Chippendales Dancers, Musicians and Amazing Race Partners James Davis & Jaymes Vaughan Help Make Sure Access to HIV/AIDS Services in Vegas Is Not a Roadblock
by Chuck Willman
I won’t lie: I was nervous. I knew these two world-famous, globe-hopping men had been interviewed by a billion reporters, had done countless television shows (besides competing in The Amazing Race, with the duo in part trying to raise money for Jaymes’ father so he could focus on his cancer treatment), and had probably been asked every question from where you were born to do you shave down there. But when my managing editor asked—since I live in the Las Vegas area—if I would mind trying to get an interview with James Davis and Jaymes Vaughan of the Chippendales, I thought, why not? There’s a first time for everything. Besides, their hearts are their biggest muscles, it seems. They do a lot with Aid for AIDS of Nevada (AFAN), a non-profit that provides support and advocacy for adults and children living with and affected by HIV/AIDS in southern Nevada, as well as prevention education and campaigns to reduce stigma, and other local HIV/AIDS organizations. No matter what the event, you always see at least a few of the Chippendales in their “costumes.”
The night of the interview came, and I was actually calm. I arrived at the Chippendales Theater at The Rio Hotel & Casino early and waited where I was told to meet James and Jaymes. Once they had arrived, I was escorted along a long hallway to their dressing room. Now I was nervous. I had no idea what to expect, and due to circumstances out of my control, we were running very late.
The door opened and two Herculean, perfect specimens of male human beings stood up and shook my hand, greeting me with great big, bright beaming smiles, and friendly, wide, beautiful eyes. I was overwhelmed by their genuine warmth. The door was closed behind me, and I made myself comfortable on a sofa across from the lighted mirror table where James Davis and Jaymes Vaughan stretched out as if the room was far too small for their massive, muscular bodies. They asked if I needed anything; was I comfortable?
We did some small talk for a few minutes, but our scheduled time was fairly short as I was interviewing them before a show. Honestly, it did take me a couple of minutes to stop staring at their massive thighs, bulging biceps, ridiculously enormous chests…you get the picture. Then we got started.
A&U: First of all, Jaymes, I wanted to ask how your father is doing?
Jaymes Vaughan: Um, he passed away last March….
[I wanted to crawl under the sofa at this point. Surely this was an important fact I should have known. But he flashed that grin, even when I said we didn’t have to talk about it.]
I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.
Jaymes Vaughan: No, no! Don’t feel bad. It’s all good. Actually I got to spend a lot of time with him and it’s all good. I have a
friend going through it now with his father, and I’m able to sort of guide him through the emotional journey. My brother and I didn’t know what to expect, and didn’t know, really, what to do, or how to feel. There was so much medical debt and we had the help of so many [Las Vegas] Strip performers. We collected over $30,000 in donations, which was amazing! There was so much support. So for the cancer campaign we started, we’ll try to do an apparel line to raise money to help people in memory of my dad. People don’t realize how much cancer affects everybody. It’s really about awareness. It can be simple stuff: like if you’re playing with your balls—and we all do that—check ’em out! [I got dizzy for a moment.]
[To Jaymes] How long have you been a lead singer and dancer with the Chippendales?
Jaymes Vaughan: Lead singer and host with the “company” for seven years. We both started on the World Tour. [He laughed here.]
James Davis: It’s crazy how the time flies by! Almost a decade already!
[To J.D.] You also play guitar in the show?
James Davis: Yes, and dance lead as well.
[To J.V.] You’re also recording and releasing your own CDs, music videos…When do you breathe?
Jaymes Vaughan: We don’t. We’re both musicians. That’s how we ended up in the show. The musical aspect of the show is what really drew us to the “company.” [Jovially] I do breathe. I spend plenty of time with my friends and my family. But I’m a big believer that the more you put into life, the more you get out of it. You have to do everything you ever dreamed of doing, because you really only get one shot at it. Losing my dad is a big reminder of that. At any point it could all be gone. So I really don’t allow myself to have a day in my life where I think, “I didn’t make the most out of that day.” I’m just always going for it. And you’ll see that this isn’t really even work. This is a blast!
James Davis: This is playtime. It’s a blessing. This is where we get to hang out with our friends every day. I get to play guitar and get to perform. No complaints over here!
With Tanzer, you both did a single called “Light up the Sky.” Any chance the two of you will combine forces and continue to work together in the future?
Jaymes Vaughan: We did a seventeen-city tour in private clubs over the summer. We’ll be doing more of that, for sure.
Any chance either of you would leave the Chippendales for your own musical careers?
Jaymes Vaughan: Chippendales has been great for us, and we have no plans to leave at all!
Where are you both from?
James Davis: I’m from Maine.
Jaymes Vaughan: Virginia.
Did you just try-out to be Chippendales dancers? How did it happen for you both?
James Davis: We met about eight years ago modeling, believe it or not. We actually used to be real nerds. Total dorks!
Yeah, right. Please! Helen Keller, after learning braille, would have been able touch to both of you and she would have required resuscitation! [I did get a laugh out of Jaymes.]
James Davis: Anyway…We knew the World Tour show was coming through and we really had no idea what to expect, and didn’t really think about going…
Jaymes Vaughan: …But we decided to just check it out. It was in this arena with 5,000 women screaming and it was nothing like we expected—or like what I think you’re expecting. [I was going to get to see the show, which I was really excited about!] It was a multi-million dollar production, and something we thought we’d try for a while. And if the other guys weren’t cool, we at least had each other, and we decided we would just leave.
James Davis: As it turned out, it was like a fraternity and a great experience. And here we are seven years later, still dancing!
Then The Amazing Race came along. Did that experience strengthen your friendship? Or cause any sort of friction—maybe off-camera?
Jaymes Vaughan: Didn’t change anything because we knew each other so well.
James Davis: Yeah, we knew our weaknesses and strengths from the start. That actually helped us.
Are there any places you’d like to return to and spend more time, or do you prefer hanging out at home since you’re constantly on the road, on tour, so busy all the time?
James Davis: You definitely want to go back to some places because during the race you’re on such a frenetic pace and schedule, finding clues and doing the challenges that you don’t get the chance to really enjoy the experience. I’d really like to travel more, slow down, and take it all in. I’d love to go back to France. It’s so beautiful, so picturesque. And I’m really into castles. Istanbul, Turkey, was incredible. Majorca, Spain. Every place had its own unique draw for me.
How do you both balance all of this? What’s really your secret to pulling off what you two have been able to manage to achieve so successfully?
Jaymes Vaughan: You have to be gracious and thankful I think for everything you have.
James Davis: Every day is truly a blessing. It comes down to your attitude.
Jaymes Vaughan: Energy creates this adrenalin that comes with being grateful and knowing that you have this amazing thing to do today, whatever it might be, and it may decide what could happen tomorrow.
So you wake up every morning and that’s what it’s all about: You decide how that day will be, and how it will lead you into tomorrow?
James Davis: The drive doesn’t necessarily motivate you, but everything can change at the drop of a hat. It could all be gone tomorrow. It’s so important to cherish every moment and every opportunity that comes your way. You can’t look back and realize you missed an opportunity.
What makes you want to give back to the community and be involved with certain charities and organizations here in town or elsewhere?
Jaymes Vaughan: You have to! It’s as simple as that.
James Davis: It all comes around; it all comes back.
Jaymes Vaughan: It’s a full circle! If you have the opportunity to help someone’s life, I think you have the responsibility to do it. Had we won the million dollars on The Amazing Race, it was not going to be just for us. We had organizations already ear-marked to receive some of that money.
We don’t understand anyone who wouldn’t “pay it forward.” We personally know folks who have benefited from some of our charity work at AFAN, to name just one organization we’re involved with.
James Davis: It’s just gross when performers or “celebrities,” or anyone with money doesn’t contribute in some way. That disgusts me. I take part of my band, for example, and we run a non-profit called the Coalition for Christmas Cheer. We’ll go to children’s hospitals to sing Christmas carols, give toys away. We also spend time when we can on a cancer wing just trying to brighten someone’s day when we know they’re really going through a rough time. It’s just a simple, but really human thing to do.
Jaymes Vaughan: Power of grace. Do unto others.
In five to ten years, maybe when the dancing stops, what do you see yourselves doing?
James Davis: Definitely music. I’d like to either be playing in a band or producing one.
Jaymes Vaughan: I hope this, still! I love it!
If you could choose it, what would be your ultimate dream profession?
Jaymes Vaughan: I want to be that guy that’s the Dick Clark of our generation, the mega-host/producer. We had a platform to jump from that we’re both trying to use. What’s strange is that we went on a show and we lost on and people cared. And people still care. I definitely think it’s for a reason, and I think we’d be foolish not to use it, because at the end of the day, I believe it’s going to continue to open doors for me, for both of us.
James Davis: Absolutely. There is definitely more to come from us.
Right after the interview I was whisked away by the theater manager, first to the bar for a complimentary cocktail (served in a large plastic tumbler with, wouldn’t you know it, James Davis wearing nothing but undies and a bow tie), then taken to my VIP table past the line of hungry female customers waiting to get in. Then, right on time, the show began, and I couldn’t believe my eyes! The entire large cast was… umm…unbelievable to watch. Jaymes and James were amazing, and they were right: it was nothing that I expected! It was so much better! Ninety-minutes of non-stop, hot beefcake grinding and sexy dance numbers that I didn’t want to see end! I got to meet two of the nicest, kindest men I’ve ever met, and had the chance to watch them work, and having a damn good time doing it!
If you’re ever in Las Vegas, don’t miss the Chippendales. You’ll be sorry if you do!
For more about Chippendales in Vegas and on tour, visit: www.chippendales.com. If you would like to help out Coalition for Christmas Cheer, log on to: www.xmascoalition.com. Jaymes Vaughan: www.jaymesv.com. Catch up with James Davis at: mynameengraved.bigcartel.com. For more information about AFAN, log on to: www.afanlv.org.
Along with being a contributing writer for A&U, Chuck Willman has published widely in magazines and anthologies. For more information, send an e-mail to [email protected], and write “Bio Request” in the subject line.