The Dark History of Chippendales
Chippendales was co-founded by Somen ‘Steve’ Banerjee, an Indian immigrant who had moved from Bombay to Los Angeles in the late 1960s. Banerjee worked as a janitor and owned two gas stations before he bought the failing bar called Destiny II in West LA. Banerjee and his partner Bruce Nahin tried everything from female mud wrestling to magic shows to bring in crowds without any luck.
However, their luck changed when Paul Snider, a self-described “Jewish pimp” from Canada, suggested an all-male strip night. Banerjee took his advice, and in 1979, they opened Chippendales.
The all-male dance revue brought in crowds of women who lined up around the block to tuck dollar bills into the G-strings of the oiled up dancer. The troupe started wearing Chippendales’s signature bowtie and cuffs at the suggestion of Snider’s wife, Dorothy Stratten, a Playboy Playmate of the Year.
While the concept itself was progressive, there was little to no diversity as the majority of performers who were hired were primarily white.Just a year after the club opened, Snider, jealous of his estranged wife’s success, shot and killed 20-year-old Stratten before turning the gun on himself in August 1980.
Snider discovered Stratten in a Dairy Queen in Canada and took her to Hollywood to try to make her famous. As she became Playmate of the Year, they drifted apart.
Snider, angry to be left behind, murdered her at his home after she came over to talk finances with him and then killed himself.
The murder-suicide became the basis of the 1983 movie Star 80, which starred Mariel Hemingway as Dorothy Stratten and Eric Roberts as Paul Snider.
In 1981, as Chippendales continued to attract hoards of women, Banerjee hired Emmy-winning producer Nick De Noia to choreograph and spice up the troupe’s tour and live show routines.
They launched a second Chippendales location in New York in 1983 followed by clubs in Dallas and Denver, but the company started facing competition from rival male strip clubs.
Worried about the future of his business, Banerjee attempted to burn down or vandalize competing clubs. During this time, his relationship with De Noia had also deteriorated, with Banerjee’s partner Nahin sometimes having to serve as the go-between.
Banerjee was jealous of the money De Noia was pulling in from the tour and resented how he took credit for, and became the face of Chippendales. In 1987, he asked Ray Colone to hire a hitman named “Louie” to shoot De Noia dead at his Chippendales office desk in midtown Manhattan. Colone subcontracted the hit, and the gunman posted as a messenger and shot De Noia in the face in his office.
Banerjee pleaded guilty to a racketeering charge that included orchestrating De Noia’s murder and attempted arson.
He was sentenced to 26 years in prison. He was caught on tape saying he would flee to India if he needed to. He wife divorced him, leaving him with no chance of bond or fleeing the US.
Banerjee was found dead in his cell after he used a bedsheet to hang himself. Banerjee died at 48,
The Chippendales clubs closed soon after. but new owners bought and relaunched the brand in 2000, including ponzi-crook Lou Pearlman, former manager of Backstreet Boys and N’SYNC.