By: Amanda Guarragi
During the 70s, women began to feel a bit more sexually liberated with the surge of the adult film industry. It was no longer a time for only men to express their sexual impulses, but women too. Of course, at that time, strip clubs were reserved for men to watch women take their clothes off for money. After breaking ground, sex workers are finally taken seriously in an industry that has been shamed for years. It’s a profession like any other, so when Steve Banerjee (Kumail Nanjiani) created the male version, ‘The Chippendales’ became a phenomenon. What should have been a safe space for queer men and women to feel liberated from societal marginalization became a prison of greed, notoriety and status for Banerjee. Sometimes power can consume someone and they spiral down a bad path to keep their dream afloat. Ambition is always a good thing to have, but not when there is no morality or making tough decisions. Welcome to Chippendale’s is a sprawling true-crime saga, that tells the outrageous story of Somen “Steve” Banerjee, an Indian immigrant founder who became the unlikely founder of the world’s greatest male-stripping empire – and let nothing stand in his way in the process.
Banerjee worked at a gas station for seven years and saved enough money to start a business of his own. He wanted to open a Backgammon Club in Los Angeles. At the beginning of this journey, Banerjee was a simple man who just wanted a nice place for people to feel like they were living a posh lifestyle. Little did he know, that his obsession with fame and money would ultimately consume him and make him a terrible boss. He trusted a stranger who called himself a club promoter to turn his dud of a club into a “happening” place on a Friday night. After heading to a gay club with two strangers and seeing male dancers with straight women cheering them on, Banerjee put two and two together and came up with a male strip club for women. The series is created by Robert Siegel, who completely captured the essence of the late 70s. Everything came together nicely, from the costuming to the music to the make-up and hairstyling, to make it feel authentic to the era. Each episode added something more to the club itself, until it became too much to control.
The cast works together extremely well, but the standouts were Nanjiani and Murray Bartlett, who plays Nick De Noia, an Emmy-winning choreographer. As the club received more attention, Banerjee needed to polish off his show for it to grow even bigger. One night, De Noia walked in and left him his card; perhaps it was fate that brought them together, but as the series goes on, it seems like their meeting did more harm than good. This series pits ego against ego and a businessman against a choreographer with status. There is plenty of flashy dancing and fun moments in the club, but the intense business negotiations and backstabbing are what made this compelling. No one ever fully understands what it means to build a business, and Robert Siegel made sure to show every inch of the mayhem. Nanjiani gives one of the best performances of his career as he descends into the madness of becoming the best in the world. He loses himself in this role, and it’s unlike anything we’ve seen him do.
Welcome to Chippendales is an entertaining, vibrant, and dark look at the entertainment industry. It shows how cutthroat people can be and how important a creative idea can be when it comes to the bottom line of business decisions. Nanjiani and Bartlett have incredible chemistry and work together well to make this story even more convincing. Watching De Noia and Banjeree’s relationship grow over the episodes was interesting because they have different perspectives on the business and which aspects to focus on for the Chippendales to grow. The first half of this series sets up Banerjee’s life and his constant need for the next best thing, while De Noia focuses on what’s in front of them with the dancers in the show. We see two different focuses that ultimately alter the Chippendales and their impact. The series will begin streaming on Hulu on November 22nd, and it is worth a watch if you want to know more about the creation of the Chippendales.