The Chippendales appear to be making a comeback — on the screen, at least. Hulu is developing the eight-episode “Immigrant,” following the story of Chippendales founder Somen “Steve” Banerjee, while Dev Patel and Ben Stiller have been attached to a project about the 80s-era male revue, from producer David Permut, for several years.
But beating them both to the punch is A&E’s latest documentary series, the four-part “Secrets of the Chippendales Murders,” which launched March 14. The series continues this Monday with a hefty contribution from longtime Hollywood publicist Jay Schwartz, who in his 20s served as an associate producer at the Chippendales nightclub. Schwartz worked for Nick DeNoia, who was Banerjee’s business partner — until their relationship soured and DeNoia ended up dead.
“Nick was my boss, and you could describe him as a cross between Harvey Weinstein and Scott Rudin,” Schwartz said. “He was not a very nice man. We called him ‘Nick the Dick’ and my experience with him was not very good.”
Banerjee originally launched the Chippendales in 1979 with partner Paul Snider — the businessman who killed his estranged wife, Playboy model and actress Dorothy Stratten, and then himself, the following year. Banerjee then turned to DeNoia, who was a TV producer and choreographer brought in to help expand the Chippendales and help turn it into a hit.
And soon it was a phenomenon in New York, where the all-female audience made it a “Disneyland for the ladies,” Schwartz said.
“We had John Travolta and Sylvester Stallone come in the club to cast their film ‘Perfect,’” he said. “We had Brooke Shields, we had a Broadway night, we had a soap opera night. The club took on a world of itself. Doors open at six o’clock. You have 600 women coming into this club, the ‘bridge and tunnel’ crowd coming in, busloads of women. They’re being treated like royalty by all these great looking guys in cuffs and collars and spandex pants.”
Later, the show would end but the audience would stick around as the club transformed back to New York hotspot Magique. And suddenly the room would be flooded with men as well. “And the owners were making bank because it was a cash business,” Schwartz said. “They were taking money out the side door in big black hefty bags and putting them in the trunks of their car. That leads to greed.”
Early on, DeNoia struck a deal with Banerjee to take the touring rights to the Chippendales. “Nick said he wanted the rights in perpetuity,” Schwartz said. “Steve didn’t know what ‘perpetuity’ meant. And he didn’t care about touring rights because there was no such thing at that time. He was just talking about the clubs.”
But Banerjee ultimately put a hit on DeNoia to stop him from capitalizing on the Chippendales name, leading to DeNoia’s murder in 1987. Banerjee later attempted other assassinations, and was eventually found guilty of murder and other charges in 1994. He died in his cell while awaiting sentencing.
Schwartz noted that most of the planned Chippendales-related film and TV projects focus on the murders, while he has been trying to years to get a show made that focuses on the heyday of the troupe and the antics in the club.
“The stories being told are of the murder, but that’s an afterthought,” he said. “That’s not what made this club the phenomenal success that it was. What happened inside the club, what the guys went through, how they were treated like a piece of meat. It’s ‘Breaking Bad’ meets ‘Mad Men,’ except meth is not your backdrop. A sexy Chippendales is the backdrop.”
Plus a lot of cocaine. Schwartz has recounted his experience as a 25-year-old suddenly at the center of the action in his treatment “Ladies Night: Not for Women Only,” which he describes as the story of “a young man’s loss of innocence. A story of a naïve 25-year-old college graduate who got the opportunity to work in the hottest club in New York City since Studio 54. Drugs. Sex. Bizarre behavior. Murder. Suicide. And it’s all true.”
“Whatever story you think that you can come up with, which I’m sure would be very creative, I’ll beat that story 10 times over because truth is stranger than fiction,” Schwartz added. “Hey, Netflix, Amazon, Apple, call me.”
“Secrets of the Chippendales Murders,” which airs Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on A&E, comes on the heels of the network’s “Secrets of Playboy” docuseries, which A&E said was its top-rated series launch in more than five years. Big Fish Entertainment produces.