Merritt and Donnelly conceived the idea of putting the male strippers into a kind of mini-Broadway show, with dancers, music and themes. Feeling that women would respond to male strippers if they were presented in a "safe" (female-only) environment where the women could let their hair down, and that was about fun and fantasy fulfillment, they created roles for the men to play: doctor, firemen, etc, and surrounded them with dancers and singers. To find strippers, they recruited the most attractive men they could find from Venice Beach and Santa Monica. Merritt taught the men how to perform. His intention was to do more than just provide the performance of a striptease, but to bring women's fantasies to life.
Merritt staged shows at various Chippendales clubs until his death in the 1990s.
For Chippendales, the early 1980s were filled with major lawsuits pertaining to personal injury and racial discrimination.
In 1987, the company filed for bankruptcy and began reorganization. Also in 1987, Banerjee and Nick DeNoia, who was involved with the company for a short time in the beginning and owned a 10% stake in the firm, came into disagreement over touring rights to Chippendales. DeNoia sued Banerjee, claiming he had violated a term of their agreement, which entitled DeNoia to most of the control of such. Nahin testified on behalf of De Noia.
In April of that year, DeNoia was found slain in his New York City office, shot with a single bullet. In 1988 the original Chippendales in the Palms district of Los Angeles was shut down after losing its liquor license and fire permit, but the tours continued.
In 1990 and 1991, Banerjee, it was later charged, had enlisted the aid of Ray Colon to help carry out a plot to kill Michael Fullington, a former Chippendales dancer and choreographer, and a protege of Merritt, and two other ex-Chippendales dancers who Banerjee felt were competition to the Chippendales franchise. At the time the three were touring Great Britain, where they had joined the Adonis club, a copy-cat competitor of Chippendales. Banerjee had also put out a hit on Merritt, whose new legit show, "Night Dreams", Banerjee mistakenly believed was another threat to his franchise. But when Colon turned out to be an FBI informer, Banerjee was indicted in 1993 on counts of conspiracy and attempting to hire a hitman.
Banerjee eventually pleaded guilty to attempted arson, racketeering, and murder for hire. He entered into a plea agreement that would have led to 26 years in prison, loss of his share of the Chippendales parent company, and most of his estate.
Banerjee's bail was denied, due to testimony by Colon that Banerjee had said he intended to pay a private pilot $25,000 to fly him back to India without a passport, and threatened to commit suicide if he were arrested.
Soon after, the charges against him were expanded to include the hired hit of DeNoia. While in federal prison, Banerjee's wife Irene contacted Donnelly and asked him if he would be a character witness in support of her husband, but Banerjee hanged himself in his cell before his sentence was pronounced.