Gay History - May 1: Legendary Disco “Studio One” Opens in West Hollywood

Gay History – May 1: Legendary Disco “Studio One” Opens in West Hollywood

On May 1, 1974: “Studio One” (formerly The Factory) opens in West Hollywood. The labyrinthine establishment, one of the biggest of its kind (it has four bars, a dinner theater, a jewelry concession, and a game room), quickly establishes itself as L.A.’s premier gay nightclub, the disco to end all disco.

In the 1979 edition of the Bob Damron guidebook, during the height of the disco years, Studio One was characterized by its young crowd and entertainment, which included cabaret performances. It was called a “top super bar” 

The secret to Studio One was its specificity and excellent execution. The owner, Scott Forbes, was dubbed “Disco King” by the Los Angeles Times in a 1976 feature. He was quoted saying “Studio One was planned, designed and conceived for gay people, gay male people” (LA Times, 1976).  Forbes also fixated on the issue of “the Door,” (much like Steve Rubell and Studio 54 in NYC.) which he thought was the demise of many discos, unwelcome patrons gaining entry. This is apparently what made Studio One what it was: a sort of gay male haven.

Studio One was a large and lavish space. Pictures show huge dance spaces, large bars, and hundreds of people and throughout its history, the club has been associated with the gay rights movement. Also many celebrities graced the club either as guests or performers, especially during the late 1970s and most of the 1980s. Photos of those people were displayed in the hallway between the disco and cabaret. Including: Chita Rivera, Sylvester, Waylon & Madam,  Bernadette Peters, Ike & Tina Turner, Patti LaBelle, and Joan Rivers. And this is just a partial list.

Studio One did have it’s share of controversies. Since its opening, the club catered almost exclusively to upper-class, white gay men. And that did not go unnoticed. In 1976. The Los Angeles Times ran a story about the accusations of discrimination. , Scott Forbes doubled down on his position, stating that his nightclub simply had strict standards and that it was “probably the finest run establishment in the city as far as control of people is concerned.

Times change and disco died. On Saturday, Nov. 9, 1988 . West Hollywood bid a bittersweet farewell to Studio One

The space continued to operate under it’s original name “The Factory” until eventually it was sold for acreage.

Today there is nothing at the address but a big hole in the ground where great times were had and memories were born. It soon to become a 250 room hotel, but beware, some of the ghosts of The Factory and Studio One may still be there.

9 thoughts on “Gay History – May 1: Legendary Disco “Studio One” Opens in West Hollywood

  1. When on business trips to LA, I visited the club many many times. It indeed was legendary, with many attractive young gays there.

  2. Scott Forbes did discriminate against People of Color, women and many laborers. This to make his desired wealthier Gay male customers “comfortable” with whom was “around them”. He also pressured his young male employees for sex. His disco did well, at being an open Gay bar and supported same gender dancing. Regrettably his racism tarnished what could have been a better legacy for him.

  3. Studio One was still around in 1992. I was the light man there. It was then sold to a group from Palm springs and called AIXS later becoming The Factory.

  4. Sandy Sachs managed the club when it became Axis & with Nate Goller, who owned the building, opened the Factory with the old Backlot as Ultrasuede. I designed a completely new interior & a new gigantic sound system was installed. Just before it was torn down in ’19 there was a fantastic 20th Anniversary Last Dance. We had a lot of fun…

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