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How Chippendales’ Male-Stripping Empire Ended in Bloody Murder

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There’s no real “curse” in Curse of the Chippendales, but there is plenty of titillating stripping and sensationalistic crime in Discovery ’s four-part docuseries, premiering Sept. 24. An amusing look back at the 1980s phenomenon that took America—and, in particular, women’s libidos—by storm, it’s a saga of sex, greed, money, murder and G-strings, all of it told with a welcome measure of good humor. Part underworld thriller, part nostalgic celebration of an iconic fad, writer/director Jesse Vile’s investigation echoes its subject by providing an entertainingly tawdry mix of thrills and laughs, as well as some familiar commentary on the way in which ambition can often curdle into sociopathy.

The Chippendales story begins with Steve Banerjee, who in 1975 was the owner of Los Angeles’ Destiny II nightclub, the only disco spot in the city that stayed open until 4 a.m. A soft-spoken, self-made Indian immigrant, Banerjee was an entrepreneur in search of something that would elevate his establishment above the rest, and he found what he was looking for courtesy of Paul Snider, a promoter described as “sleazy and oily” by Banerjee’s former lawyer Bruce Nahin. Snider was dating model Dorothy Stratten, who was trying to make it as a Playboy Playmate, and he suggested to Banerjee that he stage a male strip show aimed at a female audience. What began as “experimental art” swiftly blossomed into a smash hit that Banerjee named after a furniture brand, and which was developed—with characters that tapped into various fantasies (cowboy, cop, Zorro, etc.) and a signature uniform of bowties,........

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