The four-part Discovery+ docuseries Curse of the Chippendales unpacks the true story of the all-male dance troupe that became a nightclub sensation among women in the 1980s — and how what began as an American Dream story turned into a murder-for-hire plot almost too bizarre to be true.
Jesse Vile, the writer and director of Curse of the Chippendales, and executive producer Suzanne Lavery are interviewed on a recent episode of Factual America.
“In a nutshell, it’s really the story of the rise and fall of the world’s most famous and successful all-male dance troupe. And so, it starts in the late 70s, about the inception, how the idea came across, what it originally was meant to be, what originally was. And then, we see the evolution of that idea, and how it just completely permeated through every facet of American popular culture in the 1980s. And then, ultimately, as things do, nothing can last forever. And we see it fall, and it affects people in many different ways,” Vile said.
To Lavery, the whole story behind the Discovery+ docuseries is so fantastical, it seems “stranger than fiction.”
“The first two episodes sort of lay the foundation for ridiculousness. It’s like, of course, it’s gonna get wild and crazy; of course, there’s a guy named Strawberry; of course, there’s Blackpool,” Lavery said. “It’s, a crazy, wild, weird world that they’re all living in with all these various characters. And it’s crazy when you think about it, but when you really get into it, it makes total sense. It makes total sense that it would go in that direction and that you’d have these crazy Ray Colon and Strawberry, and you’d have this huge international sting where they actually took a convict and somebody who was on parole — not parole, but he was, well, he was on bail for this conspiracy to commit murder by cyanide, international conspiracy to commit murder — take him to the scene of the crime, essentially. I mean, it’s just bizarre. So, yeah, it’s stranger than fiction. You couldn’t write it. And that’s the beauty of documentary.”
If you’re looking for true crime, look no further — and if you’re just looking for a compelling true story full of real human Curse of the Chippendale has got that, too.
“It’s categorized as a true crime series, but really, it’s true crime with a heart,” said Vile. “There’s a lot more going on than just murder and mayhem.”
Curse of the Chippendales is now streaming on Discovery+. Here are timestamps from the Factual America interview:
00:00 – The trailer for Curse of the Chippendales.
03:41 – What the docuseries is about.
04:39 – How the male stripping at Chippendales started.
07:28 – What it was like for the dancers working at the club.
10:40 – The founder of the Chippendales and how he knew what would sell.
13:55 – The dark side of the Chippendales.
16:17 – The unique themes filmmakers were able to explore when making this doc.
22:50 – The ‘napkin deal’ that changed the Chippendale organization forever.
25:40 – The crazy unbelievable world they were all living in at the Chippendales.
27:09 – Why the creative team decided to turn the documentary into a 4-part docuseries.
28:28 – The main challenges they faced in telling the story.
32:48 – The different elements of the human spirit they show in the documentary.
37:38 – Why they decided to make a true-crime doc.
43:15 – The next project LightBox is working on.
Factual America examines America through the lens of documentary filmmaking. Guests include Academy Award, Emmy and Grammy-winning filmmakers and producers, their subjects, as well as experts on the American experience. We discuss true crime, music, burning social and political topics, history and arts with the creators of the latest and upcoming documentary films in theatres and on the most popular digital platforms. This podcast is produced by Alamo Pictures, a London- and Austin-based production company that makes documentaries about the US from a European perspective for international audiences.
Main Image: A photo from Curse of the Chippendales. Photo Credit: Factual America and Discovery+