Ten years ago, Ian Ziering rode his Honda Gold Wing touring bike from a friend’s ranch in Montana to the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota.
“We went through Yellowstone (National Park), to North Dakota and down through South Dakota,” Ziering says as he jabs at a cheese-less, lacking-in-yolk omelet at Peppermill restaurant on the Strip. “It was motorcycle Zen.”
If that tale hearkens to the biker classic “Easy Rider,” it should. The owner of the ranch and leader of that motorcycle phalanx was Peter Fonda, who regaled this group of wild hogs in dizzying campfire stories during the pilgrimage to Sturgis.
How does one wind up riding a motorcycle to the nation’s largest biker rally with one of the great biker icons in American film history?
“I have a surreal social circle,” Ziering explains.
So this foray into uncharted territory as guest host of Chippendales at The Rio is not quite Ziering’s greatest adventure. The former cast member of “Beverly Hills, 90210” and a contestant six years ago on “Dancing With the Stars” has joined the cast for a run that began Thursday and is scheduled to end June 30. Ziering is essentially a weekend practitioner in the show, appearing Thursdays through Sundays in a production that is staged nightly across from BK Whopper Bar on The Rio’s upper level.
At age 49, Ziering is the oldest celebrity guest host to perform with the Vegas Chippendales production. (But he is not the oldest person ever in the show, for those interested in such demarcations of longevity. In October 2006, 66-year-old Bernie Barker took the stage with the Chipps at The Rio, only to die of cancer months later. Barker remains the oldest male stripper ever, according to The Guinness Book of World Records.)
In his role as host, Ziering’s objective is to hold the rudder, chat up the audience, perform a couple of dance numbers and pad his … resume.
“It’s something I’ve never done before, and it is a way to increase my skill set,” he says. “Work always begets work, in my business, and this is a way to show the people in the casting community and producing community there that it’s not always necessary to be the good guy.”
And clipping on the Chipps bow tie and French cuffs for a month in Vegas is a more sensible move than, say, knocking over convenience stores or collecting DUIs.
“Having the image, the blond hair and blue eyes, is a bit limiting” Ziering says. “I’ll be displaying more of an edge, and in a very sexual way. I’m hoping that will alter the focus and opinion of me from a lot of people.”
Ziering is married and has two daughters (“One is 2 and one is new,” he says) and says his wife, Erin, is thrilled that he is joining the Chipps. When Ziering took the first call from his agent suggesting a stint with the show, Ziering relayed the message to his spouse.
“She said, ‘I think you should do it!’ ” Ziering recalls. This is not only an artistic benefit. Ziering has worked himself into shape, dropping from 205 pounds to 180 in about three months. He says he’s receiving flirty texts from his wife now that he’s in Chipps shape.
“I’m like ‘Magic Ian’ now,” he jokes.
Ziering is looking forward to some of his former cast mates from “90210” visiting the shows in Vegas, name-checking Luke Perry, Shannon Doherty, Jennie Garth and Jason Priestley as those interested in witnessing an effective way to fend off midlife crisis.
Ziering is keenly aware that he has taken a pretty cool summer job.
“I mean, I think about it, and it’s all pros and no cons. There is not one con,” he says. “I plan to have fun. I approach my career seriously, but I don’t take myself too seriously. I just want to have a great time onstage and navigate the show, but the real stars are the Chippendales.”
All he really needs to do is kick-start this vehicle. And that, Ian Ziering knows all about.