Jace Jones remembers the first time he appeared onstage wearing nothing but his underwear.
Not only had he never previously been naked in front of a crowd, but he had never performed on a stage. Ever.
He was skinny and bald — the latter by choice. At the suggestion of a hairstylist friend, Jones had decided that shaving his receding hairline was better than the bowl cut he sported as a redheaded kid, or the fauxhawk he tried in his twenties. He also stuttered, and he had been picked on in school. It left him with low self-confidence.
Yet Jones, a forklift operator for an alcohol distributor, decided to take off his pants in front of an audience for a musical adaptation of the movie Natural Born Killers.
"I had never been depended on in my life," Jones says. "I had an average life. This was the first time in my life people wanted me to be the focus of something, and I didn't want to let them down."
When his pants came down, a new Jace Jones was born.
- Courtesy of Cookie Jones
- Jace Jones in high school.
Today, under the stage name of Bryce Bordello, he seeks to inspire other men to get in to the art of male burlesque dancing — boylesque — in St. Louis.
Growing up in Joliet, Illinois, a city 40 miles southwest of Chicago, Jones was a normal kid who liked the Cubs, playing baseball and collecting cards.
His life turned upside-down when he was fourteen and his parents moved to the southern Illinois town of Jerseyville, population 8,000.
When he says "Jerseyville," a sigh follows.
"It was your typical high school experience with the kid that gets picked on," says Jones. "That kid was me. It was very subtle, but annoying. I didn't really fit into any group. I was this city kid. That was a problem to some kids."
He was into comic books, but he was never an artist. He was into sports, but he was never a star athlete.
He got bored.
After high school Jones attempted college, but two years into studying computer science at Lewis and Clark Community College, he realized it was not for him. He wanted more out of life.
Jones didn't know where to find it, but he knew Jerseyville wasn't the place. With the help of his sister and future brother-in-law who lived in west county, Jones moved to St. Louis.
"There wasn't really a plan," says Jones, now 34. "I just wanted to get out. I needed to be in the city."