Whether you’ve seen a live show or are more familiar with Chris Farley’s SNL rendition, the all-male strip club Chippendales has been known for decades.
The brand is known as the first stripper to cater to female desires with its signature shows featuring buff men in cuffs and bow ties – no shirts.
Founder Somen “Steve” Banerjee first opened the strip club in Los Angeles in 1979, and the brand is still “thriving” today, representatives said. Entrepreneurwith its permanent show in Las Vegas and a world-touring dance troupe.
The brand has attracted people like Hollywood, with magic mike taking inspiration from the iconic show, and some stars even took part in the live performance, including Jersey Shore’s Vinny Guadagnino.
However, things were much less glamorous for Banerjee and the club behind the scenes, with several murders, arson and other club-related crimes.
Hulu is set to unveil the dark and twisted story behind Chippendales with its new series, “Welcome to Chippendales,” premiering November 22, with new episodes weekly through January 3, 2023.
How did Chippendales start and who are the founders?
Chippendales is the brainchild of Somen “Steve” Banerjee, portrayed by Kumail Nanjiani on the Hulu series. Originally from India, Banerjee immigrated to the United States and worked as a gas station attendant before finding entrepreneurship, according to Entertainment Tonight.
Banerjee owned two gas stations and eventually opened a nightclub called Destiny II in 1975 with partner Bruce Nahin, according to The magazine. Nahin and his father bought 10% of the club to help Banerjee’s cash flow, but he turned to acting in 1987, Nahin said in an interview with The Drill.
After trying magic shows and other entertainment to attract customers, nightclub promoter and regular Paul Snider suggested an all-male strip club.
In 1980 they changed the name of the club to “Chippendales” – named after the British furniture brand – for a “classier” vibe, and Chippendales as we know it was born.
In Chippendales’ early days, Snider and his wife, 1980 Playboy Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten, helped shape the look of the club. In fact, Stratten invented the dancers’ iconic “cuff and collar uniform” and even had Hugh Hefner participate.
Banerjee was considered the mastermind behind the operation, and he brought in producer Nick De Noia to choreograph the live shows in 1981. Although the duo helped shape the iconic brand into what it is today , they constantly bumped their heads.
De Noia took credit for creating Chippendales’ signature choreography and spanning New York in 1983, per The magazine.
The duo’s controversial relationship led them to part ways after three years in business together.
De Noia was able to negotiate the rights to take Chippendales on tour with a cocktail napkin deal signed in 1984, per The US Sun. But when the tour turned out to be a success, generating $80,000 in profits a week, Banerjee was unhappy and fought to get the rights to the touring show back. He did not succeed.
What are the Chippendales murders?
The first tragedy to hit Chippendales occurred shortly after Dorothy Stratten brokered the deal with Playboy and was honored as Playmate of the Year. Hugh Hefner had taken a liking to Stratten, and although Stratten’s husband, Paul Snider, helped connect the two and launch Stratten’s career, Hefner did what he could to fend off Snider. In 1980, Snider murdered Stratten and later committed suicide.
Meanwhile, De Noia’s tour was in full swing, but because the towel deal gave De Noia the rights to the tour, Banerjee was not entitled to any of the profits, much to his dismay.
On April 7, 1987, De Noia was murdered by a hitman. Following a lengthy FBI investigation, Banerjee was arrested and charged with the second degree murder of De Noia and conspiracy to commit the murders of two competitive dancers in 1993.
Banerjee has also been linked to three arson attempts targeting the brand’s competition.
As Banerjee faced 26 years in prison after negotiating a plea and pleading guilty, he committed suicide while awaiting sentencing in 1994 in his jail cell.
Image Credit: Courtesy of Chippendales
Who owns the Chippendales now and how much is it worth?
Despite the chaos that plagued Chippendales in its early days, the brand is still alive and well.
However, the original Chippendales club in Los Angeles closed shortly after losing its liquor license in 1988 and following several other lawsuits and violations.
After Banerjee pleaded guilty, the Chippendales brand went to see his wife, Irene, during their divorce.
According to The US Sun, she sold the brand for $2.5 million.
Since then, Chippendales has been in the hands of several people. A 2013 report from the new yorker says former boy band manager Lou Pearlman bought the brand in the 90s before going to jail for fraud.
According to a representative for the brand, “a private equity of owners” has been in charge since 2000, they said. Entrepreneur in a request for comment.
Chippendales’ closed its New York site shortly after September 11, 2001, the new yorkerbut it found a second life after managing partner Kevin Denberg took a bus and took the dancers on tour, traveling across the country until they landed in Las Vegas.
The Chippendales have taken root in Las Vegas in 2002 and his show and tour are still “thriving” today. Katerina Tabakhov is currently director of production operations, the brand’s representative shared, while Denberg is no longer involved in day-to-day operations.
“The Chippendales ALWAYS perform to sold-out venues at our home at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas (for over 20 years), as well as on our national and international tours,” the brand confirmed to Entrepreneur.
The Sin City show is complete with its custom $10 million complex and tickets range from $49.95 to $149.95.
Or you can catch the Chippendales on tour, which hits six continents and more than 25 countries, according to the brand’s website.
Today, the brand generates between $5 million and $25 million in annual revenue, according to Signal Hire.