August 17, 2022

For Christian Banerjee, stripping is not a job. It’s a spiritual calling.

“It wasn’t the fact that I wanted to be a stripper. It was my destiny,” Banerjee, 31, told The Post. “It wasn’t like I saw ‘Magic Mike’ and wanted to emulate what I’ve seen. This came from a much deeper place in my soul.”

After all, Banerjee is a striptease scion.

In 1979, his late father Somen “Steve” Banerjee — a paunchy but ambitious immigrant from Bombay, India — turned a Los Angeles bar into a male stripper den called Chippendales. He took it to dizzying heights in the 1980s, raking in millions in international tours and merchandise.

“Nobody was brave enough to send out male strippers. And nobody monetized it like my father did,” said the Huntington Beach, Calif., resident, who launched his own company, Strippendales, in early 2020. Unlike his dad who was in on the business side, Banerjee is also the gyrating talent.

But behind his family legacy — the G-strings and glossy camp veneer of the ’80s beefcake phenomenon — is a bloody tale of greed, arson, FBI informants and murder. A new four-part docuseries, “Secrets of the Chippendales Murders,” which premieres Monday on A&E, explores the twisted history of franchise.

Christian Banerjee, the son of late Chippendales founder Steve Banerjee, is hoping to find second-generation stripping fame with his company Strippendales.
Photo Copyright John Chapple / http://www.JohnChapple.com
Steve Banerjee founded Chippendales in 1979 and oversaw it's international rise
Steve Banerjee founded Chippendales in 1979 and oversaw its international rise.

As his nightclub, which was crawling with shirtless men in bowties and cuffs, became a huge draw in LA, Banerjee hired Nick De Noia, an Emmy-winning children’s producer. The flamboyant De Noia whipped the group of hunks into a dazzling, Vegas-esque troupe and suggested opening a Big Apple location. He also proposed a deal, which he jotted down on a napkin, saying he’d own the rights to then-nonexistent road shows in perpetuity. Banerjee signed it.

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The New York club was a hit and De Noia took all the credit appearing on shows such as Phil Donohue’s and Sally Jesse Raphael’s talk shows.

A fed-up Banerjee decided to have him killed, enlisting pal Ray Colon, who hired a junkie named Louie Lopez to do the deed. In 1987, Lopez walked into De Noia’s Midtown office and shot him in the face. After the case went unsolved, an emboldened Banerjee then put out a hit on two members of the rival troupe, Adonis: Men of Hollywood.

Nick DeNoia on opening night at Chippendales in New York
Nick De Noia on opening night at Chippendales in New York.
Courtesy of A&E

But the hired hitman got cold feet and reported it to the FBI, which led to a break in the De Noia slaying. Banerjee was arrested and in 1994, he pleaded guilty to racketeering and murder and killed himself. Before his sentencing, he transferred the company to his wife Irene, and hanged himself in his prison cell.

“My mother used to say, ‘You don’t have to work a day in your life. There’s money in Swiss bank accounts,’ ” said Banerjee. According to the series, De Noia’s family and the Adonis targets filed lawsuits and were awarded a total of $38 million, but when the lawyers went to recover the money in Switzerland, there was nothing.

Chippendale dancers in their trademark bowties and cuffs
Chippendale dancers in their trademark bowties and cuffs.
Courtesy of A&E

“The only person who would know is my dad, and he’s dead,” said Banerjee.

His mother passed away from cancer in 2001 and the younger Banerjee bounced between relatives in what he says was a tumultuous childhood. He became a personal trainer and opened up a supplements store where he struck up a friendship with a female body builder. “She told me she knew the founder of Chippendales,” referring to Bruce Nahin, who is billed in the series as Banerjee’s lawyer.

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“I told her, ‘No, the founder is dead. It was my dad.’ And that ignited a fire in me because I hadn’t heard anything about Chippendales for a while.”

Christian Banerjee is ready for his striptease close up.
Christian Banerjee is ready for his striptease close-up.
Photo Copyright John Chapple / http://www.JohnChapple.com

He then reached out to stripping companies and landed some gigs. “I saw other guys dancing and said I needed to step up my game so I started taking lessons. When I did my fireman routine, I realized that I didn’t want to do any other job in my life,” he said, adding that stripping gave him a “sense of meaning.”

And he has big dreams for Strippendales. “I hope to have the same international fame as Chippendales,” said Christian, who is single.

Dancing earns him a living but it also provides a tangible connection to his late father, who, despite his crimes, is still Banerjee’s hero.

“People have a lot of opinions and that’s fine. He was a good guy … I’ve always had this connection with my dad, even though he wasn’t living, through Chippendales. I think he’d want to push me in this direction. He’d want to continue his legacy through his son.”