By Andy Smith
2008’s Strip-a-Thon – the online pledge drive that lets Broadway Bares dancers, performers and production staff raise money online – brought in $127,000 of Wonderland’s record-setting total, a greater than 50 percent increase over the $84,170 generated in 2007.
Billed as a Battle-of-the-Sexes, this year’s drive attracted more participants and better results among the girls, though the boys club held on to their competitive edge (for now).
For the second year running, Frankie Grande (#1) was the winner, with $14,375, and perennial show pony Steve Bratton(#2) second, with $9,725. Ambitious newcomer Ben Ryan (#3) was a strong third with $7,725.00. “This year I had 130 donors and my overall total for five years is $30,625,” says Bratton, who was appearing in his fifth Bares.
Among the women, Emily Loftiss was first, with $6,000, while first-time participant Tory Ross was a strong second ($4,735).
(#1) (#2) (#3)
Loftiss, a showstopper as the evening’s eye patch-wearing “Queen of Spades,” was performing in her fourth Bares and competing in her fourth Strip-a-Thon. “I’ve done it every year and I’ve done pretty poorly, to be honest,” she admits, adding that one unexpected donor made a big difference in her 2008 tally.
“This year, Terry Chandler, a friend from my home state of Georgia, gave a very large sum,” Emily says. “He’s a big supporter of pageants, and I competed in a number of them ‘back in the day’. I think he probably saw me compete in ‘Miss Georgia’ when I was 19.”
Recognizing Women’s Health
Grande thanked his “wealthy friends (just kidding)” and the online networking site Facebook for almost doubling his results from last year.
The determined fundraiser also was inspired by his Aunt Judy, who passed away June 13th after a long bout with breast cancer. “I began to raise the money in her name as soon as I read about the Women’s Health Initiative on your website. Her health was in a rapid decline at the time, so when she passed away I was really driven to get her message out to other people and to help women in need across the country prevent and treat that terrible disease,” Grande says.
“Many people I reached out to sympathize with this situation and wanted to show their support and appreciation for Broadway Cares giving to the Women’s Heath Initiative as well as for their efforts in the fight against AIDS.”
What it Takes
Bares Producer Michael Clarkston attributes this year’s record to the hard work of the dancers plus incentives to boost motivation. “Sponsors like W Hotels, Continental Airlines, R Family Vacations, Wear Me Out, American Ballet Theatr, Club H Fitness, Longivity Health & Spa, Langan’s Bar & Restaurant, Energy Kitchen, Nukitchen and Delphiumcontributed rooms, flights, tickets, gift certificates and other items that kept the dancers on their toes,” he says.*
“The producers also offered several contests over the course of the three week rehearsal period. For example, we held a raffle for the most money raised over the 48hr period the first weekend.”
Convio – an online software company partnered with BC/EFA – provided another boost, making it easy for participants to email friends, family and colleagues and direct them to their self-created personal pages on BC/EFA’s website, where an online contribution could be made on their behalf.
First-Timers Strut Their Stuff
For singer Tory Ross, first runner-up among the women competing, her fundraising success and the chance to strut her stuff on stage at Roseland offered the perfect therapy for a major disappointment: the Broadway musical Crybaby, in which she was appearing, closed abruptly the night of Bares.
“Crybaby closing was like ripping of a band aid,” Tory says. “Everyone involved had a big cry-fest, but it was great to haveBares to go to!”
Most of Tory’s donations were relatively small – $10.00 and $20.00 gifts, but she made up for that in bulk, with an even 50 donors responding to her appeal. Ross also snagged a corporate sponsor, a North Carolina medical center, which sent a check for $1,250.00.
“I’ve lived in New York for over 11 years and met a lot of people in that time,” says second runner-up and first time competitorBen Ryan ($7725.00), who admittedly had a few tricks up his sleeveless tee.
“This competition drove me crazy. I would sit in my apartment coming up with ways to make money. A friend said I should go on Facebook, which I was afraid of, because I knew it would take over my life,” he admits. “And it has.”
Facebook brought in donors, as did phrasing his appeal to stress that gifts of $250.00 would receive an automatic tax letter. “Eight people gave me $250.00 exactly. So that worked. Of course, they would have received a tax letter for a smaller gift, but I didn’t mention that.”
“I even went on one website and found a girl I’d gone to high school with,” he adds. “We had done a production of Annietogether in 1992. I didn’t know her well at all, but she gave $400.00.”
All the competitors said that, if chosen, they’d be back for Broadway Bares 19 in 2009, and campaigning for cash online, too. “I’m a strong believer in this organization,” says Loftiss. “As long as I can dance, I’m gonna do it.”
* Incidentally, both Clarkston and BC/EFA staffer Scott Tucker dug out some sexy, shirtless photos and posted their own Strip-a-thon appeal pages, earning $1,600 and $1,700, respectively.
Photo Credits: Carlos Gustavo Monroy