Male strippers are not for me, but maybe that’s because the only one I’ve ever seen was in an Australian backpackers pub on Acton High Street. With the passage of time I have completely forgotten how I got there (I am not an Australian backpacker and never have been), but the memory of him taking off his G-string remains vivid.
The success of male comics magical mike – a Hollywood trilogy, and now a hit West End show – emphasizes that there’s definitely a market for the more glamorous side of things. And for that we have to enter Steve Banerjee and Nick De Noia, the main protagonists Secrets of the Chippendales Murders (BBC Two). Banerjee opened the first Chippendales club in Los Angeles in the 1980s. He was the corporate brains, while De Noia came on board as the creative director bringing Broadway pizza to the shows. Both were killed in a bizarre tale of murder, sex, Swiss bank accounts and cyanide.
All the ingredients are there for a great story, but this four-part documentary doesn’t do it justice (and is the second to do it, after Amazon’s Curse of the Chippendales). The dramatization of Disney+ Welcome to Chippendales had its flaws – it made some rather unlikely people disneyfiate – but it gave us the backstory of Banerjee: a meticulous Mumbai gas station attendant who initially intended to run a backgammon club.
This documentary gives us none of that. In fact, the pacing gets all wrong – dramatic events get little attention (the first murder is already out of the way after 10 minutes), but the series is way too long, filled with Christian right complaints and red herrings about the mafia. It’s edited so limply that the same 911 call is played three times.
Memories vary. “It wasn’t a crazy sex spot,” insists the only female producer involved in the venture, talking about New York’s Chippendales club, as the male dancers fondly remember doing it with spectators in the VIP area , the parking lot, somewhere they liked to call “the orgy room”, and the men’s room (“because there were no men there”).
The jealousy and fatal rivalry that spawned between Banerjee and De Noia is explained by those who knew them, but we’re still not getting under Banerjee’s skin. No one knows what happened to his fortune. At the end, his son says, “I’m going to find my father’s millions” – a quest that would be exciting if it actually happened, but here’s just a wasted sentence.