The Chippendales Saga: Steve Banerjee’s Journey from Vision to Vice

The Hulu true crime mini-series “Welcome to Chippendales” offers a gripping look at the origins of the famous male strip club in the 1980s, delving into the tumultuous life of its founder, Somen “Steve” Banerjee. This series not only uncovers the glittering success of Chippendales but also reveals the dark underbelly of ambition that ultimately led to Banerjee’s downfall, including murder-for-hire plots and intense rivalries.

The Rise of Chippendales

Born in Bombay, India, Steve Banerjee moved to the U.S. with entrepreneurial dreams. Initially working as a janitor, he eventually owned several Mobil gas stations before founding Chippendales in 1975. Banerjee and his partner Bruce Nahin initially struggled to attract crowds to their Destiny II cocktail lounge with various entertainment attempts. Their fortunes changed when Paul Snider, associated with Hugh Hefner, proposed the idea of an all-male strip night. This concept evolved into Chippendales, a name inspired by the elegant furniture style, which became an overnight sensation and a profitable venture.

Steve Banerjee’s Personal and Professional Turmoil

Despite his business success, Banerjee’s life was not without complications. His marriage to Irene, with whom he had two children, ended with her passing in 2001. Their son Christian followed in his father’s footsteps, becoming a stripper himself. The series casts Kumail Nanjiani as Banerjee, capturing his complex journey from ambition to self-destruction. Banerjee’s quest for success was marred by his insecurities and eventual involvement in criminal activities, including the notorious murder-for-hire plot against his business partner, Nick De Noia.

The Downfall of Steve Banerjee

Arrested in 1993, Banerjee’s crimes included hiring a hitman to kill De Noia, attempts on other associates’ lives, and schemes against competing clubs. Despite his guilty plea to various charges, he never faced sentencing; Banerjee took his own life in 1994, the day before his sentencing was to occur. This tragic end underscores the dark side of the pursuit of the American Dream.

Who Owns Chippendales Now?

Following Banerjee’s death in 1994, ownership of Chippendales changed hands several times. Initially purchased by record producer Lou Pearlman in the 1990s, the brand later came under the ownership of Kevin Denberg and a group of investors in 2000. Under their stewardship, Chippendales underwent a significant rebranding, capturing the attention of a new generation and continuing to thrive, with a flagship location in Las Vegas and a successful touring show.

The Legacy of Chippendales

Chippendales continues to thrive, with a flagship location in Las Vegas that draws millions of visitors annually. The brand, which changed hands several times, was notably purchased by Lou Pearlman in the 1990s, before being acquired by Kevin Denberg and other investors in 2000, who revitalized the Chippendales experience for a new generation.

Read more news here.