Somen “Steve” Banerjee died in jail after he pleaded guilty to charges involving the murder of former Chippendales Choreographer Nick de Noia. He had also been charged with plotting the murder of former dancer Read Scot and others. Authorities said at the time that Banerjee died by suicide before he was sentenced to prison. He was 47.
Chippendales Associate Producer Candace Mayeron told Elle Magazine that tension had been building between de Noia and Banerjee, which reached its height after de Noia retained the touring rights to Chippendales and several former dancers left the troupe to launch Adonis, a competing all-male exotic dance crew. It took years for investigators to gather enough information to charge Banerjee.
ABC 20/20 is digging into the salacious murder plot on its season 44 premiere tonight. ‘The Chippendales Murder’ airs at 9 p.m. Eastern time Friday, October 8, 2021.
Here’s what you need to know:
Authorities Found Banerjee Dead in His Jail Cell & He Was Facing 26 Years in Prison
Banerjee was found dead in his cell at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Los Angeles, a federal prison, at 4 a.m. October 24, 1994, just a few hours before he would face sentencing, the Los Angeles Times reported at the time of his death. Reonard McFadden, executive to the warden at the detention center, detailed the method of suicide for the Times, which involved hanging, he said.
The Times reported that Banerjee was suffering from depression. He had been in prison for about 13 months following his arrest.
“Banerjee, like every other inmate, had been interviewed by a staff psychologist. There was no indication he was suicidal,” McFadden told the Los Angeles Times.
However, a federal prosecutor said at the hearing that Banerjee told an informant he would “leave the country or kill himself” if he was apprehended, the article said.
Mayeron, a Close Friend of de Noia, ‘Felt Cheated’ at Banerjee’s Death Before His Sentencing
A 1993 article from the Independent detailed the case against Banerjee. At the time, he was under arrest facing charges including racketeering, arson plots and murder, the article said.
The Los Angeles Times reported at the time of Banerjee’s death that he was first charged with the attempted murder plot, and his charges were later expanded to include the murder of de Noia. Lynn Bressler, who went by the code name, “Strawberry,” told the FBI he had been hired as a hitman to kill Adonis’ manager, Steve White, and Read Scot, according to the Independent. However, Bressler told the FBI that the main target was White, according to the Independent.
Banerjee pleaded guilty to racketeering in federal court in July 1994, the Los Angeles Times reported. His charges included the death of de Noia and attempts on Scot and others. He was expected to be sentenced to 26 years in prison as part of a plea bargain, the Times reported.
Chippendales Associate Producer Candace Mayeron told Elle Magazine about her time with Chippendales and about her close friendship with de Noia. She told Elle she planned to attend Banerjee’s sentencing.
She told Elle:
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.