If you want to see what out theater star Josh Strickland does during his day, catch Holly's World, the E! reality show he stars in with friend Holly Madison. Most nights Strickland can be found at the Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino as the singing and dancing emcee of Peep Show, a racy and delicious burlesque. The gay-friendly show is helping tilt the pink axis of Vegas — it's located a stone's throw from the gay superclub Krave and just across the street from the new Cosmopolitan hotel and City Center complex, with tasteful rooms and sophisticated bars and restaurants (a pre-Peep dinner at City Center's Julian Serrano restaurant and post-drinks at Cosmpolitan's Bond bar are highly recommended). Strickland, who previously starred in Broadway's Tarzan, talked to us about the second season of Holly's World and why straight audiences — men included — cheer him on in Peep Show.
The Advocate: Hi Josh. I noticed during Peep Show that men are brought to the stage as potential paramours for Holly and matter-of-factly asked whether or not they’re gay. There are Madonna and Kylie Minogue numbers. There’s a guy who strips down almost naked. And, of course there’s you. Has the show always been so gay-inclusive?
Josh Strickland: Kind of where it all started was creator Jerry Mitchell’s vision. Back in New York, he created the [gay-inclusive] Broadway Bares fund-raiser, and that’s always been a wonderful way to raise awareness for AIDS. So that was kind of his vision for Peep Show. There’s not as many male-heavy numbers because it's Vegas; obviously he changed it a bit to feature more women. But it was always supposed to have that [gay-friendly] feel because that’s where it came from.
I often hear people mention that boos can be heard during the gay interlude in Cirque de Soleil’s Zumanity show. But the Peep Show audience didn’t seem to mind the show’s “gayness.”
For some reason in our show, the straight men kind of can’t keep their eyes off all the other guys. Peep Show is kind of a surprise because a lot of people don’t understand what they’re getting themselves into when they walk in, but then they leave with a sense of, “Wow, there’s some really great singers, some really phenomenal dancers, and an all-around great time.”
Women hoot and holler every time you appear on stage. Does it feel validating to know that you can be out and still be perceived as attractive to women?
Absolutely. Gay actors are actors — we can play other roles; we can become a different character. I know there was an argument in Newsweek that said gay actors who are out shouldn’t play straight characters. But we can. It’s fun to see the women take themselves away from the fact that I’m gay and just enjoy themselves.
How does gay life in Vegas compare to New York?
It's quite different. In New York gay life is more accepted; it’s more open and out there. Las Vegas has a great scene; there are several clubs and a lot of good community events. But because it’s so tourist-heavy, it’s more catered to the straight clubs. A lot of people that do visit here are from middle America and they may not understand about gay people. Maybe one or two times, people have said something [negative to him]. But people are in Vegas to let loose and have a good time, and I do feel comfortable here. But nothing really beats New York.
It’s probably easier to date in New York.
Well, I don’t have to worry about that.
You’re seeing someone?
A recent episode of Holly’s World featured you shopping around for a therapist. Did you feel anxious about featuring your sessions on-camera?
me, it’s kind of liberating because I think many people have
misconceptions about therapists and why people go to them. It’s not
because you’re crazy; it’s because all of us have something in us one
way or another, and people don’t like to admit it. It’s nice to talk
about those things and talk about life in general and how you’re
feeling about stuff going on in your life. And sometimes it’s better to
have someone not in your life to talk to because you can step away and
this person knows nothing about your friends or your relationships and
can give you honest advice. That’s what’s so wonderful about it. I try
not to see the camera and get as real as I can.
When Holly’s World started, were you very aware of the cameras?
course, it’s always different whenever you start seeing that all the
time. But we’ve gotten so used to it, and basically, it’s all stuff we
would be doing in real life. Nothing that our show does is fake; it’s
about things that are going on in our lives right now. And it’s
important issues, not just fun and games. I’m glad I got to see a
therapist and show that it’s OK to talk to someone.
And you and Holly and the girls on the show actually seem like friends.
were friends before we even started filming. It wasn’t a casting thing.
The show was all based upon our lives as friends, which is cool because
we really love and care for each other.