Chippendales: The Indian whose US strip club empire ended with a murder

Chippendales: The Indian whose US strip club empire ended with a murder
The cast of Welcome to Chippendales on a poster Hulu

Muscled men wearing bow-ties and G-strings in order to entertain women within smoky clubs is not a legacy a single usually associates with an Indian-American immigrant.

But Mumbai-born Dorrie Banerjee turned the conventional American Dream for the South Asian on its head when he founded the male strip club Chippendales in Los Angeles in 1979.

The rest will be history: Banerjee produced a fortune from exactly what turned out to be a greatly successful franchise. Add sex, drugs and murder to the blend and Banerjee’s story becomes the stuff of sensational tale.

In India, Banerjee – and his function – is hardly known. In the US, the Chippendales brand seems to have eclipsed the reputation of its controversial founder. That is today changing.

Almost three decades after their death, a podcast and a host associated with TV shows – including Hulu’s latest crisis series Welcome To Chippendales, starring Kumail Nanjiani – are revisiting Banerjee’s story.

“Most people would think that the founder of Chippendales was a good outgoing party animal who chased ladies, did drugs, plus drank heavily, inch says Scott MacDonald, co-author of the 2014 book Deadly Dance: The Chippendales Killers. “Steve was an appropriated, controlled man using a clear goal of creating a worldwide brand to rival Disney, Hughs playboy or Polo. ”

Chippendales in Australia in 1990

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He is “an unique section of the story”, says historian Natalia Mehlman Petrzela, whose podcast, Welcome to Your Fantasy, renewed interest in the Chippendales legacy. Bespectacled, brownish and stocky, Banerjee stood in contrast to the particular “white, blonde, Ca man” fantasy offered by his business.

If you are watching the Hulu series, the rest of this story may include spoilers

Banerjee, who hailed from a family of printers, left India designed for Canada as a 20-something man in the late 1960s. He shortly ended up in California, where he owned the gas station within Los Angeles.

Banerjee, however , had larger ambitions. “I wish to be driving that vehicle, ” he would say when people drove up to fill up their extravagant vehicles, Petrzela states.

In the 1970s, Banerjee used his cost savings to buy a dive bar in LA which usually he called Destiny II, and attempted everything to attract crowds – backgammon games, magic shows and mud struggling among women.

In 1979, Paul Snider, a nightclub marketer, suggested that Banerjee bring in male strippers – usually just seen in gay clubs – for a display aimed at women.

By now, the bar have been renamed Chippendales to suggest a sophisticated experience.

The strip shows had been advertised all across Western LA – almost everywhere women gathered, through nail salons in order to women’s restrooms, Petrzela says on her podcast.

An instant hit, Chippendales soon drew big crowds of women each night.

A show by the Chippendales in New York City, 14 April 1984.

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Inspired by Hugh Hefner’s Playboy bunnies, the dancers put on cuffs and training collars with tight dark pants.

For 1980s America “this had been shocking”, Petrzela states. But in the wake up of the sexual revolution of the 1970s, Banerjee’s Chippendales also emerged at a time when can certainly empowerment and sex liberation could be commodified, the historian clarifies.

Women needed a location “they could have a great time and be exonerated”, Barbara Ligeti, a club promoter, says in the A& E docu-series Secrets of the Chippendales Murders. “They could see each other, have a few drinks, touch a butt, place $20 in a G-string of a good-looking guy. ”

Banerjee wished to create a ” Disneyland for adults “, a brand not too young to rival those of his heroes — Hefner and Walt Disney.

In the earlier 80s, he fulfilled Nick De Noia, an Emmy Award winning director and choreographer, who convinced him that the show needed an upgrade. Chippendales dancers and makers credit De Noia with turning the particular show into an interactive, theatrical manufacturing using characters plus storylines.

(L-R) Susan George, Jennifer O'Neill, and Nick De Noia attend the 47th Academy Awards in Los Angeles in 1975

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De Noia helped take Chippendales in order to New York City and broaden the production across America through a successful tour.

But items soon came to a head between the two men as the charming choreographer became the face area of the brand – dubbed “Mr Chippendale” in the media – while Banerjee remained in the background, operating the operation through LA.

As stress rose, De Noia and Banerjee blended their partnership as well as the choreographer planned to begin his own company — US Male.

In the docu-series, an ex associate producer at Chippendales who helped De Noia together with his new venture states it sent Banerjee “over the edge”.

Many who understood Banerjee described your pet as a “paranoid” man for whom success was a zero-sum video game. “He felt when others succeeded, that could necessarily take away from his own success, ” Petrzela says.

As rival strip clubs popped up, Banerjee hired Ray Intestinal tract, a friend-turned-hitman, to sabotage competitors .

In 1987, below Banerjee’s orders, Colon recruited an accomplice who shot De Noia dead in the office.

Whilst friends and collaborators suspected Banerjee’s turn in the crime, it had been years before F investigators made the hyperlink.

Banerjee’s lawyer Bruce Nahin said “the murder didn’t affect the brand with all”.

Chippendales' chappie Brett Matheson's talents at The Club at Richards in Mississauga

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Chippendales grew, travelling to Australia and European countries.

In 1991, while in the UK with the Chippendales tour, Banerjee inquired Colon to take out people of a rival troupe started by previous dancers from their club.

According to FBI evidence, the master plan was to inject them with cyanide which Colon provided to an accomplice named Strawberry.

But an apprehensive Strawberry reported Digestive tract to the FBI.

Digestive tract was arrested and charged with conspiracy theory and murder for hire. According to the agency, 46 grams of cyanide were found during a raid on Colon’s house .

For months right after his arrest, Colon remained loyal to Banerjee, pleading not liable. “It was only after Steve declined to help him by paying for an attorney that Ray finally out of cash with Steve, ” MacDonald says.

In 1993, the FBI finally collected enough evidence against Banerjee by using Colon to secretly report their conversation. Banerjee was arrested just for racketeering, conspiracy plus murder for hire amongst other charges. He pleaded not guilty.

An illustration of Steve Banerjee

Gopal Shoonya/BBC

After the trial went on for a few months, Banerjee agreed to a plea deal – 26 many years in prison and forfeiture of Chippendales ownership to the ALL OF US government.

Petrzela says Banerjee’s lawyers tried hard to prevent the seizure of the enterprise, but to no avail. In Oct 1994, a day just before he was to become sentenced, Banerjee wiped out himself in his jail cell.

“Very couple of Indian Americans know his story, ” says Anirvan Chatterjee, who organises a South Asian radical history walking tour in Berkeley. Banerjee’s life was “the funhouse mirror edition of the standard 1990s Indian California business story”, he says, and it contradicted every stereotype about the community.

Within her research, Petrzela found Banerjee had tried hard to assimilate and become a true-blue California businessman, yet in the memory associated with her interviewees their Indian accent was out. “It’s clear other people always saw him as really foreign and very Indian, ” she states. “Even in loss of life, the first thing that people do when commenting upon him is begin imitating his accentuation. ”

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