What ac­tu­ally hap­pened in­side Stu­dio 54

The bro­mance be­hind leg­endary nightclub Stu­dio 54 makes for a sur­pris­ingly af­fect­ing doc

Esquire (UK) - - Contents -

We all know some­thing about Stu­dio 54. Prob­a­bly you’ve seen pho­tos of Andy Warhol, Tru­man Capote, Mick Jag­ger and Grace Jones lolling about on the so­fas at the leg­endary nightclub on Man­hat­tan’s Up­per West Side. Or you’ve seen that one with Bianca Jag­ger on a horse.

You might even know that it was cre­ated by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, the lat­ter of whom now owns a slew of lux­ury ho­tels across the world. But what

you might not know, and direc­tor

Matt Tyr­nauer’s en­gross­ing new doc­u­men­tary re­veals, is that it was a nightlife leg­end that was founded on glam­our and greed, yes, but also on a very rare kind of friend­ship.

Both born in Brook­lyn, Rubell and Schrager met when they be­came fra­ter­nity broth­ers at Syra­cuse Univer­sity, where Schrager stud­ied law and Rubell fi­nance (from what hap­pened later, it seems they may not have had too firm a grasp of ei­ther). Hav­ing cut their teeth putting on elab­o­rate bar mitz­vahs, they de­cided to try their luck with a ven­ture in Man­hat­tan in a dis­used TV stu­dio. Thanks to an im­pres­sive level of re­search and chutz­pah, in 1977 they opened what would be­come — and has in fact re­mained — the most fa­mous nightclub in the world.

Tyr­nauer’s film, with its puls­ing disco sound­track and deeply knowl­edge­able talk­ing heads — every­one from the club’s feared door­man Marc Be­necke to Schrager him­self — gives a vivid sense of just how fun a night at 54 must have been (if you could get in, of course) with all the mod­els, ec­centrics, celebri­ties and stim­u­lants float­ing around; as one in­ter­vie­wee has it, “the amount of drugs was pro­found”. It also sug­gests why, in the wake of Water­gate and Viet­nam, and be­fore the Aids epi­demic, its ex­is­tence was pos­si­ble, per­haps even nec­es­sary.

But more af­fect­ing still is the por­trait of Schrager and Rubell’s friend­ship, and what oc­curred when the or­dure hit the fan.

Which it did, in epic quan­ti­ties, and largely brought on them­selves; if you don’t know the story we won’t spoil it here, other than to say that nar­cotics, fraud and pri­son all played a part. And yet through it all, the in­tro­verted Schrager and the larger-thanlife Rubell, who died in 1989 from Aid­sre­lated com­pli­ca­tions, man­aged to sus­tain a friend­ship that was stead­fast.

Stu­dio 54 is out on 15 June

Night peo­ple: Liza Min­nelli, Bianca Jag­ger, Andy Warhol and Hal­ston hold courtat Stu­dio 54, 1978

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