When the first Chippendales male revue opened in 1979, it was an instant hit. But the male strip show hid a dark secret: its founders were murderers who treated the business like an organized crime syndicate.
How did Chippendales start? In the 1970s, Somen Banerjee owned a failed Los Angeles disco, and a nightclub promoter named Paul Snider suggested he begin the first all-male strip club for women. The original Chippendales dancers adopted their signature bow tie and cuffs at the suggestion of Snider’s girlfriend, Playboy Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten. The idea was a hit, and soon Banerjee began opening other locations and added a touring show.
But the Chippendales show was more than flirty fun. Only a year after opening, Snider murdered Stratten and killed himself, and Banerjee started hiring hitmen to take out his rivals and burn down other clubs. He even sent a hitman to New York City to kill the original Chippendales choreographer. Much like male strippers describing what really happens at bachelorette parties, the history of Chippendales has a dark side that you just don’t see portrayed in photos or movies like Magic Mike.
The Founder Of Chippendales Murdered The Choreographer
Nick De Noia played a major role in the early success of Chippendales. De Noia, an award-winning choreographer, staged the original routines for the dance troupe. And in 1987, De Noia was found dead in his New York office, shot in the face.
The murderer was someone De Noia knew well—Somen Banerjee, the owner of the Chippendales nightclub. By the mid-80s, De Noia had moved to New York to open an east coast Chippendales location, and the two had a falling out. Banerjee later confessed that he hired a hitman to kill De Noia. The hitman, posing as a messenger, successfully carried out the murder-for-hire by coming into De Noia’s office in the middle of the day and shooting him in the face. But Banerjee didn’t get away with it. The U.S. Attorney filed charges, arguing that Banerjee ordered the hit “to enhance the business of Chippendales, or to gain revenge from persons who had caused injury to the business.”
The Cofounder Sexually Assaulted And Murdered His Girlfriend
Cofounder Paul Snider had the idea to turn Banerjee’s failing club, which featured female mud wrestling in addition to male dancers into an all-male strip show. He also discovered and later brutally murdered Dorothy Stratten, Playboy’s 1980 Playmate of the Year.
Snider and Stratten were married, but as her career took off, Snider couldn’t handle the competition. Just after Stratten broke up with Snider, he attacked his ex, sexually assaulted her, and shot her in the face. According to the police investigation, Snider also had sex with Dorothy’s dead body before shooting himself in the head.
Hugh Hefner had his own view about why Snider killed Stratten. “A very sick guy saw his meal ticket and his connection to power, whatever, slipping away. And it was that that made him kill her.”
Banerjee Tried To Burn Down Rival Clubs
Somen Banerjee didn’t want any competition. In 1984, he hired an arsonist to burn down a rival club called the Pearl Harbor. It wasn’t his first brush with arson, however. In 1978, Banerjee paid someone to burn down another club called Moody’s.
Banerjee’s attempted arson, combined with hiring hitmen to take out his rivals and even his former partner, Nick de Noia, led the federal government to charge Banerjee under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), typically reserved for organized crime.
He Tried To Kill A Rival Male Dancer Group
Somen Banerjee, one of the founders of Chippendales, refused to let anyone else capitalize on male dancers. He was willing to commit murder to make sure that Chippendales was the only male dance troupe in the world. When Banerjee learned of a rival group named Adonis, he contacted a hitman to kill the show’s leaders, including their choreographer.
The hit was supposed to happen in Blackpool, England, and Banerjee paid the hitman an advance of $8,000 to carry out the three murders. But before the hitman killed the men, he confessed to U.S. authorities and turned on Banerjee.
The Hitman Had Enough Cyanide To Poison Over Two Thousand People
When Banerjee hired hitmen to kill his rivals in the male strip troupe Adonis, he made sure the men would get the job done. One of the hitmen, Lynn Bressler, testified that he was taken to an expensive house in Los Angeles, where he was given a canvas bag marked with a skull and crossbones.
Inside, Bressler found a container of cyanide—it contained enough poison to kill 2,300 people. The hitman’s instructions were clear: he was to inject the poison into the men running Adonis, including Read Scot, a former Chippendale employee who Banerjee saw as a traitor.
One Of Banjeree’s Colleagues Narrowly Escaped A Hit
Banjeree also planned to murder his partner and former law student, Bruce Nahin. Nahin was supposed to be killed at the same time and in the same manner as De Noia, but his trip to New York City to visit De Noia was delayed because of a family illness. The charges leveled against Banjeree in court included the attempted hit on Nahin.
Banerjee Hung Himself In His Jail Cell
In 1994, a federal prosecutor charged Somen Banerjee with racketeering, attempted arson, and the murder of his former partner, Nick De Noia. He was denied bail because according to witness testimony, Banerjee said he planned to hire a private pilot and pay them $25,000 to fly him to India without a passport, where he’d “get a new wife and kids.” He said he’d commit suicide if he were arrested again. After months in prison, Banerjee pled guilty to the charge and arranged a plea bargain with the federal court.
But Banerjee was never officially sentenced for his crimes, because hours before his sentencing hearing, he committed suicide in a Los Angeles jail cell. Banerjee hanged himself with his prison bed sheet and was found dead in his cell around 4 am the day of his sentencing hearing. He was expected to receive a sentence of 26 years in prison.
Stratten Designed The Chippendales Uniform
Dorothy Stratten’s brutal murder shook Hollywood. She was on her way to a major film career when her ex and Chippendales founder Paul Snider brutally murdered her. In Hugh Hefner’s press release after Dorothy Stratten’s murder, he wrote, “The death of Dorothy Stratten comes as a shock to us all… As Playboy’s Playmate of the Year with a film and a television career of increasing importance, her professional future was a bright one. But equally sad to us is the fact that her loss takes from us all a very special member of the Playboy family.”
Stratten played a major role in the success of Chippendales––she’s the one who designed the signature bow tie and cuffs still worn by Chippendales dancers today.
Even Bomb Threats Can’t Stop The Chippendales
The Chippendales dancers often go on tour, taking their moves on the road. But tours can get even wilder than regular shows. During one memorable Chippendales tour, a bomb threat was called into the theater where the dancers were performing. The theater was evacuated, and the Chippendales were escorted back to their tour bus.
But everything changed when the fans surrounded the bus, cheering on the male dancers. Rather than let down their admirers, the Chippendales climbed of the roof of the bus and started performing. Not even a bomb threat can stop the Chippendales dancers.
The Club Blatantly Violated Fire Department Codes
Banerjee severely violated overcrowding laws and had a number of citations from federal agencies. An inspector from the fire department said that Chippendales was the most extreme violator he had seen in years and that the owner severely endangered patrons with blocked exits. One night, the establishment, which could hold a maximum of 299 patrons, contained 435 people.
Another run-in with government regulations occurred when Chippendales was charged with sexual discrimination for not allowing male patrons into the club. The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control revoked the establishment’s liquor license as a result.
Women Brought Scissors To Cut Off G-Strings
n the early years, Chippendale dancers assumed the club would quickly be shut down. The atmosphere was wild, and women in the audience sometimes showed up with scissors to cut the g-strings off of the male dancers.
Michael Rapp, an original cast member, said, “When we first started, we thought that we could have been closed down any day. We thought it would be a fad that wouldn’t last that long.” And because of that, Rapp added, “We were going to have as much fun as we could while we had it.”
Ben Stiller And Dev Patel Are In Talks To Make A Movie Called ‘Chippendales’
The history of Chippendales in the 1980s was so dark that a true crime movie based on the early years of the male strip club is currently in the works. According to Variety, Ben Stiller and Dev Patel are in talks to play two of the partners who founded Chippendales, Nick De Noia and Somen Banerjee.
- The Tall, Dark, And Surprisingly Murder-Filled History of Chippendales, Ranker, 14 June 2019, by Genevieve Carlton https://www.ranker.com/list/history-of-chippendales/genevieve-carlton