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.
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."
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.”
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.
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.