The newest Hulu true crime mini series, Welcome to Chippendales, explores the founding of the iconic male strip club, Chippendales, back in the 1980s and the shady goings on that were tied to the business. Specifically, the series, which drops on Nov. 22 and is based on true events, dives into the life of Somen “Steve” Banerjee, showing viewers the crimes that led to his downfall.
While Steve was wildly successful with Chippendales, the business got pretty messy and his relationships with his business partners and competitors quickly deteriorated. Steve was eventually arrested for hiring someone to murder his business partner, the famous choreographer Nick de Noia, and also allegedly plotted to kill several others.
But what happened to Steve and is he still alive? Here’s what you need to know.
Somen 'Steve' Banerjee was born in Bombay, India.
Steve immigrated to the U.S. from Bombay, and became an entrepreneur, according to ABC News. Steve first worked as a janitor and then bought several Mobil gas stations in Los Angeles, according to Los Angeles Magazine.
He founded Chippendales.
Steve bought a cocktail lounge in 1975, and decided to call it Destiny II, LA Mag explains. There, he and his partner Bruce Nahin tried luring in customers using magic shows, offering a dinner theater, and even female mud wrestling, but this type of entertainment just wasn't bringing in the big crowds they hoped to see.
Eventually the two met a man named Paul Snider, who worked with Hugh Hefner and was married to a Playboy Playmate named Dorothy Stratton. Snider suggested that Steve try out an all-male strip night. They ended up trying it one night a week before transforming the club in 1979 and renaming it Chippendales, the magazine and website say.
The Chippendales website explains that the name came from the "classic Chippendales-style furniture that adorned the club where the guys first performed." Chippendales went on to make millions from the club and related merch, The New York Times says.
Steve had a wife and kids.
He married a woman named Irene, who died in 2001. They had two children together—Lindsay and Christian, according to her obituary. Christian is now a stripper, telling the New York Post that it's a "spiritual calling" that gives him a “sense of meaning.”
“I saw other guys dancing and said I needed to step up my game so I started taking lessons,” he said. “When I did my fireman routine, I realized that I didn’t want to do any other job in my life.”
Steve is played by Kumail Nanjiani in the series.
Kumail told The New York Times that he didn’t realize his character was a bad guy until he saw rough cuts of the series.
“The way the character is written, he’s looking for validation outside of himself,” Kumail said. “Having done 10 years of standup comedy in terrible bars, that’s a thing that I really can relate to. He really does not like himself. He’s very uncomfortable in his own skin. The only way he can feel he has value is by being successful. But I think he also felt a little bit of shame about the way he was making money.”
Steve was arrested in 1993 for hiring someone to murder his business partner.
Steve hired a man to kill Chippendales choreographer Nick De Noia after a business dispute in 1987, the Times explains. (De Noia was shot in the face with a large caliber pistol while he was in his office, per the New York Post.)
Additionally, Steve attempted to unsuccessfully orchestrate the murder of other colleagues, the Times says. He even "tried to burn down competing clubs and have ex-dancers killed," LA Mag said.
What happened to Steve Banerjee?
He pleaded guilty to murder-for-hire, racketeering, and attempted arson, the Times reported. But he hanged himself in his jail cell in 1994, the day before his sentencing, per the Times.
Who owns Chippendales now?
The answer is a bit unclear, but Chippendales is still thriving, and even has a Las Vegas show. The dancers also go on tour, JIC you want to check it out for yourself.
"Today, the Chippendales flagship location hosts millions of women each year at their very own theater inside the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas," the website says. "The $10m complex is decked out with a swank retail boutique, sexy bar and lounge where the audience can meet the Men of Chippendales and flirt one-on-one… or two-on-one…"
The brand was purchased in the 1990s by Lou Pearlman, a record producer, who later went to prison for fraud, per The Cinemaholic. Then, in 2000, Chippendales was sold to "Kevin Denberg and several other investors" the website says. "Denberg and his team reinvigorate the brand and the industry. Their changes garner the attention of the women of Generation Y."
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