Game On: Chicago Takes Off delivers a knockout

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  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

  • Photograph: Emily Mohney

    Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

Photograph: Emily Mohney

Chicago Takes Off 2012 | Park West | March 3, 2012

As we rose to our feet to acknowledge the singing of the National Anthem, the number that opened this year's Chicago Takes Off, I'd never felt so gaytriotic. Here we were, a thousand horny men and women, getting ready to watch more than 100 hot dancers take off their clothes at this year's sports-themed gala, which in six years has raised more than a half million bucks to benefit TPAN. It was a hot night.


The first number, "Sweat," warmed up the crowd with female cheerleaders cooing and swooning over a buffed-up coach (personal trainer Aaron Guy, I believe). He strutted down the runway and was spritzed down by a couple of boys who themselves were quite hot. The number ended with him removing his shorts to reveal his perfectly sculpted ass and body. Damn, I wanted to blow his whistle.


Murray Hill, "the hardest working man in show business" and an insult comic and entertainer from Brooklyn, was the host for the third year in a row. Wearing a leisure suit just a shade darker than powder blue, Hill worked the crowd with his ad-libbed zingers. "Am I a man or woman?," Hill asked the unfamiliar. "The answer is no." As Hill strutted down the runway and surveyed the best seats in the house, he gazed up at the balcony and shouted, "Take a look at these VIPs. This is what it's like to have health insurance." Most of the crowd ate Hill up.


The number "Scrum" should've been called "Yum." It was set to the Scissor Sisters song "Filthy Gorgeous" and opened with a team huddle that turned into a locker room fantasy complete with each guy stripping down first to his jockstrap and then getting naked entirely behind a silhouette screen. A mock shower scene was created via a couple of guys on scaffolding spraying the guys below who proceeded to rub one another down. It was awesome.


Evening highlights included "Bounce," a basketball number that had a quartet of studs ripping off their shorts to reveal oversized tube socks covering up their junk. In "Tight End," we see the backs of a quintet of burly football players slowly removing their helmets to reveal—surprise!—they're actually women. It was a cheeky touch and a reminder of how well Chicago Takes Off mixes comedy and sex. For example, "Red Hots" featured a nerdy-hot vendor battling a randy hot dog behind his cart only to get stripped down to nothing but an apron and emerge naked at the end with just a giant hot dog sticking out of his crotch.


There were some weaker numbers. I enjoyed the choreographed groping and lunging in "Pinned," a wrestling fantasia. But much of the action took place lying down and it was hard to see, even with the giant TV monitors capturing all the action. Likewise, the finale number "Edge of Glory" featured an actual vocalist belting out the Lady Gaga anthem, while a chorus of dancers in patriotic gear danced around her. It was fairly uninspired and unsexy.


The highlight of the evening was the penultimate skit, cheekily named "Water Sports." Imagine the synchronized choreography of those brilliant aquatic numbers they would do in musicals from the 40s and 50s, but crank it up with scantilly-clad men and women in brilliant colors dancing around a single guy dressed like an erotic version of the god Poseidon. It was silly, spirited and undeniably sexy.


Last year's Chicago Takes Off was called "Lido des Boyz," a nod to Parisian cabaret. It was tame and forgettable. This year's event was a return to form and I was happy to be there as a spectator and as—yes, I'll go say it—an athletic supporter.



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