Magic Mike was one of those movies that caught a lot of people off guard—its cast of Hollywood hunks, glistening under the neon lights, with washboard abs and huge biceps, making most women weak in the knees and sending their husbands into a self-conscious sulk. I still know people today who don’t really understand that film and think it was just some slick studio flick about strippers. Which it was, by the way. But it was so much more than just eye candy for the pleasure of our smarter sex. For me personally, Magic Mike was one of the most striking and forward-thinking films of the last ten years; combining athleticism, wit, good looks, and an off-beat storyline more inclined for the independent cinema than the multiplex. It’s a tour de force of top-flight dance and choreography, matched with smart camera work (by Mr. Soderbergh, of course), a script that meanders effortlessly between dark and silly, and a collaborative cast that couldn’t have been more fun to watch on screen. “You liked that movie? I thought it was just for girls!” people still say to me when I express my appreciation for Magic Mike today. Come on. That’s like saying cocktails or white wine are just for girls. Please. Grow up.
When the sequel to the film was announced a while back—Magic Mike XXL—I never dreamed I’d be invited down to Hollywood for the premiere. However, since Steven’s booze company Singani 63 was sponsoring the event, I got the chance to be a part of the festivities. So here I was, holed up in the Mondrian Hotel on LA’s famous Sunset Strip, looking out over the city from high above, drinking a cocktail in my boxer shorts while ironing out the last few wrinkles in my suit; my wife applying her make-up in the glamorously-lit bathroom behind me. Yes, it was going to be quite the scene, and I had no idea what to expect. In these situations I find it’s best to just relax and let the night take you where it will. I poured another drink and gazed out towards the skyline.
Our official Singani 63 pre-party was by the Tropicana pool at the world-famous Roosevelt Hotel. We gathered for custom-made Singani cocktails (I had a delicious one that resembled a Negroni using Carpano Antica vermouth and orange bitters) and a bit of chit-chat before the film started. David OG and his wife rolled in a bit after us, looking dapper as always. We snacked on cheese and various pickled vegetables before we got the call to head across the street. The TCL Chinese Theater on Hollywood Boulevard beckoned.
What we quickly realized upon our exit was that our current location (the Roosevelt) and our final destination (the theater) were separated by a gigantic wall of on-lookers and star-gazers; packed onto the sidewalk, holding signs and squirming towards the guard rail for a glimpse at the red carpet. We weren’t sure how to part that sea and get into the theater, so we mistakenly tried moving through the back of the crowd, hoping to flank them from the opposite side of the entrance. Bad idea. About five minutes into that attempt we were smashed against the side of a shop by Christian protesters, picketing against the pre-conceived smut that awaited us (and the fact that one of tonight’s guests Sofia Vergara had frozen her embryos). After one of the more claustrophobic experiences of my life, we retreated back the way we had come, and found a security guard to escort us in through a side entrance. We were in.
As a film, Magic Mike XXL builds on everything you loved about the first movie, intensifies it, and increases that intensity to a fever pitch with a grand finale. If you think it's just a bunch of greased-up bods with gyrating hips, think again. Magic Mike XXL is just as much a bromance road trip as it is a female striptease, and it's one of the most feel-good buddy films I've seen in years. The entire experience is meant to pull the stick out of your ass, and put a gigantic smile on your face; but tastefully and with charm. Over the course of the trip, the film's theme mimics the crises and quests of the characters themselves, as the guys look deep within themselves for their own personal definitions of happiness. There's a scene where Joe Manganiello goes into a liquor store, hell-bent on giving the gloomy checkout girl a bit of man-powered sunshine. I've never laughed so hard. That moment ends up being a metaphor for the flick itself; a message to let your guard down and open yourself up to life's possibilities. The most touching moments are incredibly sentimental, which is another reason the women love it. The men of Magic Mike are completely in touch with what women want, both physically and emotionally, in a way that never appears hackneyed or clichéd. I also can’t fully express to you how much fun it was to see Magic Mike XXL in a gigantic theater with hundreds of screaming ladies.
At the after party, it was all Singani 63—another reminder from Mr. Soderbergh to let your hair down a bit. There's a similar motif that threads between Steven's film and the handling of his liquor brand. It's always about quality, of course, but never at the expense of a good time. All of the cocktails on the menu were named after characters in the film, and were incredibly refreshing against the sultry Hollywood night.
I went first for a coconut drink with lime juice and mint. A bit of fusion between a Mai Tai and a Pina Colada. It was delicious, and the floral notes from the Singani actually held up beautifully against both the tartness of the citrus and the sweetness of the coconut. I truly believe that you can mix Singani into just about anything and make a great drink. I cannot stress enough how versatile this stuff is.
The burning question, I know, I know: David, did you get to party with the Magic Mike XXL cast? Yes, I did. Sofia and Joe were on one side of the room, Channing on the other, and Andie McDowell was chilling out at a table right in the center. It was pretty cool, I won't lie. While I was waiting for my wife to come out of the restroom, however, I spotted one of my all-time heroes standing humbly in the corner, about to pour himself a glass of Singani over ice. It was "Big Daddy Cool" himself, Kevin Nash—the seven-foot tall, former WWE Champion who plays Tarzan in both Magic Mike films. I instantly got butterflies in my stomach as he approached the drink cart and stood there on my right, towering over me, checking out the new artwork on the bottle.
I took a deep breath, threw another glance at the bathroom line (no sign of my wife), and let it out:
"Kevin, do you mind if I take a photo of you drinking the Singani? I'm going to write a little article about the party tonight and I'd love to get a picture of you enjoying it."
He couldn't have been nicer. We ended up chatting for ten minutes about various things—drinking, watching Team America, Florida, etc—and I was like a kid in a candy store, beaming with rosy cheeks and a huge grin.
"I'm on my third glass, already, and I don't normally drink hard liquor," Nash added before we parted. "You can't shoot this stuff; you have to sip it, which I like."
"You prefer it straight?" I asked.
"It tastes so good on its own, I don't really need to mix it," he responded.
And what type of Magic Mike XXL after-party would it be without live male dancers, removing their clothing for a screaming crowd of celebrities, on a stage recreated from the film itself? This was easily one of the best nights of my life. My wife and I were all smiles from ear-to-ear by the evening's end. The movie itself was hilarious and uplifting. The Singani 63 put me in the best of moods. The post-film party was epic. I felt like Channing Tatum himself was going to walk over and say, "Now there's that smile I was looking for," just like he does in the movie.
You got me, Mike. Your magic definitely worked on me. Another round of Singani please.