Everything We Know About The Chippendales Arson Attacks

For an organization associated with buff, oiled-down men in bow ties, cuffs, and easily removable Velcro pants gyrating for crowds of screaming, appreciative women, the story of the Chippendales exotic dance franchise is surprisingly dark and riddled with crime. As reported by The Sun, Chippendales was founded by Somen "Steve" Banerjee who emigrated to the United States from India in 1969 with the goal of starting a successful nightclub emporium. He raised money by opening a gas station and charging outrageous prices that took advantage of 1970s oil shortages, and by 1979 he had enough money to start the first mainstream exotic dance night featuring male dancers and geared toward women. Banerjee wanted to take exotic dancing beyond its somewhat sleazy image and promote a supposedly all-American, clean-cut look for his dancers, telling the Los Angeles Times "The minute the lady walks in here, she feels it's something different" (per The Sun). 

He named the club Chippendales after the antique furniture style and hired choreographer Nick De Noia in 1981 to create the dance routines and run the show. De Noia was responsible for elevating the show even further, considering the dancers "performers" rather than strippers, and expanding the franchise to include a New York show in addition to the original in Los Angeles. According to '80s Chippendales associate producer Candace Mayeron, De Noia's "real skill, as a choreographer and director, was coming up with moves that a great, big, muscled guy could perform and look graceful while doing it." Banerjee and De Noia clashed from the beginning, each eager to take credit for the immediate runaway success of Chippendales. 

Steve Banerjee would do anything to succeed

Per The Sun, Steve Banerjee and Nick De Noia sat down in 1984 to attempt to work out their differences. The result was a literal paper napkin contract in which De Noia gave up his stake in the New York show in exchange for half of future profits from the touring show. De Noia expanded the touring properties to include traveling revues as well as overseas shows, making Banerjee furious that De Noia was making more money out of the deal than he was. It turned out that Banerjee had been willing to turn to crime to keep his Chippendales empire powerful before he even met De Noia. In 1978, he hired his associate Ray Colon to organize arson attacks against other nightclubs he saw as threats. 

As reported by Think Magazine, in 1979, Banerjee targeted Moody's Disco in Santa Monica, California; the attack was unsuccessful and Moody's suffered mild damages. Five years later, an associate attempted to burn down the Red Onion restaurant in Marina Del Rey, California, another venue Banerjee saw as Chippendales' competition that needed to be taken out. Once again the attack was unsuccessful and there were few damages. However, per the Los Angeles Times, the attempts came to light in 1993 when Banerjee was indicted for ordering the 1987 murder of Nick De Noia, who was fatally shot in the face by an assailant at his Manhattan office. The article quoted FBI special agent Charlie Parsons: "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."