Hulu’s Welcome to Chippendales is without a doubt one of the biggest surprises that TV has to offer this year. Following Chippendales founder Steve Banerjee (Kumail Nanjiani), the show starts out as an exciting underdog tale about an Indian emigrant who goes on to create one of the world’s most popular establishments. But then, as Chippendales becomes more and more of a success, the show metamorphoses into a stranger-than-fiction story of arson, racketeering, and murder – to just scratch the surface.
Is this story actually stranger than fiction? Below, we investigate the contents of Chippendales, episode by episode, breaking down what actually happened, and what was fabricated — or completely made-up — for the series. We’ll update this post each week as each new episode debuts.
[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers up to Welcome to Chippendales Episode 8, “Paper is Paper.”]
Episode 1: “An Elegant, Exclusive Atmosphere”
Was “Destiny II” a Real Place?
Yes. It is true that Chippendales-founder Steve Banerjee used the money he saved up from working at a Mobil station to open a club of his own called Destiny II. As seen in Welcome to Chippendales, he originally turned the space into a backgammon club, which failed to gain traction.
While it is true that Steve later turned Destiny II into Chippendales, it is not entirely true that he thought of the idea for the all-male strip tease all on his own. The idea actually came partly under the advisement of club promoter Paul Snider, who, in Chippendales, is portrayed by Dan Stevens as initially resistant to the idea because he doesn’t think that women want to see men strip.
Also left out of Chippendales is the fact that there were other minds behind the club in addition to Banerjee, Snider, and Snider’s girlfriend, Playboy bunny Dorothy Stratten (played in the series by Nicola Peltz Beckham). Banerjee actually had a business partner, Bruce Nahin, with whom he bought Destiny II. Nahin was a big part of the inception of Chippendales, and even advised male dancers to pour the customer’s drinks and light their cigarettes.
Who Created the Iconic Chippendales Look?
In Welcome to Chippendales, Playboy bunny Dorothy Stratten comes up with the iconic look for the Chippendales dancers: cuffs and collars. According to the four-part A&E documentary Secrets of the Chippendales Murders, her contribution wasn’t falsified for the Hulu show.
Stratten’s time at Playboy inspired her to suggest the implementation of the accessories, and Playboy tycoon Hugh Hefner approved the club’s usage of his trademark. Chippendales’ former creative director Eric Gilbert explained that “Hefner gave the greatest gift to Steve Banerjee by allowing him to take that cuffs and collar trademark and make it into a Chippendales look.”
Did Dorothy and Paul Really Fight About the Peter Bogdanovich?
The end of Episode 1 of Welcome to Chippendales sees an explosive fight between Dorothy and Paul. While the couple are at lunch, Dorothy is approached by legendary The Last Picture Show film director Peter Bogdanovich regarding a potential acting role, sparking jealousy in Paul.
And while there are no accounts of this specific altercation, it is true that Bogdanovich took an interest in Stratten at one point: He met the young model in 1979 at a party, and she immediately caught his eye. The director soon became infatuated with her, and cast her in his new film They All Laughed.
But that’s not all. Much to the fiery jealousy of Snider, whom Stratten had been with since ‘78, she and Bogdanovich actually began dating following the director’s split with actress Cybill Shepherd.
The major discrepancy between Chippendales and what really happened is that, in the show, the relationship between Bogdanovich and Stratten never happens. What’s more, the show doesn’t note that Snider and Stratten were actually divorced and estranged when the former brutally murdered the latter.
Episode 2: “Four Geniuses”
Was Irene Banerjee a Real Person?
Yes – Steve Banerjee dated, and later married and had children with, a woman named Irene. However, while Chippendales depicts the two meeting at Chippendales, with accountant Irene giving Steve unsolicited business advice, there is no public record on how exactly they met.
Was Costume Designer Denise Coughlin a Real Person?
Many of the characters in Welcome to Chippendales are real people. From Steve Banerjee to Dorothy Stratten to choreographer Nick De Noia, the show seems to do its best to avoid falsifying characters – with the possible exception of Chippendales’ kooky costume designer Denise Coughlin, played by Juliette Lewis.
In Chippendales, Denise makes her mark by introducing tearaway pants to the club’s dancers. And while Chippendales does famously use these kinds of pants, there is no record of them originating from a woman named Denise. The character is likely based on Chippendales ex-associate producer Candace Mayeron, who quickly became best friends with De Noia and went on tour with him, just like Denise eventually does in the show.
Episode 3: “Velveeta”
Was “Hunkenstein” a Real Dance Act?
In Episode 3 of Welcome to Chippendales, Nick and Denise start a new dance number at Chippendales called “Hunkenstein.” Steve is angered when he sees the routine, as he feels as though the duo have exacted too much power over his club.
While it is true that Banerjee and DeNoia eventually butted heads because Banerjee became paranoid that the choreographer was attempting to steal the business out from under him, there is no evidence to suggest that a dance act called “Hunkenstein” was the catalyst for this fallout, or that Chippendales later performed it in New York City, which occurs in Episode 5.
Episode 4: “Just Business”
Did Nick Go to New York to Pitch His Own Competing Strip Club: “US Male”?
Episode 4 of Welcome to Chippendales is where things really start to go south between Steve and Nick. The episode sees Nick retaliating against Steve by flying to New York to pitch his own all-male strip-tease: “US Male.” He later changes his mind, and instead decides to spearhead a New York branch of Chippendales to get away from Steve.
While it is true that Nick helped open up a New York branch of Chippendales, there is nothing to confirm that he ever pitched “US Male.” This was likely added to the show to emphasize the budding conflict between the two men.
Was Photographer Ray Colon a Real Person?
Yes. It isn’t clear exactly how much Colon really had to do with Chippendales, but he was a friend of Steve’s, who eventually played a large part in the business tycoon’s downfall. In the series, he’s played by Robin de Jesus.
Was Bradford Barton a Real Person?
In Chippendales, As Nick spearheads new branches of the club, he also begins a relationship with a man named Bradford Barton, played by Andrew Rannells. While there doesn’t seem to have been anyone in DeNoia’s life by that name, the choreographer did have a secret lover: David Arad. Not much is known about Arad, but he did speak about his late partner in Secrets of the Chippendales Murders.
Did Chippendales Really Start a Racially-Discriminatory Membership Program?
In Welcome to Chippendales, Steve tells a bouncer to turn people of color away from the club by implementing fake membership cards. This is true, according to UCLA law student Don Gibson, who explained that “Every single person I asked who was a person of color said they were asked for a membership.”
Gibson later filed a lawsuit against Chippendales regarding the discrimination, which prompted other similar stories to emerge. The club-owner was ultimately forced to settle in the case due to other financial issues. This settlement included an agreement that 25% of Chippendales employees would be Black. In addition, the club was asked to conduct $50,000 worth of business with Black merchants.
Episode 5: “Leeches”
Did Steve Ask Ray to Burn Down the Electric Tomato?
Episode 5 of Welcome to Chippendales is the first time we see Steve dabble in real, substantial crime. Seeing other male strip clubs start to pop up around California, the Chippendales-owner starts to feel threatened and decides to take out his competitors. So he asks Ray to burn down a similar neighborhood establishment called “The Electric Tomato,” which he seems to do successfully.
While it is true that Banerjee plotted arson attacks against his “competitors,” the actual details are a little different. In 1979, he hired Colon to burn down a club called Moody’s Disco in Santa Monica, but Colon botched the job and the building was only lightly damaged. Five years later, Banerjee hired Colon once again for another arson job – this time commanding him to put a torch to the Red Onion restaurant in Marina Del Rey. This job was also mostly unsuccessful.
Did Steve and Nick’s Conflict Start With The Phil Donahue Show?
In Welcome to Chippendales, Steve’s vendetta against Nick begins with the latter allowing Phil Donahue to call him “Mr. Chippendales” on live TV, despite Steve having created the club.
However, their sour relationship ultimately seemed to have more to do with the fact that Banerjee suspected DeNoia wasn’t giving him his fair share of touring cheques, as opposed to any specific talk-show incident.
Episode 6: “February 31st”
Did Steve Really Sign Off on the Chippendales Tour on a Napkin?
Yes. On the podcast Welcome to Your Fantasy, former Chippendales member Dan Peterson said that “Nick [De Noia] wrote on a napkin that he has the right to take Chippendales on the road and own it in perpetuity,” which Banerjee signed because he did not know that the word “perpetuity” meant “forever.” This cocktail napkin signing – plus Banerjee’s subsequent paranoia that De Noia wasn’t really sending him his 50% share of the tour earnings – is all included in Welcome to Chippendales. Left out, however, is the fact that De Noia actually sued Banerjee for attempting to start a Chippendales touring company of his own.
Was the Chippendales Calendar Mishap Real?
Yes. In Episode 6 of Welcome to Chippendales, Steve signs off on prototypes of a Chippendales calendar, only to discover, after they are printed, that he accidentally approved a version where every single month has 31 days. This actually happened, and left the company with 300,000 useless calendars and a whopping $70,000 reprint fee. This, plus legal fees and unpaid taxes, sent Chippendales into bankruptcy.
Episode 7: “Paper Is Paper”
Was Nick De Noia Murdered?
Easily one of the most shocking moments in Welcome to Chippendales takes place in Episode 7, when Steve Banerjee hires Ray Colon to kill Nick because he suspects that the choreographer isn’t giving him his fair share of tour earnings.
This actually happened, though Chippendales leaves some details out, as the murder itself takes place off screen. According to Scott Garriola (a former FBI agent who investigated the case, on April 7th, 1987), Colon traveled to the New York Chippendales headquarters with Gilberto Rivera Lopez, an accomplice he had hired. Lopez then shot De Noia, who was sitting at his desk, in the left cheek, and the duo escaped before police reached the scene.
But that’s not all. Based on a chilling account from Colon, Lopez actually interacted with De Noia before shooting him. Colon recounted that, when Lopez reached De Noia’s office, he asked: “Are you Nick De Noia?” And when De Noia said “Yes,” Lopez responded: “You’re dead.” “It took about five seconds from smiling to sheer panic,” Lopez later recalled in an FBI recording.
Episode 8: “Switzerland”
Did Steve Hire Ray for More Hit Jobs?
As seen in Chippendales, De Noia isn’t the last person Banerjee hired Colon to kill. In 1991, Banerjee instructed Colon to travel to England to murder former Chippendales dancers who had started a competing male strip club called “Adonis.” Colon, who still hadn’t been caught for his involvement in De Noia’s murder, hired an accomplice named Strawberry (who doesn’t appear in the show) to help him with the job, and provided him with an eyedropper filled with cyanide.
At the last minute, however, Strawberry chickened out, and his guilty conscience led him to call a DEA agent he had previously worked with. The FBI instructed Strawberry to call Colon, who then confessed to his involvement in the conspiracy. The FBI later searched Colon’s home, and found 46 grams of cyanide – a discovery that led to his arrest.
How Did Steve Get Caught?
Like in Welcome to Chippendales, Steve Banerjee was caught because in 1993, Ray Colon coerced a confession out of him while wearing a wire in a hotel room in Lucerne, Switzerland. However, while the conversation plays out in full in the show, the creators undoubtedly took some liberties, as it is not public record exactly what Colon and Banerjee said to one another during that time.
Banerjee was swiftly arrested after his confession, and, the following year, plead guilty to racketeering and orchestrating the murder of Nick De Noia.
How Did Steve Banerjee Die?
As seen in Welcome to Chippendales, Steve Banerjee died by suicide on the day of his sentencing. It is also true that he transferred the Chippendales name to his estranged ex-wife, Irene, and she was able to keep the club’s earnings.
Welcome to Chippendales is streaming now on Hulu.