Steve Banerjee made a name for himself. The self-made mogul who ran the Chippendales empire meticulously navigated his business endeavors and tried any means to beat out all the competition, which eventually led to his downfall. So many Welcome to Chippendales fans are asking: how did Steve Banerjee die?
Kumail Nanjani plays the founder in question, as we see him in his rise and fall with the successful male stripping business in the Hulu series. When his business partner Nick De Noia (played by Murray Bartlett) was receiving more glory after a business deal, Banerjee hired a hit on de Noia and was eventually caught for conspiring his murder. He died shortly after his arrest, but what was the cause of his death?
Read down to learn more about how Steve Banerjee died.
How did Steve Banerjee die?
Banerjee was arrested in September 1993 and pleaded guilty to racketeering, which included arranging De Noia’s murder. On October 23, 1994, a day before Banerjee was sentenced, he died by suicide in his cell hanging. At the time, a federal prosecutor said to a federal magistrate-judge that Banerjee had told an informant that he planned “to leave the country or kill himself” if apprehended. Reonard McFadden, an executive to the warden at the Los Angeles Metropolitan Detention Center said in a statement at the time that Banerjee was depressed however he did not seem like he wanted to kill himself. “Banerjee, like every other inmate, had been interviewed by a staff psychologist. There was no indication he was suicidal.”
The long-winded events that led up to his death began when he kickstarted his erotic business. The former gas station attendant bought a nightclub called Destiny II in Los Angeles and changed the name to Chippendales. Banerjee wanted to focus on female pleasure and opened up the male stripping nightclub in 1979 to much popularity. He wanted to expand his empire to New York, and that’s when Emmy-winning choreographer Nick De Noia comes in.
After the huge boom of success, Banerjee and De Noia became business partners and divided the business by splitting their assets in half and writing their plans on a napkin. De Noia would be in charge of the Chippendales’ touring endeavors while Banerjee would be in charge of the permanent clubs. However, when Banerjee saw how much success De Noia had with touring, he became engulfed with jealousy.
Banerjee planned to take De Noia out and inherit his business back. He carried out the murder plan in 1987 by hiring Ray Colon, a former Palm Springs police officer and lounge room entertainer, and his accomplice Gilbert Rivera Lopez, who agreed to kill De Noia for $25,000. Lopez and Colon approached De Noia at his Times Square office and fatally shot him in the face. Many didn’t expect Banerjee to be a suspect. However, after buying the rights back from De Noia’s family, he was still power-hungry.
The Chippendales founder set out to commit arson against competing Los Angeles clubs, some proved to be successful, but others only received little. In A&E’s documentary Secrets of Chippendales, Colon also confessed to Banarjee asking him to burn down Oskos, a Los Angeles club owned by his friends. In the footage, obtained by The Sun, he said: “He asked me if I could burn it down. I could understand why he wanted it [burned], because it was packed, but it was humongous – three times as big Chippendales. So he threw $7000 down… I just took it.” He also allegedly hired Colon to bring out the murders of former Chippendale dancers, Read Scot and Steve White, who were making their own company. They ultimately became the founders of the London club, Adonis, and were in direct competition with Banerjee’s brand.
To carry out the plan, Colon hired a hitman with the alias “Strawberry” and flew all the way to London to carry on with the Adonis murders, but he ended up with cold feet before he could inject Scot and White with cyanide. Strawberry turned himself into the FBI, and he brought down Colon in the process. After being in jail for seven months, Colon helped the FBI by getting confessions from Banerjee in Switzerland.
Banerjee was arrested and indicted for conspiracy to violate the federal murder-for-hire statute, and for five counts of causing others to travel in foreign commerce and to use facilities in foreign commerce to further the murder scheme, per UPI. At first, Banerjee pleaded innocent to the charges according to AP, and the conviction on all charges would have resulted in life in prison and a $1.75 million fine. He eventually pleaded guilty to attempted arson, racketeering and murder for hire. He entered a plea deal where he would get his sentence reduced to 26 years, but would lose his Chippendales assets. However, with his sudden death, the fate of his company would lie to someone close to him.
What happened to Chippendales after Steve Banerjee’s death?
What happened to Chippendales after Steve Banerjee’s death? After his death, his wife, Irene, inherited the Chippendale fortune and company. She sold it for $2.5 million according to The Sun. The New Yorker reported that Backstreet Boys and *NSYNC manager Lou Perlman owned a stake in the brand in the 90s before going to jail for fraud. However since 2000, the brand is shared by a group of private equity owners.
The Chippendales show is still going strong in Sin City with shows having a residency in one of the hotels on the strip. “The Chippendales are STILL performing to sold-out houses at our home at the Rio All-Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas (for over 20 years), as well as our domestic and international tours,” the brand confirmed to Entrepreneur.
Banerjee’s family still is in the stripping business, with Banerjee’s only son, Christian being a stripper. In an interview with the New York Post, he said of his father and what he would have thought of his endeavors today with his own company Strippendales, “People have a lot of opinions and that’s fine. He was a good guy … I’ve always had this connection with my dad, even though he wasn’t living, through Chippendales. I think he’d want to push me in this direction. He’d want to continue his legacy through his son.”
Welcome to Chippendales is available to watch on Hulu. Here’s how to watch it for free.
Deadly Dance: The Chippendale Murders by K. Scot Macdonald
Basis for the Hulu series, Welcome to Chippendales, starring Kumail Nanjiani, Murray Bartlett, Annaleigh Ashford, Dan Stevens, and Juliette Lewis, Deadly Dance tells the fascinating story of Steve Banerjee, founder and owner of the smash LA nightclub, Chippendales. In the post-pill, pre-AIDS, sex-filled LA club scene of the 1980s, celebrities, desperate housewives and wild bachelorettes converged on one place: Chippendales—and behind it all was arson, the Mob and murder.
If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 to contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. The Lifeline provides 24-hour, confidential support to anyone in suicidal crisis or emotional distress.