Studio 54: A nostalgic trip to glitter and disco

For many people, disco was seen as an escape, and the earliest discotheques provided a sanctuary. One of those world famous discotheques is Studio 54. The nightclub that was located at 254 West 54th Street, between Eight Avenue and Broadway in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The building, (originally the Gallo Opera House) opened in 1927, the name of the building changed a bunch of times, but we all know it as Studio 54. The founders (Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager) of the club created an unique dance club that became famous for its celebrity guest lists, restrictive entry policies (you needed to look good and have great style), and open drug use. Rubell and Schrager spent thousand of dollars on lightning but also kept many of the theatres character

End of the first era 

In December 1978, Rubell was quoted in the New York newspapers as saying that Studio 54 had made $7 million in its first year and “only the Mafia made more money”. This got the attention of the IRS. Shortly thereafter, the nightclub was raided and Rubell and Schrager were arrested for skimming $2.5 million.Studio 54 closed with a final party in February 1980, when Diana Ross and Liza Minnelli serenaded Rubell and Schrager. Ryan O’NealFarrah FawcettMariel HemingwayJocelyn WildensteinRichard GereGia CarangiJack NicholsonReggie Jackson, and Sylvester Stallone were among the guests that night. Schrager and Rubell pleaded guilty to tax evasion and spent 13 months in prison. On January 17, 2017, Schrager received a presidential pardon from President Barack Obama

Cultural Impact 

In the late 1970s, Studio 54 was one of the best-known nightclubs in the world, and it played a formative role in the growth of disco music and nightclub culture in general. Several franchises, notably in Las Vegas, have sprung up around the country. Additionally, multiple works of art, entertainment, and media refer to or are associated with the nightclub. Examples include:

  • Fiorucci, an Italian fashion shop formerly located on East 59th Street, became known in the late 1970s as the “daytime Studio 54”.
  • Casablanca Records released a compilation album of disco music, A Night at Studio 54, in 1979; it peaked at No. 21.
  • 54, a movie about the disco, was released in 1998.
  • In 2011, Sirius XM launched Studio 54 Radio, a satellite radio station featuring classic disco and dance tracks from the 1970s to the 2000s, hosted by original doorman Marc Benecke and Myra Scheer featuring testimonials from the people connected to the club. It originally debuted at channel 15 and was moved to channel 54 in 2013.
  • In 2018, Studio 54, a 98-minute documentary by Matt Tyrnauer, reached both the Tribeca and Sundance film festivals before being screened at select theaters. This film has never-seen footage of the club as well as interviews with Ian Schrager.
  • In 2019, Studio 54 became the theme for mutiple collections from fashion and cosmetics brands, including Michael Kors and NARS Cosmetics. The collections took inspiration from the club’s glamorous heyday and showcased the iconic “54” logo.

Fun Fact: 

Event planner Robert Isabell had four tons of glitter dumped in a four-inch layer on the floor of Studio 54 for a New Year’s Eve party. Owner Ian Schrager said it was like “standing on stardust”, and it left glitter that could be found months later in attendees’ clothing and homes.