LOS ANGELES -- Somen "Steve" Banerjee, 48, the founder and former co-owner of the Chippendale's male strip clubs, was found dead Oct. 24 in his cell in the Metropolitan Detention Center here, hours before being sentenced for the murder-for-hire of his business partner.

Authorities said the Bombay-born businessman tied a piece of bed sheet around his neck, placed it on a wall-mounted jacket hanger and pulled down on it while he knelt. He had been treated for mild depression in the 13 months he had been at the prison, authorities said.

Mr. Banerjee, a former gas station owner turned a failing Los Angeles disco into a gold mine in the late 1970s when he began featuring a male exotic dance night for women only.

Former associates said he used finesse, cunning and greed to rise to the ownership of a small business empire. At the height of his success, Mr. Banerjee had clubs in Los Angeles, New York, Dallas and Denver. Mostly female fans packed Chippendale's for years, plunking down money for its sexy calendars and stuffing cash into the G-strings of muscular male dancers. The Los Angeles Chippendale's closed in 1988, but the dancers continue to tour worldwide.

Mr. Banerjee had admitted hiring the gunman who murdered Nick Denoia, the man he had taken on board to help spruce up the Chippendale's show, in New York in April 1987. Denoia was an Emmy Award-winning producer and former husband of actress Jennifer O'Neil.


D.C. Resident

Dorothea Villard Hammond, 87, a New York native who had lived in Washington since 1942, died Oct. 13 at Sibley Memorial Hospital after a heart attack. She had a second home in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

She was a trustee of the American University of Cairo.

Her husband, John Hammond, died about five years ago. Survivors include a brother, Oswald Garrison Villard of Woodside, Calif.; and two stepchildren, John P. Hammond of Pittsfield, Mass., and Wynne Hammond Carter of Shaker Heights, Ohio.