With Hulu’s ‘Welcome to Chippendales’ delving deep into every aspect of the titular all-male exotic dance troupe’s sordid history, we get a true insight into the dark, twisted side of human nature. That’s because this eight-part original charts not just the venture’s rise under founder-owner Somen “Steve” Banerjee but also the way he almost single-handedly led its fall from grace within years. So now, if you simply wish to learn more about him — whether it be the details of his background, entrepreneurialism, criminality, motives, or ultimate 1994 demise — we’ve got you covered.
Who Was Steve Banerjee?
Although born in Bombay (now Mumbai), India, back in 1946 into the fourth generation of a family of printers, Somen (better known as Steve) often seemingly referred to California his home. He’d actually emigrated to the West in the 1960s to pursue a much grander life for himself, only to settle down around Los Angeles in 1969 — he’d spent some time in Canada before traveling south. The former is thus where he took over the management of a gas station to make a living as well as extensively save each month in the hopes of launching his own authentic endeavor one day.
It was in 1975 that Steve was truly able to do so by purchasing a failing rock club in Culver City by the name of Round Robin, with the intention of turning it into a posh, hot backgammon joint. However, once this idea proved rather drab, he dabbled in disco dancing, usual nightclubs, as well as female mud wrestling, that is, until a series of chance encounters drove him to a new idea. The entrepreneur realized there was an open market for female entertainment amid the sexual revolution, so he decided to capitalize on it by quickly establishing the nation’s first all-male strip joint.
The club hence evolved into Chippendales in 1979, and Steve soon began working alongside director-choreographer Nick De Noia to help the entire show grow from crass to class and beyond. Regardless, by the time the mid-1980s rolled around, the magnate began facing serious troubles in the form of not just several discrimination lawsuits but also contentions with his creative partner. The latter element eventually nudged the duo to split the business, with Steve holding onto the original clubs and Nick walking away with touring rights, which turned out to be the most lucrative.
Reportedly genuinely furious over not having recognized the tours’ scope previously, along with Nick’s success, as well as rival firms popping up across the nation, Steve turned to criminality. In other words, he spoke to an associate named Ray Colon to order hits on his former partner, employees, and dancers; plus, he tried to set fires to the offices/performing venues of his leading competitors. Yet, this horrific reality actually didn’t come to light until a tip laid it all out for the FBI in early 1991, four years following Nick’s heinous homicide in his Manhattan office on April 7, 1987.
How did Steve Banerjee Die?
After he unwittingly incriminated himself on record during an in-person conversation with Ray, Steve (or Somen) was finally arrested and indicted on seven federal counts in September 1993. Less than a year later, in July, he pleaded guilty to attempted arson, murder for hire, and racketeering in exchange for 26 years behind bars as well as the loss of his shares in Chippendales. However, mere hours before the 47-year-old was set to be officially sentenced on October 23, he was found dead in his jail cell — he’d taken his own life by hanging. The plea deal was thus deemed null and void, meaning all his assets, along with the Chippendales shares, went to his wife.