You’ve seen some of those famous guests in our two previous articles about the infamous club, and some of them you are about to see now in this third installment. These photos are a glimpse into a time when partying was at its peak, and Studio 54 was the place to be.
Different Times, Different Perks
Seventies tennis star Vitas Gerulaitis won his first Wimbledon championship in 1975. It must have won him a lot of clouts amongst the ladies, and with his good looks, charisma, and charm, it's no surprise that Gerulaitis was a hit with the ladies both on and off the tennis court.
At least, that's what this picture suggests. But it is not entirely reflective of the truth. In fact, many of the beautiful women seen back then in Studio 54 were actually models who were paid to ensure patrons were having a good time. He doesn't seem to mind.
Work it, Queen,
Donna Summer was one of the most prominent and loved disco performers of the 70s and 80s. Hit songs such as I Feel Love, Last Dance, Hot Stuff, I Love You, and She Work Hard For The Money topped the charts of the 1970s. Here, in the opening of the rival disco to 'Studio 54,' 'Xenon,' she hoped that her music would be just as popular. We have a feeling it was a killer show.
The Grammy-winning artist was known for her powerful vocals, and she did not disappoint on that night. Fans of the "Queen of Disco" were delighted to see her perform in an intimate setting. Although Xenon could never replace Studio 54 in many's hearts, it provided a new place for fans to dance the night away.
Plata Or Plomo
Have you ever gone to a club and found yourself not being able to get in? The tall bouncer stands at the entrance to the club with a chiseled look on his face and looks you straight in the eye. "Sorry, If you're not on the list, you can't get in." That's exactly what happened to Pablo Escobar and Barbera Streisand when they tried entering the club in 1978. That's not actually true, and it's not actually them, but we had you going there!
However, it's probably for the best that they didn't try, as the club's notorious reputation for illegal substances and wild parties could have been a disaster for both their public images.
Hoffman's Dance Moves
Abbot Howard "Abbie" Hoffman was a very famous and well-known social activist in the 1970s. Part of the Chicago Seven, Hoffman was portrayed by actor Sacha Baron Cohen in a movie that very much captured the strife and struggles around the draft and the Vietnam War. At the time, Hoffman led the Flower Power Movement and co-founded the Youth International party. As you can tell in this picture, he really knew how to party.
Despite his reputation for being a troublemaker, he was a beloved figure among many in the counterculture movement of the 1970s and remains an important symbol of political dissent and radical change.
How the Times Have Passed
Do you ever look at your elders and think to yourself, "I wonder how they must feel about time? Did it pass too quickly for them? Do they still see themselves as young and vibrant humans? Do they really feel as old as they look?" It begs the question of how Robert DiNiro must feel when he looks at this photo taken of him not long after filming the movie Godfather.
Despite his age, De Niro continues to be a force in the film industry, and it's clear that his talent has only grown with time. Perhaps he looks back at this photo fondly, or perhaps he hardly remembers the moment.
When two actors fall in love, are they really in love or pretending to be in love? Maybe they are just acting the part that they know and think is expected of them. That does not seem to be the case for Actors John Ritter and Nancy Morgan. Both seem to be very much in love and having a great time kissing it out on the dance floor.
John Ritter and Nancy Morgan met on the set of the film "Americathon" in 1979 and married a year later. They were known to be one of Hollywood's most loving couples, sharing a strong bond that lasted for over two decades until John's sudden death in 2003.
Time For Breakfast
The one and only Truman Capote was the novelist, screenwriter, playwright, and actor who brought you classics such as Breakfast at Tiffany's and the true crime novel "In Cold Blood." Being that he was one of the greatest writers ever to walk the earth, there is no reason he shouldn't strut in the club with all that confidence. We wonder what other writers frequented the club.
Other famous writers of that time who were known to frequent Studio 54 include Andy Warhol, Gore Vidal, and Norman Mailer. It's safe to say that the club attracted a diverse crowd, ranging from artists and writers to politicians and socialites.
A List To Recon With
If you want to get yourself on the list for a Friday night at Studio 54, you will have a lot of names to compete with. A lot of these names may not be familiar to the naked eye; however, going back in time, these titles were practically everything.
Still, if you look closer, you see that these are names of media executives, famous composers, and even doctors who all got themselves a table and are there to spend big bucks ordering bottles from the bar. Friday night at 54 was not just a place to have fun. It was a place to do business and spend amongst the spenders.
Living the Good Life
When you write hit songs like Y.M.C.A, Macho Man, In the Navy, and Go West, you best bet that you're never going to have a hard time getting into clubs like Studio 54, and you'll always be a hit with the ladies. Here we see band member Randy Jones posing with two very attractive ladies at the club like it's another day at the park.
In addition to their hit songs and partying at Studio 54, The Village People became cultural icons for their flamboyant and colorful outfits and their bold and daring lyrics, which challenged traditional gender roles and norms.
We've All Been There
Ever gone out to the club with your friends and found yourself knee-deep in a drunken karaoke rendition of your favorite song that no one seems to know or like? You are already off-the-stage, heaving in the bathroom, when you notice how badly you feel. We don't quite know the story behind this picture of 70s actresses and songwriters Carly Simon and Karen Black, but our guess is they were working the crowd much better than the average karaoke singer.
Carly Simon had multiple hit songs in the 1970s, including "You're So Vain," while Karen Black appeared in several musical films, such as "Nashville" and "The Great Gatsby." They were both also known for their free-spirited and unconventional personalities.
Art In All Forms
A lot of the pictures of Studio 54 were taken by professional photographers who were hired to portray the club in all its glory. And no picture does that better than what looks to be the sweaty morning shave of Studio 54 Co-owner Steve Rubell. Have you ever seen anyone pull their cheeks that far back? Maybe it happens a lot in Hollywood, but we've never seen it done while shaving your face.
This picture perfectly captures the hedonistic spirit of the club and its founders. Rubell's expression, combined with the early morning light and the excess of the night before, is a testament to the wild times that were had at Studio 54.
"Wanna Know A Secret?"
You can use many pickup lines when you are the president's son. You can walk into any club in the world and at the door just say, "hey, I'm the president's son. Can I come in? John F. Kennedy Jr. was living the dream back in 1977. As you can see, he had no problem charming the ladies. Heck, maybe he didn't even need to mention who his dad was.
It's hard not to wonder what life would have been like for JFK Jr. if he had not been tragically taken from the world at such a young age. Would he have continued to be a heartthrob, charming woman with his good looks and suave demeanor? Or would he have moved on to a career in politics like his father before him?
You can walk into any club and put on the moves with the ladies when you are a choreographer. It's probably even somewhat of a hobby. Of course, most women don't expect a man to be so good at dancing, and most men aren't. So imagine how surprised actress Jessica Lange was when "Chicago" choreographer Bob Fosse took her hand to dance. They both look like they are having the time of their life.
Bob Fosse was a choreographer, director, and filmmaker known for his unique style and signature dance moves. He was the man behind famous works such as "Cabaret," "Sweet Charity," and "All That Jazz," and it's no surprise that he could work his charm on the dance floor and sweep Jessica Lange off her feet.
When You Meet Your Idol
Whether you are an athlete, entrepreneur, actress, cook, or artist, everyone has an Idol. And meeting your idol is probably one of the best feelings in the world. Unfortunately, dancing with your favorite idol is a pipe dream most people will never accomplish.
One can only imagine what it must have felt like for young aspiring actress and comedian Gilda Radner to share the dance floor with Comdey mogul Bill Murray. As you can see in the picture, she was extremely excited. Moments like these can be a reminder that anything is possible if you work hard and believe in yourself.
Beef With the Owner
Have you ever enraged a business owner so much that they banned you from ever coming back again? Well, director Franco Rossellini must have gone the extra mile with Studio 54 owner Steve Rubell because what he got was what looks to be a pound of cake to the face at his very own birthday party.
Of course, most of the people in the background are probably thinking, "Will you leave any cake for us to eat, or are you just going to waste it all" Jokes aside. The two were actually really close friends.
Birds of a Feather
Paloma Picasso is the daughter of one of a kind and one of the most prominent artists in history, Pablo Picasso. When you are the child of a famous artist, it only makes sense for you to enjoy the frequent company of artists. In this picture, it seems that she is sharing her time and laughs with famous designer Karl Lagerfeld, who stood at the helm of Chanel since 1983 and has since collaborated with other luxury lines such as Fendi.
Wonder if she got any free bags from him? Karl Lagerfeld was known for his generosity when it came to gifting his friends and muses with Chanel products. Regardless, seeing the worlds of fashion and art collide in unexpected ways is always interesting.
Dress To Impress
All the who's-who's of the world frequented Studio 54, and first impressions in such environments were essential for career building in entertainment. Pat Cleveland must have wanted her first impression: "I can play any type of bird you want. Just watch me." With all the elegance in this dress, one must stop but wonder for a second.
"How do you sit down with a dress like that? Can you go to the bathroom or just hold it in? What happens when you spill a drink on that thing? Does it stain? It's true that fashion choices in such exclusive environments come with certain challenges, but they also provide a chance to express oneself in unique and daring ways.
Everyone in America knows that there is no better place in the country to spend your New Year's Eve than New York City. Broadstreet is filled with millions of people all strutting red, white, and blue attire, street food is everywhere, and the whole atmosphere just feels like an out-of-body experience.
To keep the party going, a lot of New Yorkers have their own go-to club. One such club was Studio 54. On New Year's Eve 1977, an estimated 2,000 celebs, millionaires, and dignitaries bought a ticket to see Jamaican fashion model and Disco singer Grace Jones strut the floor.
Where Will You Be Tomorrow?
Well, nobody knows where they'll be tomorrow. Still, you can be sure that Steve Rubell never thought that he would eventually be interviewed in his own club on primetime T.V. In the picture, you can see "The Tomorrow Show" host Tom Snyder interview Steve Rubell at a time when the club was at its prime, hosting parties for the most influential people in the world on a nightly basis. Just goes to prove fame comes in various forms.
Studio 54 was a cultural phenomenon that defined a generation and set the standard for nightclub culture. Rubell and his partner Ian Schrager were the masterminds behind the club's success, and their legacy still lives on today.
Many people would do almost anything to get into a famous club and meet influential people inside. However, this unidentified club patron took "anything" to the next level by dressing himself up from head to toe as a Dalmatian dog with a bone hanging on his side.
The man to his left seems excited about the fact that they are somewhat matching, while the man to the right seems unamused and even somewhat jealous that he didn't come up with the idea himself. One can only imagine how much time and effort went into creating that costume and whether or not it was worth it for a night at the club. Regardless, he definitely stood out among the crowd!
Even the Fonz Couldn't Get In
It seemed as if there were special demands to meet and that those demands were secretly changed on a nightly (or even hourly) basis. Celebrities were a little more likely to get in than common folk, but sometimes even that wasn't enough. Henry Winkler is the best example of someone famous being turned down at the door.
At the time, he was playing Arthur Fonzarelli, aka Fonzie, in the super successful TV show "Happy Days," but even that couldn't get him past the velvet ropes. The incident made headlines, and even today, it's still a reminder that not everyone was welcome at Studio 54, regardless of their status.
The Subjective Entrance Requirements Led to a Confrontation With a Gun
Although many patrons knew that getting through the door was difficult, some still didn’t take rejection well at all. Disgruntled would-be customers could even get violent in their anger about not being allowed into the club. The scariest experience with a rejected club-goer occurred when security chief Chuck Garelick was ambushed in the early hours of the morning by a group of men carrying guns.
The men shot above his head, and Chuck managed to escape without a scratch, but the experience was terrifying all the same. This level of violence only added to the already edgy and dangerous atmosphere surrounding Studio 54, and despite all this, the club still remained one of the most desirable places to be seen, no matter the risks.
Bianca Jagger Celebrated Her Birthday at Studio 54
Since Studio 54 quickly established itself as an A-list destination, it should come as no surprise that former actress and women’s rights advocate Bianca Jagger celebrated her 32nd birthday at the club. Alongside her then-husband, Mick Jagger, Bianca danced the night away at the most popular disco in New York. Photos of Bianca and Mick depict an evening of carefree celebration within the walls of the legendary club.
Bianca's party was attended by a host of A-list celebrities, including Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli, and Halston. The event remains one of the most memorable moments in Studio 54's history and exemplified the kind of over-the-top extravagance that became synonymous with the club.
The Famous Vinyl
Even though Studio 54 was open for less than three years, it definitely made an unforgettable mark in disco history. The nightclub, famous for playing mostly disco music, always brought in the best DJs in the business. The music they played was so popular that a label called Casablanca Records released an album with the club's most famous songs, titled "A Night At Studio 54."
The club even hosted live performances from popular artists like Donna Summer, Grace Jones, and Chic. The DJ booth was a central feature of the club, and the legendary DJ, Richie Kaczor, better known as DJ Richie K, was the club's resident DJ for most of its time in operation.
David Bowie Look-alike Blows His Cover
In what can only be called a very sweet anecdote', one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century put a fan's admiration before his own personal interest. As the story goes, on the night of May 24th, 1979, David Bowie tried to quietly sneak into Studio 54 when somebody from the crowd shouted, "You look just like me!".
And so, a young Bowie decided to blow his cover and go say hi to his fan. The fan who called out to Bowie turned out to be a young musician named Chris Stein from the band Blondie. As Bowie approached him, Stein reportedly said, "I'm sorry, but you really do look like David Bowie," to which Bowie replied, "I am."
The Iconic '60s Drag Queens — Hibiscus and Angel Jack
It is known that Studio 54 was a safe haven for trans people, who were often spotted at the club. But the photo below is not of any trans partygoers; these are legendary drag queens Angel Jack and Hibiscus. For those that didn't live through the '60s or '70s, Hibiscus was one of the famous founders of the iconic avant-garde, psychedelic theater group, The Cockettes. The group lived in a commune in the famous Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco.
Angel Jack was a known member of Hibiscus's other theater group, called The Angels of Light. They were insanely creative and very well-known in 1970's California. Angel Jack also gave regular performances at Studio 54. The happy drag queens are seen above in glamorous feathered and sequined costumes, at the re-opening party of the club, on September 15, 1981.
Funny Girl's Night Out
Even Yentl attended Studio 54! Wearing a beautiful '70s fur coat and her trademark curly hair is the legendary Barbra Streisand. The man beside her is Jon Peters, an American film producer that worked on some of the most famous movies of the '80s and '90s, including "Rain Man," "The Color Purple," "Flashdance," and countless more. The smiling friends were photographed entering the nightclub back in 1977. What a time!
It's not just singers and actors who visited Studio 54, even politicians made their way to the iconic club. The former first lady of the United States, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, was reportedly seen at the club alongside her son, John F. Kennedy Jr.
How Much Would a Modern Studio 54 Cost?
In an interview with "Business Insider," the former disco co-owner Ian Schrager said that establishing another club in the spirit of Studio 54 would be much harder than it initially was. One reason for that is that it would be significantly more expensive. When he had his first steps into the nightlife world, Schrager started his first nightclub with an initial capital of $27,000. To open Studio 54 cost him $400,000.
To his estimate, opening a nightclub today would require at least a million-dollar investment. Schrager also notes that the nightclub industry has evolved and changed drastically over the years. Social media has made it easier for people to create their own buzz, and the competition is much steeper than it was in the '70s.
Bianca Jagger Rode a Live Horse Into the Club
As if debauchery and dancing weren’t enough, Studio 54 always managed to take things one step further. In order to get into the club, the bouncer would determine if you were worthy of entry based on your wardrobe and overall vibe. While many people were turned away, one four-legged patron was often allowed inside: a live horse.
Pictures from Studio 54 show Bianca Jagger, the then-wife of Mick Jagger, straddling a stunning white beast in her nightclub attire. There’s not much to say about that interesting snapshot except that the lady certainly knows how to make a grand entrance.
Diana Ross Often Took Over the DJ Booth
A huge fan of the loose environment in Studio 54, Diana Ross was a frequent patron of the club. Though she often made her way to the DJ booth, she could also be found tearing it up on the dance floor and belting out the lyrics to her favorite tunes. Before the club closed for good, Diana Ross attended the final party.
She serenaded the club owners one last time and fully embraced the carefree energy that was almost palpable within Studio 54. She was seen dancing the night away and soaking up the last moments of the carefree atmosphere that made the place so iconic.
Robin Williams Embraced a Night Out With His Wife
While plenty of single A-listers roamed the dance floor at Studio 54, Robin Williams decided an evening out was nothing without his wife. During the club’s heyday, Robin arrived with his partner in tow, dressed to the nines and ready to boogie all night long. Photos of Williams and his wife depict a happy couple who simply loved spending time together.
Their partnership continued long past evenings at Studio 54, and they even welcomed their first son into the world just three years after the club shut its doors forever. It's clear that Robin Williams' time at Studio 54 was not just about being seen and socializing with the famous but was about having fun and enjoying himself in the company of his loved ones.
The Rubber Room Was Another Interesting Club Addition
Along with the much-talked-about basement, Studio 54 also featured one room entirely made of rubber. According to certain sources, the odd furnishings made the room easier to clean. With topless dancers and women running around in see-through garments, it’s only logical that the most basic instincts might get the best of some Studio 54 patrons.
If a rubber room truly existed, we’ll leave it up to your imagination to think about what might have gone on in there. Despite what was going on in the club, many celebrities continued to flock to the place, drawn in by its aura of excess and indulgence. In the end, however, Studio 54's reign as the hottest nightclub in New York City ended.
The IRS Confronted Club Owners Rubell and Schrager in 1978
From an outside perspective, Studio 54 was a dream. It was filled to the brim with the rich and famous, and many people could only dream of stepping through its doors. To the government, however, the club was an illegal operation run by criminals. In 1978, the IRS confronted club owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager.
Studio 54 was a safe haven for celebrities from across the country. Unfortunately, it's popularity and carefree attitude didn’t stop the government from closing its doors. The club's license was revoked, and it shut its doors for good. The owners pleaded guilty to the charges and spent 13 months in jail.
Studio 54 Was the Best Party In NYC
While the club boasted plenty of wild antics on any given evening, Studio 54 also loved the opportunity to throw a real party. If you think a live horse running through the dance floor is crazy enough, think again. To celebrate the premiere of 'Grease,' Studio 54 hired men to ride motorcycles through the crowd of patrons. At one point, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre performed in the middle of the club.
Another time, the club organized a yacht party on the Hudson River featuring a live performance by Grace Jones. Studio 54's party planning skills were truly unmatched. Whatever the occasion, Studio 54 always found a way to go over the top and host the best party in the city.
Diane Von Furstenberg Loved Attending Studio 54
Joining the ranks of other A-listers who found a home at Studio 54, Diane Von Furstenberg was a regular at the club. The famous fashion designer enjoyed the freeing environment of Studio 54, where she would often strut around in her latest designs with confidence. Von Furstenberg once told Vanity Fair that she had more fun at Studio 54 than any other nightclub in the world.
That’s quite the glowing recommendation for the short-lived disco. The fashion designer even held her own fashion show at the venue, which was a first for Studio 54. The show, which featured her iconic wrap dresses and other designs, was attended by some of the biggest names in fashion and entertainment.
Ignoring the Haters
The doors to Studio 54 were constantly met with masses of people hoping to get in and see a little bit of the action. But this hotspot wasn't everybody's cup of tea. The wild parties and hedonistic practices that infamously took place there had many people shaking their heads. Schrager recalls facing great backlash and resentment. People pegged the Studio as the poster boy for everything that was wrong with the younger generation, the economy, nightlife, and more.
Apparently, that didn't stop the place from holding more epic parties until the very end. Studio 54 remained a mecca for partygoers until the day it closed its doors. Its reputation as a den of debauchery only fueled the curiosity of those who wished to experience the wild, hedonistic atmosphere for themselves.
Getting Inside Was About More Than Notoriety
As we’ve said, getting inside the doors of Studio 54 was nothing short of a miracle. However, it was about much more than notoriety. Owner Steve Rubell explained that he wanted a mix of guests in his club, which led to his subjective picking and choosing of random patrons that lined up outside the door.
Rubell didn’t care if a normal person mixed with his A-listers, but they had to bring something unique to the table. From certain energy to a festive outfit, any random attribute could be enough to grant you access to the world’s most famous club.
Cocktails, Dancing, and Nitrous Tanks
Back in the '70s, people took their partying very seriously. And in Studio 54, people took the concept of partying even further. Below is a group of young party-goers having fun with some laughing gas at a Halloween party in 1978. Ah, the good old days when you could just take a huge tank of nitrous oxide onto the dance floor.
The use of laughing gas at Studio 54 was just one of the many examples of the rampant culture in the disco scene, and despite the dangers, Studio 54 continued to attract a crowd that was looking for a wild and indulgent time.
Steve Rubell Gave Andy Warhol a Trash Can Full of Cash For His Birthday
Despite the club’s shady business practices, the owners could also be very generous. For Andy Warhol’s birthday, Steve Rubell gifted his club regular 5,000 free drink tickets and a trash can full of money. When opened, the silver garbage can revealed $1,000 dollars worth of crisp, new $1 bills. Excited club-goers tipped the trash can over Warhol’s head to celebrate, but he wanted to keep the cash.
He scrambled to pick up the fluttering bills before they disappeared into the busy crowd. Rubell and Schrager also allowed their VIP guests to throw their own private parties in the club's basement, and these secret soirées allowed the owners to continue making money after the club's official closing time.
Rockstars, Writers, and Picasso's Daughter
No other nightclub in history hosted as many celebrities as Studio 54. But the photo below is just something else. Rock princess Jerry Hall is seen standing next to Andy Warhol, who has Blondie's lead singer, Debbie Harry by his side. And who is that grabbing Harry's hand? None other than Truman Capote, one of the greatest American writers in history.
But maybe the most surprising person in this photo (and the most unrecognizable) is the woman standing at the far right, on the other side of Capote. The woman in the white jacket is none other than Paloma Picasso, Pablo Picasso's daughter! Talk about an elite guest list.
Bianca Jagger Brought Her Own Doves to the Club
Bianca Jagger celebrated plenty of iconic nights at Studio 54. Beyond her mounted entry and her birthday festivities, the star also donned an outrageous outfit for one evening out. Two doves perched on her hands and a gold crown atop her head resulted in a Grecian look other women would be hard-pressed to pull off.
Bianca’s outfit, however, had a motive. When club owner Steve Rubell decided to act as a bouncer, he determined that only the best of the best could make their way inside the doors of Studio 54. Bianca’s outfit ensured her entry into the exclusive club.
The End of Studio 54 Was the End of Disco
A little while after their first run-in with the law, Rubell and Schrager faced allegations from the IRS that they were hiding unreported money and illicit drugs within Studio 54. When two dozen IRS agents arrived to investigate the claims, they searched the club’s vault and found the illegal cash and substances.
In all, the club owners hid $2.5 million from the IRS, resulting in two prison sentences for fraud. After Rubell and Schrager were caught in 1980, Studio 54 permanently closed its doors. Although the owners were eventually released, the disco itself ended when Studio 54 went under.
Been There, Done That, Wrote the Book About It
No doubt, the walls of Studio 54 could tell stories that would make you blush like an innocent maiden at a debutant ball. But since the walls are pretty quiet, you'd have to settle for the tell-all novel, "The Club." Published in 1980, the book was written by a past employee of the infamous nightclub.
American author Steven Gains and former Studio 54 bartender Robert Jon Cohen didn't go to great lengths to cover the identities of the people involved. In fact, their depiction of the events was so close to reality that they were almost slapped with a $20 million lawsuit. The suit was only dropped because, literally, no one of the people involved would go on record admitting to taking part in the obscene acts.
Rubell and Schrager Didn’t Learn From Their Mistake
Although Rubell and Schrager were arrested for selling alcohol without a license, their incredible legal representation managed to get them out of trouble. To fix their problem, Rubell and Schrager hired Roy Cohn. The ruthless attorney served other big names like Senator McCarthy and Donald Trump, and he had a reputation as a big-shot lawyer with plenty of pull.
Cohn freed Rubell and Schrager from prison, and they immediately returned to the club. However, they didn’t learn from their mistake. After a few more years of success, the owners had the IRS breathing down their necks.
The Owners Wore Their Books on Their Sleeve
When business owners do something illegal, they usually put in at least a small amount of effort trying to cover up their tracks. Or, at the very least, keep their illegal activities to a minimum. Not the owners of Studio 54. In order to get away from skimming some of a business's profits, the owners would have to limit themselves to about 1-2 percent.
The famous disco, however, had up to 80% skimmed by the owners, who proudly tracked their unseemly records and their purchases of so-called "party favors." The charges effectively shut down the disco, which had become an iconic symbol of the '70s and of New York City nightlife.
The Bouncers Had Power. Maybe Too Much Power
During the club's few years of operation, many people tried to get through its doors to no avail. According to co-owner Steve Rubell, he viewed picking the mix of patrons as casting for a theater play. While he's had his fair share of "casting," more often than not, the bouncers were the ones to do it most of the time.
Marc Benecke, one of the club's bouncers, was only 19 when he started working there as a bouncer. From his position by the door, he learned that the people of New York were willing to pay thousands of dollars or offer their very bodies to get in. In accordance with Studio 54's hedonistic spirit, Benecke says he occasionally accepted those offers.
Michael Jackson Moonwalked Through the Doors
Before he moonwalked across the stage to audiences around the world, Michael Jackson moonwalked into Studio 54. Prior to achieving superstar status, Jackson donned his best disco attire and spent long evenings tearing up the dance floor at the reputable nightclub. During his time at Studio 54, Michael didn’t yet know about the future that awaited him. His appearance on the music scene changed pop forever.
It’s only fitting that he would frequent the most popular disco club in existence, a destination that embraced change and liberation in all its forms. His dance moves and charismatic personality captivated everyone in the club, including the other celebrities in attendance, and it’s no wonder he was able to rise to the top of the music world with the support of such a groundbreaking venue.
Location, Location, Location
If anyone were to start a new club today and model it after Studio 54, they would, first and foremost, have to consider the club's location. One of the things that made Studio 54 so popular was its prime location — right by Times Square. Now, however, finding a good enough place for a club would prove difficult because New Yorkers have a much lower tolerance for the nightlife scene and how noisy it can be.
From the opulent decor to the creative performances and the wild antics on the dance floor, Studio 54 was never afraid to push the boundaries and take risks, however, such a club would also need to navigate the complex legal and regulatory landscape that exists today.
The Club Was a Safe Haven for Trans People
Studio 54 was essentially a free-for-all. Rules didn’t apply inside the club. While that made for some pretty wild misadventures, it also made the club a safe haven for everyone. At the time, LGBTQ people weren’t at all accepted in the larger society. They ran the risk of being beaten up every time they stepped out in public. In Studio 54, however, LGBTQ+ people were free to express themselves.
Gay people felt comfortable kissing on the dance floor, and trans people felt comfortable within the walls of the wild nightclub. Studio 54's acceptance and celebration of LGBTQ+ culture paved the way for greater visibility and acceptance of the community in the following decades.
Canada's Former First Lady Partied Like Nobody's Business
Before she became the mother of Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, Margaret Trudeau used to party like a rockstar at Studio 54. The former wife of Pierre Trudeau was frequently seen at the nightclub but never beside her ex-husband. Maybe that was one of the reasons they divorced in 1984? The young beauty is seen in the photo above after a legendary walk-off from the "Today Show."
It was a beautiful night on April 23, 1979, and Maggie made the most of it. Margaret became friends with some of the club's famous regulars, including Andy Warhol and Liza Minnelli. Her partying ways and her independent spirit made her a beloved icon of the disco era.
Studio 54 Is One of the Most Famous Nightclubs in History
While the 1970s were a time of dramatic cultural change, the decade also touted the benefits of individuality. The ‘70s arrived with a need to lean into the party lifestyle, and Studio 54 offered the perfect environment for people’s self-expression to run free.
Although Studio 54 was only open for three short years, the nightclub featured a guest list so exclusive that it went down in history as one of the most luxurious places to party. The biggest names in entertainment were installments at the club, though even a few of the most recognizable A-listers couldn’t get through the door.
Valentino Celebrated His Birthday In Studio 54’s Circus
Fashion designer Valentino joined the ranks of famous celebrities who celebrated another year of life at Studio 54. His partner, Giancarlo Giammetti, decided to host Valentino’s party at the nightclub just three days before it occurred.
Even in that short time, the club transformed into a circus with a circus ring and mermaids on trapezes. Valentino stepped in as the ringmaster and other guests wore clown costumes as they danced around the nightclub. While the party itself was amazing, the more incredible feat was putting together an entire indoor circus in such a short time.
Elizabeth Taylor Celebrated Her 46th Birthday at Studio 54
Not to be outdone by Bianca Jagger, Liz Taylor also rang in her birthday at Studio 54. The gorgeous actress celebrated her 46th year of life at the nightclub, complete with a cake that boasted her own face. The star of the silver screen invited friends and family to her NYC celebration, where they all rang in the joy of a new year of life.
How could she celebrate anywhere else but at Studio 54? It was the place to be at the time. The list of famous Studio 54 regulars doesn't stop there. In fact, almost every celebrity in New York City at the time found their way into the club at some point.
How About Some Modern Technology?
Co-owner of Studio 54, Ian Schrager, believes that if the disco were to open nowadays, it would feature some high-tech gadgets. Despite the fact that it's been more than four decades, he believes the magic could be recreated and modernized. He said the place would feature sophisticated visual effects, LED lights, and even VR goggles.
The vibe would be the same as the excitement and thrill people got way back, only much more immersive. Schrager is confident that if Studio 54 were to open in modern times, people would still flock to experience the same excitement and thrill that they did in the '70s.
Sylvester Stallone Enjoyed a Visit to the Club
Soon after his iconic performance in 'Rocky', Sylvester Stallone capitalized on his fame by taking a quick jaunt over to Studio 54. He spent time with fellow actor John Travolta and his co-star in 'The Man Who Would Not Die', Joyce Ingalls. Surrounded by fellow successful people, Stallone relished the opportunity to take a night off and let loose at the famous nightclub. He was often joined by his wife, Sasha Czack.
The pair would dance all night long while they chatted with other big names in Hollywood. The presence of celebrities at Studio 54 was not limited to Hollywood A-listers. Even the legendary artist, Salvador Dali, could be found among the nightclub's guests. He was often seen wearing his famous waxed mustache and signature flamboyant outfits.
Liza Minnelli Enjoyed the Disco, Despite the Seedy Rumors
Although A-listers roamed the dance floor at Studio 54, the club gradually gained a sordid reputation. Outsiders claimed that the disco featured ever-present illegal substances and nightly misadventures. Rumors painted the owners as hedonistic degenerates lacking basic morals. Although the club had a less-than-stellar reputation, A-listers like Liza Minnelli had no problem spending their evenings at Studio 54.
Whether the nasty rumors were true or not, Minnelli often ruled the dance floor, showing off her best disco moves in her quintessential ‘70s attire. Andy Warhol took Polaroids of the club-goers, and Truman Capote was often seen in the VIP section. Despite the criticism from the outside, the iconic disco attracted the most exclusive guests who let loose and enjoyed themselves in an atmosphere of freedom and wild abandon.
On Opening Night, the Club Was Practically Falling Apart
Although Studio 54 catered to 1970s A-listers, the club was practically falling apart on opening night. Less than an hour before the doors officially opened, workers were still in the process of laying black flooring to create the necessary vibe of the club. When the first patrons arrived, the indoor lights flickered, and the music wasn’t working.
The lights behind the bar actually went out completely, forcing workers to purchase candles from a nearby shop for illumination. When Donald Trump arrived, no one even heard him knock. The club's eclectic mix of people and freewheeling spirit is what made Studio 54 one of the most legendary nightclubs of all time.
If the Club's Going Down, It's Taking Other Clubs With It
When the party eventually had to be brought to a full stop (illegal activities and ignoring the IRS would do that), Rubell and Schrager had to face some jail time. Each of them had to serve 3.5 years, ultimately cut in half. How did they get the cut? Simple, they gave some names and numbers regarding similar establishments that also had trouble keeping their finances fully legal.
Apparently, Schrager's run-ins with the law didn't bother him as much as snitching did. He explained that his father was closely tied to mob-boss Meyer Lansky, who obviously wasn't too fond of snitches.
The Infamous Bartenders of Studio 54
It was known that the club's co-owner, Steve Rubell, was gay. And so, it was not surprising that you'd find young men as bartenders instead of beautiful, busty women serving your drinks. Even a young, handsome Alec Baldwin served as a busboy for a brief period of time! As you can probably guess, the bartender's uniform was a very small pair of shorts. And not much else. The photo below pretty much proves that the men were chosen more for their looks than their bartending skills.
Reportedly, there was an employee nicknamed "Lenny 54", that told Rubell outright that he wasn't going to work in that 'ridiculous' pair of shorts, and declared he was going to hang out with the guests and keep them entertained. Clearly, Rubell had no problem with this and kept Lenny employed for quite some time.
What If We Send You a Limo?
While many people were willing to pay an arm and a leg to get inside Studio 54, some celebrities actually courted and personally invited to the fine establishment. Courted how? We're happy you asked. The owners would send limos to the celebrities they invited. Very on-brand with the club's reputation of dispensing all sorts of illegal substances, those limos were packed substances from all corners of the world.
However, not all the celebrities accepted the invitation. In fact, some, like Madonna, were famously turned away at the door. According to legend, the pop star tried to enter the club on her 21st birthday but was rejected because she wasn't famous enough at the time.
Richard Gere Proved He Can Dance
The American Gigolo couldn’t stay away from Studio 54. Before he made women across the world swoon on the silver screen, Richard Gere discoed his evenings away at the popular nightclub. Clad in his best ‘70s garb, Gere partnered up with the most gorgeous women in NYC for a night of disco and debauchery.
A big fan of one of the city’s best clubs, Gere proved on more than one occasion that he’s totally capable of busting a move. His passion for music and dance would eventually lead him to star in the classic movie musical "Chicago," proving that his disco days had a lasting impact on his career.
I Got You, Babe
Since they were already divorced when the photo was taken in 1979, their appearance at Studio 54 together has gone down in history as one of the most memorable ones! Of course, the iconic rock duo Sonny and Cher would make their way to Studio 54.
Though the couple's career as a duo ended in 1975 after their split, they remained on good terms and even returned to their television show in 1976. Despite their divorce, their appearance at Studio 54 was a reminder of the magic they created as a duo. The photo of them together that night remains a beloved image of a time when disco was king, and anything was possible.
A Silent Movie Star and a True Crime Writer Go to a Club...
Clearly, the true-crime writer Capote had a little bit too much to drink that night. However, he does look fabulous with that classy white hat on his face. Taken on June 22, 1978, the photo below features a young Kate Harrington ("Love Story," "Child's Play"), a passed-out Truman Capote, and the legendary silent movie star Gloria Swanson.
Swanson made history for being the silent films' most successful and highest-paid star. And she was still partying hard at age 79! The photo captures a moment in time when Hollywood royalty mingled with New York's elite, and Studio 54 was the epicenter of the disco universe.
Clubgoers Danced On Four Tons of Glitter On New Year’s Eve
Of course, Studio 54 had to step things up on New Year’s Eve. But if you’re the ultimate party destination every other night, how do you ensure that the wildest night of the year is truly special? Accordingly, to Ian Schrager, the secret lies in ample glitter. On New Year’s ever, the club owners brought in four tons of glitter to spread across the dance floor.
Schrager described it as “dancing on stardust.” Although it made for a great night, it also stuck around for quite a few months after New Year’s Eve ended. The memory of Studio 54 and its glittering dance floor still captivates the imagination and serves as a reminder of a time when there were no boundaries and everything was within limits.
Grace Jones and Her Eccentric Costumes
Although severe inflation and a messy stock market made day-to-day life dismal, Studio 54 boasted a carefree environment. The club encouraged its patrons to leave all their worries at the door. When the rich, successful, and beautiful show up to the party, the outside world is temporarily forgotten.
Embracing the opportunity to live that feel-good lifestyle, Grace Jones frequented the dance floor at Studio 54. Unwilling to fade into the background, Jones often arrived in eccentric costumes. She debuted many of her forward-thinking outfits at the disco, ensuring that she lived up to her name as a fashion icon.
The Party Never Dies. Not Even When the IRS Hits
Studio 54 was the epitome of nightlife partying for a few glorious years. When it did close its front doors for good, it wasn't due to lack of popularity, but it would be unfair to say nobody saw it coming. Owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager weren't exactly the kind of people who follow the rules or do things by the book. Not only that. But they bragged about it too. A 1978 interview in the Independent literally quoted Rubell saying, "Only the Mafia made more money" the previous year.
The club's success was fueled by the disco era's excesses and its owners' willingness to push the boundaries of what was considered acceptable. Despite its short-lived run, Studio 54 remains a cultural touchstone, a symbol of a time when anything was possible, and the party never seemed to end.
The Club’s Opening Night Quickly Turned to Mayhem
Although Studio 54 was empty when Donald Trump arrived alongside Nikki Haskell, the vibe inside the place changed as the night went on. What started as a slow stream of party people into an unlit bar quickly transformed into a flood of newcomers as more and more celebrities swarmed to the building.
Thousands of people made their way to the club, and some of Hollywood’s biggest stars couldn’t even make it through the door. Cher and Brooke Shields made it inside, but famous singer Frank Sinatra was stuck outside the club, unable to exit his limo on the busy street.
Simon Says: Let's Party
What does the memory game Simon has to do with Studio 54? Quite a bit, actually. In fact, the launch party for the game was held at a famous nightclub in 1978. It's a little alarming to think that a children's game was launched at a place associated with so much R-rated activity, but apparently, it worked.
The manufacturers seemed to think their choice of venue was appropriate enough since all the sounds and colorful lights reminded them of the disco. They even put up a huge (4 feet) model of the game right over the dancing patrons. So trippy!
Jerry Hall Added an Air of Elegance to the Evening
Joining the ranks of the other supermodels, Jerry Hall also spent her fair share of time at Studio 54. Dressed in luxurious outfits that showed off her incredible figure, Jerry could often be found lounging on the silk couches and soaking up the attention of the male celebrities around her.
In her ‘70s’ attire, Jerry left little to the imagination. Lace, sheer bodysuits were a common choice for the model. Silky hair and an air of elegance completed her outfit. Every evening at Studio 54 was just a little bit better when Hall was in the room.
Donald and Ivana Trump Attended the Club On Opening Night
Although Donald Trump now has an entirely different set of interests and sits in the Oval Office, over 40 years ago, he was one of the first in line to engage in the party lifestyle at Studio 54. On the club’s opening night, Trump was one of the first people to arrive alongside his then-wife Ivana.
After dining at Upper West Side restaurant 'Elaine’s,' with socialite Nikki Haskell and her date, the group decided to check out what was, at the time, simply a new club. According to Haskell, the club was nearly empty when they arrived. In fact, it looked like it was still being put together.
Party Pals Keith Richards and Chuck Berry
It's not hard to imagine the conversations that took place inside the walls of Studio 54. Rock 'n' Roll pioneer Chuck Berry was also a famous patron of the infamous nightclub, and apparently, so was the Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards. Below, the two rock legends are seen laughing and chatting it up in February 1980.
Maybe the seasoned 54-year-old Chuck Berry was giving a wide-eyed 37-year-old Keith Richards some guitar-playing tips. The photo of the two of them together is a testament to the power of music and the enduring influence of Studio 54 on popular culture.
Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards Were Denied Entry
After being invited by Grace Jones, Nile Rodgers, and Bernard Edwards, the members of the band Chic arrived at Studio 54 on New Year’s Eve, 1977. Unfortunately, Jones failed to leave their names at the door, and they weren’t allowed onto the hallowed dance floor. Angry and dejected, Rodgers and Edwards returned to their apartment and started composing an angry song about their rejection.
The irate tune ultimately turned into “Le Freak,” Chic’s first number-one and biggest song of all time, which went on to become an iconic disco anthem and a tribute to the exclusivity and excesses institution. The club may be long gone, but its legacy lives on in the music, fashion, and art of the era.
Karl Lagerfeld Hosted an 18th Century Party in Studio 54
After learning of Studio 54’s ability to throw an incredible party, Karl Lagerfeld decided to host his own get-together that centered on the theme of an 18th-century ball. In line with the theme, candlelight was used as the primary source of illumination.
Attendees and staff donned powdered wigs and court dresses and waltzed across the dance floor during an evening that felt like it was right out of a movie set. In an instant, Studio 54 could transform from a ‘70s club into a grand ballroom, a feat that shocked anyone lucky enough to attend these functions.
Even First Lady Betty Ford Found Her Way to Studio 54
Rumors of immorality aside, no one could pass up the opportunity to check out Studio 54. In fact, the First Lady herself, Betty Ford, eventually found her way into the club, where she rubbed elbows with big names in entertainment, like Liza Minnelli and Elizabeth Taylor.
Dressed in sparkling disco attire, Betty Ford returned to her entertainment roots during her evening at Studio 54. A dancer in her youth, Betty relished the opportunity to show off her moves once again, forgetting about her new position in the political sphere for just one evening.
Even Yves Saint Laurent Partied Hard
Studio 54's elite guest list extended to fashion designers and stylists. In the photo below, taken on the eve of September 20, 1978, a young Yves Saint Laurent, Loulou de la Falaise, and Marina Schiano are seen entering the club for the Opium Perfume Launch party. Of course, leading the way is happy co-owner Steve Rubell.
Exactly one year later, the club would be raided by the unforgiving IRS. Today, Studio 54 is remembered not only as a legendary nightclub but also as a cultural phenomenon that continues to shape the way we think about music, fashion, and entertainment.
The Soul Legend Curtis Mayfield Makes an Appearance
Another music legend to walk through Studio 54's doors was Curtis Mayfield. The master of soul and funk, best known for scoring the soundtrack to the cult 1972 film, "Super Fly," posed in the nightclub in 1977. Judging by the huge smile on his face, Mayfield was having a great night. But we're sure the people that decided to come to the club on that particular date were having an even better one!
Studio 54's influence can still be felt in today's music and pop culture, with many contemporary artists citing the club as a major inspiration. From Lady Gaga's disco-infused album "Chromatica" to Bruno Mars' throwback style, the legacy of Studio 54 lives on
The 1978 Academy Awards at Studio 54
Studio 54 was definitely not your run-of-the-mill nightclub, and one of its many "unique" functions was to be a makeshift theater for the Academy Awards. The 1978 Prestige Academy Awards were broadcasted in the nightclub on TV screens for everyone to witness the special night. The 50th Academy Awards were the last time the famous Bob Hope would serve as a host. That year's Best Picture winner went to Woody Allen's "Annie Hall." And hey, maybe that's why he wasn't at the Oscars; he was probably watching at Studio 54.
It's safe to say that Studio 54 had a lasting impact on nightlife culture, music, and fashion. Its influence is still felt today, more than four decades after its heyday. It was a place where people went to see and be seen, to dance and forget about their troubles, and to indulge in their wildest fantasies.
Rubell Turned Someone Away For Wearing a Hat
While Rubell was picking and choosing his club attendees, his requirements got increasingly stringent. What was okay one night might not work the next, and revelers never knew if their outfit would be acceptable or offensive.
In video footage that shows Rubell turn away potential partiers, he can be heard saying to one dejected individual, “Don’t ever come here with a hat.” Did Rubell hate hats in general, or was he simply not a fan of that person’s hat? Either way, it’s a depressing reason to be turned away when you can simply remove the headwear.
One Would-Be Patron Died Trying to Sneak Into the Club
While some rejected club-goers got angry, others resolved to find their way into Studio 54 by any means necessary. People would climb down buildings and jump barbed wire fences trying to get inside, often resulting in serious injuries. One patron, however, made a fatal mistake. He decided to sneak in through an air vent, but he got stuck before he could get inside.
Unfortunately, his body was discovered in a black-tie suit that never saw the dance floor. This incident serves as a stark reminder of the extreme measures people were willing to take to pursue the Studio 54 experience.
Rubell and Schrager Almost Didn’t Have Booze for Their Opening Night
Although Rubell and Schrager poured their heart into their club, they never imagined it would become as successful. To enhance the disco theme, the two owners revamped the inside of what was once an old television studio, transforming it into a light-filled ballroom perfect for dancing. However, in all their preparation, the club owners forgot to take care of their liquor licenses.
They failed to apply in time and found that they were left without booze just a few days before the club was meant to open, eventually leading to a frantic scramble to obtain the necessary permits. Despite this hiccup, Studio 54 went on to become a cultural icon and a symbol of the decadent excesses of the 1970s.
Timothy Leary Turns On, Tunes In, and Drops Out at Studio 54
Even though it is not surprising to see Timothy Leary at a place where substances could be found at every corner, the photo below is truly a gem. Leary, a former psychologist from Harvard University, became the ultimate icon of '60s counterculture and psychedelics.
We're guessing that apart from whatever he took that night, Leary has a smile from ear to ear because he was at the post-premier party of the "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" film on March 6, 1978. The film, a musical inspired by the Beatles' album of the same name, was a celebration of the band's legacy and cultural influence, making it an event that Leary would not want to miss.
A Young Brooke Shields and Mariel Hemingway Somehow Made Their Way Into the Club
Before Brooke Shields graced the cover of Vogue, she was simply a young model looking to take advantage of everything New York City could offer. At only twelve years old, Brooke somehow made her way past the picky bouncer and onto the taboo dance floor of Studio 54. But Brooke wasn’t the only underage celebrity to sneak her way into the club.
She was joined by Mariel Hemingway, the granddaughter of the famous American author Ernest Hemingway. Together, the two young girls danced their evenings away at the nightclub far before they transformed into the beauty icons they are today.
Bette Midler Was Starstruck When She Met The Temptations
While Studio 54 was always filled with the decade’s most notable A-listers, even celebrities sometimes could get a little starstruck. After releasing one of their albums, The Temptations — one of the biggest bands in the 1970s — threw a party at Studio 54 to celebrate. The event drew a who's who of A-listers, including Bette Midler, who was already a celebrated entertainer in her own right.
Despite her own fame, Midler couldn't hide her excitement when she had the opportunity to meet The Temptations. Photographs of the encounter capture her expression of complete shock as she grasps their hands and introduces herself.
Disco Sally Loved Showing Off Her Moves
While Studio 54 was often filled with fresh faces, Sally Lippman didn’t allow the young crowd to deter her from having a good time. After her husband passed away, Sally visited Studio 54 while attempting to find some new purpose in life. Despite her old age, she immediately fell in love with the club and visited it many times in the future.
The dance moves Sally brought to Studio 54 earned her the name “Disco Sally.” She was such a popular patron that the manager granted her access whenever she decided her dancing shoes could use a night out.
Bianca Jagger and Liza Minnelli Teamed Up to Provide Entertainment
In case you haven’t figured this out yet, Studio 54 was no ordinary club. While requests from the DJ may frown upon today, Studio 54 turned their illustrious patrons into the entertainment plan. On more than one occasion, the biggest names in music stepped up to provide entertainment at Studio 54. Liza Minnelli and Bianca Jagger once performed a duet while Andy Warhol documented the experience in photos.
What most people might wait a lifetime to experience was simply another normal evening at the ‘70s disco. These unforgettable moments were just part of a typical evening at Studio 54, where guests never knew what kind of excitement they might encounter.
Dolly Parton Brought a Strong Dose of Country to the NYC Club
While Bianca Jagger made the white horse famous, Dolly Parton was the reason the animal came to Studio 54 in the first place. Desperate to make the Queen of Country comfortable, owner Steve Rubell brought in the magnificent white beast. While Dolly loved her stunning white steed, plenty of other animals also roamed the disco.
Chickens and mules wandered through the exclusive club, joining the celebrities on the dance floor or finding a bit of solace in the decorative wagon filled with hay. It may have been an NYC nightclub, but Studio 54 boasted a strong touch of country.
Warhol Gifted Rubell With a Money-Themed Sculpture
As repayment for his garbage can full of money, Andy Warhol gave Steve Rubell his own money-themed gift. When Rubell was sentenced to prison for tax evasion, Warhol presented him with a brass sculpture filled with cut-out dollar signs. While some may have thought the gift was in poor taste, it was a Warhol original.
It perfectly commemorated Rubell’s long friendship with the artist and his well-known love of money. No one could say it wasn’t personal. The gift was a testament to the personal relationship between the two men and the unique culture of Studio 54, where art, music, and money intertwined in unexpected ways.
Woody Allen and Michael Jackson Partying Together
Now, this is something you don't see every day: a neurotic, introverted Woody Allen having a drink next to Michael Jackson..at Studio 54! But that's exactly what this photo is. Taken in August of 1977, a young Woody Allen with an even younger Michael Jackson attend the Carter Burden Party at the club.
Obviously, the famous nightclub had a very strict and flashy dress code, which it evidently decided to ignore when they let Allen in while looking like that. The funniest part is that Woody was the one hosting the entire event! All this just goes to show the power and influence that Studio 54 held over the cultural elite of the 1970s.
The Basement That Became a Supper Club
The basement of Studio 54 is where the more racy, clandestine events took place. But nowadays, the walls that used to house saucy celebrity secrets have been turned into a supper club/restaurant called Feinstein’s/54 Below. The place offers a classic American menu with some interesting cocktails and nightly cabaret shows.
And, of course, the experience of being in the same room where most of the world's hottest celebrities once partied. While the space may be a far cry from its wild and scandalous past, the energy and glamour of Studio 54 still linger in the air. It's a true New York City landmark.
Rubell and Schrager Threw One Last Massive Party Before They Went to Prison
Before Rubell and Schrager left to serve their sentence for their crimes, they decided to throw a final farewell party in their renowned club. They entitled their bash “The End of Modern-Day Gomorrah” and invited 2,000 of the club’s most faithful attendees. Rubell and Schrager parted next to Liza Minnelli, Reggie Jackson, Richard Gere, and other A-listers as everyone mourned the loss of the club.
The next morning, Rubell and Schrager left straight from the club to meet the authorities, leaving Studio 54 behind forever. The club was soon sold, and the new owners tried to keep the Studio 54 legacy alive, but it was never quite the same. Today, the building still stands on West 54th Street, a landmark of New York's nightlife history and a reminder of a time when disco ruled the world.
One Night, the Club Only Served Juice and Soda
After Schrager and Rubell were caught using their illegal liquor licenses, they were forced to close down for a night. However, they refused to let that stop their fun. They opened their doors the very next evening and posted a sign outside that explained their situation. That night, Schrager and Rubell only served juice and soft drinks. Still, people arrived ready to party.
Considering the illicit activities that occurred at Studio 54, people might not have even noticed the loss of alcohol. Schrager and Rubell's risky move made headlines the next day, and the club's popularity soared even higher. The incident also brought Studio 54 under closer scrutiny from authorities, eventually leading to the club's downfall.
Nightclub Turned Theater Company
After the club was shut down in 1979 due to a series of run-ins with the law and a very serious tax evasion charge, an entrepreneur bought Studio 54. He reopened it in 1981 and sold it again in 1984. After several failed attempts by the new owners to restore the club to its former glory, they finally closed it down.
The space remained largely empty until 1998, when it was turned into the main venue for the Roundabout Theater Company. The Roundabout Theater Company invested $5.5 million to renovate the space and transform it, and they kept many of the original features, such as the balcony, the stage, and the iconic moon and spoon light fixtures.
Elton John Really Liked His Sideburns
While Elton John is known for his wild costumes and boisterous personality, the ‘70s featured a cosmetic choice for the performer that is perhaps better left forgotten. Paired with his best disco fashion, Elton also boasted dark sideburns that sat prominently on his face. While the singer has never been able to give up his sideburns completely, they look especially out of place on his younger self.
Elton, dear, it’s okay to shave your face. Trust us, those sideburns aren’t doing you any favors. Despite some questionable choices, Elton John's music and stage presence remained top-notch, and he continued to captivate audiences with his electrifying performances.
From Unemployed to Working at One of the World's Most Famous Clubs
When interviewing former Studio 54 employees, the New York Magazine spoke with Scott Taylor, who used to tend the disco's bar. According to him, he simply came in on the opening night, offered to work, and started taking care of the place.
In fact, most of his co-workers used the opening night as an excuse to party with the rest of the patrons, but Taylor was diligent enough to sweep and take out the trash, which made him pretty popular. He was so popular that at one point, when his coworkers got word of him possibly being fired, they firmly objected, demanding that he stays.
It Was Raining Couture
It seemed that Studio 54 always found ways to surprise its patrons. And it didn't stop with costumes, outrageous amounts of alcohol, and barnyard animals roaming the dancefloor. Apparently, surprises used to fall from the sky, quite literally.
The ceiling of the famous nightclub was equipped with a special net that held items that were dropped on the guests at some point during the evening. Usually, it was just party things like balloons or glitter, but there was one time (that we know of) that it was stocked with gift boxes from elite fashion brands.
The Sordid Rumors Originated In the Basement
While the dance floor focused on having a good time, the salacious rumors surrounding the club had to come from somewhere. Apparently, the truly lewd activities took place in the basement. On one of the three levels in Studio 54, the basement featured secluded corners filled with sweaty bodies. While the lower level was used for storage, security guards constantly roamed the makeshift hallways.
You don’t need security guards to watch over unmoving props, so we’ll let you draw your own conclusions about what went on down there. While the club's founders denied any wrongdoing, the basement of Studio 54 remains shrouded in mystery and speculation to this day.
Cher Was a Regular
Nestled between 8th and Broadway in New York City, Studio 54 was an escape from the outside world. For big stars like Cher, the club offered a place to be herself, free from the pressures of screaming fans and hungry paparazzi. The Goddess of Pop was a common installment at Studio 54. The laid-back, party-centric environment allowed her to blend into the background, a necessary reprieve from her regular existence in the spotlight.
Performances by renowned musicians such as Mick Jagger, Grace Jones, and Donna Summer were a regular occurrence at Studio 54. The club was not just a discotheque but also a place where art, fashion, and music collided to create a unique cultural experience.
Rubell and Schrager Decided to Create Their Own Liquor Laws
Since Rubell and Schrager knew they couldn’t expect to find any success for their new club without alcohol, they decided to work around the laws of liquor licensing. Instead of getting their own permit, the owners bought individual catering permits that filled Studio 54 with booze on a nightly basis. Unfortunately, their plan soon backfired.
The Liquor State Authorities caught on to their not-entirely-legal practice. An evening of dancing was interrupted by police, who swarmed the nightclub, arrested Rubell and Schrager, and shut down Studio 54 indefinitely. The club's days were numbered, and it closed permanently in 1980 after the owners were sentenced to prison for tax evasion.
Studio 54 Knew Something About Human Nature
Studio 54 was meant to cater to people's most basic desires, which eventually made it the success story it is now. As Schrager sees it, people haven't changed much — what they want is to socialize, interact, and be around other people. We may have fancier technology, new skyscrapers, and online communication, but that hasn't eliminated our need for human connection. .
While the hospitality and entertainment industry has changed, we as humans have not changed that much. People kept coming as long as the club saw these desires and urges. The lessons Schrager learned from Studio 54 have served him well throughout his career and continue to remind us that, at our core, we all desire the same thing: to connect with others in a meaningful way