in the nights of all the vices and delights of the mythical New York club


Studio 54 has become, after its brief existence of thirty-three months, the object of such a cult that, even without setting foot there, one would swear to know the entrance hall with the mirrors, the room with the psychedelic lights, the vast dance floor (where disco, sweat and sway were the key words) and the sulphurous balcony (open to all vices and delights) of the old Broadway theater where the disco opened its doors on April 26, 1977.

Built in 1927, at the corner of VIIIme Avenue and 54me Rue, the hall was first home to the San Carlo Opera Company, founded by an Italian-American businessman, who presented classical opera there. After the bankruptcy of the company, it hosted the activities of the Federal Music Project, an offshoot of the New Deal in favor of classical and traditional music.

In 1943, the theater was occupied by the CBS radio station, which, starting in 1949, filmed legendary television programs there, such as “What’s my line? or “The Jack Benny Program.” The location is then named Studio 52, based on a rule that requires CBS to give its studios a number as they are assigned. In 1976, the channel concentrated its television activities in the neighboring Ed Sullivan Theater: this is where, since 1993, “The Late Show” has been filmed, hosted by David Letterman, then, since 2015, by Stephen Colbert.

Address book provided

The availability of the building, left in a decrepit state, caught the attention of two young men who had known each other forever: Steve Rubell (1943-1989) and Ian Schrager (b. 1946). The second, a lawyer, helped the first to recover from his first unfortunate adventures in the restaurant business. They both want to make money, time is short and decide to settle in the places, which they buy with the help of a financial partner, who wants to be the biggest and most impressive nightclub in the world.

To enter, you have to be a celebrity (but well dressed, otherwise…), or “interesting”, that is, pretty and sexy.

Technicians skilled in theatrical trades outfit the newly christened Studio 54 with equipment never before seen elsewhere. A press officer with the provided address book helps create the buzz. No less than 8,000 invitations were sent around the world for the opening night, inviting the cream of the crop, underground stars, gays, the gossip and the paparazzi: the venue’s reputation was built overnight.

To enter you have to be a celebrity (but well dressed, if not…), or ” interesting ” – that is, beautiful and sexy. During the roughly three years of Studio 54’s existence, many will remain at the gate, awaiting the verdict of Steve Rubell, who himself appointed the chosen ones. Once admitted, everything was allowed: alcohol in abundance served by waiters simply dressed in shorts, sex and drugs authorized, even encouraged…

Also read: study 54 celebrities

drunkenness to win

Studio 54 is fast drowning in cash. Intoxicated with winning, the new owners push many of them away, storing bags of cash in a drop ceiling, keeping their drugs in the safe and in the basement, until the day the FBI raids and where Rubell and Schrager are. . , among other charges, convicted of massive embezzlement.

Before being jailed (Rubell and Schrager will spend a year in prison), the two accomplices organize a gigantic party: on the night of February 2-3, 1980, local regular Liza Minnelli and Diana Ross perform in front of an audience. of choice. It will be the last fire at Studio 54, which will not recover from the absence of its two creators.

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Rubell and Schrager soon reinvented themselves as hoteliers, launching Morgans in New York in 1984, whose decor was entrusted to Andrée Putman. After Steve Rubell’s death of AIDS in 1989, Ian Schrager continued the adventure alone, becoming the mogul of fashion and holiday boutique hotels, often collaborating with Philippe Starck.

In 1998, the movie studio 54, by Mark Christopher, brought back the history and topography of places through the case of a young waiter (Ryan Phillippe) observed by Steve Rubell (played by Mike Myers). The same year, the documentary behind the music studio 54, by Jonathan Brandeis, reviewed the dazzling history of the club.

the documentary film study 54 (2018), by Matt Tyrnauer, appeals to many witnesses and archives, sometimes seen elsewhere. But it brings a stone of unprecedented size: the active participation of Ian Schrager, who had never publicly recounted the adventures and misadventures of Studio 54, as discreet, invisible and heterosexual as Rubell was extroverted, omnipresent and homosexual.

His point of view and the information he provides are crucial, and one is moved to see how the deep friendship between the two men was still alive in Schrager’s heart, nearly thirty years after his friend’s death on good days and bad. .

studio 54, documentary by Matt Tyrnauer (USA, 2018, 95 min).

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