Steve Banerjeeâ€™s story had all the infamous ingredients to shake every Indian immigrant stereotype
He was inspired by Hugh Hefner and wanted to create an empire to challenge Playboy. Steve Banerjeeâ€™s story that revolved around, sex, strippers, cyanide, murder and suicide had all the infamous ingredients to shake every Indian immigrant stereotype.
Over three decades after Banerjee, an immigrant from India, popularized the culture of male strip clubs in America, a Hulu series is bringing to the viewers the story of this brown man who seems to have been forgotten by his community.
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Huluâ€™s new series, â€˜Welcome to Chippendales,â€™ starring Kumail Nanjiani revisits the life and times of Banerjee who set up a strip club empire in 80s America.
Not many Indians may have heard or read about Somen â€˜Steveâ€™ Banerjee, founder of Chippendales â€“ the first ever male strip club in America.
Perhaps, in the din of more â€˜Indian appropriate,â€™ professions such as science, engineering, medicine and academics, where Indians continued to make strides and created a unique immigrant identity in America, the community chose to forget the unusual trend that Banerjee set.
But now, Banerjeeâ€™s life story that seems to be straight out of the Indian cinema pages of the 80â€™s, is coming out. Huluâ€™s newest drama series re-tells Banerjeeâ€™s story that involves strip clubs, sex, drugs and a murder!
Born in Mumbai, Steve Banerjee, belonged to a business family. He first arrived in Canada in the 1960s. In his 20’s, he did seem to have a vision to make it big and soon shifted to Los Angeles â€“ a place more suited for his big dreams.
He tried his luck at a gas station, a path that countless Indian immigrants have taken in America and have made it big with their perseverance and hard work.
However, Banerjee chose a path less traveled. He saved enough to buy his first bar in Los Angeles and called in Destiny II. The bar held entertainment such as magic shows and mud wrestling for its patrons.
Back in 1979, on the suggestion of a fellow night club owner, Banerjee introduced male strippers in his bar. The idea was to bring out a new concept and target women patrons.
Banerjee renamed his place and called it Chippendales. The idea was an instant hit. And even though, the idea was an unusual one, for the times, the 80â€™s were also an age, where people, women in particular were beginning to demand freer world, womenâ€™s rights, feminism and a challenge to question norms was the new order.
Everything worked just right for Chippendales. The male strippers in cuffs, collars and tights were a new addition to the chi-chi club going crowd. Chippendales aroused enough interest, that an Emmy award winning director, Nick De Noia upgraded the show and took it to New York City and then a US tour.
However, Banerjee did not appreciate how De Noia seemed to get recognition as the man behind Chippendales, while he remained in the background. The two men dissolved their partnership and De Noia started his own male strip clubs.
The competition sent Banerjee in a tizzy. In the late 80â€™s, in a real potboiler style, Banerjee hired a hitman and De Noia was shot dead in his office. It took the FBI some years to convict Banerjee and meanwhile the club continued to grow and now even traveled to Europe and Australia.
In the early 90â€™s fueled by the success of his clubs and a heady desire to monopolize the market, Banerjee now hired someone to kill another competitor. The plan was no less gory â€“ the agent tasked with the killings was to inject the targets with cyanides.
However, an accomplice called Strawberry got cold feet and reported it to the police. The investigations finally led the police to Banerjee and in 1993, he was finally arrested on charges including conspiracy and murder for hire.
In 1994, just a day before his sentence, Banerjee killed himself in the jail cell by hanging. His wife, Irene stood by his side and tried everything to shorten his sentence.
Steve Banerjeeâ€™s story ended with a suicide and had every ingredient of infamy that could be the reason why almost none from the Indian American community remember him.
But the story is now for the world to see in the Hulu series created by Robert Seigel based on the book, â€˜Deadly Dance: The Chippendales Murders.â€™
Kumail Nanjiani plays the lead and looks convincing as the immigrant who had big dreams and wanted to venture in a world no one from his background ever had.