By Anisa Arsenault
It was the place to be in 1977 and it hasn’t been the same since. The old Studio 54 is now synonymous with the New York City party scene during its decadent days.
Imagine seeing the hottest, most influential artists and celebrities in one spot. At Studio 54, you could see Bianca Jagger riding in on a white horse, Andy Warhol and Brooke Shields conversing, and Diana Ross serenading club owners.
The founders Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager reinvented the night club scene for all of Manhattan. The red velvet rope New Yorkers hate to see, originally started here at 254 West 54th Street.
It was a scene if you got inside.
On Valentine’s Day, the fire marshal tried to shut down Studio 54 after the staff covered the dance floor with candy hearts. On New Year’s, workers covered the dance floor with four-inches of glitter.
“Everything was free and naïve and different,” former bartender Salvatore DeFalco told the New York Times. He said the nights at Studio 54 were full of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. Or more often, sex, drugs, and disco. Bartender Miestorm has frequently talked about snorting coke with Andy Warhol.
Studio 54 rolled in the money.
“The doormen, the people who dealt with money, the technical people handling sets in the back, they didn’t party. We were all there to work really long hours. And we all made really good money.” Rubell and Schrager made especially good money; they were arrested for pocketing $2.5 million, and eventually imprisoned for tax evasion.
Following the rules was not at the core of Studio 54, but it didn’t really need to be. The celebrity patrons kept coming back. Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone, and Richard Gere were among some of the elite who bore witness to Diana Ross crooning to the owners. Woody Allen and Michael Jackson got away with dodging the club’s high-end dress code. Emerging artists from Madonna to Run-DMC to Wham! performed at the nightclub before their more widespread successes.
Despite the famous clientele, Ian Schrager told New York Magazine that the club “really wasn’t elitist. It was just a couple of guys from Brooklyn rolling up the rug and saying, ‘Let’s have a party!’”. When asked about co-owner Steve Rubell, Schrager commented, “I’ll never get over that. I’ll never have that kind of friend again. We didn’t even have a partnership agreement.”
An auction in January 2013 stirred up fond, though probably hazy memories for all involved with Studio 54. Notable items auctioned off included a guest book, newspaper clippings, letters, and artwork, much of which belonged to A-listers who partied at the nightclub. The highest selling item was a Polaroid snapped by Andy Warhol himself, going for $10,000.
Maybe that’s the going rate for evidence of the nights too good to remember.