Interview with the ‘Talent Man’ at Sapphire: AJ Trunk
The comedian Lily Tomlin had a routine I’ll never forget. She rhetorically asks the audience, “What if we all grew up to be what we wanted to be when we were kids? … It would be a world with nothing but firemen, cowboys, nurses and ballerinas!”
Last week I got to spend time with someone many of you might consider to be the holder of a dream job. He is tasked with meeting., screening, hiring and training all of the entertainers that Sapphire Gentlemens’s Club in Las Vegas is famous for. He’s AJ Trunk, and he’s the Talent & Acquisition Manager for the ‘World’s largest gentlemen’s club.’
From Entertainer to ‘Talent Man’
Many of you know AJ Trunk because for years he’s hosted the #1 Monday Night Football party in Las Vegas at Sapphire. He’s been associated with the club for almost 18 years … but the Talent & Acquisition role is relatively new for AJ. Prior to this gig he ran the very successful male review that at Sapphire was called ‘Men of Sapphire.’ The review was associated with the Riveria Hotel and the famed Olympic Gardens club on the strip. Thousands of women and man have seen and heard AJ and his cast perform in some of the best venues in Las Vegas.
When covid hit us, and the politicians kicked us, the show, like everything else in town, shut down. When Las Vegas began to slowly come back to life the club asked AJ to take on a new role. They needed to “refill the shelves,” in my language. Thousands of dancers had followed the real science and headed to states like Florida, Texas and Arizona to make a living. The clubs in Las Vegas, large and small, had to fight hard to find quality entertainers, and lure them back as independent contractors.
Here’s what AJ Trunk explained to me…
TVO: AJ, what have you done to prepare you for your new job?
AJ Trunk: For almost 20 years I’ve organized shows, been on stage, met venue owners like Adam Gentile, Peter Eliades, and Peter Feinstein. I also have experience as an IT Recruiter, so many of the skills I used in that work transfer over well to my new role.
TVO: How hard was it to transition from producing a show to finding dancers for Sapphire?
AJ Trunk: When we reopened, much of the talent had left town or moved on to other work, or onto new stages in their life like raising kids. When we reopened, we started with a roster of less than 60 independent contractors. We wanted to get the group back up to over 300! The pipeline was not filled at all.
In normal times, a great club like Sapphire benefits from its reputation so you are selecting or ‘harvesting’ from the many girls that apply every day. After covid we had to go into ‘hunting’ mode and find talent. I used every source in my network to make contact and bring them in for an audition. During the lockdown many had found alternative outlets to find an audience like live streaming, OnlyFans, and others. They have always been independent operators, and the lockdown of the clubs made that independence more tangible than ever.
TVO: What turned the tide, allowing you to refill the pipeline here?
AJ Trunk: The engagements started to snowball. The early work of networking seemed to click on as word got out that stars could make their money again at Sapphires.
A Sapphire Type Dancer?
TVO: What do you look for in a Sapphire entertainer?
AJ Trunk: This is Las Vegas. Our customers expect a girl that has a “WOW” factor that they don’t see at home. We want a ‘star quality.’
TVO: Is there a Sapphire type?
AJ Trunk: Customers have come to expect beautiful, large breasts, a sexy vibe, a great butt. We think we deliver on that expectation.
TVO: How selective are you? Can you tell our readers what percentage of applications get a contract?
AJ Trunk: We are at about 1 in 20 are offered a contract to perform. We look for the ‘best-of-the-best!”
TVO: What celebrity would you most like to see dancing at Sapphire if you could sign her up?
AJ Trunk: Ariana Grande!
TVO: What is the on-boarding like at Sapphire?
AJ Trunk: Many of our dancers have industry experience. To make sure they do things the ‘Sapphire’s Way ‘I have a 45-minute orientation with each performer. We go through our club, our policies, success factors here at Sapphire and meeting our team. On an ongoing basis I, and others, will work with them to improve their skills on being successful with our customers. We help them with their approach, wardrobe, make-up … everything that goes into presenting ‘a Sapphire image.’
At this point AJ shows me the certificate awarded to entertainers. I was impressed that Sapphire works in partnership with the state and local authorities to raise the awareness among all of their employees on the signs of human trafficking. Sapphire works hard to combat this plague and trains their people to be on guard for bad actors among the people that enter their building.
The Future of Men’s Clubs
AJ Trunk: I see more mixed groups of men and women in the clubs. More coed parties, more mixed bachelor and bachelorette parties, more special events that attract groups. I think we will be the new night clubs offering more excitement, more relaxation, fewer rules, more real entertainment and more fun.
TVO: Thanks AJ, good luck getting Ariana Grande!