Studio 54 was a popular New York nightclub from 1977 until 1981 when it was sold by founders and creators Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager.
It continued to operate as a nightclub until 1991 by other owners. Located at 254 West 54th Street in Manhattan, New York City, the space was originally the Gallo Opera House, opening in 1927, after which it changed names several times, eventually becoming CBS radio and television Studio 52.
Since November 1998 it has been a venue for the Roundabout Theatre Company and is still called Studio 54, but is no longer a nightclub. A separate restaurant and nightclub, called 54 Below, operates in the basement of the famed venue.
The scene (1970s)
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.
Frequent regulars at Studio 54 included Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli, Bianca Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor, Halston,
Mick Jagger and Bianca Jagbger
Grace Jones, Grease premiere party, with Olivia Newton-John and Grace Jones, 1978.
Keith Richards , James Brown , John Belushi.
Tina Turner, Divine, Margaret Trudeau, Sylvia Miles, Francesco Scavullo, Truman Capote, Margaux Hemingway, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Diana Ross,
Performers at Studio 54 during its first few years of operation included Halston
Grace Jones, Donna Summer, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Gloria Gaynor, Sylvester, Amii Stewart, Stephanie Mills, The Ritchie Family, The Village People, Anita Ward, Two Tons o’ Fun, Jocelyn Brown, France Joli, Cheryl Lynn, Jean Carne, Claudja Barry, Klaus Nomi and Linda Clifford.
End of the first era
In December 1978 Rubell was quoted in the New York newspapers as saying that 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.
Studio 54 closed with a final party on February 4, 1980, when Diana Ross personally serenaded Rubell and Schrager. Ryan O’Neal, Mariel Hemingway, Jocelyn Wildenstein, Richard Gere, Gia Carangi, Jack Nicholson, Reggie Jackson, and
Sylvester Stallone were among the guests that night. Schrager and Rubell pleaded guilty to tax evasion and spent 13 months in prison. It was the first time anyone had ever been prosecuted for a one-year tax evasion.
In 1981, Rubell and Schrager sold the building, but opted to keep a lease. Later that year, the building was sold to Mark Fleischman with Rubell and Schrager staying on as consultants for six months afterward.
Studio 54 reopened on September 12, 1981, with a guest list of Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein, Cary Grant, Lauren Hutton, Gloria Vanderbilt, Mark Gastineau, Gina Lollobrigida, and Brooke Shields. Billy Amato’s “Z100/WPLJ” Saturday Night radio parties and Michael Fesco’s “Sunday’s at the Studio” artists who performed at the time, Madonna, Wham!, Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, Culture Club, Lime, Spandau Ballet, 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. In the 1980s many legendary freestyle music artists performed at the club such as Noel Pagan, Nocera, Cynthia, Coro, Tony Moran, India, TKA, Black Riot, Fascination, Sweet Sensation, Pajama Party, Johnny O, Hanson & Davis, and many others. Radio stations such as 92 KTU, HOT-103, and HOT-97 would broadcast each live event for these freestyle music artists.