Stu­dio 54 What went on

Celebrity news A new doco delves into the scan­dalous his­tory of the no­to­ri­ous night­club

Woman’s Day (Australia) - - Contents -

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.


“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 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.

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