How America’s first male strip club, Chippendales, led to hitmen and suicide

Tright here’s substance beneath the entire cocaine and thongs,” says Welcome to Chippendales writer Robert Siegel. The author/manufacturer in the back of Pam & Tommy, Hulu’s 2021 dramatisation of Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee’s intercourse tape scandal, has became his consideration to the wild tale in the back of the status quo of The us’s first male strip membership. The eight-episode drama – out now on Hulu in america and Disney+ in the United Kingdom – follows Kumail Nanjiani as Somen “Steve” Banerjee, the Indian entrepreneur who based Chippendales, as he grasps for the American dream. Banerjee’s hubris, alternatively, in the long run resulted in destruction, homicide, and suicide.

The tale started in 1975 with Bombay-born Banerjee buying a failing discotheque in West Hollywood, which he meant to grow to be the town’s first backgammon membership. He named the venue “Future II” – there used to be no Future I however, as Nanjiani’s Banerjee explains within the collection, “The II implies it’s a sequel, projecting an air of luck.” The formidable title serves as a metaphor for Banerjee’s fake-it-till-you-make-it mentality.

“His motivation isn’t malice,” Siegel explains. “His motive force is cash and status.” Sadly, the backgammon idea discovered him neither of the ones issues, and it’s right here he met promoter Paul Snider (performed through Dan Stevens) and his then-wife, 19-year-old Playboy Playmate of the Yr Dorothy Stratten (Nicola Peltz Beckham), who gave him the speculation for an all-male burlesque display centered in opposition to girls. What’s extra, Stratten used to be in the back of the male dancers’ iconic tuxedo collars and cuffs aggregate, impressed through the Playboy Membership.

He relaunched his venue as Chippendales, named after the well-known Sixteenth-century cupboard maker Thomas Chippendale – to challenge a veneer of sophistication – and introduced their “Male Unique Dance Evening for Women Best”. It used to be an incredible luck; alternatively, the story then took its first grisly twist. Stratten left Snider for Hollywood director Peter Bogdanovich and in August 1980, Snider shot and killed Stratten sooner than taking his personal lifestyles. Whilst just a fleeting cameo within the collection for Stevens as Snider, it’s a outstanding, real-life foreshadowing of the jealousy and violence that might at some point grab Banerjee.

In spite of Banerjee’s ambitions, Chippendales wasn’t the high-end membership he’d dreamt of. It used to be “a dive bar in an commercial phase of West Los Angeles”, former Chippendales worker Bruce Nahin advised historian Natalia Petrzela in her 2021 documentary podcast collection, Welcome to Your Delusion. That every one modified – to a point – when Banerjee met Nick de Noia (performed through The White Lotus celebrity Murray Bartlett within the Hulu collection). De Noia used to be a manufacturer and choreographer who wowed Banerjee together with his two Emmy awards, although, within the collection a minimum of, he neglects to say that they have been for a children’ TV display known as Unicorn Stories. De Noia became Chippendales’ performances from a gimmick right into a well-oiled burlesque display, however his creativity clashed with Banerjee, whose worry used to be at all times benefit. To make issues worse, De Noia become the extra palatable white face of Chippendales in Eighties The us.

“Banerjee used to be motivated through jealousy – that Nick used to be getting the credit score for Chippendales, jealousy that Nick used to be getting 1/2 of the door,” Candace Mayeron, a former affiliate manufacturer for the revue, stated within the 2021 documentary Curse of the Chippendales. Siegel bemoans a loss of photos to be had to investigate Banerjee as Nick “in point of fact become the face of the article”.

Kumail Nanjiani (left) and Robin de Jesus in ‘Welcome to Chippendales’

(Erin Simkin/Hulu)

“There’s photos of Nick being interviewed on a large number of the large communicate presentations on the time,” Siegel says. In 1984, De Noia satisfied Banerjee to let him open up a New York franchise of Chippendales, signing the traveling rights to the franchise “in perpetuity” on a paper serviette. Banerjee didn’t know what perpetuity supposed however didn’t need to lose face through asking. His delight would in the long run be his downfall.

Two years later, the industry used to be dealing with monetary break as Banerjee had poured corporate cash into proudly owning his personal printing press, handiest to have a crisis printing the Chippendales calendar. Banerjee got here from a printing circle of relatives – his father owned a press in Bombay and so purchasing one in Los Angeles used to be an issue of delight for the expat. Banerjee had employed a contract artist to attract up his calendars however refused to pay him extra time. The layouts have been submitted half-arsed, and, in spite of his background, Banerjee didn’t evidence them sooner than they went to press. Because of this, 300,000 copies of the 1987 calendar have been published with an faulty 31 days in February. The error value Banerjee tens of 1000’s of greenbacks. “It used to be a present as a author,” Siegel rejoices, “I used to be simply passed this tragic irony on a silver platter.”

Nicola Peltz Beckham and Dan Stevens in ‘Welcome to Chippendales’

(Erin Simkin/Hulu)

In the meantime, Banerjee used to be dealing with a lawsuit from De Noia over the profitable traveling rights he’d signed away at the serviette. It used to be at this level that Banerjee took drastic measures to take away his industry spouse from the equation for just right. The boss tasked his subordinate Ray Colon (depicted within the Hulu collection through Tick Tick Growth’s Robin de Jesús) with sporting out successful on De Noia, which Colon subcontracted to a junkie named Gilbert Rivera Lopez. On 7 April 1987, Lopez walked into De Noia’s New york place of business and shot him within the face with a big calibre pistol. A yr later, De Noia’s circle of relatives bought his percentage of Chippendales to Banerjee for $1.3m (£1.1m).

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It gave the look of Banerjee had gotten away with it, too, however the entrepreneur’s thirst to break the contest become insatiable. In 1990, Banerjee as soon as once more hired Colon’s services and products to handle two former Chippendales dancers who arrange a rival membership named Adonis in Blackpool, England. Colon as soon as once more outsourced his murderer, paying a hitman with the intimidating nickname “Strawberry” $25,000 (£21,000) in line with kill for the Adonis manufacturers, Steve White and Learn Scott. Maximum unusual of all used to be the process through which the assassinations have been to be performed – Strawberry used to be given a suitcase stuffed with cyanide and advised to stab each males with a syringe stuffed with the stuff whilst within the Blackpool membership. Sadly for Banerjee, Strawberry were given chilly toes and ditched the cyanide hours sooner than the hit used to be meant to happen. “Those British strippers have been of no danger to [Banerjee],” Siegel says. “He used to be in order that crazed about pageant and took it so in my opinion.”

Strawberry flew again to Las Vegas and spilt the beans to the FBI, fearing that Colon would have him killed if he returned to Los Angeles. The FBI raid on Colon’s house discovered sufficient cyanide to kill 230 other people, which he claimed used to be for gophers. Colon ultimately agreed to a plea deal, giving up his boss because the mastermind in the back of the assassination makes an attempt, De Noia’s homicide and previous arson assaults on competing LA companies. Banerjee used to be arrested in 1993.

Murray Bartlett as Nick De Noia in ‘Welcome to Chippendales’

( Erin Simkin/Hulu)

The Chippendales proprietor pleaded to blame to the costs he confronted, alternatively, hours sooner than his ultimate sentencing on 23 October 1994, the story took one ultimate, tragic twist. Banerjee used to be discovered lifeless through suicide in his prison mobile. His loss of life supposed that as a substitute of his belongings being seized, Chippendales went to his spouse, Irene (performed through Annaleigh Ashford within the drama), who later bought the franchise for $2.5m (£2.1m). It’s a really astonishing story depicted through a career-best Nanjiani. Siegel is correct, below the entire cocaine and thongs, there in point of fact is so much happening.

Welcome to Chippendales is out now on Disney+ in the United Kingdom and Hulu in america

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