Studio 54


Locations – Manhattan
Studio 54

The Idea: White Court Owned Nightclub/Disco
The Aspect: The Party Never Ends
The Face(s): Steve Rubell (White Court Owner)
Studio 54 is a highly popular discotheque, located at 254 West 54th Street in Manhattan. It was originally the Gallo Opera House, opening in 1927, after which it changed names several times, eventually becoming a CBS radio and television studio. In 1977 it became the legendary nightclub, Studio 54.

Carmen D’Alessio, a public relations agent for Valentino, encouraged Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, who were operating the Enchanted Garden in Queens, to buy the theatre. D’Alessio had hosted parties at the Queens venue, for which she was profiled in Newsweek magazine. She introduced Rubell and Schrager to many of the socially prominent figures who later became regulars at Studio 54. D’Alessio helped arrange a pre-opening dinner with Andy Warhol, Halston, and Calvin Klein. In 1977 the building was purchased and renamed for its street address, 254 West 54th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue.

The nightclub was founded by four equal partners: Steven Rubell, Ian Schrager, Tim Savage, and Jack Dushey. They operated the company as Broadway Catering Corp. Another partner, Richard DeCourcey, was present until September 1977.

Within a month of opening, the New York State Liquor Authority raided Studio 54 for selling liquor without a license, and closed it. The owners of the nightclub said the incident was a “misunderstanding”. The next night the club reopened, serving fruit juice and soda instead of liquor. Prior to the raid, the nightclub had been using daily “caterers’ permits”, which enabled the nightclub to serve alcohol but were intended for weddings or political events. The State had denied the daily permit for the night and raided the nightclub. The nightclub had been using these permits while waiting for its liquor license to be processed.

Among the many celebrities present during opening night: Michael Jackson, Mick, Bianca Jagger, Rick James, Liza Minnelli, Jerry Hall, Diana Vreeland, Halston, Margaux Hemingway, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Salvador Dali, Brooke Shields, Francesco Scavullo, Janice Dickinson, Cher, Martha Graham, Deborah Harry, Robin Leach, Donald and Ivana Trump, Rick Hilton, Kathy Richards. Some celebrities, including Warren Beatty, Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Henry Winkler, and Frank Sinatra were unable to get in, in part due to Studio 54’s doorman. The nightclub held around 700 patrons who paid an $8 cover charge to get in each night.

Studio 54 was operated by the flamboyant, publicly visible Rubell and his retiring silent partner Schrager. Rubell became widely known for his door policy, mixing beautiful “nobodies” with glamorous celebrities. Alongside Rubell, doorman Marc Benecke became a fixture on the scene selecting and admitting people to the club.

“Studio”, as it came to be called, was notorious for the hedonism that occurred within it; the balconies were known for sexual encounters, and drug use was rampant. The wall behind the dance floor was decorated with a wall sculpture of a Man in the Moon that included an animated cocaine spoon. Michael Fesco presented “Sundays at the Studio.”

Event planner Robert Isabell had four tons of glitter dumped in a four-inch layer on the floor of Studio 54 for a New Year’s Eve party, which owner Ian Schrager described as like “standing on stardust” and left glitter that could be found months later in their clothing and homes
In December of 1978 Rubell was quoted in the New York newspapers as saying the Studio 54 had made $7 million in its first year and that “only the Mafia made more money.” Shortly thereafter the nightclub was raided and Rubell and Schrager were arrested for skimming $2.5 million. After the arrests Rubell accused Jimmy Carter’s White House Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan of snorting cocaine in the basement. A grand jury met 19 times and interviewed 33 witnesses before concluding that Rubell’s testimony was hearsay and not reliable enough to file charges.

Studio 54 closed with a final party called “The End of Modern-day Gomorrah”, on February 4, 1980. Diana Ross, Ryan O’Neal, Mariel Hemingway, Jocelyn Wildenstein, Richard Gere, Gia Carangi, Jack Nicholson, Reggie Jackson, and Sylvester Stallone were among the guests that night. New York lawyer Gary P. Naftalis represented Schrager successfully in the ensuing tax-evasion prosecution. After the nightclub’s closing, cocaine and money were found in its walls. Schrager and Rubell were found guilty of tax evasion and spent 13 months in prison.

During 1981, Mark Fleischman and Stanley Tate took over management of Studio 54, while Rubell and Schrager were in prison, and Studio 54 reopened on September 12, 1981. That night’s guest list consisted of Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein, Cary Grant, Lauren Hutton, Gloria Vanderbilt, Mark Gastineau, Gina Lollobrigida, and Brooke Shields. Emerging artists at the time, Madonna, Wham!, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Menudo, and Run-DMC would perform at the club, before going on to future success. KISS held a concert at the club in 1982 that was broadcast via satellite to the Sanremo Festival in Italy. During 1985, heavy metal groups Slayer, Venom and Exodus filmed a video at Studio 54 called Ultimate Revenge for Disco.

After serving his prison sentence, Rubell took over sole proprietorship of Studio, and has been running it ever since. It remains the place to be and continues to do a huge business. Crowds gather nightly outside its doors begging for the chance to get in and the attendee list of notables continues to grow.

Rubell is in fact, a White Court Vampire, a scion of the Raith Family and member of House Howe, and Studio is often frequented by members of both families. He also has strong ties to the Winter Court Fae, and it is a rare occasion indeed when there are not members of that court mingling amongst the partying throngs which crowd Studio 54.

Studio 54

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