A showgirl in one of the most extravagant costumes in the finale of "Jubilee!" at Bally's. (Brian Vander Brug / Los Angeles Times)

I'm headed out to check out "Fantasy," a topless revue on the Las Vegas Strip, because I'm supposed to interview the show's then-star, former Playboy centerfold Angelica Bridges. But I hadn't spent much time with my Little Brother from Big Brothers Big Sisters in a while, so I ask him if he'd like to join me.

"Really?" Jamie asked. "I can do that?"

Indeed, he's 20 now. He's not old enough to legally gamble, drink or visit nightclubs here. In other words, he can't do much of anything fun on the Strip. But yes, he can do this; the minimum age for production shows with nudity in them is, surprisingly, only 18. (It's 21 for strip clubs, however.)

"I've never done that before," he said en route. "I don't know what to expect."

And therein birthed a story idea. As a gay man, I'd largely shied away from covering the topless shows on the Strip because they're really not built to entertain -- or at least not to titillate -- me. But here was Jamie, a red-blooded straight male who, as a topless show virgin, had no preconceived notions. What if we saw all eight of the shows that contain females who disrobe and I turned over the grading system to him, enhanced with my own more seasoned, non-hetero point of view?

After we saw them all, Jamie ranked them from best to worst. I added my perspective but I didn't alter his order. Take it all for what it's worth, but remember that you've got finite time and money in Vegas. Jamie and I are here to help.


At New York-New York Hotel-Casino

Tickets: From $69.

Show times: 7:30 and 10 p.m., Friday-Tuesday

Pros: Cirque du Soleil poured $50 million into its 2003 entry into the Vegas adult entertainment show business, and every dollar of it seems to have been spent to create a unique and credible sequence of scenes exhibiting both impressive sex appeal as well as the sort of eye-popping athleticism that the Montreal circus troupe is known for. The intimacy of the theater and the live music provided cues that this would be a high-quality endeavor, and even the scene that could have been crass and exploitative -- two topless women frolicking together in a gigantic fishbowl -- was executed with sensuous grace thanks to beautiful synchonized-swimming choreography.

Cons: Jamie's biggest objection was to the contortionist, a guy in boxers who inverted his body in impressive but thoroughly disgusting ways. I'm pretty sure that sequence has been shortened over the years; I always look away, too. Blech.

Steve's Side: Of all these shows, Zumanity offered by far the most eye candy for gays and straight women, although an explicit gay ballet that culminated in a male-on-male kiss is no longer in the production. There's a full-on male striptease and even one scene in which a male and female performer strip each other; such interactivity is unique to this genre anywhere on the Strip. There were so many stacked male torsos, in fact, that Jamie remarked that it was mildly distracting and made him feel inferior.

Jamie's Bottom Line: "It's more of an entertaining show than an arousing one, but everything was really awesomely executed."


At Planet Hollywood

Tickets: From $65

Show Times: 9:30 p.m. Thursday, Friday, Sunday-Tuesday; 8 and 10:30 p.m. Saturdays

Pros: From the opening when former Playboy centerfold and "Girls Next Door" star Holly Madison is lowered from the ceiling in a powder-blue robe and rhinestone-encrusted stilettos, it is clear that Peepshow stands out among the Strip's adult productions as an actual story that focuses on a specific star and character. "Peepshow," the brainchild of Tony-winning choreographer Jerry Mitchell, features an unlucky-in-love Bo Peep (Madison) as she is led by the Peep Diva through a series of X-rated versions of classic nursery rhymes.