March 10, 2021

5. 31 Days in February...One Day in April

by Welcome to Your Fantasy

Background show artwork for Welcome to Your Fantasy

The bigger Chippendales gets, the more paranoid Steve Banerjee becomes, until everything and everyone begins to look like a threat. A confidante creates a rival beefcake calendar, and a printing error of his own becomes a million dollar mistake. Meanwhile in New York, a stranger walks into the office of Nick De Noia, and changes everything.

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Cover artwork by Lindsay Mound.

Where to Listen


Content Warning: The following content contains adult content, strong language and graphic descriptions of violence. Listener discretion is advised.

Natalia Petrzela: Previously on Welcome to Your Fantasy ...

Candace Mayeron: The tension between them was palpable at all times. Banerjee was a cool and aloof guy, not gregarious at all. Nick was completely gregarious, in your face, you know, best friend or worst enemy.

Dan Peterson: I remember when Nick said, "I have the right, I own this show," and Banerjee said, "I didn't sign the contract for that. And I said, "No, you signed a deal."

Natalia: And he said, "I didn't know what it meant?"

Dan Peterson: He said he didn't sign that. And I said, "You did sign that. You signed a thing saying that he could have it forever." And that is where it all fell apart.

Hodari Subabu: If it was up to him, he probably would've had maybe 30 murders under his belt. Because at some point in time he felt that murder would solve the problem. It's like "Let's kill him." The landscape guy fucked up his flowers? "Let's kill him."

Hodari Subabu: I couldn't get in the calendar, the Chippendale calendar, which was the hugest calendar in the world.

Candace Mayeron: I only saw confrontation or downright all-out war.

Natalia: I've collected a lot of Chippendales merch over the last couple of years. I've got a wristwatch, featuring the chiseled face of Perfect Man Michael Rapp. I've got a copy of their workout tape Muscle Motion, which I've step-touched to more times than I'd like to admit. I've also got a little black book where I'm supposed to write down the names of all of my conquests. But the jewel in my collection is the 1984 Chippendales wall calendar.

Natalia: The cover is turquoise. Front and center is an extreme close-up of Dan Peterson's smoldering gaze—piercing blue eyes, feathered hair, Tom Selleck mustache. The photos of Dan inside are even better. In one, he's standing on a fire escape in only boxers and a necktie, flanked by two women in fishnet tights, one in a white leather jacket. The brunette to Dan's left is pulling him by the necktie and whispering suggestively in his ear. Dan's got his hand on the butt of the woman on his right, who's pulling on his white boxers to get a peek at what might be inside. Flip the page, and there's Dan again, sitting on the floor all alone, shirtless.

Dan Peterson: Steve had me dress up with handcuffs, chained to a radiator, and we shot at this old famous hotel in Hollywood. And it was lit really dramatic.

Natalia: There's a look on his face that either says "Come and get me," or "Come and get me the fuck out of here."

Dan Peterson: I found a bunch of this stuff that—oh, my God. They're embarrassing.

Natalia: They are not embarrassing! It's a historical artifact.

Dan Peterson: Here's another one.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, talk show host: We're going to meet three of the guys who are in this calendar, the Chippendale calendar. First of all, Mr. January, ladies and gentlemen, Michael Rapp. Mr. April, Creagen Richardson. Oh my, look at these guys! Mr. November is Dan Peterson. These guys are all with us today.]

Natalia: The calendars were Steve Banerjee's thing. Nick de Noia might be the creative genius behind the show, but the calendars were all Steve. And they couldn't be soft porn-y enough for him.

Dan Peterson: That is not the way I saw women liking these images.

Natalia: You might remember, Dan's a very straight-laced guy, despite working at Chippendales. He grew up in a Christian household. He was deeply uncomfortable wearing skin-tight pants. He spent a lot of time hiding in the back of the club, which is how he and Banerjee became tight. Anyway, when it came to photo shoots, Dan's aesthetic was not nearly as explicitly sexual as Steve's.

Dan Peterson: My thought was, "Hey, you shoot at the beach. You shoot at bright, sunny, happy." I love Hawaii, so I love tropical. So to me, that's what I wanted to do. And I used to talk to him about it. I used to say, "This is what we need to do. This is what they want to see." And Steve I remember saying, "Hey, then you do your own calendar and do it that way." I don't know if he honestly felt that I wasn't gonna follow through, if he didn't think it was gonna be as good as his, you know? But he said, "Go ahead."

Natalia: But Dan does it. His parents give him a loan, he teams up with his friend, a guy named Wolf Larson, and gets to work. They call their calendar "Skin Deep." Dan and Wolf don't have a ton of cash on hand, so they have to get creative. And for Dan, his first move is pretty radical.

Dan Peterson: I think I had a mustache all the way through Chippendales. And then when Wolf and I started the Skin Deep calendar line, I think I shaved it then. But I think I had it on all during Chippendales, for no other reason than that's just—that's who I was.

Natalia: Wow. The Selleck 'stache. It's just gone.

Dan Peterson: But it was funny, on some of the calendars I would do two different shots, one with the mustache, one without. Wolf would do two different shots. And we would have two names. So it would be like I would be me and a brother, because that way we could save $200 paying somebody else to be a model in the calendar.

Natalia: Yeah, that's a real way to cut costs.

Natalia: And it pays off. Dan's calendar is a hit with women. In some places, Dan says, Skin Deep even starts outselling Chippendales. Steve, as you might imagine, is not cool with this news. And soon, Dan gets a phone call, telling him he's been fired from Chippendales.

Natalia: And he called you himself, or someone else called you?

Dan Peterson: No, no. Steve would never call. He was never a confronting type of guy. Steve would never confront anybody.

Natalia: So after five years of working at Chippendales, Dan's now got some time on his hands. His calendar's open, you might say. So he and Wolf throw themselves into selling Skin Deep. Soon they land a contract with Spencer's Gifts, which is like the adult and gag gift equivalent of making it to Carnegie Hall. Never again will he pose chained to a radiator. Now, and for every Skin Deep calendar he will ever make, Dan is going to the beach.

Dan Peterson: We were gonna do a lifeguard shot, a water shot. And I had a dog that was a little chow that looked like a lion. And we brought him on the shoot with us. So we were all the way down in the beach, down by the breakers. No one out there.

Natalia: Dan poses in a full-body wetsuit, pulled down to show off his abs, but not much more. Tank, the Chow, is trotting around on the sand nearby. Wolf shoots Dan with a fancy Hasselblad camera.

Dan Peterson: And all of a sudden, the sand pops up by us, and we hear the "phoom!" And we're like, what? And Wolf and I looked at each other and we started shooting again. All of a sudden we hear another thing—"phing!" And the sand pops up about 20 feet from us. And the sound came later. We saw this "pfft," and then you hear this little "phzz." You didn't quite—you know, ocean's going, you're shooting, whatever. And next thing you know, we hear the trash can get hit, and Wolf and I look at each other, and then we look towards where the cars were, and we saw, like, a flash. And we realized that someone was shooting at us.

Natalia: They can't see exactly where the bullets are coming from, but they act fast.

Dan Peterson: I grabbed my dog. We jumped behind a trash can, and I think Wolf jumped behind the lifeguard tower. They were right by each other. We heard one or two more puffs of sand go up. And, you know, we were talking to each other about what was going on.

Natalia: Dan and Tank the chow and Wolf, who didn't want to talk to us, stayed there behind the trash can and lifeguard tower for nearly a half hour, worrying that if they came out they'd be shot at again. Eventually, they decide it's safe to step back out into the open. And once they get their bearings, Dan says they both have the exact same thought.

Dan Peterson: We both thought it was Steve.

Natalia: Steve Banerjee, whose bungling attempts to take out his enemies suddenly become a little less Wile E. Coyote and a little more Scarface.

Natalia: I'm Natalia Petrzela. This is Welcome to Your Fantasy, episode five: 31 Days in February, One Day in April.


Natalia: I'm not old enough to have owned a Chippendales calendar myself. I'd peek at them in Spencer's, but no way would I ever bring one home. But I am old enough to remember what a big deal wall calendars were. Weird as it sounds, they played a big role in people's daily lives because, whether you hung it in your kitchen or your cubicle or your room, you had to look at it—and whatever theme you chose—all year long.

Natalia: When I was a kid, shopping for wall calendars with my family was actually a big deal. We'd all pack in the car and drive out to this warehouse where calendars would go on deep discount right after New Year's. Then we'd spend, like, an hour thumbing through these big bins and decide which calendar we each wanted to buy. I remember going through the assortment and thinking, "Do I want to look at art deco facades all year? Beach sunsets? Babies dressed like sunflowers?" The decision mattered.

Natalia: In 1987, Hallmark estimated that the industry sold $1.5-billion dollars of wall calendars a year. $1.5-billion. Billion with a B.

Natalia: Now Banerjee had been in on this calendar game from the very beginning. Even before they made and sold Chippendales calendars, he used to buy a bunch of Playgirl calendars and upsell them at the club with other merchandise.

Natalia: But in the same way that the Chippendales shows were appealing to women because they weren't quite porn—they were porn-adjacent—Steve saw an opportunity to create something less graphic than full-frontal Playgirls, something women could give to their friends as holiday gifts and hang up in their cubicles.

[NEWS CLIP: For those with a passion for dates, there's the Chippendales calendar.]

Natalia: So by the mid-'80s, here's how the Chippendales empire broke down: Nick de Noia ran the New York show, Steve ran LA. Nick ran the Chippendales tours, and the calendars, as I said, were all Steve's. And Eric Gilbert, one of Chippendales creative directors and Steve's right hand man at the time, had a front-row seat for all this.

Eric Gilbert: He totally controlled this thing, and he would literally say this: he would want women to cream in their pants to look at these men.

Natalia: Ew. But anyway. Steve was fixated on the calendars for a couple reasons. One's obvious: they made him a lot of money. But there was a deeper reason, too. Steve came from a long line of printers back in India, and so the calendars weren't just any other piece of money-making merch to him, they were connected to carrying out a kind of family legacy, and he obsessed over every aspect of their production.

Eric Gilbert: Banerjee had this idea of being the King of Paper in selling sex to women on a mainstream level. He would say things like, "Oh, my dad taught me how to look at paper. See? Look at that. See?" He would run his hand over a piece of paper like in a magazine or, you know, at a printing company, like he was actually feeling the quality of the paper through his fingertips.

Natalia: But this commitment to perfection ran counter to another of Banerjee's more powerful traits.

Eric Gilbert: He had a strange pathological cheapness. Screwing vendors over was an art to him, and he just thrived for that. You know, it's like he never wanted to pay what somebody wanted, because he just felt like ripping them off or getting them down or making them bleed for a job, he was entitled.

Natalia: But one day, Banerjee's cheapness catches up with him, and leads to a moment that some people now call "The Calendar Mishap." It's an incident that looms large in Chippendales lore. Some people think it's what sent Steve over the edge. And some even say, if it weren't for "The Calendar Mishap," Nick de Noia might still be alive today.

Natalia: A lot of Eric's time in those days was spent driving around with Steve in his gold Mercedes, meeting with manufacturers and vendors. One evening, in the spring of 1986, they're making their rounds.

Eric Gilbert: Banerjee said, "We got to stop off at Al's place because I have to get the calendar out." And I said, "Okay, I'll go in with you."

Natalia: "Al" is Al Ako, the vendor putting together the layout of the calendar. Al's shop is called Haiku Advertising, and their job was to select the font, the proportions, the size of the squares for each day, to get the whole thing ready for the final step of printing. It's nearly 6:00 p.m. when Eric and Steve arrive at Al's office to check in on the 1987 calendar layout. There's only one guy left and he's closing up shop.

Eric Gilbert: It was this kid who looked kind of hippie-ish, and it looked like he might've been smoking some weed or something. But anyway, Banerjee says to this guy, he goes, "Where's the calendar layouts? Where are the layouts?" And this kid goes, "Well, they're over there," you know? And he's like, "I got to go. I'm supposed to get out of here. They're not paying me overtime." And Banerjee flips out and he says, "Fucking over—I'm not paying no fucking overtime." He says, "I don't give a fuck. You got to get these layouts to them tonight." It was Friday night. "Tonight! They need to start printing this Monday."

Natalia: So they leave. Whatever that hippie kid got up to that night, he finished the layout. And when that layout makes its way over to Chippendales HQ for Steve's final approval, he signs it and moves on with his day. Who knows if Steve remembered yelling at some guy late on a Friday night. All that matters is that the calendars are delivered to the Chippendales warehouse on time, one million copies. When Banerjee inspects one, he notices something is very wrong.

Eric Gilbert: It's got too many days in February!

Natalia: January has 31 days. But so does February. 31. So does March. And April.

Eric Gilbert: They just laid out, like, 31 days every month, and then they forgot to take off the days. They forgot to actually adjust this to what a real calendar should be.

Natalia: So what happened next?

Eric Gilbert: Well, the word got through the office really quick. So my office was facing the street, and I ran down the hall, and everyone's looking at this thing. And he's like, "I can't fucking believe it, I can't fucking believe it. How could this happen?" I'm like, "Yeah, what happened? You signed off on it." He goes—and he says to me, "It's your fault." And I'm like, "Why is it my fault? You're the one who signed off on these things." He goes like, "I have nothing to do with this." He just flipped out when he couldn't find someone to blame. And everyone just kept coming back to him, "Look, Steve. You're the one who signed off ultimately on this thing." So he blamed Al Ako, and Al Ako went belly up. So then he blamed the printing company, and the printing company said, "Look, you signed off on these, and you're stuck for the bill."

Natalia: Banerjee was stuck with one million calendars with 31 days in every month. The bill was close to $300,000 for totally unusable calendars. And Banerjee took it personally.

Eric Gilbert: And I always believe the failure he felt, because I think he felt a personal failure because he was a son of a lithographer, for fucking up that bad, where you'd lose this calendar printing. I always felt he took that personally in a way where, obviously, he couldn't pin it on anybody but himself.

Natalia: Eric told me that it's this night, this mistake, that actually starts the countdown clock on Nick's life.

Eric Gilbert: He had a crazy, violent mind, but you would never know it looking at him. He looked like such a peaceful, Buddha-faced type guy. But the thing is with him, is that he was, like, zero morality.

Natalia: I found it a little hard to believe. Why would a mistake Banerjee made on a calendar cause him to lash out at Nick? But Eric insisted that it struck something deep in Banerjee. It was about being outshone and outsmarted by Nick. Like, Nick's success came at Steve's expense.

Eric Gilbert: I really felt like de Noia emasculated him in a way that was like less than a man.

Natalia: And now Steve had messed up the thing that not only he controlled, but that he had all of this expertise in, this family knowledge that had been passed down to him. According to Eric, accepting responsibility for that was intolerable to Steve. So Steve focused all his shame and frustration into anger at Nick.

Eric Gilbert: "I'm a fuckhead because I fucked up my calendar, that I'm coming from this prestigious printing family. And now I'm not gonna be a fuckhead anymore, so here you go, Nick de Noia." Yeah, that's what I think.

Natalia: So while Steve's obsessing on Nick, and his hatred for Nick is only festering by the day, Nick is off in New York thriving. And he's profiting from the agreement he and Steve had struck on the back of a napkin. Remember The Napkin Deal?

K Scot MacDonald: Steve makes what's called The Napkin Deal with Nick.

Candace Mayeron: And the whole napkin thing happened. They divided it into club and touring company.

Scott Layne: Steve never saw the potential in touring. He saw, "Ah, go ahead."

Dan Peterson: He wrote on a napkin, "I have the right to take Chippendales on the road, and I own this in perpetuity." And Banerjee signed it

Hodari Subabu: Probably one of his dumbest business decisions was to give Nick a substantial part of the show.

Natalia: So now Nick is selling out the touring show night after night. And thanks to that Napkin Deal, he's making money hand over fist. Plus, wherever he goes, whatever interview he does, people treat Nick as if the whole Chippendales idea was his and only his from the very beginning.

[ARCHIVE CLIP, television host: He is the founder, the creator. He is Mr. Chippendale. We're delighted to welcome back to Baltimore's People Are Talking the one, the only, give a round of applause for Nick de Noia!]

Candace Mayeron: So the story behind this is that Steve Banerjee thought he knew everything, and he was a real asshole. So he would produce these calendars every year, and he was just as nasty to the printer. So in their production room, they really screwed around with the calendar.

Natalia: That's Candace Mayeron again, discussing the fateful calendar mishap. You might remember that Candace was out on the road with the Chippendales dancers, helping to run the touring show. She agreed with Eric Gilbert that it was the drama with the calendar that led Steve to make Nick the target of his paranoid rage.

Candace Mayeron: This is the infamous 1987 calendar. This, of course, drove Banerjee into a frenzy, and being embarrassed as well as the money that it cost. And it caused him to really be looking harder at what Nick was doing, because now money was starting to be an issue.

Natalia: At first, Steve is just kind of petty.

Candace Mayeron: Banerjee wouldn't give us any merchandise to sell, and there's good profit in that. So Nick said, "You create it, Candace. That's your job. You figure it out." And I did. And one of the best things that I did, I just had a picture of the five lead dancers, and I had it made into, not even color, black and white copies. They cost me 37 cents each. I gave them to the guys. After the show, the guys would come out and circle among the women, and take pictures with them and give autographs. Well, I gave these—they would have armfuls of these pictures, and I let them sell them for $5 each. They had to give me $2 for the house—which I gave to Nick as our profit—and they got to keep three. So they made a lot of money at that time too. The girls were thrilled, but how's that for a profit margin? 37 cents to $5.

Natalia: But Banerjee doesn't just want a piece of Nick's merch profits. He's convinced that Nick is stealing from him. And so he decides that he needs eyes on Nick, someone right there with him on tour, making sure that Nick is not ripping him off.

Candace Mayeron: Banerjee sent one of the guys on the road with us, and his job was to sit there at the club and run a counter, the kind of counters, click-click counters you have in your thumb as the girls come in, so you know how many people have bought tickets to come in. We have somebody doing it so the club owner can't cheat us. Now Banerjee has somebody doing it so Nick can't cheat him. It was ridiculous. We had guys sitting there click-clicking their clickers.

Natalia: Eric Gilbert told me that Nick and Steve were at each other's throats during this period. Everyone I talked to had a story about this time. Eric told me they would do anything to piss each other off. Steve would make changes to the show whenever Nick was out of town. Nick would refuse to buy plane tickets for Steve's dancers, like Hodari, to fly between LA and New York.

Hodari Subabu: I called Banerjee. I said, "Banerjee, look, I need you to buy me a plane ticket. I'm ready to come back." It was cold in New York.

Natalia: [laughs] I know.

Hodari Subabu: He was like, "Okay, no problem. Go tell Nick to give you the money to get the ticket." So I go up in Nick's office and I'm like, "Nick, I just talked to Banerjee, he told me to come and get the money so I could get a plane ticket back to LA." And he just went the fuck off. He was like, "Ah, fuck you. Fuck Steve. I'm not giving you shit. Get the fuck out of my office." I'm like, "Whoa!"

Natalia: But Eric Gilbert told me that Steve's real power move is that he files for bankruptcy protection. It's not that he's broke, he just wants out of the bills he has to pay and the contracts he's supposed to honor.

Eric Gilbert: So he saw this as a clever way to get out of paying a lot of people by going bankrupt.

Natalia: So he was not really insolvent, you're saying. He just filed bankruptcy to avoid paying his bills?

Eric Gilbert: Basically, he did.

Natalia: That $300,000 bill due to the printer? Nope. Banerjee's not gonna pay it.

Eric Gilbert: Banerjee was flipped out because he actually created this million-dollar mistake, and he wanted to totally be absolved of any liability.

Natalia: And more importantly, filing for bankruptcy meant that he was protected from being sued. So if, say, he violates The Napkin Deal by starting another touring company, Nick can't sue him, because the law says that the bankruptcy court is in charge of Steve's money now, not Steve.

Natalia: So Steve sends a bunch of his dancers to Seattle, Phoenix, Omaha, and who knows where else. Nick tries to contest this in court. And he had a good case, after all. Steve is violating The Napkin Deal. Not deterred by this bankruptcy shield, Nick asks his lawyers to file paperwork for permission to sue Steve anyway.

Natalia: Meanwhile, Nick is trying to get as far away from Steve as possible. He tells Candace he just can't work for Steve anymore. He's gonna take his money and start a new company that will be completely his own—a Chippendales competitor.

Candace Mayeron: Nick decided he was going to leave Chippendales and start his own company and he told me, "Think of a name. Think of a name for it." Of course, I just thought he meant something like Chippendales. I actually sat down with a dictionary and went through the dictionary trying to come up with good names. I came up with the name Remington, which was similar in my mind to Chippendales. And he says, "No, no, no, that's not it." What he wanted was US Male, M-A-L-E, and the slogan was We Deliver.

Natalia: Nick's plan was to have US Male, M-A-L-E, debut at a casino in Atlantic City. And if you have a new all-male exotic dance troupe, then you also obviously need a sexy beefcake calendar. Sorry, I don't make the rules.

Natalia: So Nick starts casting dancers and models out of an office near Times Square. It's near a stretch that in 1981, Rolling Stone called the "sleaziest block in America." This was a neighborhood where there were about 150 sex shops, where porn kings crossed paths with mafia dons, and which for years had some of the highest crime rates in all of New York City.

Robin Voris: The neighborhood was a little bit dicey, not terrible. You know, being near Port Authority isn't exactly a desired address.

Natalia: That's Robin Voris. She and her associate William Mott shared the smallish, slightly dumpy office with Nick. Will and Robin are talent agents, and Nick would occasionally rope them into his auditions for US Male.

Robin Voris: He came out and he put a boombox on the corner of my desk and said, "You know, I'm thinking of hiring this guy, let me know what you think." And then turned the music on, and this guy, I remember he was kind of short, but I know he had, like, silver lamé shorts, that's what he stripped down to. And he was doing all these gyrations at the corner of my desk.

Natalia: So how'd you react?

Robin Voris: I started laughing. And I did feel awful for the guy, because it wasn't like anybody said to him, "Hey, now come over here and dance for this lady. Nick just sort of was like, "I'm putting the boombox down, now dance."

Natalia: Nick has his own office. It's cramped, there are papers and books everywhere, racks of costumes still in plastic bags, his own clothes wrinkled on the floor. It's really a mess, but it's clearly an office of a guy who's working, and working all the time. The 1984 Chippendales calendar—the one with Dan Peterson on the cover—is displayed on one of his shelves. Will and Robin share their own space outside his door. The walls are thin and Nick is super loud, so they're always all up in each other's business.

Robin Voris: We would hang out because it was the '80s, so we didn't have texting or cell phones or anything like that. So you had to sit and wait for phone calls. So we would—you know, Nick would come out when he was waiting for a call and he would hang out with us. And if somebody was going out to lunch, he would say, "Can you pick up a call for me?" Or, "If so-and-so shows up early, can you just tell them I'm gone?" And then we would just hang out and talk.

Natalia: Robin really liked Nick, though she did say he could be exhausting. He was just all energy all the time. But sometimes, Robin said, Nick would let his guard down and reveal another side of his personality.

Robin Voris: He came out and showed me the Emmys he won for Unicorn Tales, and he was extremely proud of that. And he showed me the tapes, and they were adorable. It was so cute, and he was so proud of it. I did see another side of him, but I'd worked in show business for a little while prior to that, and you see a lot of really wild behavior. So when he was in another mode, like a business mode or an argumentative mode, which he could get into, I wasn't really shaken by it. But I will say there were times when we heard him on the phone, and I remember worrying about it because of how aggressive he was. I thought, "Damn Nick, dial it down. That was freaky."

Natalia: Nick seemed more stressed than usual that spring, Robin told me. He's suing Steve, he's working day and night to close a deal for US Male at Claridges, an Atlantic City casino.

Robin Voris: I could tell something was going on with him. You know, he wouldn't say, "Here's exactly what I'm doing and this is who is upset with me." It just seemed like he was having problems. And I knew it was with his partner, I knew it was business related.

Natalia: Robin only saw Steve Banerjee one time, when he came to the office to meet with Nick. Nick was usually loud and gregarious. But not that day.

Robin Voris: He seemed a little anxious, but nothing that made me—I knew the meeting was gonna be uncomfortable because I knew—really what I thought was happening was that he was trying to franchise Chippendales, and that Banerjee was getting cut out.

Natalia: What was your impression of Banerjee?

Robin Voris: Weird.

Natalia: Weird how?

Robin Voris: Like, very quiet, and not what I expected to be Nick's partner. I think I expected somebody like Nick, maybe. But he didn't seem like a showbiz guy to me. I know that sounds silly and so retro, but I was kind of surprised when I saw him. And I know the meeting wasn't gonna be a pleasant thing, so maybe he was just tense and weird because he knew that he was gonna confront—that they were gonna talk about exactly what was going on.

Natalia: So Steve and Nick go into Nick's office, and Nick shuts the door, which Robin remembers was strange. He always left it open. But this time, she can't hear anything.

Robin Voris: If somebody is yelling loud enough, you can still hear it. But I didn't hear any yelling in there. I really didn't. And then I remember them coming in, and then I remember after Nick coming out and looking a little shocked. You know, the story I heard or the impression I got from Nick or whoever was that people liked dealing with Nick more than they—they were—I don't know if they were creeped out by Banerjee or if they just didn't like him, or if he wasn't a good business person, I have no idea.

Natalia: It's exactly this dynamic. Nick getting all the attention, and Banerjee feeling left out and even cheated, that fuels his rage towards Nick that really takes hold after the calendar mishap.

Eric Gilbert: Nick de Noia had this ability to turn on and off the anger, whereas Banerjee was a slow-burning fuse. But then, if you've crossed him, if you ever said something about the name Chippendales not being his or somebody competing against it, then you'd see this tiger come out of this little lambskin, and he would just turn into a bear. He would just sit there mumbling and he would just say "Fuck him." And he said it in a way like he wanted to kill him.

Natalia: On April 7, 1987, Robin gets to work around 9:00 a.m. Nick's on the phone when Robin comes in. She pops her head in, and Nick smiles and waves hello. Robin spends that day making calls, and then in the early afternoon she meets a client and heads downtown for a meeting. Will, her business partner, and Nick's friend, is supposed to join her, but he's not feeling too well, so he decides to stay back at the office with Nick. Robin's meeting ends, and she and the client are walking back to the office.

Robin Voris: And I suggested out of the blue that we stop for a cup of coffee. And I remember thinking, "Why am I doing this?" There wasn't really anything we needed to sit down and have a cup of coffee and discuss the meeting. It wasn't like that. So we stopped and got some coffee.

Natalia: While Robin's getting coffee, around 3:30 p.m., a guy walks into 264 West 40th Street and takes the elevator up to the 15th floor, where Nick and Robin and Will's office is located.

Natalia: Will sees him walk in. A short guy, a little antsy. Carrying an interoffice delivery envelope and a Burger King soda cup. The guy asks, "Are you Nick de Noia?" Will says, "No, he's through there," and points him towards Nick's office.

Natalia: The guy thanks Will, but instead of going toward Nick's office to drop off the package, he says "I'll be back" and walks out. Will's getting ready to head out himself. He sticks his head in Nick's office, tells him he's gonna run to the bathroom, but someone was just there looking for him.

Natalia: In the tiny bathroom down the hall, Will sees the antsy guy splashing water on his face. Later, Will would remember this as odd. The guy seemed nervous, he said. And Will himself felt awkward about using a urinal right next to where the guy was washing his face. So Will doesn't say anything at all, just goes into the stall and closes the door. And when he comes out, the guy's gone. He sees only the Burger King cup left on the urinal.

Natalia: Moments later, Will hears a gunshot.

Natalia: Down below on 40th Street, Robin arrives back at the building, and finds a bunch of cops at the front door.

Robin Voris: I remember thinking, "Oh shit, I bet that's our floor." I knew something bad happened. And I called the office, and Will picked up and said, "They've shot Nick." He literally just said, "They've shot Nick." I just thought this can't be real. What's happening? And my instinct was I wanted to go right to the office, because Will obviously sounded like he was in bad shape.

Robin Voris: And I also felt somehow guilty that I wasn't there, and that he was alone. So I went back to the office, and Will was still there and the officers were still there and there was police tape in the office. I remember being absolutely horrified and thinking I can't believe he had to see that.

Robin Voris: Then he started telling me exactly what happened. And he just—I think just went in there and, you know, held Nick. Just didn't know what to do. He said, "If somebody ever comes up to you and asks you if you're Nick, say no."

Natalia: Later, authorities will find the bullet lodged in a book on Nick's shelf. The book is called Words That Sell: To Help You Promote Your Products, Services and Ideas. The bullet cut right through the phrase, "In today's competitive marketplace."

[NEWS CLIP: Just after 3:30 this afternoon, it was not safe for 46-year-old Nick de Noia, an Emmy Award-winning producer and director. Police say he was murdered in his 15th floor office.]

Mike Geddes: A lot of thoughts run through detectives' heads, you know, when you see a scene. Is there a struggle going on? Is there a fight? Is it just clean, and somebody just came in and—I'll use the word—popped them.

Natalia: Michael Geddes is one of the NYPD detectives who had arrived on the scene.

Mike Geddes: Back then the tourists loved coming to 42nd Street. It was a different 42nd Street than people experience now. So there was a lot of pickpockets, purse snatches, robberies. But it didn't look like a robbery attempt, it didn't look like any of that. It looked like—it almost looked like a hit.

Natalia: Meanwhile in Indianapolis, the Chippendales dancers are about to hit the stage, when Candace gets the call about Nick. She's blindsided, but she knows the show must go on.

Candace Mayeron: So I lock off the dressing area, and I put up a note: "There will be a mandatory meeting immediately after the show." So none of my dancers had any idea what had happened.

Natalia: When the show ends, Candace goes straight to the dressing room, to be there right when the guys come offstage.

Candace Mayeron: I wouldn't even let them change clothes, and I told them what had happened. And immediately Michael Waldron jumps up in his briefs and he goes, "I'm gonna kill Banerjee!" He goes, "I'm gonna go kill that son of a bitch, Steve Banerjee." And everybody else is screaming about Steve Banerjee. We all knew. I mean, there was no doubt. You know, I had to, like, restrain Waldron. He wanted to run right out in his underwear and get on an airplane and go kill Steve Banerjee.

Natalia: Next time ...

Bruce Nahin: I could see the nature of the beast. It wasn't a shock that Steve may have tried. You know, it's like once an animal tastes blood, they have an addiction to tasting it. He got away with it once. Why would you not think he would use that tool again?

Graham Gooch: Well, when we got through they said, "We've got this—you've got a problem. There's a hitman coming to kill some male dancers."

Natalia: How did you react?

Graham Gooch: Yeah, it's not the sort of call you get every day, really.


Natalia: Welcome to Your Fantasy is a production of Pineapple Street Studios in association with Gimlet. It's hosted by me, Natalia Petrzela. Our senior producer is Eleanor Kagan, our producer is Christine Driscoll, and our associate producer is Erin Kelly. Nicole Hemmer and Neil J. Young are consulting producers.

Natalia: Our editors are Joel Lovell and Maddy Sprung-Keyser. It was mixed by Hannis Brown, and fact-checked by Ben Phelan.

Natalia: This show features original music by Daoud Anthony. And thanks to our music supervisor Jasmine Flott. The executive producers at Pineapple Street are Jenna Weiss-Berman and Max Linsky. From Gimlet, our executive producer is Lydia Polgreen and our editor is Collin Campbell.

Natalia: We've got a Spotify playlist with tons of music from the original show, so you can recreate the club experience for yourself in the comfort of your own home. You can find the link in the show notes.

Natalia: For some of those amazing calendar shots of Dan Peterson and the other guys from over the years, check out our Instagram account @ChippendalesRevealed. That's our handle: @ChippendalesRevealed.

Natalia: Did you ever go to Chippendales? We want to hear about it. Leave us a short voicemail—30 seconds to a minute, tops—at (323) 475-9424, and we might play it on a future episode. That's 323-475-9424.

Natalia: This is a Spotify original podcast.