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Crime News

Hulu's 'Welcome to Chippendales' Tells True Story Of Male Stripper King

Kumail Nanjiani plays Somen "Steve" Banerjee in Hulu's new true crime series about the rise and fall of the founder of the male stripper revue, Chippendales.

By Megan Carpentier
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Hulu's Chippendales-themed true crime series starring Kumail Nanjiani has dropped, revealing as much as it keeps concealed.

Nanjiani stars as Somen “Steve” Banerjee, the American entrepreneur who immigrated from India and operated first a gas station and then a (failed) backgammon club before buying a failing bar in 1975 and turning it into the foundation of his male stripper empire, Chippendales, in 1979.

"It's bananas," Nanjiani told Entertainment Weekly of the backstory of Chippendales. "There are like 10 things that happen in this story that all feel absolutely ridiculous, but they all really happened."

After founding his first all-male stripper troop, Banerjee first worked with Paul Snider, a Canadian nightclub promoter, and Snider's then-wife Dorothy Stratten, a Playboy Playmate, on the project. (Stratten is credited with the idea for the male strippers to wear their now-iconic collar and cuffs.) However, Snider raped and murdered Stratten in August 1980 after she had an affair with director Peter Bogdanovich, with whom she had been filming a movie, and ended their marriage. He also died by suicide.

RELATED: Strip Club Horror: 5 Shocking Facts About The Chippendales Murders

Banerjee then hired Emmy-winning television producer Nick DeNoia to help choreograph the shows, which he dubbed "Chippendales," and eventually granted the producer exclusive rights to lease the by-then iconic Chippendales name, the Allentown Morning-Call reported. DeNoia took the all-male revue on the road to New York in 1984 — to great success, for which DeNoia, and not Banerjee, was widely credited.

Banerjee, apparently, didn't much like that.

DeNoia was shot to death in his office near the Port Authority bus terminal in New York City on the afternoon of April 7, 1987. His killer, apparently, had an appointment.

According to the New York Times, a spokeswoman for Banerjee's company said at the time that DeNoia had left the original Chippendales company the year before his death and founded a touring company that leased the Chippendales name. The Los Angeles Times eventually reported that disputes between the two men over the show began shortly after DeNoia decamped to New York.

DeNoia's troop was one of several competitors, and Banerjee told the Morning-Call in September 1987 that DeNoia's estate had attempted to wrest control of the name from him, leading to some confusion over which touring company was the "real" Chippendales.

In September 1993, the federal Department of Justice charged Banerjee with attempting to hire someone in 1990 to kill three former dancers — Mike Fullington, Read Scot and Steve White — who had started a rival male stripper company, Adonis, the L.A. Times reported. (The would-be hitmen were the ones who went to the FBI, the NY Post reported.) In October 1993, the feds additionally indicted Banerjee for the attempted murder-for-hire of Dr. Jagjit Sehdeva, with whom he was allegedly in a business dispute in California, of the murder-for-hire of DeNoia and of two attempted arsons of rival clubs. The feds claimed the acts were all part of a racketeering scheme.

“The basic theme of the new indictment is that anybody or anything that got in Banerjee’s way, he would hire somebody to kill or burn the competitor,” Charlie Parsons, who was the special agent in charge of the Los Angeles FBI office, told the paper at the time.

According to the indictment, Banerjee coerced his friend Ray Colon to help him carry out the DeNoia murder, and Colon then hired a man named Louie Lopez, who had a drug addiction, to commit the act, the Post reported. The feds discovered the DeNoia plot as part of an investigation into to attempted murders of the three other strippers; the L.A. Times reported that Banerjee had threatened to have his organized crime contacts kill Colon if he didn't help with the DeNoia hit.

Banerjee pleaded guilty to racketeering and to DeNoia's murder-for hire in July 1994. He died by suicide in his jail cell in October 1994 — the night before he was due to be sentenced in the case. He was 47.

He was survived by his wife, Irene — who died of cancer in 2001 — and at least one son named Christian, who later became a male stripper and founded the company "Strippendales," the Post reported.