The 1970s were a decade of change and liberation, and nowhere was that better represented than Studio 54.
On April 26th 1977, co-owners Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell (Pictured below) took the old theatre turned CBS Studio and converted it into one of the most exclusive and memorable nightclubs around.
For 33 spectacularly salacious months, Studio 54 made headlines all over. From the front page of the New York Post, to mentions in People magazine, and at least one piece in The Wall Street Journal, there is no doubt that Studio 54 was the talk of the town.
Only a month in and already the nightclub – officially operating under the business name ‘Broadway Catering Corporation’ – was dealing with the police. Rubell and Schrager were in such a rush to open Studio 54 that they had neglected to get a liquor licence and instead had been getting a new permit each night. This all came to a halt when the state caught on, shut down the scheme and Studio 54 had to resort to serving juice and water till their lawyer could rustle up their licence. This did not stop the clubgoers however, after all, alcohol is not needed to have a good time, disco music does that job just fine and there was no risk of that running out anytime soon.
For the next 32 months, the club was in its prime, hosting guests including Dolly Parton, Grace Jones, Donna Summer, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Diana Ross and many more.
In December of 1978, Rubell was quoted in the city newspaper saying that Studio 54 made $7 million in its first year and “only the Mafia made more money”. This statement then got the attention of the IRS which not long after lead to the nightclub being raided and Rubell and Schrager arrested for skimming $2.5 million. They both pleaded guilty to tax evasion and served 13 months in prison.
The clubs final night was as glitzy and glamorous as ever, with Diana Ross farewelling Rubell and Schrager from in the DJ booth and Liza Minnelli singing a show-stopping “New York, New York.”
Though the doors are now closed, people will not forget the glitter, flashing lights, scandalous attire and energetic music that took place just within those doors.