Curse of the Chippendales, a new discovery+ docuseries, peels back the curtains on the Chippendales saga, a twisty (and almost unbelievably real) tale involving a murder, an international manhunt, and lots of oiled men in g-strings. The famous male revue began as a stunt in Los Angeles in the 1980s, but soon became embroiled in a slew of scandals, including the 1987 assassination of Chippendales choreographer Nick De Noia and two other planned hits on a dancer and producer—all orchestrated by Chippendales founder Steve Banerjee.
Now available to stream, Curse of the Chippendales features interviews with former Chippendales dancers and friends of De Noia, including Chippendales associate producer Candace Mayeron. Below, in her own words, Mayeron on her time touring with the company—and why she knew Banerjee was behind De Noia‘s death from the start.
There’s an “e” in Magic Mike and an “e” in Chippendales—and that’s about where the similarities end. Chippendales was iconic participation theater, visionary both for its entertainment value and what it was trying to accomplish. Girls weren’t just screaming to scream at our shows, they were actually having a really good time.
Until October of 1987, I was the show’s associate producer. I ran a tight ship, because I wanted our people to be respected and to act in a manner that would cause us to be respected. I helped Nick De Noia, our brilliant producer and choreographer, turn our guys into Chippendales men. I helped him hire men, do bookings, and manage the dancers. One time, some of our guys were arrested for disturbing the peace. I went to the police station to bail everybody out, and the next day I got a knock on my door. When I opened it, there was a card with grapes on the front that said, “Thanks a bunch.”
My job wasn’t as easy as people might think. But the most difficult moment was having to tell my guys that Nick, whom many of the Chippendales men looked upon as a father figure, had been murdered.
I’ll never forget my first Chippendales show. It was the early 1980s, and I was working in Los Angeles as a stockbroker with EF Hutton at the time. Chippendales was originally a disco backgammon club, and I used to play for fun in the back room. One night there was a lot of noise coming from the front room. I couldn’t believe what I saw: dancing men dressed up as cavemen, callers, and even a prince charming.
A few months later, I decided to get in on the action. At a show, I held up a dollar and a dancer in a g-string came over. I asked one of the waiters, “Who is the genius behind all this?” He pointed to a very attractive silver-haired man standing in the back of the room. It was Nick De Noia.
Our relationship evolved organically. I started helping Nick shoot the Chippendales calendar, and handle merchandising. One of my jobs was to hire and train the hosts and waiters. I recruited at bodybuilding shows, but quickly discovered that all I had to do was walk outside during the show, where guys were lining up waiting to be discovered. Nick would put them in the collar and cuffs and the black spandex. If they looked good, we let them walk around the room. Nick would say, “I want to know what the girls think, go into the ladies’ room and listen to what they’re saying and come back and tell me.” So I’d primp a little in the mirror and eavesdrop.
By the time Chippendales expanded to New York, I was pretty much at the club every night. We had eight performances a week, and the guys were accustomed to the fact that Nick was giving me notes to give to them. I would ask them: “It’s two hours before the show and two girls come up to you and ask for a photo, what do you tell them?” Most guys would say, “Yes, of course I’d take a photo with them.” I would say, “Wrong, wrong, wrong.”
Chippendales was not where women were coming to admire attractive men, Chippendales was the place where women were coming to be admired by attractive men. I’d tell the guys to find the least attractive lady in the room and compliment them. The minute I would told them that, they understood the veracity of it.
When the show went on tour in 1986, Nick asked if I would come along. Our show was called the “Original Chippendales,” and that’s an important distinction. Nick had retained the rights to the show after parting ways with the club’s owner Steve Banerjee, who was going to put on a brand new show at his club. Therefore Nick’s touring show became the Original Chippendales show.
There were no rules on the road. I was not a warden or keeper to the men, and I not their mother. As long as they weren’t messing around with women under the age of 18, they could do whatever they wanted. Wait, that’s not true, I did have one rule: No haircuts without my permission. I hired one guy in Indianapolis who had this gorgeous long, blonde hair—a very leonine look—and when he came to work the first day it was all gone. After that I said, “Nobody gets a haircut without my permission, and, p.s. I’m never giving permission.”
Even though I was just a couple years older, the guys all listened to me. They were like a whole bunch of younger brothers or little puppy dogs—very playful and fun to be around.
By then, Nick and I had become very close. He was really was brilliant at what he did. I still remember our last dinner together, just a few nights before he was killed in April of 1987. A hotel in London was debuting a brand new resort and wanted the Original Chippendales to be the lead act on opening weekend. We were so excited. Nick was flying to New York the next day to sign the contract, so we went out to celebrate. This was going to be the first time he left the company completely in my charge, but he was confident it wouldn’t be a problem. That night, we were congratulating each other and looking forward to the future and what it might bring.
A couple days later, I was on the phone with Nick when he suddenly said, “I can’t talk, I got to go.” That was our last phone call ever. I believe we were actually talking when his murderer walked in.
An hour before that evening’s show, I got a phone call from a family friend telling me that Nick had been killed. Nothing in life prepares you to get news like that. I mean, who knows somebody who has been murdered? I didn’t know how to deal with it. All I knew was that the show must go on—that’s what Nick would have wanted. But I needed to keep the guys from finding out. I told the club that nobody could come in except women with tickets, and absolutely no press. Then I put a note in the dressing room that said: “Mandatory meeting immediately after the show.”
There is a moment in the show when the “perfect man” reveals himself for the first time. The perfect man is always the best looking of all the guys. As loud as it is in the club during the show, it increases tenfold when the perfect man comes out. So I opened my mouth and let out a primal yell. Nobody could hear me, because the room was louder than my scream. I yelled and yelled and yelled in anguish. Everybody’s attention was, of course, on the stage.
When I told the guys in the dressing room after the show, one of them jumped up and screamed, “I’m going to kill that motherf***** Steve Banerjee.” He wanted to run out of the room in his g-string and get his revenge. There wasn’t a scintilla of doubt in my mind that it was Steve either.
Steve and Nick had come to loggerheads. Nick was a silver tongue New Yorker, who was constantly going on TV to talk about Chippendales. He started being referred to as “Mr. Chippendales.” I think that helped fuel the anger that Steve had toward Nick. Their verbal fights became vicious. I was with Nick for such a long time, and I never knew him to have other enemies. It wasn’t that hard to connect the dots.
After Nick died, I remained on as associate producer. Before each show, we silently saluted Nick. The men were also really protective of me, escorting me back to my room after shows so that I never felt in danger. After five months, I left the company and came back to Los Angeles to start my own production company.
In 1994, news broke that Steve had been arrested for the attempted murder of some former Chippendales dancers, who had started a new group called Adonis. I called the FBI and said, “Attempted murder? Steve actually murdered a guy seven years ago.” At the FBI headquarters, I explained why Steve Banerjee was behind the murder of Nick de Noia. An FBI agent later told me that they already had a fair amount of what I gave them, but that I was able to fill in a lot of the blanks. Steve was eventually charged in the murder of Nick.
There was no way I was going to miss Steve’s sentencing. I was on the courthouse steps with our MC and two of our dancers, when someone came out and said there would be no hearing, because Steve had killed himself in jail the night before. I felt cheated, big time.
My only closure comes as more time passes. The pain of losing Nick recedes, but it never goes away. Talking about him, and this resurgence of interest in Chippendales has helped me heal in the sense that I can keep Nick’s memory alive—so that he might be remembered the way he would want to be, which was as the consummate show director. I was so lucky to be a very small part, for a moment in time, in a really iconic entertainment art form—and I was honored to get to do it with Nick.
This interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.