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Curse of the Chippendales poster

Curse of the Chippendales

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What it’s about:

Curse of the Chippendales is a documentary series that takes a behind-the-scenes look at the drama behind the infamous male stripper group, with exclusive interviews with the former dancers, lawyers, creative leads, detectives, and the fans.

Names you might know:

Chippendales fans recognize a few of the former dancers, including Michael Rapp (“The Perfect Man”) and Read Scot. The series was created by documentarians (and cousins) Simon Chinn (Man on Wire) and Jonathan Chinn (The Real L Word).

Why it’s worth your time:

The world discovered the magical universe of male stripping in the 1980s thanks to one titillating group: the Chippendales dancers. What first began as a weekly live show in a small nightclub in West Hollywood grew into a cultural force. The men of Chippendales traveled the world, becoming well known in pop culture as the male equivalents of Playboy Bunnies (even borrowing their cuffs and collars). However, behind the scenes, all was not well—drugs, envy, greed, and even murder were rampant.

Who knew that the Chippendales, who have been parodied over and over again, dealt with so much turmoil? The series leaves no stone unturned as it delves into the seedy backstory of the group. While the multiple murders and casual arson are sure to draw attention, what makes the series truly interesting is the glimpse into the day-to-day life of the dancers, their families, and the creative directors.

Nick DeNoia, the show’s director and choreography, is a larger-than-life character who, in part due to his need for perfectionism, crafted a show that drew women in by the thousands. The opinions on DeNoia as a person range from from “he was an asshole” to “he was my close friend and mentor,” but there is no doubt of his cultural impact. The show’s founder, Steve Banerjee, an immigrant from India, is a mysterious force in the series up until the very end, when his true nature is revealed. Each episode slowly peels back insights into the complex relationship between these two, as well as how they broke down gender stereotypes by creating a show where women could embrace their own sexuality.

While the rivalry between DeNoia and Banerjee serves as the most enticing thread, the interviews with the dancers reveal what life was actually like for them. Michael Rapp, once dubbed “The Perfect Man,” has the most compelling story. He went from being a shy kid from East Los Angeles to a global superstar, but the impact of that stardom wreaked havoc on his life. We also hear from his ex-wife, who describes what being married to the world’s perfect man was like.

Unlike other true-crime series, Curse of the Chippendales never tries to glorify the violence and strife it depicts. The series focuses on the consequences, tribulations, and pain those involved felt and still feel today. The series also never veers too far into the shock for the sake of shock category; instead, the Chinns tell a story of greed and corruption in perfect chronological order. By the end of the series, the narrative arc reads like a Greek tragedy.

The takeaway:

A fascinating and at times disturbing look at one of pop culture’s biggest juggernauts. Like a slow-motion train wreck that lasts four hours, you want to look away, but you just can’t.

Watch it with:

Curse of the Chippendales does need to be watched chronologically, as the series follows the rise and the fall of the Chippendales from beginning to end. While you can watch the series on your own, this may be a fun one to gather a few friends together to dish about it.

Worth noting:

A fictionalized biography of Banerjee titled The Immigrant is currently in production for Hulu, with Silicon Valley‘s Kumail Nanjiani taking on the role of the controversial Chippendale’s founder.

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