The studio that defined an era

The Studio


defined an era

Because the space was used before as a TV studio, the name of the club should initially have been Studio, but because it was called Studio 52 CBS and was located on the street 54, someone invented the name Studio 54.

When you combine an expert photographer with the most dubious, luxuriant and hedonistic gorgeous people in New York in the 1970s, you get some extraordinary pictures.
Studio 54 images are something common today, that many documentaries and biographies have been made about this super club, but some of Tod Papageorge’s photos lead them to another level. They are no longer just a party, but some strange dionysiac worship made up of weird, champagne and cocaine stars who walk through the club to their costume and prom dresses

Although the empire of Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager (founded on 16th of April 1977) lasted only 33 months, New York newspapers were saying that Studio 54 had made $7 million in its first year.

What is now a Broadway theatre used to be the emblematic hot spot of ‘70s disco nightlife. Then a nightclub, Studio 54 opened its doors to high society and counterculture (Rollerena), the ultra fashionable (Halston) and outré drag queens. Icons from the art and entertainment world (Warhol, Lisa Minelli), heterosexual and every version of gender fluidity, a-list stars like Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Cher, Grace Jones, everyone was there, in the extreme version, it was heady.

Liza Minnelli, Bianca Jagger, Andy Warhol, Halston
“Women were thriving in terms of their sexuality and it was also a great time to be gay. There was no stigma inside Studio 54”
Myra Scheer, Assistant to owner Steve Rubell

The club stood as a symbol for the extravagance of the ‘70s disco scene, lest we forget when Mick Jagger’s (now ex-) wife Bianca memorably entered the discotheque on horseback for her 1977 birthday bash.

Bianca Jagger’s 30th birthday at Studio 54, 1977

“The key of the success of Studio 54 is that it’s a dictatorship at the door and a democracy on the dance floor,” club regular Andy Warhol once observed, and Steve Rubell ruled the velvet ropes with an iron fist. To achieve the perfect blend of guests for his nightly party, he often stood on a stepstool outside, selecting members of the crowd for admittance with a subjectivity that bordered on heartless. “It’s like mixing a salad,” he explained, “or casting a play.”

Steve Rubbel (left) and Ian Schrager (right) at Studio 54

Just before they were arrested, Rubell and Schrager threw one last bash, billed as “The End of Modern-Day Gomorrah.” This final blowout was intimate compared to most nights, with just 2,000 of Studio 54’s most faithful, including Richard Gere, Halston, Reggie Jackson, Andy Warhol, Lorna Luft and Sylvester Stallone. Diana Ross serenaded the owners from the DJ booth, and Liza Minnelli sang “New York, New York.” Rubell, donning a Sinatra-like fedora, piped in with a spirited rendition of “My Way,” which played on repeat during the night, as did Gloria Gaynor’s Studio 54 anthem “I Will Survive.” From a mechanical platform high above the dance floor, Rubell addressed his guests with an emotional speech. “Bianca was hugging him, and he was saying, ‘I love you people! I don’t know what I’m going to do without Studio!’ And everyone was crying and weeping, remembered one in attendance.

Diana Ross at Studio 54, 1980

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