In 1985, if you’d have bet Joshua Stucky $1 million that his just out-of-the-attic drag comedy troupe would be performing in 2014, he’d have taken the bet and laughed his way to the bank.
But to the Southeastern High School grad, what’s actually unfolded in the past 29 years is more preposterous yet: His Dayton-based RubiGirls not only still has an audience, they have raised more than $1 million to fight the battle against HIV and AIDS.
Springfield will get its first chance to see the Girls when their summer tour gives its final performance at 9:30 p.m. Saturday at the Diesel Night Club, 1914 Edwards Ave. Admission is $5. For a table reservation, call 937-324-0383.
“We never dreamed it would last as long as it has lasted,” said Stucky, whose cell phone message tells the caller his name rhymes with cookie. “In the early days, we couldn’t get two people to pay attention to us.”
That’s not quite true.
He and two other founders of the group “used to do these stupid little shows in our attic at the University of Dayton,” he said.
With the encouragement of those laughing themselves silly, the Girls started performing in small bars “and it got bigger and bigger and bigger,” he said.
The 1989 UD grad got his start in theater at Southeastern High School and took to the stage in Summer Arts Festival performances in Veterans Park.
The stage is the same kind of thing that the attic is for children who find a trunk of old clothing and play pretend, he said.
“I think more than anything, you get the opportunity to be somebody you’re not … (There’s something that) lets a whole different side of your personality come out,” he said.
“Coming out” was a much more dramatic thing when the RubiGirls started performing as a group of five straight and five gay men, a lineup that gradually has become all gay.
And it was an issue that followed the military rules of “don’t ask, don’t tell,” in Stucky’s South Charleston childhood.
Jamie Cason, who was a Southeastern cheerleader when Stucky became the first male cheerleader in school history, said they’ve been close friends since they were in the third grade together at Miami View Elementary School.
“I just remember that he was really fun. I think everybody pretty much accepted (his sexuality). He was really easy to like and funny.
“I’m sure he went through things,” she said. “But he had great friends. We all loved him.”
And she has the sense that, “South Charleston, over all, was really good to him.”
“I was very lucky,” said Stucky. “I had a great core of friends. It never became much of an issue. Nowadays people speak about it. We didn’t even talk about it.”
Now, he said, he has the sense that in their private lives, the 10 RubiGirls are “very well accepted.”
“We’re all professionals – teachers, counselors, business owners,” said the elementary school teacher.
For most people, “I think if you’re good at your job, the rest doesn’t matter.”
Unless, of course, you can be good at comedy, too.
Cason, who has been to about 20 RubiGirls shows over the years – the latest a sold out performance last month at the Dunes Resort in Saugatuck, Mich. – has a warning about the show: “It can be raunchy.”
She also offers a kind of guarantee: “It’s funny.”
She particularly likes the bar shows because “it’s the kind of atmosphere where it can be crazy and funny and raunchy” and she can expect running into Stucky’s 80-something mother and her 80-plus something friend.
Two crowd favorite skits are parodies of the movie “Titanic” and the Broadway musical “Wicked.”
Those crowd favorites are mixed in with a constant flow of new material the group introduces from the news and current events to stay topical.
Cason’s husband, Andy, who also has seen his share of shows over the years, said that “now that they’re a little older, it’s gotten funnier, too.”
Stucky senses it’s different from the edgier days when AIDS was more controversial – the days in the late 1990s when a documentary about the RubiGirls was named best documentary at the Fire Island Film Festival.
“There was nothing really like us back then,” he said.
On the other hand, he’s also been shocked by the accelerating change in attitudes regarding gayness, gay rights and gay marriage.
“It’s rapid. It’s just been so weird.”
If he had been offered a $1 million bet about that some time ago, he’d likely have taken that one, too.