Studio 54 What went on
Celebrity news A new doco delves into the scandalous history of the notorious nightclub
Elton John, Cher and Michael Jackson were just a few of the celebrity guests who frequented Studio 54 in its heyday – and now a new documentary is delving into the sex, drugs and disco that the notorious New York hotspot was famous for.
Opened in April 1977 by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, Studio 54 was instantly a hit. Just some of the famous faces who were there that night included Donald Trump and his first wife Ivana, as well as Cher and a 12-year-old Brooke Shields. And it wasn’t long before a huge number of A-listers followed their lead.
“I like the atmosphere of Studio 54,” said Michael Jackson, who used to go to the club with Brooke. “It’s where you come when you want to escape. You just go wild.”
Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards described the popular venue as a “magnet”.
“No matter what you were doing earlier, by midnight you found yourself at Studio 54… which is lucky foror me because it’s where I met a certain Patti Hansen [his wife of 39 years]!” ”
John Travolta, David Bowie, Elton John, Sylvester Stallone, , Elizabeth Taylor, Diana Ross, Dolly Parton, Mick and Bianca Jagger and Andy Warhol were also among the regulars during g the 33 memorable months the club’s doors were open.
UNLIMITED SEX & DRUGS
“You’d stumble into half-hidden rooms filled with a few people who seemed to be sweating because of something they had just done, or were about to do,” says model and singer Grace Jones, who was known for performing at Studio 54 naked – with the occasional addition of rollerskates!
There was also a room she described as “a place of secrets and secretions, the in-crowd and inhalations, sucking and snorting”.
While celebrities loved the club because it was the place
to be, iit was also somewhere they could do whatever they wanted without worrying about getting caught. Booze was flowing, drugs were taken openly and it wasn’t unusual to witness couples – or groups – having sex in a dark corner of the room. Steve Rubell was known to wear a long coat with the pockets packed full of drugs to distribute to special guests, and some celebrities would even have gifts of cocaine waiting in the limos sent to transport them to the club. Bbut as Studio 54’s reputation grew, so did the desire to get into the hippest spot in Manhattan. Countless people were turned away at the door, and some resorted to drastic measures. One man was even found dead inside an air ven after becoming trapped there during an attempt to sneak in.
CELEBRITIES CEL GALORE
Celebrities Cele were important to keeping Studio 54 popular, but that didn’t mean they all got VIP treatment. While Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were welcomed into the club, other members of the Rolling Stones had to pay their way in.
Nevertheless, it was a place of acceptance, particularly for the LGBTQ community, and many people came to forget about their worries. Liza Minnelli said, “That place made all thee troubles of the day disappear.”
Studio 54 soon became synonym with hedonism, drugs and debauchery, and Ian and Steve’s success was undeniable.. But it wasn’t long beforee it all came crashing down around them.
The club faced problems right from its opening and was closed during its first month for failing to have a liquor licence. It reopened the following night serving only soft drink and fruit juice – but a bustling crowd showed up just the same.
However, it was in 1978 that thee owners found themselves in serious hot water after making the mistake of boasting about their massive profits. Steve declared Studio 54 had made $9 million during its first year, adding that “only the Mafia does better”.
It wasn’t long before the IRS raided the club and Ian and Steve were arrested for skimming $3 million off their earnings. They were both sentenced to three-anda-half years in prison for tax evasion and given a $26,140 fine.
Keen to have one last hurrah before their jail time began in February 1980, they threw an extravagant final party with Diana Ross performing and
Richard Gere, Ryan O’neal and Jack Nicholson among the guests. The club was sold several months later for $6.2 million.
Ian and Steve were released from prison after 13 months and Steve died in 1989 from an Aids-related illness. Ian, now 71, received a full pardon from President Barack Obama in 2017. And after years of keeping quiet, he has finally decided to break his silence on the nightclub’s decadent days with the Studio 54 documentary that premiered at Sundance earlier this year.
It’s been more than four decades since the club first opened, but it’s clear the bright lights of Studio 54 will never fully die out.
‘It’s where you come when you want to escape. You just go wild’
Goldie Hawn & Elton John Patrons queued for hours to get in.