Irene Banerjee, the spouse of Somen “Steve” Banerjee, played a pivotal role in the triumph of Chippendales, the initial and renowned male-stripper dance ensemble in the United States. While contributing significantly to the business’s success, she also bore witness to its decline as a result of her husband’s criminal activities. This is her narrative.

Early Life and Marriage

Born on November 10, 1956, in Lackawanna, Erie County, New York, Irene Banerjee was one of six children in the family of Ukrainian immigrants Anna and Wolodymyr Tychowskyj. Growing up in a humble household, she attended local schools and discovered her aptitude for numbers. After completing her education, she pursued a career in accounting.

In the early 1980s, Irene crossed paths with Steve Banerjee, the founder of Chippendales, through his business endeavors. Steve, an Indian immigrant, had initiated a nightclub in Los Angeles in 1975, introducing the concept of male dancers in alluring costumes and bow ties to attract female patrons. He enlisted the talents of Nick De Noia, an Emmy-winning director and choreographer, to shape the shows and train the performers. Additionally, he brought on board model and actress Dorothy Stratten to design the logo and promote the brand.

Irene and Steve’s connection blossomed into love, culminating in a grand wedding ceremony. They welcomed two children, Lindsay and Christian, and established their residence in an opulent mansion in Playa del Rey. Irene actively participated in managing Chippendales, overseeing financial matters and legal aspects. Her support extended to championing her husband’s vision and aspirations to expand the empire globally.

Chippendales Scandal and Tragedy

Yet, concealed from public view, Steve Banerjee was a paranoid and ruthless individual fixated on wealth and influence. His envy of rivals and partners, particularly Nick De Noia, who departed Chippendales to initiate his own male-stripper show, fueled his resentment. Additionally, Steve harbored fears of idea theft or trademark infringement lawsuits.

In 1987, Steve Banerjee hired a hitman to assassinate Nick De Noia in his New York office. He also schemed to eliminate Dorothy Stratten, murdered by her estranged husband in 1980, and several others perceived as threats or enemies. Involved in arson, extortion, and racketeering, Steve sought to undermine competitors and safeguard his interests.

The FBI arrested Steve Banerjee in 1993, charging him with multiple counts of murder-for-hire, attempted murder, arson, and racketeering. Facing the death penalty or life imprisonment, he was supported by Irene Banerjee, who organized character witnesses for his trial while overseeing Chippendales’ operations.

Tragically, in 1994, Steve Banerjee took his own life in jail at 46, using a bedsheet to hang himself. He left a note saying, “I love you, Irene. I’m sorry.”

Death and Legacy

Devastated by her husband’s demise and the scandal that marred Chippendales’ reputation, Irene Banerjee endeavored to rebuild her life and care for her 9 and 7-year-old children. While still overseeing Chippendales, a business that maintained its popularity and loyal following, Irene faced the challenges of moving forward.

Tragically, in 2001, Irene Banerjee succumbed to breast cancer at the age of 44. Her untimely death led to her children being entrusted to their maternal aunt and uncle in Buffalo, New York, inheriting an estimated $26 million fortune from their parents.

Irene Banerjee’s life unfolded from humble beginnings to a glamorous lifestyle. A smart and loyal partner, she played a pivotal role in her husband’s successful and innovative business. As a caring and devoted mother, she deserves recognition for her own achievements and contributions. Irene was not merely the wife of Steve Banerjee; she was a victim of his crimes and a survivor of his tragic suicide. Her legacy stands as a testament to her resilience and individual accomplishments.