From Cher to Tennessee Williams, Andy Warhol and Grace Jones, Studio 54 was the place to be during the late seventies.
Other than celebrity sightings, sex and open drug use was also rampant, all of which combined to create a hedonistic nightlife playground that hasn’t been replicated ever since.
Opened by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell in 1977, they converted an opera house and CBS television studio in Midtown Manhattan into a nightclub like no other, reports CNN:
Schrager describes the setting as mayhem, where ordinary people could party unreservedly alongside the biggest names of the time. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Arnold Schwarzenegger or O.J. Simpson dancing in the throng, or Diana Ross and Liza Minelli performing onstage. Brooke Shields and Paloma Picasso preened for newspaper cameras, while unexpected attendees like Coretta Scott King passed through the club’s burgundy lobby. Alec Baldwin briefly worked as a waiter. The club’s legacy has attained a near-mythical status.
40 years later, Schrager himself has collated photographs, memories and excerpts from his personal scrapbook into a nearly 400-page coffee table book for publishing house Rizzoli.
It’s a sharp turn for Schrager, who “spent years refusing interviews about his Studio 54 days, largely due to the shame he felt about his 1980 conviction and jail time, alongside Rubell, for tax evasion”:
Closure is also why he sought and was granted a pardon by President Obama in January of 2017. “That’s all part of the same thing,” he adds.
His book, “Studio 54”, shines a light on the club’s wilder days. Schrager and Rubell, who died in 1989, gave it up in 1981:
Early in the hefty tome, billionaire businessman David Geffen notes that Studio 54 “came after birth control and before AIDS,” allowing space for the freewheeling sexual experimentation that has become synonymous with 1970s decadence.
Let’s take a look at the decadence that was Studio 54 in pictures:
Model Jerry Hall, Blondie frontwoman Debbie Harry and Paloma Picasso
Parisian cabaret producer Peter Jackson staged an elaborate performance featuring 30 mopeds
“The selection process had absolutely nothing to do with wealth, race, creed, color,” Schrager says, likening who got in to curating the guest list for a memorable dinner party. “There was a feel or a vibe that they’re here to party. They’re going to do something to make the evening great. They’re not going to be dead weight.”
Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein and Brooke Shields pose with Studio 54 co-founder Steve Rubell (right)
Guests arrived one New Year’s Eve to find the floor covered in three tons of silver glitter; one Halloween, a cast of dwarfs dined on Cornish hens inside a Hieronymus Bosch-inspired vignette.
Invitations were elaborate: Cupid’s arrows, inflatable hearts, jars of confetti. (“Black confetti,” Schrager specifies. “Chic. Good signal to cool people.”)
Costumed entertainers at a 1978 poster hosted by designer Karl Lagerfeld
Dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov with Bianca and Mick Jagger at Bianca’s 1977 birthday party
Bianca Jagger riding through the club on a white horse in 1977, Schrager says, actually happened as people retell it.
“It wasn’t planned for Bianca to get on the horse,” he says, adding they had intended for it to be ridden solely by a nude model posing as Lady Godiva, led by another nude model in painted-on clothes. Press photographers invited to capture celebrity guests sent the image far and wide. “That was the mother of all photo ops,” Schrager adds.
It also began what would be a series of live animals brought in for special occasions, including doves for Jagger’s birthday, livestock at a party for Dolly Parton, an elephant that posed for photos with Linda Blair, and, in December of 1977, a leopard and a panther. Included in the book is a letter from New York City Department of Health reminding Schrager and Rubell that wild animals in bars violated two different health codes.
Andy Warhol shares a moment with Lou Reed
Costumed revelers enjoy the feast at a 1978 party for Casablanca Records, who once counted Kiss and Donna Summer on their roster
A young Michael Jackson
Talk about disco and debauchery.
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