As a new documentary about the storied New York club hits cinemas, we explore its famously strict – and subjective – entry policy, and the decadent characters that frequented it
textBelle Hutton There is possibly nothing more emblematic of the 1970s disco era than fabled New York cabaret Studio 54. A ephemeral haven ( under the mention Studio 54, it ran for just under three years after its open in April of 1977 ) on Midtown Manhattan ’ s West 54th Street, the cabaret ushered in a raw type of glamor to the city ’ s party view : its fructify design was lavish and fantastic ; its clientele exclusive ; its morals loose. “ It ’ s a intuitive business, ” says Ian Schrager – who founded, owned and run Studio 54 with Steve Rubell – in a newly objective on the club of the same name. “ You have truly no discernible product except for the magic trick you create. ” The construction between Eighth Avenue and Broadway was a television receiver dramaturgy when Rubell and Schrager took it on, and somewhere between 400,000 and 800,000 dollars deserving of refurbishments – the claim figure is debated in Studio 54 by Schrager and their fiscal angel Jack Dushey – turned the space into a cabaret of theatrical proportions. The stalls became the dancefloor, the balcony seat became a screen blot for socialization, the stage remained and lighting and set equipment allowed for an complicate view to be conjured. For a cabaret to have its own unhorse couturier was in those days unheard of, but Studio 54 did. Its bare bones, then, were already inimitable – so when it opened and started throwing parties in which four tonnes of glitter coated the floor in a layer four inches deep, it was an clamant hit. According to Schrager, after the open night “ it was precisely a event of feeding the monster ”.
Studio 54 ’ s notoriety was of run not without scandal. Party drugs were overabundant, and sex permeated the storied distance. Its final party in 1980 was a concluding adieu to Rubell and Schrager before they spent 13 months in prison for tax evasion, having been taking cash off the circus tent of the club ’ s earnings to an extraordinary extent ( in the kingdom of two million dollars ) since 1977. The acculturation of fame that Studio 54 fostered was afloat until the very end : Diana Ross performed I Did It My Way on this last nox .
aside from the illegalities introduced by Rubell and Schrager, some city dwellers began to resent the golf club when they were not allowed in. Celebrities were regulars – Bianca Jagger, Andy Warhol, Grace Jones, Liza Minnelli, Halston, Cher, Elton John and Calvin Klein much went – and others would get in at the discretion of Rubell and doorkeeper Marc Benecke. Rubell would be at the club ’ s doors, letting people with manner in. Little more is known about the excellently close dress code – if there even was an official one – other than its subjectivity. “ The only thing that it ’ s not based on is money, ” Rubell is filmed saying when questioned on who he lets in. “ very fun-loving. We want people who are just in there to have fun. ” According to erstwhile security staff, polyester shirts were a firm no because they “ melt under the lights ”. so in demand was entry to Studio 54 that there was about always a rush outside its entrance. One such night, on New Year ’ s Eve of 1977, members of Chic Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards were denied introduction ( Grace Jones had invited them, but neglected to inform the door staff ). This especial rejection was no bad thing, though, since it inspired the dance band ’ randomness iconic one Le Freak .
Drag queens with aureate style and members of New York ’ s burgeoning gay and transgender community were all welcomed to Studio 54 : it was a means of escape for them, and afforded the club its unique, intoxicating lifeblood. note regulars became emblematic of the disco ’ second soul. A city banker by sidereal day transformed into fairy godmother-on-skates Rollerena at nox in Studio 54, granting wishes to fellow dancers with a glistening magic baton ; a lawyer in her former seventies or eighties became known as Disco Sally, and was constantly on the dancefloor ; and guests were enchanted by drag queen Potassa, the image of poise and elegant cool as she commanded the crowd. Rubell favoured the characters who might have been shunned otherwise, and the exemption they enjoyed at Studio 54 was airy – ahead of its time, yes, but a sartorial spectacle was created besides with the dominating metallics, glitter, sequins, leather and overall sparkle of those dressed for a night at Studio, and its aesthetic is still fabled today .
Rubell ’ s own style was curious. He much wore hawaiian shirts while he picked who might get in that night, or when he was mixing with his prestigious guests. ( footage in the documentary shows a young Michael Jackson gushing about Studio 54 and how Rubell is “ one of my favorite people ”. ) If not a tropical print then possibly his ill-famed coat : long and padded, fit for a New York winter and “ broad of money and drugs ”, Rubell would wear the coat in and around the cabaret .
While Rubell was the confront of Studio 54, Schrager was the self-professed introvert of the business partnership. Schrager orchestrated the fantasy : stage, set and lighting design were changed regularly – sometimes within the lapp night – to create dazzle parties. “ We went right up to the edge in every single expression of it, ” he remarks in the documentary. Costume was key to the spectacle : on regular nights, shirtless busboys – a daring motivate in itself – would skate around collecting glasses or arranging buckets of confetti, but when special nights were organised, intricate outfits were introduced for the staff and performers. Half a twelve harpists in floating, pastel-coloured tunics might line the entrance corridor ; glittering clowns in bulblike pleat creations would walk around with sparklers ; performers dressed in 18th-century clothes, complete with masks, powdered faces and curling white wigs interacted with guests at the stripe ; a group outfitted in Roman get-up would posture in the space, mimicking the ill-famed degeneracy of that period ’ mho deluxe wealth. unashamedly basking in excess and escape, New York ’ s definitive disco will remain equitable that for all the ages. Studio 54, directed by Matt Tyrnauer, is out now .