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Gay History - April 26, 1977: Studio 54 Opens in NYC

Gay History – April 26, 1977: Studio 54 Opens in NYC

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On this day in 1977, crowds gathered outside 254 West 54th Street in New York City waiting and hoping for a chance to enter what would soon become the global epicenter of the disco craze and the most famous nightclub in the world: Studio 54,.

The masterminds behind Studio 54 were Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, 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 sunk about $400,000 to renovate the old CBS studio which was a giant risk.

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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.

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We’ll never know the amount of cocaine that went up nostrils at Studio 54 – suffice it to say, the tons of glitter dumped from the ceiling helped conceal the thin layer of wall-to-wall powder.  While blue-collar Americans stood in line to never make it past the velvet rope, the popular people snorted and cavorted under big sparkly disco balls.  

via GIPHY

Ian 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 and get ahead, but still, for some reason, remained in the closet.  Soon, this double lifestyle and intense drug use took its toll.

Rubell could be a real dick to his employees.  Attribute it to his drug use and insane lifestyle if you wish, but whatever the case, it created some 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 vilest closet case lawyer Roy Cohn to represent him and also bargained with the IRS, saying he would reveal a big secret if they’d be lenient.

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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.

Studio 54 was over.  Liza Minnelli sung “New York, New York” at the farewell party and the doors were closed.  It reopened in the 1980s under new management, but it just wasn’t the same.  Disco was dead.

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.

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First Look Film Review: Kill Your Darlings by Lisa Derrick

Kill Your Darlings

Kill Your Darlings, the directorial debut from John Krokidas, swiftly draws us into the creation of the Beat movement and the murder which thrust Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, and Jack Kerouac onto the path of literary and cultural revolution. Daniel Radcliffe stars as Allen Ginsberg, whose freshman year at Columbia begins as his mother’s fragile mental health deteriorates.

While the film takes some liberties with the libertine set’s involvement in the murder of David Kammerer, a compatriot of Burrough’s who was enamored with Ginsberg’s friend/crush Lucien Carr, the taut, painful coming age story lays bare the era’s anti-Semitism and homophobia, blowing apart the stultifying academic and social mores that the Beats–who originally dubbed themselves the New Vision–sought to overthrow. (It is worth noting that many cultural forces that cause change have sprung from the death of one of a specific circle: Stu Sutcliffe and Brian Jones come to mind–the energies unleashed postmortem propel societal change forward. Freaky? Makes me go all Golden Bough/Wicker Man). And Kammerer’s  murder was the explosion that thrust the Beats into their creative maelstrom.

Still, despite the shift of certain facts and chronologies, Kill Your Darlings–which takes its title from a quote attributed to William Faulkner, who repurposed it from Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch’s On the Art of Writing (1916)

Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it–whole-heartedly–and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings

–seduces and inspires with language, camera, production design, and the force of the actors’ talent. The ecstatic scenes in a jazz club, Ginsberg’s fevered writings and yearnings for Carr, a library break-in, Kerouac’s home life, and the collision of sex, death and drugs at the film’s climax, all unfurl in a passionate vision .

At the start, and throughout the film, Carr’s murder of Kammerer weighs heavily. Kammerer is in love with Carr, and Carr is dependent on him to write his papers for school, as well as possibly for his life force. Perhaps Carr has drained Kammerer of his own originality and taken the older man’s ideas of literary revolution as his own, that concept is left bubbling beneath the surface. Carr is a tortured young man with ideas he cannot express and he turns to Ginsberg to help him shatter the prison walls of convention (and he hopes, prison).  Carr seeks new sensations, new words, new worlds, constantly pushing and luring Ginsberg to more and more dangerous adventures, then cajoling and manipulating him into writing his defense statement.

Played by Dane DeHaan, Lucien Carr is a young, half-formed Lucifer, damned forever, capable of getting others to do for him close to,  but never perfectly, what he wants, and is unable to do himself. (In real life, Carr served 18 months  in a reformatory after claiming an “honor killing,” that is, the mid-20th century heterosexual self defense against an obsessed homosexual, to use the terms of that time; he spent the rest of his life as an editor at UPI, an appropriate end).

The characters of Kill Your Darlings embrace sex, drugs, thrills, and emotional, psychological and physical violence as means to liberation, to break the circle. Breaking the circle, disrupting the cycle of life, is a theme that recurs throughout Kill Your Darlings, drawn from Carr’s fascination with William Butler Yeats’ essays in automatic writing,  A Vision (thus the name of Carr’s nascent literary movement, New Vision) And with Kammerer’s murder, Lucien Carr did break the circle, the circle of friends, the cycle of life. The New Vision circle  reformed as the Beats, fiercely birthing the counterculture, and within that restructured shape shattered the literary and societal norms through to this day.

While director/producer and co-writer (with Austin Bunn) John Krokidas told the Hollywood Reporter:

I want young audiences to know that the world is theirs and they can make their stamp. It’s time for them to start their own revolution

Hopefully it will come without circle-shattering traumas like that which ended Kammerer’s tormented life.

Kill Your Darlings, rated R, opens October 18. Starring Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg; Dane DeHaan as Lucien Carr; Michael C. Hall as David Kammerer;  Ben Foster as William Burroughs; Jack Huston as Jack Kerouac; David Cross as Lewis Ginsberg; Jennifer Jason Leigh as Naomi Ginsberg; Elizabeth Olsen as Edie Parker; Kyra Sedgwick as Marian Carr.

Kill Your Darlings is scheduled to release on October 18th nationwide.

 

Reprinted with the permission of the lovely and talented Lisa Derrick of LaFiga

L.A. Coroner Releases Whitney Houston’s Cause Of Death: Accidental Drowning And Cocaine Use

The Los Angeles coroner has issued his report: 

Whitney Houston’s death was caused by accidental drowning, cocaine ingestion and heart disease, according to a preliminary report issued today by the Los Angeles County coroner’s office. Marijuana, anti-anxiety drug Xanax, muscle relaxant Flexeril and over-the-counter allergy medication Benadryl were also found in the singer’s blood, but those substances did not contribute to her death, the report states. No trauma or foul play is suspected, and a final report is expected within two weeks.

Still so sad whatever the cause of her death might have been.

We sincerely hope that Whitney now has peace she didn’t have on this earth.

You will be missed

BREAKING Non News – Ted Haggard: I Am Bisexual and Used The Crystal Meth…..No Shit

Hypocritical, scandal plagued,  tele-christomanic Ted Haggard in a profile in GQ makes the non-stunning announcement that he’s “bi-sexual”, snorted the crystal meth, and Mike Rogers the brave escort who blew the whistle on the hypocrital closet case did indeed jerk him off.

“I think that probably, if I were 21 in this society, I would identify myself as a bisexual.” But, he told GQ’s Kevin Roose: “I’m 54, with children, with a belief system, and I can have enforced boundaries in my life. Just like you’re a heterosexual but you don’t have sex with every woman that you’re attracted to, so I can be who I am and exclusively have sex with my wife and be perfectly satisfied.” About former meth dealer and escort Mike Jones, Haggard says: “We never had sex sex. I bought drugs and a massage from him, and he masturbated me at the end of it. That’s it.”

He admitted to buying drugs “five or six times” from Jones, but adds: “Sometimes I’d throw it away. Other times, I’d go someplace and masturbate and use it. But it was for masturbation. And that’s one of the reasons why I haven’t been real clear. I don’t want to stand up publicly and say, ‘Hey, I’m a masturbation guy!” “You know, that’s really the core issue here,” he added. “I bought the drugs to enhance masturbation. Because what crystal meth does–Mike taught me this–crystal meth makes it so you don’t ejaculate soon. So you can watch porn and masturbate for a long time.”

I remember when GQ was a good magazine.

Yawn.