One night this past July, an adoring bachelorette party stuffed wads of cash into his G-string, which bore the imprint of a Texas flag. Known around town by his stage name “Master Blaster,” Randy Ricks has been married and divorced, has a 27-year-old daughter and a new wife, who’s a grandmother.
Entering, the dancer spun his trademark cowboy hat as he danced “The Wobble” on stage, five women watching him move and showering him with catcalls and phone numbers. Ricks has commanded the stage in Dallas since Interstate 30 was a toll road, since J.R. Ewing was de facto mayor, since the Central Market off Greenville Avenue was a bawdy bump-and-grind spot.
But the LaBare legend recently retired. “All good things must come to an end, right?” he said. “I’m gonna tear up just thinking about it.”
He had a remarkable career, throughout which he evolved from a wannabe bouncer at the original LaBare by Bachman Lake to the country’s first full-time male stripper, then the owner of the newer LaBare East that was first on Greenville Avenue and now west of I-35 off Northwest Highway. He’s the thrusting icon mimicked in Magic Mike. He’s an aging cancer survivor. Ricks has survived and thrived as an unprecedented entertainer, pleasing female audiences throughout more than 15,000 performances.
After he tipped his hat, tossed his trousers, glistened his glutes and flaunted his manhood one last time on a Saturday night in July, Ricks retired, officially closing a one-man show that ran longer in Dallas than even Dirk Nowitzki or Dale Hansen.
“I’ve opened doors for thousands of guys to make a living stripping. Been a trailblazer,” Ricks said over lunch at Meso Maya in Addison. “For a good 15 years, I was the best male stripper on the planet. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished. But regardless of what I’ve done, no one owes me a tip. Until they turn the lights out on Saturday night, I’ll be giving it my all trying to earn tips. But after that, I’m done. My body’s finally telling me to move on.”
Jana Essman, a 67-year-old Seguin resident, estimates that she’s seen Ricks strip 1,000 times since first laying eyes on him at a club in San Antonio 41 years ago. “As the years have gone on his body might have changed, but he still looks amazing. His charisma is still the same,” she said. “There’s nobody like him. I can’t believe he’s really gonna stop. He’s always loved what he does, and it makes so many people happy. Not gonna lie, not being able to see his energy is going to be very sad.”
Ricks’ long-time friend Matt Sebanc, whom Ricks hired as a dancer at LaBare in 1995, said, “People might think Randy’s just a stripper. But he’s so much more. He’s a people person and a genius marketer. He couldn’t have survived this long on just great pecs.”
Born in San Antonio to a kind Mexican mother and fiery Italian-German father, Ricks upbringing was religious and conservative. Rules were strict and obeyed. Church was diligently attended. At his 10th birthday party, his perspective on drinking was solidified when he witnessed his drunk uncle and father get into a fight and overturn a table, spilling and ruining his cake. “It resonated with me, big time,” Ricks said. “I’ll have a drink every now and then, but I’ve never been drunk and never will be. I don’t ever want to be out of control and not be myself.”
When he was in the seventh grade, his parents divorced, and Ricks moved to Dallas with his mother, but he bounced back and forth. He graduated from high school in San Antonio and then returned to Dallas. His first love wasn’t dancing. It was boxing. He excelled fighting in the Golden Gloves competition, which helped him land gigs as a bouncer after high school while also keeping him in peak physical shape for a future without clothes.
Ricks wasn’t good enough to be a professional boxer, and he was bored by his job at Luby’s. At 20 years old in 1979, Ricks became intrigued when his friend Jeff Meeker relayed a story he saw on the old Dallas television show PM Magazine.
“He was all excited about this new male strip club, saying we could meet girls and make money at the same time,” Ricks recalled. “I was in pretty good shape. I’d won a bodybuilding contest in high school and weighed 235 pounds, so I thought, ‘Yeah, I could use $75 a night being a bodyguard for girls.’”
In 1978, a group of local strip club owners opened LaBare, which became the country’s first all-male exotic dance establishment. It wasn’t exclusively for women patrons, but the dress code for men — tuxedo with tails, top hats and canes — served its purpose in filtering the clientele.
Meeker and Ricks arrived early one afternoon in February and approached the tuxedo-clad general manager to ask for jobs as bouncers, waiters, anything. “Bouncers?” the GM asked. “Our customers are all women. We don’t need bouncers.”
Surveying the physiques of the young men, however, the general manager told them to return that night to audition … as dancers. “It didn’t open until 7, and when we got there at 5:30, there was a line of women around the building and out onto Northwest Highway,” Ricks remembered. “It was insane. When they opened the doors, the women were like Gremlins. Crazy energy, everywhere.”
After his “amateur night” performance wearing a club-issued G-string, Ricks scooped the money thrown his way into a garbage bag: $638 for 20 minutes’ work. He was hooked, and they hired him on the spot. “When I got home in the middle of the night I was so excited to show Mom,” Ricks said. “But she started praying in Spanish. She saw all that cash and thought I’d robbed a bank.”
His mother did support his risqué new career, regularly attending shows and later working for him for 25 years, but Ricks didn’t dare tell his father during the first two years. “I figured he’d just tell me I was gay,” Ricks said. Later, he eventually spilled the beans, he said, and, “Let’s just say we didn’t talk after that for a while.”
But Ricks, an admitted “momma’s boy,” didn’t need his father’s approval to launch the career that would one day become his legacy.
Women who went to the club to both let their hair down and lift their skirts up were instantly drawn to gaze, gawk and grab at Ricks, who — those these days he’s more dad bod than washboard abs — was introduced each night as “205 pounds of twisted steel and sex appeal.”
When he started, most of the dancers performed barefoot. But after stepping on a piece of glass one night and a still smoldering cigarette the next, Ricks started donning a pair of cowboy boots to protect his feet. The crowd loved it, so he then accessorized with a cowboy hat, tear-away jeans, sleeveless white denim shirt and, eventually, tiny G-string sporting the pattern of the Texas state flag.
“I’d say 85 percent of the guys were dancing to rock and roll, but we’re in Texas, right?” he said. “So I played country music, dressed the part and treated all the women with Southern hospitality and respect and charm. It was the perfect storm.”
His current wife, Dana, met him at LaBare in 2018. “He’s just incredibly fun and polite,” she said. “He’s nice to look at, obviously, but also just plain nice. Girls are instantly attracted to men like him.”
Ricks has a knack for making the old women feel young, the young ladies feel mature and every female in the joint feel empowered and, more important, desirable.
“I left them with a deep personal connection, but knowing that they would only sleep with me in their dreams,” Ricks said.
With the exception of one occasion, he also turned the other cheek when boyfriends or husbands would wait outside the club and hurl insults his way. Once, though, a man called him a homophobic slur and spit on him. “So I knocked him out,” Ricks said. “One punch.”
At first, he was making upwards of $70,000 a year, often topping $150,000 and receiving birthday gifts of $25,000 and more in cash from some of his most admiring fans. On especially busy nights, he’d leave the club with $1,000 in assorted bills in his pocket.
Seizing the opportunity, he took the asset of male strippers mobile, launching America’s first Strip-O-Gram company. With his mother running the business, he often performed as many as 10 stripteases a day. He organized promotional model bikini teams. He bought seven tanning salons. He was six times a Playgirl magazine nude centerfold. He led LaBare touring groups to perform all over the country and, in the end, saved a couple hundred thousand dollars. “To make my dream come true,” Ricks explained. “To finally own LaBare.”
He bought the club in 1996 and owned it until 2006, moving it to its current, state-of-the-art location in 2001. While there are 300+ female topless clubs around Dallas-Fort Worth at any given time, there has been only one legitimate challenger to LaBare’s throne: Chippendale’s, which opened on far east Northwest Highway in the mid-1980s but closed in less than a year.
“Look, it’s a tough business that so far only LaBare has perfected,” Ricks said. “When I owned it, we were open five days a week, 7 p.m. to 2 a.m., and raked in about a $1 million per year. The female clubs? They’re open 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., 365 days a year, and they make about $10 million a year. Now which one would you want to start?”
In his prime, Ricks stripped for the likes of country music stars Tanya Tucker and Dottie West, former reality TV star Jessica Simpson, one of Ross Perot’s four daughters (though he refuses to reveal which one) and even performed for 40 female models at a house party hosted by modeling agency queenpin Kim Dawson.
He has mesmerized generations of female fans from the same family, countless times dancing for mother-daughter or even grandmother-granddaughter duos at LaBare.
“I first saw him on Valentine’s Day in 1980, and I’ve been a fan ever since,” said Essman, who attended Ricks’ final two performances. “He just has this welcoming style and that big ol’ grin. He’s a genuinely nice and caring person. They don’t make them like him anymore.”
It’s no surprise that during his 43-year run women have invited him for extracurricular activities more than once, but he swears he’s turned them all down. “Mom raised me the right way, and that’s insulting,” Ricks claimed. “I’m not a prostitute. I’m an entertainer.”
As Dallas’ rich and powerful women took sight of Ricks, Hollywood also noticed. While planning the 2012 movie Magic Mike, actors Channing Tatum and Joe Manganiello visited LaBare for tips about authenticity. They were so impressed they later produced a 2014 documentary about the club.
“Randy’s been going since 1979, and he’s got the groupies to prove it,” Manganiello said during a 2014 press tour promoting the film. “It’s unreal. He’s been able to keep this fantasy and this romance going with these women. I wanted to know what he knew. I flat-out asked him, and we just listened and were amazed.”
But Ricks has been slowing down in recent years. He briefly moved back to San Antonio after his mother suffered a stroke and subsequently passed away. He’s undergone three knee and ankle surgeries and finally has succumbed to reading glasses and his iPhone light in order to navigate restaurant menus.
“It’s been a gradual thing, but I’m just not as athletic as I used to be,” admitted Ricks, who was performing at LaBare only about twice a month leading up to his grand finale. “I did the splits and backflips, but not anymore.”
Then came the cancer, which Ricks describes as the “biggest scare of my life.” In late 2019, he began feeling uncharacteristically fatigued, unable to recover from his normal, rigorous workouts. After a month he visited a doctor who alarmed him that his Prostate-specific antigen, or PSA, was at 12, much higher than the normal range for his age (4 or lower). A biopsy revealed three spots on his prostate, and the doctor recommended immediate removal.
“Sex is a huge part of my life, and I knew that one of the side effects of the surgery could be no more erections,” Ricks said. “I mean, I was crushed. Totally depressed. Crying.”
He had his prostate removed in February 2020. He wore a catheter for seven days. He couldn’t lift more than 20 pounds for six weeks. But eventually, voila. “I woke up one morning with a huge hard-on and went running around the house screaming,” he said. “I have a prescription for 50 Viagra at $46 per pill that I don’t even plan on filling.”
Now cancer free, in retirement Ricks plans to finally stop lifting weights. Instead of getting bigger, he will gently grow older, spending his time swimming, biking and enjoying the company of Dana at their home in Davis, Oklahoma.
An owner of 10 restaurants throughout the Midwest, she was invited by a friend to go to LaBare in 2018 for a National Strip-Off Contest. “I had never been to a strip club,” Dana recalled. “Never heard of LaBare. On the two-hour drive I kept thinking to myself, ‘What are you doing?’”
Inside the club, Ricks spotted Dana. He promptly snatched her cell phone out of her hands, entered his number and predicted they would soon be a couple.
“I could just sense that she was a good ol’ country girl with American values,” said Ricks. “Those tight jeans with her big butt hanging off the chair didn’t hurt, either.”
Dana said, “He was a hot older guy, but was I being pursued? Am I being played? What kind of process is it to meet a male stripper, much less date one? I have a 39-year-old son for crying out loud.”
They went on their first date that November, were in a serious, exclusive relationship by January and got married — after a COVID delay — last April.
The old stripper giving it one last dance? After all these years, he’s finally settled.
“Meeting Dana came at the perfect time for me,” Ricks said. “I always wanted to dance until my wheels fell off. But the cancer reminded me that I was mortal. My body just can’t keep up anymore. And she is the perfect partner to spend the rest of my life with. I’m blessed.”