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The Hapless Hitman Who Was Hired To Assassinate Two Chippendales In UK
The Hapless Hitman Who Was Hired To Assassinate Two Chippendales In UK
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Two Chippendales dancers escaped a farcical attempt on their lives on UK soil after the hitman hired to kill them became so dejected by the cold weather and poor food that he gave up and returned to the US.

On stage, the all-male dance troupe provided light entertainment wearing nothing but bowties and cuffs, but backstage there was greed, jealousy and feuds that led to murders and assassination plots.

The Chippendales were founded by Somen 'Steve' Banerjee, an Indian immigrant who had moved from Bombay to in the late 1960s.

He opened the original Chippendales nightclub in 1979, named after the 18th-century furniture style to make it sound classy, and soon crowds of emancipated women began filling the venue up to tuck dollar bills into the underwear of the muscly, oiled up dancers.

But Banerjee grew jealous of the group's choreographer Nick De Noia and hired a hitman to shoot him dead at their Manhattan office. 

He also dispatched a hitman to inject two of the troupe's dancers with cyanide during a show in Blackpool, but the hit did not quite go to plan.

The hitman, who has since been given the false name 'Strawberry', said he was offered $50,000 (£39,900) to inject the two men with cyanide-filled syringe

The Chippendales were founded by Somen 'Steve' Banerjee, an Indian immigrant who had moved from Bombay to Los Angeles in the late 1960s

On stage, the all-male dance troupe provided light entertainment wearing nothing but bowties and cuffs

After first getting a job as a janitor and running two petrol stations following his arrival into the US, in 1975 the shy-but-ambitious Banerjee took over a failing bar called Destiny II on the Westside of LA.

He unsuccessfully tried hosting events such as magic shows to female mud-wrestling, but was convinced by self-described 'Jewish pimp' Paul Snider to launch a male stripping show.

Banerjee renamed Destiny II, The Chippendales in 1979.

However, the first in a series of dramatic incidents would take place just a year later, when Snider murdered his estranged wife, Playboy Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten, with a pump-action shotgun before turning the weapon on himself.

Snider, who had become jealous of his wife's success as they drifted apart, murdered her at his home after she came over to negotiate a financial settlement.

But Banerjee pressed forward as he realised the potential scope of his business.

In 1981, he hired Emmy-winning producer Nick De Noia to choreograph the troupe's tour and live show routines.

However, Banerjee was becoming increasingly ruthless and would burn down or vandalise competing nightclubs.

Banerjee subsequently hired a hitman to shoot De Noia (right) dead at his Chippendales office desk in midtown Manhattan

Self-described 'Jewish pimp' Paul Snider killed estranged wife Dorothy Stratten before turning the gun on himself

He would also hire lawyers to sue anyone breaching copyright - including a troupe in New Mexico who jokingly named themselves the Chunkendales.

By 1987, though, Banerjee had become jealous of the money De Noia was pulling in from the tour and resented how he took credit for the success of troupe.

He subsequently hired a hitman to shoot De Noia dead at his Chippendales office desk in midtown Manhattan.

Having escaped punishment for his role in the brazen murder, Banerjee then plotted to have two dancers killed.

He had become angered after a number of Chippendales dancers broke away from the troupe and former rival act Adonis: Men Of Hollywood.

In retaliation, Banerjee again hired an amateur hitman to to kill the former dancers as during a performance at Blackpool's Winter Gardens in July 1991.

The hitman, who has since been given the false name 'Strawberry', said he was offered $50,000 (£39,900) to inject the two men with cyanide-filled syringe.

Banerjee believed Read Scot and украина Steve White had gone a 'step too far' by creating the rival troupe.

He was offered $25,000 for each dancer and says he took the offer due to fear of repercussions if he refused.

Strawberry travelled from LA to England after being given the cyanide in an eye-drop bottle, allowing him to get through customs without raising suspicion. 

Banerjee hired an amateur hitman to to kill two former dancers as they travelled to Blackpool for a performance at the Winter Gardens

Banerjee was found dead in his jail cell in October 1994, having hanged himself with a bedsheet

Tipping technically wasn't allowed, but grateful punters usually showed their appreciation by slipping bank notes into the nearest posing pouch

After killing them, he was supposed to ring his employers with the cryptic message: 'I signed up that draft choice from the south.' 

But the hitman said he changed his mind about going through with the killings moments before the incident was supposed to take place and instead contacted the FBI.

Recalling his trip, Strawberry told the BBC's Secrets of the Chippendales Murders series: 'I only had short sleeve shirts, no coat.





And the food sucked and the girls were not any better.'

He spent a couple of days in London, including staying at a BnB near Heathrow Airport, before travelling to Blackpool.

Nicky Pope, Chippendales' UK press agent, said: 'Not only is it insane and illegal and horrible, but I can't understand how you are going to have one syringe of cyanide and kill two people?'

Defence attorney Frank Rothwell added: 'Strawberry goes there, get some intel, then gets cold feet and decides "I am not a killer, I am not doing this".

Discussing the incident, Strawberry said: 'I was afraid of getting busted.





I thought this ain't worth a damn. I am getting out of here. That is when I ditched the cyanide and the syringes.

'I entertained the thought of going to the English police, but I thought they would throw my a**e in jail or the nut house.



I thought I'd be speaking Greek to them.

'So I thought I've got to go back to the States where they speak the real English that I speak.'

Upon flying back to the US, Strawberry walked into an FBI office and informed them of what he had been hired to do.

He is understood to currently live somewhere in Ohio under the witness protection programme.

Banerjee was arrested as the plotters were rounded up, and those who knew the soft-spoken family man expressed disbelief that he would ever stoop to such crimes. 

Chippendales was the first club of its kind and it worked spectacularly well following its opening in 1979

Police carry the body of Nicholas De Noia from the offices of Chippendales in New York after the producer and director of the club was shot in the face and killed

But prosecutors dropped the Blackpool charges as part of a plea deal in 1993, with Banerjee instead admitting to plotting the murder of De Noia and attempted arson and racketeering offences.

Prosecutors claimed he had also planned to have his other business partner, lawyer Bruce Nahin, killed.

Banerjee was facing 26 years in prison as well as the loss of most of his fortune, including his share of the Chippendales.

But in October 1994, he was found dead in his jail cell, having hanged himself with a bedsheet. 

The Chippendales clubs closed following De Noia's and Banerjee's deaths.

But now owners purchased and relaunched the brand in 2000.

The dancers now perform for a whole new crowd at a $10 million theater in the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas that was built specifically for the troupe - and they also continue to tour worldwide. 







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