“Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)
Studio 54 was a legendary nightclub located in Manhattan, New York City that operated from 1977 to 1986. The club’s opening night on April 26th, 1977, was a glittering affair that marked the start of a cultural phenomenon.
As the doors opened at Studio 54, on May 26, 1977 the crowd of eager party-goers flooded into the space, which was once a CBS television studio. They were greeted by a surreal and extravagant world of disco balls, glitter, and flashing lights that immediately transported them into a world of hedonism and debauchery. The space was designed by renowned theatrical set designer, Steve Rubell, who spared no expense in creating a venue that was unlike any other. The dance floor was an expansive space that could accommodate up to 2,000 people, with balconies overlooking the dance floor, and a grand VIP room that catered to the rich and famous.
The opening of Studio 54 marked the beginning of a cultural revolution. The club was a symbol of the hedonistic and carefree nature of the late 1970s, and it became an icon of popular culture. It represented a break from tradition and a rejection of the conservative values that had dominated American society for decades.
The masterminds behind Studio 54 were Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager were college roommates at Syracuse University who got into the nightclub business after their first venture, a chain of steak restaurants, failed to flourish. But before taking Manhattan by storm and becoming famous for openly and shamelessly excluding all but the most chic, famous or beautiful patrons from their establishment.
Rubell and Schrager invested about $400,000 to renovate the old CBS studio which was a giant risk.
A relatively unknown woman who deserves the lion’s share of the credit for making 54 into the celebrity playground that it became was Carmen D’Alessio, a public-relations entrepreneur in the fashion industry, whose Rolodex included names like Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli, Andy Warhol and Truman Capote. Her buzz-building turned the grand opening into a major item in the New York gossip columns, and her later efforts—like having Bianca Jagger ride a white horse into the club for her 30th birthday party—stoked the public’s fascination with Studio 54 even further. Not just the usual celebrity suspects—actors, models, musicians and athletes—but also political figures like Margaret Trudeau, and even Jackie Onassis.
We’ll never know the amount of cocaine that went up nostrils at Studio 54 – suffice it to say, or the tons of glitter dumped from the ceiling helped conceal the thin layer of wall-to-wall powder. ut we do know that hundreds of thousands of “unacceptable” New Yorkers and tri-state area (bridge and tunnel crowd) never make it past the velvet rope.
AFTER OPENING NIGHT.:
We’ll never know the amount of cocaine that went up nostrils at Studio 54 – suffice it to say, or the tons of glitter dumped from the ceiling helped conceal the thin layer of wall-to-wall powder. but we do know that hundreds of thousands of “unacceptable” New Yorkers and tri-state area (bridge and tunnel crowd) never make it past the velvet rope.
Schrager, took more of a behind-the-scenes role, but Steve Rubell basked in the glory of his newfound celebrity status. Rubell was often spotted in gay NYC clubs, and was infamous for pressuring his own bartenders and busboys to sleep with him to stay employed but still, for some reason, remained in the closet. Soon, this double lifestyle and intense drug use took its toll.
Rubell could be a very bad boss to his employees. Attribute it to his drug use and insane lifestyle if you wish, but whatever the case, it created some very disgruntled employees…. one in particular would cause the whole thing to come crashing down.
A male waiter went to the IRS and told them about Rubell and Schrager’s shady bookkeeping practices. Apparently, they had been keeping vast sums of cash in Hefty garbage bags and stowing them in the ceiling. Turns out, Rubell and Schrager had only paid $8,000 in taxes since they opened, while were making more than $75,000 per night.
Rubell hired close friend and the infamous and vile Roy Cohn to represent him and also bargained with the IRS, saying he would reveal a big secret if they’d be lenient.
The secret? Rubell claimed that President Carter’s Chief of Staff, Hamilton Jordan, had snorted cocaine in the Studio 54 basement. The allegations couldn’t be substantiated, but they made life miserable for Jordan. They brought scandal to the White House and had the FBI knocking on Jordan’s door.
In the end, Rubell and Schrager pled guilty and were sentenced to three years in prison.
On February 4, 1980 Studio 54 was over. Liza Minnelli sung “New York, New York” at the farewell party and the doors were closed.
Studio 544 reopened later in the 1980s under new management, but it just wasn’t the same. Disco was dead and it closed a short time after opening.
After serving their sentences, Rubell and Schrager amazingly rebounded and became “respectable” hotel operators – making more money than ever.
Steve Rubell died of AIDS in 1989, but Ian Schrager has kept the hotel business thriving to this day.
The opening of Studio 54 was a groundbreaking event that marked the start of a cultural phenomenon. The club’s extravagant design, exclusive door policy, and diverse clientele made it a symbol of the carefree and hedonistic nature of the late 1970s. Its influence on popular culture cannot be overstated, and its legacy continues to inspire and fascinate people to this day.