Glamorous yet scandalous, fun yet shady, private yet bold: this is how the aura of Studio 54, the nightclub that was famous yet opprobrium for all things that went around inside the walls of the club. Though it stayed for only 33 months, it completely changed the concept of clubbing. The go-to place for celebrities of the time, Studio 54 redefined pop culture and upgraded the New York underground lifestyle.
From Glory to Doom: The Story of Studio 54
You needed no tickets to get into the club but you certainly had to make a statement with your style. The place for good music and the time of life, it opened doors for many to escape reality and express themselves freely when it came to the dance floor. From wild and wacky DJs, to loud music, Studio 54 became a symbol of freedom for many. But as they say freedom has its price too; the club gained its notoriety for all the right reasons: the excessive use of drugs!
The Disco Culture of Studio 54:
The second home to designers, models and all the big brands, studio 54 was all things fancy. With celebrities’ dresses in flashy gowns, skimpy dresses, vibrant patterns and frilly jackets, it was as if the club became a significant venue to flaunt your style – a wild fashion show with no barriers. But apart from fashion, Studio 54 introduced the disco culture, where DJs would be the boss, mashing up playlists to create a lively aura the magic of which would compel people to tap their feet and instantly hit the dance floor.
The Era of Change:
It was that glorious time in history when people were becoming aware of their rights, with women showing up on their streets with placards in hands, demanding their rights. The era when people were not ready to stay silent in the face of atrocities at the hand of civil and political movements and also when the Vietnam war saw its end. With so many changes going simultaneously, New York, like the rest of the states, was experiencing the turmoil too. In such a scenario, places like Studio 54 became a haven for those belonging to different ethnic backgrounds or races. The club where talent mattered irrespective of the gender, sexual orientation or the color of the people visiting it. The change was eminent but the culture of escapism that was breeding inside Studio 54 soon became the reason for its fall.
The Studio to Celebrate Freedom:
Opened on 26th of April 1977, by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, Studio 54 was started with the intention to change the New York night scene. The art and music aficionado, the owners wanted to bring the best to the clubbing culture, the reason why it became a second home to many celebrities. With a vision to be adventurous with freedom, the club had a lot to offer, and not always something to be proud of. The excessive use of liquor and drugs became a common happening there and the founders were even arrested for liquor without the license!
The Regulars of Studio 54:
The popularity of the studio was not solely because of drugs and excessive availability to alcohol but because of those who graced the venue with their presence. The studio entry rules were all that caused the desperation to be inside the venue. Though it was charged or you could have had the membership or you could be a big name yet your entry was not evitable. Your entry was based on the way you were dressed, the certain “aesthetics” that you needed to have to make it inside the club! It is only because of these rules the president of Cyrus and Saudi king Khalid’s son were refused entry.
This famous venue was regularly visited by Calvin Klein, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor, Sylvester Stallone, John Travolta, David Bowie, Tina Turner, Rod Stewart, Elton John, Cher, Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Dolly Parton, George Michael and Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli. The social elite of Manhattan found their refuge, while the natives found the opportunity to get up close and personal with the celebrities. The club became a celebration of cultures, live music, discotheque and fashion- a hub of art and a chance to dream without boundaries.
From Theatre to Discotheque:
Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell had a degree in finance, while they wanted to up the dance club game, they wanted to earn big too so they ensured that the space remained a carefree one for everyone to do whatever their heart desired. This idea of “what happened at studio 54, remained at studio 54” was taken with open heart as many people dreamt of getting away from reality and lived the fantasy for a couple of hours. But beside escapism the idea of a discotheque culture sold like a hot cake. Live discos by Donna Summer, Liza Minelli, Gloria Gaynor, Dianna Ross and Grace Jones gave people a chance to enjoy music and dance to the fullest without having a worry in the world.
The Scandals and the Controversies:
You cannot deny the popularity and reputation of Studio 54, but there was more to the place than meets the eye. This studio became a drug hub where cocaine was enjoyed without remorse. The drug culture gained it a bad reputation but not enough to close it down. It was a fun yet notorious place to be in and who doesn’t want to have a share of an apple when it is forbidden! Every individual wanted to have the Studio 54 experience and soon many people started to feed on this desire of the people. A fake map was sold claiming to provide secret routes to the studio and it did cause a few people to lose their life in a quest to make it into the Studio!
The club, though famous, was raided initially in 1978, the license for liquor was suspended but people were not worried because they had all the drugs to enjoy. But it was not until the club made $7 million income in a year that raised many eyebrows of the authorities. The owners were arrested for tax fraud and were later sentenced for 3.5 years for not paying the taxes and hiding the actual income of the club. So much for all the fame!
From Bianca Jagger’s prominent arrival on horse, all dressed up to Disco Sally, the 77-year-old lawyer who would spend hours at the studio, dancing all night, Studio 54 has stories and memories full of drama and crazy moments. The space was short lived but it marked its impression on anything and everything related to art. Whether it is fashion or music, drama or film, Studio 54 has its reflection on everything related to pop-culture. Though immensely popular, the place eventually had to see its downfall for not abiding by the rules and creating boundaries when it comes to desires.