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I Own a Strip Club Empire. I’m Also a Dad

"I’m very open about it. Sometimes, when you try to hide something, it’s worse. It seems like you’re doing something wrong. But I love what I do.”

Armand Peri spends a lot of time working out of his home office. He’s thankful for the privilege, mainly because it allows him to spend more time with his kids. While he and his wife Fran do have a nanny to help keep things under control when he’s busy, that doesn’t stop the kids from barging into his office every now and then — especially his three-year-old son, Max. Max often hears his father conducting business over the phone, proudly saying the name of his company. He hears it so often, in fact, that Max has already incorporated it into his lexicon.

“One of Max’s first words was ‘Hunk-O-Mania,’” Peri tells Fatherly.

Peri was born in Vila de Conde, a small municipality located in the north of Portugal. He and his family immigrated to the United States when he was 12 years old. Today, the 54-year-old lives in suburban New Jersey with his wife and children and is the founder of Hunk-0-Mania Entertainment, a live choreographed male dance revue and strip show he founded. It operates out of The Copacabana, one of New York City’s most celebrated nightclubs. And unlike most of the other strip clubs scattered around the city, the patrons here are overwhelmingly female.

Strip clubs weren’t always in the game plan for Peri. He used be big into bodybuilding, though that industry didn’t prove too lucrative.

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“I was putting all these hours into the working, working out six hours a day, eating right, but I really wasn’t making much money,” he explains. “I figured I might as well do something that’s going to get me paid.”

So, Peri began to strip. The job afforded him enough time in the day to pursue his original career goals. But it also introduced him to something he enjoys even more than a flexible schedule: cash. “You go in for a few hours, you do your thing and you come home with money,” he explains.

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Peri opened Hunk-O-Mania 21 years ago in New York City. “I was dancing; I was hosting; I was working the door. I was doing everything,” he explains. Ten years later, he landed a second location. Hunk-O-Mania had officially moved into Atlantic City. A year after that, the company expanded into Chicago, Illinois. That same year, they made it to Philadelphia. Today, the company has locations in 19 cities and Peri is no longer performing on the main stage.

Peri loves what he does. Still, there’s no such thing as the perfect job, least of all when you’re in the entertainment business. Alcohol is typically incorporated into the audience experience. And where there’s booze, there’s often bad behavior.

“People can be rude after a couple of drinks,” he says. That can become a problem when it comes to the interactive part of the show. All Hunk-O-Mania performances involve an element of audience engagement, meaning dancers can go down in the crowd and get more intimate with the women watching the show. Sometimes they’ll invite members of the crowd to touch their abs, or their biceps. And sometimes, clients will take things too far.

“Some guys go home with scratches,” says Peri. “One of our guys went home with marks on his back the other day. It’s not always pretty, but you have to embrace the negatives. You have to learn how to control the situation,” he adds. What that looks like in action varies dancer to dancer. Sometimes they’ll walk away. Other times, they’ll redirect a customer’s hands and wait for them to calm it down.

As CEO of the company, Peri has traditionally worked pretty long hours. And that can make sustaining a relationship difficult. In fact, he says the schedule complicated his former dating life far more than the nature of the job itself. Fortunately, he’s found a partner who is fully on board with the realities of the job.

Fran is Peri’s second wife. Together, they have three children, aged three, six, and nine. He also has an older son from a previous marriage who is currently attending college in Europe. Fran manages most of the organizational tasks related to the business.

“She’s incredible,” says Peri. “I truly believe she’s one of the main reasons why I was able to grow the company the way I have. Having a supportive wife has been key.”

Sometimes, for date nights, he and Fran check out the show. “I’ve got no problem with her looking at handsome, half-naked men. And when a beautiful young girl comes up to me, she’s okay with that, too. She takes it as a sign that I’m still attractive; that I’m still appealing. At the end of the day, we go home together.”

Though, there is something else that Peri credits for his professional success: kids. “Becoming a father made me much more motivated at work,” he explains. “I had a responsibility to take care of another human being. When my first son was born, I became much more focused. I really think that’s when the company began to evolve. It made me a better businessman, a better entrepreneur. I had to succeed not only for my sake, but for my family.”

Peri sees a similar evolution in the new dads working at the club. “The guys who make the most money are the fathers,” he says. “They treat is as a job more so than a hobby, because they depend on it to pay their bills. They not only have to worry about supporting themselves, but their families. They’re the most dedicated; they’re the most professional.”

But does Perry tell his children what he does?

“My kids know I put together entertainment shows for women. I’m very proud of the work I do, so I don’t hold back talking to them about it,” he says. “In fact, my 6-year-old Carter, wants to take over Hunk-O-Mania when he gets older. It is a beautiful business that brings happiness to a lot of people and I’m not ashamed to share any aspect of it with my children.”

Peri is an engaged and active father. He and Fran are even members of the PTA. They go to meetings at the school, and they’ve connected with a lot of the other parents through social media where it’s not uncommon for him to post pictures of his kids wearing “Hunk-O-Mania” merchandise.

Those photos, he says, get a lot of “likes” from other members of the PTA. Some have even checked out the show.

“I’m very proud of my work,” says Peri. “I’m very open about it. Sometimes, when you try to hide something, it’s worse. It seems like you’re doing something wrong. But I love what I do.”