Most people know Chippendales as the guys with the bow ties.
The male dance revue has become an international phenomenon, but a new podcast strips down the organization itself — exposing behind-the-scenes scandal, sex and even murder.
Welcome to Your Fantasy is an eight-episode podcast from Pineapple Street Studios and Gimlet Media that explores the dark side of Chippendales. Host Natalia Petrzela is a professor of American History at the New School in New York City, and says that her interest in the male dance troupe was sparked by their prominence in the zeitgeist.
“It's so funny because as a historian, one of the things that's always meant a lot to me is taking seriously pop culture as a historical topic,” Petrzela tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “My whole career I've always been interested in late 20th century America.”
When Petrzela was asked to provide commentary for a documentary exploring sexual culture in the 1980s, she was intrigued by the information she found on Chippendales — her biggest discovery being the greed-filled and jealous relationship between the two men who created them. It caused a rift that ended in murder.
“Nick De Noia is the choreographer and producer of Chippendales, he's hired by Steve Banerjee. He really takes it from like, a take-it-off strip contest to, you know, a theatrical production,” explains Petrzela. “When Nick is killed, it takes a while to solve the crime, but like everybody in his immediate circle is like, Steve did it, Steve.”
“I ended up pitching it as a podcast and here we are two years later,” adds Petrzela.
Chippendales rose to prominence in the 1980s, and Petrzela makes sure to provide historical context for why that decade allowed the group to thrive. Mall tours, daytime talks shows and calendar sales all contributed to name recognition, but Welcome to Your Fantasy points to feminism as one of the marketing strategies used to sell tickets.
“The notion of a kind of woman who earns her own money, working 9 to 5, who's got money to spend, who's like, in touch with her sexuality. All of that had sort of begun to filter into the mainstream,” explains Petrzela.
Women in the club were encouraged to hoot and holler. They could put dollar bills in g-strings and some even got a kiss from the men. One of the former dancers interviewed in the podcast said he didn’t know women could act so “wild.” Another former dancer said that he didn’t know “women could be so violent.”
“It's not, like, really empowerment, but I do think there must've been some release for women to be like, ‘It's our turn,’” Petrzela adds.
Despite the rowdy crowds and sex behind the scenes, the owners tried their best to keep the Chippendale image upscale and drama-free. The image of the dancers was carefully cultivated, and the podcast explores how that ultimately created a culture of exclusion.
“One of the things that we do in the podcast is kind of go into the very particular way… to make a ‘classy club’ [as per] owners, and the definition of 'classy' meant white," says Petrzela. “And that really reflects that kind of moment in race relations in the 1980s, too. So I hope we do that justice.”
Welcome to your Fantasy also looks at the evolution of Chippendales, from their tour in Europe to their residency in Las Vegas, allowing listeners to explore the ’80s — including music, fashion and workout tapes — through the lens of the phenomenon.
“Capturing the world in which it operated is so, so important,” says Petrazela. “This is not just a story of two men at each other's throats, and their battle of greed and ambition, but it really is a story about 1980s America."
Video produced by Jenny Miller
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