Dancers, drugs, and murder-for-hire. The new discovery+ series Curse of the Chippendales exposes the dark truth behind the mega-popular all-male strip show, which took the world by storm in the 1980s but was later rocked by death and scandal.
Over four episodes, which are packed with archival footage and interviews with those involved in the organization, Curse of the Chippendales dives into the dance group’s massive success, which at its height was grossing $35 million a year. The true-crime docuseries also looks at the jealousies, rivalries, and greed that ultimately led to its downfall.
‘Curse of the Chippendales’ explores the rise of the male strip show
In the late 1970s, immigrant entrepreneur Steve Banerjee was looking for a way to turn around a struggling Los Angeles nightclub. Eventually, with the help of Canadian businessman Paul Snider, he hit on the idea of all-male strippers. Chippendales was born.
Arriving at the end of the sexually liberated ‘70s, the scantily clad dancers were an instant hit.
“I think every girl felt special in there,” says Nancy Dineen in the first episode. (She would eventually marry one of Chippendales top dancers, Michael Rapp.) “No matter what she looked like. That was part of what made Chippendales a great place, to make women feel good about themselves. It kind of felt like we were in control and they were there to serve us. The roles were reversed.”
Soon, the club was drawing sell-out crowds and Banerjee was making plans to expand to New York and beyond. But behind the scenes, things quickly turned dark. A shocking murder in the first episode hints at the trouble to come.
“At the time, I had no idea that this was only the beginning of a series of tragic misfortunes that would come into our lives,” says former Chippendales lawyer Bruce Nahin.
The series looks at the truth behind the Chippendales murder
Subsequent episodes of the series look at how the Chippendales empire grew in the 1980s. Curse of the Chippendales also explores how a fateful decision by Banerjee to bring in a new partner, choreographer Nick De Noia, eventually ended in De Noia’s 1987 murder. Later, there’s a plot to kill members of a rival dance troupe with cyanide.
“Chippendales was, in essence, a corrupt organization,” says Scott Garrioloa, a retired FBI special agent who appears in the series. “Who could ever dream of something like that? Male exotic dancers, but behind it all is this one megalomaniac, who’s a sociopath, trying to kill or destroy anything that gets in his way.”
How to stream ‘Curse of the Chippendales’
Curse of the Chippendales is streaming exclusively on discovery+ beginning Sept. 24. Subscriptions start at $4.99 per month; there’s also a $6.99 per month ad-free plan. Subscribers get access to streaming-only originals as well as thousands of episodes of shows from HGTV, ID, TLC, Animal Planet, and more.
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