As Studio 54 Boogies to Brooklyn, Its Denizens Look Back in Wonder

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The diamond mud was swept up way back, but the reminiscence endures of a second in the late 1970s when a flash of brilliance glittered from the rubble of a bankrupt metropolis.

That second was known as Studio 54 and, even after greater than 4 a long time, the aura of the membership’s particular magic persists. Opening throughout a tumultuous celebration in April 1977, by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager — two slick however impressed promoters — Studio 54 was an Aladdin’s cave tucked amid the porn palaces of Midtown. By remodeling an previous theater right into a disco, the 2 males additionally recast the nightscape of town, making a membership that magnetized the well-known and the merely fabulous equally.

If nothing earlier than fairly resembled Studio 54 — the place actual diamond mud was typically set adrift from the ceiling to fall on the dancers under like intergalactic snow — what appears sure is that we’ll not see the likes of it once more. “What we wished to do right here was emphasize the visible dimension, the artwork, the pictures, the style, the scenography,” that went into the creation of the storied nightclub, stated Matthew Yokobosky, curator of “Studio 54: Night time Magic,” which is due to run by July 5 on the Brooklyn Museum. (The museum introduced late Thursday that it was briefly closing over issues concerning the coronavirus.) “We wished to seize the way in which these varied aesthetic components got here collectively to create an setting the place folks felt actually free,” Mr. Yokobosky added — or not less than as liberated as Bianca Jagger, who was led onto the dance ground atop a white horse for her 30th celebration.

Simply how electrifying the expertise of Studio 54 could possibly be was made clear in interviews with dozens of those that skilled the membership throughout its 33-month heyday, in these final giddy moments earlier than the house owners have been jailed for tax evasion, the membership closed, and the evening life was altered past all recognition by the lethal onset of AIDS.

JUDY LICHT (tv journalist) You might have to keep in mind town was at a low level, there was graffiti everywhere, crime was an issue. It was miserable, and no one wished to come right here. For the common New Yorker, there was this sense of hopelessness. Then, all of a sudden, this membership opens, and it’s just like the “Wizard of Oz” however staged by Federico Fellini. The 2 wizards are Steve and Ian and should you get previous the doorman, you might be on the Yellow Brick Highway.

NORMA KAMALI (dressmaker, former girlfriend of Ian Schrager) New York was bankrupt, a catastrophe. All people was leaving. At Studio 54 everyone might shake freed from the doom and gloom. It was the reply, the discharge, the place the place you could possibly go and never really feel threatened. No person was going to choose you. All people wished to be there to expertise complete exhilaration.

RENNY REYNOLDS (panorama architect, celebration designer) We had triangular platforms coated in black carpeting with banquettes in entrance. It was black with white spotlights and we did large bowls of pink peonies.

RON GALELLA (photographer) The environment was like a Hollywood set. The visitors have been the actors. They have been performing.

ANTON PERICH (photographer, writer of “Night time: A Chronicle of New York After Darkish”) I used to be looking for narcissism and I discovered it there. All I had to do was stroll in and everyone was there prepared to be shot.

HARRY KING (superstar hair stylist) I went to opening evening, most likely alone. After I obtained there, I keep in mind considering, “If any individual dropped a bomb right here all of the fashions, photographers, hairdressers, designers and make-up artists in town could be useless.”

RENNY REYNOLDS The Monday after opening evening, the telephone rang. It was Halston asking, “Can I give a celebration for Bianca Jagger — tonight?” I conceived a plan. Ian went to a steady on the Higher West Facet and located a white horse. “Oh! Calcutta!” was on Broadway on the time, and we discovered each non-working dancer we might and obtained them to carry out. We hung a protracted strip of cloth throughout the stage, which shaped a scoop that we stuffed with balloons. At simply the precise second, the balloons went flying. There’s a very well-known picture from that evening of Bianca on the white horse with the balloons. That {photograph} went viral when viral wasn’t taking place.

MYRA SCHEER (radio host, former government assistant to Steve Rubell and keeper of the Studio 54 door checklist) I didn’t work there but. I used to be working in an advert company. I had buddies that labored in the White Home and I known as Steve Rubell and left a message. He known as again and stated we have been in. That evening once we obtained there, I instructed [the doorman] Marc Benecke we have been on the checklist and he ignored me. I circled and noticed the look on my good friend’s faces and felt that I had failed my nation.

HARRY KING You would hear the growth of the music. I used to be early the primary time I went, and so I climbed up to the balcony and there in the entrance row a phenomenal younger lady in an Azzedine Alaïa costume was [performing oral sex] on a good-looking man in a go well with. I believed, “Oh, what a superb place!’’

NORMA KAMALI Marc, the doorman, and Steve wore my sleeping-bag coats. They have been constituted of precise sleeping luggage, lined in flannel with geese and geese and wildlife patterns. Folks seen the coat on Marc and would purchase one in the hopes of getting in.

MYRA SCHEER Quick ahead two years. They employed me on intuition. Within the first week or so, Steve gave me the decision checklist. Andy Warhol, Richard Gere — it was my job to name them. Andy would at all times take the decision. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards have been comped however the remainder of the group had to pay. Sylvia Miles was on the decision checklist. I known as her one evening to let her know that Tobe Hooper, the director, was coming. He was casting for a horror film. Sylvia got here and he or she obtained a task. She later stated, “I obtained extra jobs at Studio 54 than I ever did with an agent.”

MARC BENECKE (supervisor at Version resort, former Studio 54 doorman) I used to be launched to Steve Rubell by a cousin in safety. I used to be 19. Initially, I took a number of my data of who was who from Lynn Barclay [a seasoned doorman who had worked at the clubs Arthur and Regine’s]. Folks stated Steve wished to combine the group up like a salad or casting a play.

VALERIE LeGASPI (widow of influential dressmaker Larry LeGaspi, creator of futuristic appears to be like for Kiss, LaBelle, Grace Jones and George Clinton) Different golf equipment have been totally different. My homosexual buddies have been very androgynous-looking, and I don’t know that once we went to the Paradise Storage, which was into the homosexual clone look, they precisely appreciated us. At Studio 54 they actually liked youngsters like us that have been the style freaks.

GEORGE CARR (dressmaker) In 1977, I obtained employed by Calvin Klein to work in his new males’s put on firm. I obtained to go to Studio 54 with my brother, Zack, who was designing for Calvin. The place felt legendary. It was like my citadel each evening. Marc let the drawbridge down and let these younger princes of New York enter.

ANTON PERICH It was the loudest disco in the world however it had darkish corners the place you could possibly whisper. I noticed [the legendary couturier] Charles James speaking to Elsa Peretti, Truman Capote speaking with Halston, Diane von Furstenberg speaking with Tennessee Williams, Bianca Jagger with Patti Smith. I used to be amazed to see underage folks operating across the place. Brooke Shields grew up there.

CORNELIA GUEST (actress) I used to be 13 once I first went there. I keep in mind Marc in his Norma Kamali coat standing on a hydrant, so good-looking. I keep in mind the mai tai bars and the piña coladas upstairs on the balcony. I used to get them with out alcohol. I used to be driving then and would go dwelling afterward to my dad and mom’ [the socialites C.Z. and Winston Frederick Churchill Guest] condo. I had to rise up in the morning to go to faculty and out to Lengthy Island and the barn.

NORMA KAMALI Ian Schrager understood instantly that the expertise was going to be every little thing and that everybody was going to come again for a distinct expertise and he would make every one totally different each time. He’s such a element freak. To him, the small print have been every little thing.

Credit score…The Andy Warhol Basis for the Visible Arts, Inc., through Licensed by Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; The Andy Warhol Museum

L.J. KIRBY (bartender at Studio 54) I bartended there the summer time of 1979 to February 1980. I keep in mind considering it was costly to get in — $12 [roughly $47 in 2020 dollars] on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and $15 on Fridays and Saturdays. It opened at 10 p.m., and served liquor till 4. They by no means ever closed earlier than 6 a.m. It was an all-cash bar and most of the people drank vodka — Smirnoff or Stoli, I believe. I’m a child from Jersey and it shocked me that individuals would tip $1 for any drink.

RON GALELLA I used to be there often round 11, as a result of that was the perfect time. Steve Rubell had invited all of the celebrities in city to come and get medication and dance. He was intelligent that manner. He knew the celebrities would come as a result of they favored to meet different celebrities.

SCOTT ROLLINS (biographer of the efficiency artist Richie Gallo, referred to as “Lemon Boy” as a result of he marked the boundaries of his avenue performances with lemons) Look again at these occasions and Bowie and the New York Dolls have been all placing on an act, dressing up to exit. Richie didn’t make any distinction between the road and the golf equipment. He would costume in fishnet bodysuits with nothing beneath and one sequined glove. He would place himself below the disco ball and lift his hand and the glove would sparkle in a beam of sunshine. Michael Jackson at all times stated he obtained the thought for the glove from an artwork director on a photograph shoot. He actually obtained it from Richie.

MARC BENECKE I by no means was that tremendous star-struck, however I keep in mind very vividly when Farrah Fawcett first got here to the membership. A white limo pulled up and he or she obtained out with this white blond hair and sporting all white. I keep in mind it was snowing. It was this complete Hollywood cinematic imaginative and prescient come to life.

BOB COLACELLO (editor of Andy Warhol’s Interview) Disco got here alongside on the moments when the newborn boomers stopped protesting and began dancing. Disco, which had began in black golf equipment and migrated to homosexual golf equipment, had a powerful syncopated beat that everyone might transfer to. You would make up your personal steps and bounce up and down like a baby. Then alongside got here cocaine.

JUDY LICHT In every single place in the membership you could possibly odor the poppers. Earlier than there was L.G.B.T.Q., there have been the loos at Studio 54. You had no concept what anyone was.

ZANDRA RHODES (dressmaker) There’s one very embarrassing image of me asleep sitting subsequent to Tina Chow, who was additionally asleep. I’m not likely a nightclub individual. I don’t drink. Once you’ve obtained inexperienced hair, although, and also you put on a costume with feathers throughout it, folks routinely assume you’re drugged up.

BOB COLACELLO We have been doing cocaine not to be self-destructive however to keep up later and dance some extra and hopefully meet somebody to take dwelling. The capsule had been invented and we didn’t learn about AIDS but. All these issues got here collectively in a really transient interval from 1977 to 1980.

CORNELIA GUEST Halston and Steve and people folks have been very protecting of me. I keep in mind a few occasions, Halston stated, “Come on, we’re leaving.” They’d transfer me. They knew what was happening.

BOB COLACELLO The good factor was there have been no telephones with cameras. Stars like Diana Ross, Ryan O’Neal and Jack Nicholson might smooch any individual and never have to fear about it popping out in the press.

CORNELIA GUEST Tom Bolan, Roy Cohn’s regulation companion, used to have just a little Instamatic digicam to take photos. Folks weren’t scared to make a mistake. Now, if a designer makes one dangerous costume and it’s on Instagram, they’re ruined.

BOB COLACELLO Photographers had to flip their contact sheets over for approval to Steve Rubell. There have been folks feeding gossip columns, however that they had to wait till they obtained dwelling at 3 in the morning or the subsequent day. It was all a lot extra managed and fewer anarchistic.

RENNY REYNOLDS For New Yr’s Eve 1978, actually the final main celebration earlier than Ian and Steve have been arrested [and jailed for tax evasion] we created partitions of ice for your entire essential room. The ice firm got here with blocks of ice and luggage of crushed ice they usually instructed me that should you used the crushed ice between the blocks it acted like mortar. We backlit the ice with black mild that learn as glowing blue. We had a few ft of synthetic snow for depth. After I first walked in, the partitions regarded type of frosted, however they turned far more lovely because the outer layers melted. There was additionally diamond mud. I used diamond mud a bunch of occasions. On any given morning you could possibly stroll alongside West 53rd Road in the back of the membership and you could possibly see it glowing.


Studio 54: Night time Magic

By July 5 on the Brooklyn Museum, 200 Jap Parkway; 718-638-5000, brooklynmuseum.org. The museum is briefly closed over issues concerning the coronavirus.

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