Studio 54 was the 20th Century's most famous nightclub in the world, so much that in contributed to the evolution of disco music and nightclub culture in general. It was located at 254 West 54th Street, between Eighth Avenue and Broadway in New York City.
The building had been a theater/soundstage and in 1977 Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager transformed it into a nightclub and called it Studio 54. It took six weeks to convert the theater into a nightclub before its grand opening on April 26, immediately becoming the epicenter of nightlife in New York City, and the world.
One of the things that set Studio 54 apart was its velvet rope, behind which hundreds of wannabes waited, hoping to be chosen to be allowed inside the highly exclusive club. It wasn't that the doormen, or Rubell himself, only wanted the rich and the famous to be included; it was that they wanted a different mixed-up crowd, and they knew how to select it.
But getting in didn't guarantee getting to know the whole scene, there was a very exclusive side to Studio 54. Some celebrities had a little more clout, and were welcomed to Rubell's Basement Wonderland below the dance floor, where they could have fun without worrying about the paparazzi. The Dungeons, as some called them, not unlike the basement belonging to a mansion, had a cavernous, unglamorous look, accidentally decorated with pieces from past and future parties. It was also down here that the privileged tribe indulged in their decadent desires.
The Dungeons most likely got the name because of the maze like structure that would take you through different compartments where people would be doing all kind of unseen things. Security discreetly patrolled these "VIP" areas, getting rid of uninvited characters
In December 1978, Rubell made the mistake of mentioning that Studio 54 had made millions of dollars in its first year and that "only the Mafia made more money". This got the attention of the IRS. Not much later, the nightclub was raided and Rubell and Schrager were arrested for tax evasion.
On February 2, 1980 Studio 54 celebrated the closing with a final party with guests who included Diana Ross, Liza Minnelli, Ryan O'Neal, Farrah Fawcett, Mariel Hemingway, Richard Gere, Gia Carangi, Jack Nicholson, Reggie Jackson, and Sylvester Stallone.
After achieving early success beyond their wildest imaginings, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager came close to having a great deal of power only to crash and burn. Schrager and Rubell pleaded guilty to tax evasion and spent 13 months in prison.
Multiple works of art, entertainment, and media refer to or are associated with the nightclub including the film 54 directed by Mark Christopher. Starring Ryan Phillippe, Salma Hayek, Neve Campbell, and Mike Myers as Steve Rubell.
But despite the drugs, the deaths, and the corruption that eventually shuttered the club, the place had such a magic and it is so impossible to recreate in a modern day world, that it will always have a place in books, photo collections and memoirs. That magic is still celebrated today, the Party isn't over yet.
March 25, 2020