiting. That women will behave worse than builders wolf-whistling at a passing blonde is not something that would have been entertained two decades ago, yet now it is big business.

"You have to be careful because it can sometimes get a bit out of control," says Carl Robinson, at 33 the oldest and longest-serving Dreamboy (he was one of the originals). Carl, who for a time was married to Natalie Appleton from the pop group All Saints, is also a softly spoken, thoughtful sort of chap. It's hard to imagine him confronting his hysterical public.

"I've got scars on my bottom and legs from women grabbing me. When a venue books us, we do warn them about getting adequate security, but sometimes they don't. It can get very frightening indeed."

By now, Tarzan has given up any pretence of attempting to follow Kevin's steps, but Bacco isn't too concerned. "We could give him a slot on his own - he's very different and women clearly like him," he says.

After the session, Tarzan, who is actually a very posh 30-year-old actor called Adrian Bouchet, is not very confident. "As you could probably see, I'm not a dancer, I'm an actor," he says. "I'm doing this because I'm absolutely skint. But if I got a shot at it, I'd treat it like any other role, like a performance, and I'd work on it the way I'd work on my lines until I got it right."

Adrian's most recent roles have been as Macbeth and Orsino. Does he know he'll have frenzied, crazed women trying to rip his pants off? "To me, that would just be an adrenaline rush - the same as acting on stage," he says. "I know there are 'perks', but I prefer to get my sexual encounters in a more traditional way, thanks very much."

Bacco, however, has changed his mind and decides not to take a chance on Adrian after all. "He wasn't making much of an effort," he says. "This is just filling in for him - the first offer of a film role in Hollywood and he'd be off.

"Mind you, so would I."

In the end, it's just David and one other candidate who finally make it as Dreamboys. All the others put their six packs away, pack up their pecs and go home.

"This is like a dream for me," says David. "I've been working towards it for so long. I first started stripping at 16. I was walking down the street in Welwyn Garden City where I live, and this woman came up to me and said: 'Have you ever considered stripping?' I thought she was mad and told my mum and dad, but they said why not give it a go?

"It turned out she ran a strippagram company, so there I was in pubs and at parties getting my kit off. I was a natural, not embarrassed at all. Then I branched out on my own and now this. I can't believe my luck. This is the most professional troupe on the circuit - Number One."

David is very excited but doesn't have a girlfriend to call. "They try to stop you stripping, so sod that. But my mum will be made up," he says, and strides out into the cold of the afternoon.