Celebrities Had Way More Fun Than We Thought At Studio 54!
Written by Lyra Radford
If you've never heard of Studio 54, either you've been living under a rock since the dawn of mankind, or you're opposed to having a great time at clubs. Gen X'ers and Millennials alike all know about one of the most iconic clubs to ever exist in New York City.
Studio 54 was a club located on, you guessed it, 54th street in New York City. It first opened its doors on April 16th, 1977 and stayed open for a short but eventful 33 months. It managed to pull in approximately $7 million dollars in its first year alone.
You see, not only was this club open to those a little on the weird side and those who wanted nothing more than to express themselves freely, it was also frequented by many A-list celebrities. Disco was all the rage back in the 1970s and Studio 54 was the place to be if you were in New York.
Sure all disco clubs served booze and blared disco, but there was just something about Studio 54 that made it shine above the rest. It could have been the diverse and impressive guest list, its aura of exclusivity and its sexually charged atmosphere– more so than its competitors at the time. Studio 54 so fully embodied its time that it couldn’t have lasted beyond the early 80s even if it hadn’t been shut down. It would have been forced to change with the times and in doing so, would have lost all that made it stand out.
Here you had the Woodstock generation that was literally thrust into this memorizing new world of 70s’ disco. It was a subculture that not only embraced hippie idealism, sexual freedom, and rampant drug use but also gave it all a place to call home. Everything just came together as a reflection of the times on those mirrored strobe-lit dance floors, in a way that it never will again. Let's take a look back at some of Studio 54's most memorable moments.
The area that would soon be known as Studio 54 was formerly a theater. The club, owned by Steve Rubell quickly built up a conflicting reputation for itself. It seemed the population was torn, they either absolutely loved the club or hated it with the fire of a thousand suns. There didn't seem to be much of an in between.
It didn't seem to matter one way or another though, every night without fail, a crowd of people would flock to the doors of the legendary Studio 54 in hopes of getting in. And who could blame them? The place was filled with celebrities who knows who you might run into once through those doors.
The rich, the famous, the infamously insane... drugs, booze, and scantily dressed men and women all awaited them on the other side of those velvet ropes. An aura of exclusivity, an atmosphere that promoted sexual freedom, and open drug use... not only was Studio 54 the biggest nightclub in the world, it created an entire subculture.
As was widely known, Studio 54's was the official go-to spot for celebrities and socialites to gather while in New York. They could drink, party, dance, and mingle with the most interesting and outlandish people the city had to offer.
Naturally, as word got around that A-listers were inside so everyone else wanted in too. that and the tales of the complete debauchery that was going on inside the club on a regular basis.
Many people wanted to get in to have a chance to meet the rich and famous, but many also wanted in to let loose and express themselves in ways other nightclubs didn't allow. It's because of this, that Studio 54 was always packed to capacity and not everyone could get in– which only added to its allure.
Pictured here is club co-owner Steve Rubell getting into the groove and mingling with his patrons. Lucky for him, his patrons were the rich and famous. He got to meet all kinds of celebrities while Studio 54 was at the height of operation. Here he is with the King of Pop, Michael Jackson, and Steven Tyler, the lead singer of the Boston rock band, Aerosmith.
This photo was taken back in 1977, during the club's first year in business. After leaving Syracuse University, classmates Rubell and Ian Schrager opened up Studio 54 and became the talk of the town. They became a booming success while breaking down social taboos within their famously wild club. It seemed nothing was too 'off the wall' at Studio 54. It was the epitome of 70s hedonism within those glitzy walls, everything went.
Pictured here is co-owner of Studio 54, Steve Rubell enjoying yet another night surrounded by celebrities. As can be seen, his guests for this particular night included the billionaire record producer and co-creator of Asylum Records and Geffen Records, David Geffen, alongside the Goddess of Pop herself, Cher back in 1980. Cher was one of the famous faces known to frequent Studio 54. Which is no surprise considering how much she loved dancing while donning elaborate attire and schmoozing with fellow celebrities.
The party was continuously changing. It was said to feel like going to a new place every night– hence the frequent 'regulars' who never seemed to grow tired of returning to the same location so often. The only constant throughout the club was decadence. No matter the theme of the night, the sights, the drugs, the entire club scene was always decadent. Absolutely everything was done in excess.
Everyone flocked to Studio 54 when they were in town, actors, writers, musicians from all different genres were able to kick back and have some fun within the walls of this iconic club. Pictured here is legendary rock and roll pioneer Chuck Berry having a drink and a few laughs with fellow guitarist and frontman of the "Rolling Stones", Keith Richards.
This particular photo was taken on Feb. 28, 1980, although both men were often spotted at Studio 54. Keith Richards has been spotted at the exclusive nightclub partying with the likes of James Brown, John Belushi, and more often than not, model Patti Hanson–who he ended up marrying on December 18, 1983, and has two children with.
Pictured here is the Jamaican model, actress, singer, and Bond Girl, Grace Jones. Jones was one of the many glamorous celebrities who visited the club on a regular basis. She would strut her stuff through the club wearing out-there clothing and makeup to match. Not that she was alone in her efforts to stand out, just about everyone there was dressed to impress (or confuse).
Strange color combinations, face paint, elaborate headpieces... it must have been like Disneyland to Elton John. It was hard for any one person to secure the spotlight inside Studio 54 for very long.
Just because the many club attendees went out of their way to throw together outlandish outfits, doesn't mean those wardrobe choices were glamorous by any means. The club attracted people from all walks of life who also wanted to freely express themselves and sometimes that meant dressing up like one of the Village People after having been attacked by a dog.
Pictured here, is a club-goer wearing what can only be described as a destroyed denim outfit, and with what appears to be a hard hat. Of course, what really pushes this rather intoxicated macho man's look over the edge is his handlebar mustache. Party on man.
Not many people can easily recognize this ghostbuster busting a move on the Studio 54 dance floor, right next to one of the original cast members of Saturday Night Live, Gilda Radner. But here it is. At the time this photo was taken, Bill Murray had already starred in a few extremely popular movies--Ghostbusters would be filmed just a few years later.
Like Radner, Murry also gained fame on Saturday Night Live. It was the 'must see' show of the time. It's amazing how many Hollywood legends danced between these walls considering it was only operational for 33 months.
Celebrities like Dan Akroyd, Michael Jackson, Woody Allen, Rod Stewart, Olivia Newton-John, and Andy Warhol among countless others, all helped build the club's glamorous reputation. Now it's iconic, Studio 54, just in reputation alone, has yet to be topped.
Among the regulars at Studio 54 were Drag Queens of all shapes and sizes. Pictured, is Dame Rollerena, a very famous (at the time) New York City Drag Queen, who was known for skating along the streets in the city.
Born and bred in the hills of Kentucky back in 1948, the boy who became known as Rollerena made his way to New York and after visiting an antique store on Christopher Street, he found his now-signature vintage ’50s hat and a gown.
He went into a bar in his newly acquired ensemble and, according to a tribute website, “the whole place went absolutely wild. A crowd gathered like they were awaiting Glinda landing in Oz.” And just like that, the persona of Rollerena was born on September 16, 1972.
People tend to think that the majority of celebrities who frequented the club were wild musicians. But that certainly was not the case. Although Studio 54 had a huge clientele of musicians, designers and models came as well. Here is model Brooke Shields sitting next to designer Calvin Klein.
Back in the 1980s, Brooke Shields modeled for Calvin Klein, in fact, her provocative ads made some waves for the company. So, as random as it seems, it really wasn't out of the ordinary to see Klein and Shields socializing together.
Even after Shields shifted her focus to acting, the two never stopped hanging out and she always made time to strike a pose for Klein. Even at 52-years old she happily slipped back into her Calvins for yet another sexy ad campaign.
This photo was taken in March of 1979 and features actress, singer, and producer, Lucie Arnaz dancing the night away at Studio 54. For those who don't know, Lucie's parents are Desi Arnaz and the charming female comedic genius herself, the one and only, Lucille Ball. The successful actress and producer is just one of many famous faces that could often be seen getting down on the infamous dance floor at Studio 54.
Lucie was often spotted chatting up celebs like Liza Minnelli, Bill Boggs, Florence Henderson and her brother Desi Arnaz. She was also on the guest list for Bianca Jagger's notorious Studi 54 birthday celebration– to which she showed up on horseback, and rode through the club.
Pictured here is the man and artist responsible for the creation of pop art, Andy Warhol. He is flocked (as usual) by beautiful models and adoring fans, set on enjoying the atmosphere provided by the infamous Studio 54. Though not on the roster of performers, Warhol was yet another famous frequenter of the club that always seemed to attract an excessive amount of attention.
Taking care of your regulars is just a part of the club and bar-owning business. But for Andy Warhol's 50th birthday in August of 1978, co-owner Steve Rubell went above and beyond the norm, by gifting Warhol a roll of 5,000 free drink tickets in addition to a large silver garbage can that was stuffed with about a $1,000 worth of crisp dollar bills. Warhol said it was the best present he ever received.
When people talk about how popular this club was, they were in no way exaggerating. Getting in was on many people's bucket list. As you can see, 1979 had no time for broken legs, it was all about getting out and shaking your groove thang on the dance floor. Studio 54 was literally the place where "anything goes." Just slather those casts in glue and toss some glitter on it!
As long as you had something to bring to the table it didn't to the club door men what state you were in. You could bring in the tired, the weary, even the sick who should be home in bed... as long as they sparkled, they got in. Those who weren't sparkling, beautiful, or interesting in some way, however, were told to go home and change. In fact, on several occasions, the former owner Rubell was heard rather bluntly telling people, "you're ugly, you're not coming in."
Pictured here is the Terminator himself, back in his body builder days, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Who knew back when Mr. Universe was getting down on the dancefloor at the hottest nightclub in New York, that he'd not only go on to become one of the most sought after action stars in the country but that he was also the future governor of California.
Here on the dance floor of Studio 54, the native Austrian is showing this unknown woman how to awkwardly bust a move during the disco era. Odd pairings seemed to run rampant throughout the club. They had the most diverse mix of interesting people filling the place every night.
Not only were celebs and socialites on the guest list, royalty came as well. Pictured here is the fashion designer and former Princess, Diane von Furstenberg. She was previously married to Prince Egon of Furstenberg, a member of the German aristocratic family.
She made quite a few appearances to the flashy, overindulgent venue. She attended the party for Egon Von Furstenberg's Book 'The Power Look' on September 25, 1978, and then kept coming back for more because former royalty knows how to party.
It seems Steve Rubell's first rule of partying is completely accurate: 'The key to a good party is filling a room with guests more interesting than you."
He certainly knew how to fill a room and as far as profits go, Rubell was once quoted as saying, "only the Mafia made more money."
People were further encouraged to frequent the club because of its attractive wait staff. The male servers were scantily clad and the women were as well. Studio 54 was all about decadence and debauchery.
From a musical standpoint, Disco reigned supreme and artists like Donna Summer, Grace Jones, and Gloria Gaynor were asked to come in for live performances every now and then. But, for the most part, Studio 54 employed DJ's and much of the in-house entertainment came from the club’s provocative and flamboyant staff as well as the free shows provided by the unique clientele.
They were picky at the door; openly and shamelessly excluding everyone from the establishment who wasn't beautiful, chic, ridiculously famous, or having some sort of unique quality to add to the ambiance somehow.
Despite all the rumored debauchery that took place in the club, Studio 54 was also a place for couples. Pictured here is actor and star of the Houdini and Spartacus movies, Tony Curtis and his wife Leslie. Fun fact: He is the father of actress Jamie Lee Curtis.
Other famous couples who have gone out on dates at this legendary hot spot are Jack Haley Jr. and wife Liza Minnelli, Keith Richards and his wife Patti Hanson, as well as now United States President Donald Trump with Ivana Trump on his arm. Mick and (now ex-wife) Bianca Jagger also used to frequent the club. Later Mick Jagger would return with his next future wife, model Jerri Hall.
By now you've probably guessed that Studio 54 was one of Andy Warhol's favorite spots in New York. Especially considering the birthday gift the club owners bestowed upon him. Here he is, once again at his favorite nightspot with Canadian actress and author Margaret Trudeau. At the time this photo was taken Margaret Trudeau's husband was the Canadian Prime Minister.
Margaret Trudeau, Jacky Kennedy-Onassis, Yves Saint Laurent... some of the names on the Studio 54 guest list are a bit shocking... if only because of the club's wild reputation. You're talking about political figures, champions for the arts and education showing up to a club with a room upstairs that's completely rubber for easy cleanup purposes.
Craziness was the norm inside the walls of Studio 54. Who would ever think that the queen herself, Cher, would be sharing what looks like a cream puff with none other than The Demon, co-lead singer of "Kiss", Gene Simmons.
Described by Rolling Stone Magazine as an "unprecedented mix of glamorous sophistication and primal hedonism," Studio 54 reigned supreme in the nightclub scene until 33-months of tax evasion caught up to its owners and its doors were closed. A final party that doubled as a prison send-off for club owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, was held in February 1980.
Diana Ross showed up to serenade the two and huge stars like Richard Gere, Jack Nicholson, and Sylvester Stallone all showed up to the send-off. In addition to being the global epicenter of the disco craze, Studio 54 was the most famous nightclub in the whole world.
Pictured is none other than Liza Minnelli, one of the clubs most frequent celebs. Also next to her are fashion designer Halston, on her right, and on the left is one of the co-owners of Studio 54, Steve Rubell.
Minnelli is the daughter of actress Judy Garland and the film director, Vincente Minnelli. She moved to New York City in 1961 and began working in musical theatre. Her professional stage debut was in the 1963 Off-Broadway revival of Best Foot Forward. Then in 1965, her performance in a Musical for Flora the Red Menace earned her a Tony Award for Best Actress, making her the youngest recipient ever in this category.
Pictured here is one of the most legendary rock stars to ever live, the former lead vocalist of Queen, Freddie Mercury. Joining him in the picture is fellow singer and songwriter David Johansen.
Freddie Mercury was best known for his overly flamboyant stage persona and four-octave vocal range. Mercury is credited with writing numerous hits for Queen, including "Bohemian Rhapsody", "Killer Queen", "Somebody to Love", "Don't Stop Me Now", "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", and "We Are the Champions".
Mercury also He led his own solo career while still performing with Queen, and teamed with other artists to produce additional works on the side. Busy man!
Now these two actors never admitted to dating each other but why else would they be kissing inside Studio 54. The two Grease stars, Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta must have chosen that time to practice for their on-screen roles.
After starring in Grease in 1978, Oliva's life changed forever, she became one of 'America's Sweethearts' and her career flourished. She also became an advocate for animal rights and after going into remission from breast cancer, she became an advocate for health awareness as well.
After starring in (now) classics, Saturday Night Fever (1977) and Grease in 1978, John Travolta's career became huge. He’s been relatively steady ever since, his most recent role was in 2016, in the first season of the compelling new anthology series American Crime Story. The first season was titled The People v. O. J. Simpson and Travolta portrayed one of O.Js lawyers, Robert Shapiro.
Even the late Robin Williams came to Studio 54. In this picture, Robin is dancing the night away with his then wife Valerie Velardi. At the time, Robin was appearing on an ABC television series.
Valerie Velardi was the first of three wives for comedic actor Robin Williams. She was also the mother of his oldest son, Zachary Pym Williams. Their marriage certainly did not end on a high note, as Williams found himself caught between his wife of nine years and the nanny she hired to help take care of their son. Needless to say, the couple divorced.
Pictured here is Rod Stewart & Alana Stewart. Rod is a British rock singer. He was born in London where he spent most of his childhood. Having sold over 100 million records worldwide, Stewart has become one of the best singers of all time in terms of records sold. Back in 2016 he became knighted, so we should now respectfully call him Sir Rod Stewart!
Alana began her acting career in the early 1970s, and her first role was a bit part in Evel Knievel. Later, she appeared in television shows like The Bionic Woman and Fantasy Island. Rod and Alana Stewart married in 1979, and the couple had two children: a daughter, Kimberly, and a son, Sean. But sadly the couple was divorced by 1984.
Studio 54's doors were also opened to authors. Author Truman Capote is pictured here having a chat with actor Yul Brynner. Truman is the man responsible for the novella Breakfast at Tiffany's, and many of his short stories, novels, plays, are all recognized as literary classics.
Yul Brynner starred in movies like The Ten Commandments and the (original) Magnificent Seven. He was best known for his portrayal of King Mongkut of Siam in the musical The King and I, for which he won two Tony Awards followed by an Academy Award for the film adaptation.
Pictured here is the other co-founder of the Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger. Next to him was his then-wife Bianca Jagger. The two would end up divorcing each other shortly after this picture was taken.
According to Bianca she knew the marriage was over about a year into it, though they stayed together for the sake of their daughter, Jade. When Bianca finally did divorce Jagger in 1979, he had already moved on with Bianca’s replacement, supermodel Jerry Hall — whom Jagger had stolen away from fellow pop idol Bryan Ferry.
Can you guess who this is? You're right, it's Elton John. The British singer liked to visit the club whenever he was in town. This is one of his many appearances at Studio 54. Although he's looking rather 'subdued' by what was no doubt a cocktail of many things, the dance floor around him was still packed with disco dancing club goers.
Elton John long-ago revealed he was perpetually "wasted" for a big portion of his life. This photograph demonstrates one of those times. He wrote in his memoirs, "I was consumed by cocaine, booze, and who knows what else. I apparently never got the memo that the Me generation had ended."
Studio 54 was also known for its Oscar Parties. Pictured here is a young Brooke Shields and Golden Globe-nominated, Academy Award-nominated and BAFTA-nominated actress and Mariel Hemingway.
Hemingway began acting at age 14 with her breakout role in Lipstick (1976). She is also known for her role in Woody Allen's Manhattan (1979), Personal Best (1982), and Star 80 (1983), as well as in the TV series Civil Wars.
She took a step back in the 1990s to deal with some mental health struggles and then set back to work starring and co-producing videos about yoga and holistic living. She also published a memoir in 2002, “Finding My Balance”, and in 2015, she wrote Out Came the Sun.
Studio 54 also held parties for celebrities fairly often. Whether it be a birthday party an award win or upcoming project, the club loved any reason to celebrate with as many A-listers as possible. In this particular case, the party in question was being held in honor of the Temptations, to celebrate their new contract with Atlantic Records in May 1977. Pictured here is singer and actress Bette Midler, congratulating the Temptations on their achievement.
Six of the Temptations (Edwards, Franklin, Kendricks, Ruffin, Otis Williams and Paul Williams) were all inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. The legendary group went on to receive the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2013.
Pictured here is Curtis Lee Mayfield, one of the most influential musicians of the soul and R& B genre.
After leaving the Impressions in 1970, Mayfield pursued a solo career and released several albums, including the soundtrack for the film Super Fly in 1972. The album was ranked at no. 72 on Rolling Stone's list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Mayfield won a Grammy Legend Award in 1994, a year later he won a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and was then a double inductee into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. First in 1991 as a member of the Impressions and then again as a solo artist in 1999.
He was also a two-time Grammy Hall of Fame inductee who was known to occasionally boogie on the dance floor as can be seen here.
Although this look would be considered somewhat normal for those who frequented Studio 54, this party was actually held on the club's first Halloween in 1977.
As one can easily imagine, Halloween at Studio 54 was insane of course. That night's attire consisted of some of the most outlandish ensembles the club had ever seen.
No matter how hedonistic it may have been on a regular night, that was nothing compared to the storied annual Halloween bashes thrown at Studio 54.
Pictured here is legendary rock star David Bowie. He is seen here with Debbie Harry, the singer for Blondie. At the time, Bowie was married to Angie Barnett, an American model and journalist. They divorced a few years after this picture was taken.
Back in the day groupies weren't the only ones who got into the DJ booth. Here is Diana Ross relaxing near (and almost on) the turntables, singing along to the club's music.
Diana Ross won the hearts of the public in the 1960s, as the lead singer for what became the most successful Motown group in history, “The Supremes”. Following her departure from “The Supremes,” she went on to become one of the most successful solo female singers of all time. Diana Ross is credited with paving the way for future African-American R&B and soul acts to achieve mainstream success.
Here is another picture of the first Halloween at Studio 54. Costumes ranged from animals to mimes and burlesque dancers to circus folk.
One thing that people loved about the club was that even though celebrities frequented the spot, locals were still streaming through the doors all decked out in their most outrageous attire ready to indulge and dance the night away. Halloween at Studio 54 was an event not to be missed. According to Judy Garland's daughter, actress Lorna Luft, "Studio 54 made Halloween in Hollywood look like a PTA meeting."
Some very strange things happened behind the club's doors... some strange things happened right outside the door as well.
Pictured here is just one of the many odd occurrences the notorious club was captured here, with country singer, record producer, and actress Dolly Parton petting a seemingly random horse at the disco club.
This isn't the only photo of a celeb with a white stallion in the club. The horse was Bianca Jaggers ride through the club for her grand entrance to her 30th birthday party.
One of co-owner Steve Rubell's strategy to keep his famous clientele coming back was to lavish them with attention and extravagant gifts.
Here is yet another picture of Mr. Warhol enjoying himself at Studio 54. He is pictured with English singer Elton John, model and actress Jerry Hall and the late founder and president of Atlantic Records, Ahmet Ertegun.
Hall is best known for her affair with Mick Jagger while he was still married to Bianca. It was Mick's involvement with Hall that caused Bianca Jagger to go through with the divorce proceedings even though she would have preferred to keep the family together for their daughter's sake.
Italian actress and beauty pageant contestant Sophia Loren is seen leaving the club with a split in her blouse. Sophia, who was in the city to promote one of her books at the time, decided to stop by the club on March 11th 1979.
This sixties screen goddess got her start in the 1950s but it wasn’t until her performance as Cesira in “Vittorio De Sica's Two Women” that Loren' talents were recognized. The role earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress in 1962. This made her the first artist to win an Oscar for a foreign-language performance.
Normally, children weren't allowed at Studio 54... unless of course, they were famous, then exceptions were made on special occasions. Pictured here are dancer Rudolf Nureyev and Ricky Schroder, a child star who had debuted on The Champ. He went on to star on the sitcom Silver Spoons and has continued acting as an adult. Now billed as Rick Schroder, his more notable works are that of the western miniseries Lonesome Dove (1989), and the crime-drama series NYPD Blue. He's also written and directed over the years.
Pictured here are two of the most iconic women in the entertainment industry: model, actress and fashionista Grace Jones and eight-time Grammy Award winner and legend, Tina Turner.
Jones was often seen there, she later wrote in her memoirs that Studio 54 appealed to her sense of outrage. After a strict upbringing, she claimed she was determined to let her inner hedonist rule.
The model wrote, “I was the ultimate specialist in pursuing my insatiable appetites and shameless lusts,” she went on to describe herself, “I was the wildest party animal ever. I pushed myself to the limit and started from there.”
For 33 months, Studio 54 was the epicenter of 70s hedonism and by the large trail of photographic evidence, it appears Liza Minelli was there for most of it. As was Cher, Andy Warhol, and Mick and Bianca Jagger to name a few regulars. In yet another Studio 54 club appearance, Liza Minelli is seen teasing a man about his shoes. She declined his invitation to dance because of his ugly shoes.
Among some of the wacky things the club-goers (celebrities included) were this. Here it appears that fashion designer Roy Halston is feeding the queen of diamonds herself, Elizabeth Taylor.
Halston arranged a birthday celebration for Elizabeth Taylor at Studio 54, she had a fabulous time. The Rockettes wheeled out an enormous birthday cake that was actually baked in the shape of Elizabeth. She reportedly blew out the candles and then cut off her right breast and gave it to Halston. Halston ate it, and then they waltzed.
Even politicians and their family members came to the club. Pictured here is Jack Ford, son of Gerald Ford, the 38th President of the United States. He is enjoying a beer with singer and songwriter, Alice Cooper.
John "Jack" Gardner Ford is the second child and second son of President Ford and Betty Ford. He studied Forestry at Utah State University, and he later co-founded California Infoplace, which is a business that staffs shopping center customer service programs throughout the U.S. He married Juliann Felando in 1989 and they have two sons, Christian Gerald Ford and Jonathan August Ford.
Cross-dressing was a normal occurrence at Studio 54. In fact, it was expected and encouraged. The more scandalous or out there the people dressed, the more likely they would be chosen to enter its doors.
“It’s like mixing a salad,” co-owner Rubell used to say, “or casting a play. If it gets too straight, then there’s not enough energy in the room. If it gets too gay, then there’s no glamour. We want it to be bisexual. Very, very, very bisexual."
Friendships were made within the walls of Studio 54. Here is actor and original Saturday Night Live cast member John Belushi with Keith Richards and the creator of funk and godfather of soul James Brown. James Brown was one of the artist who performed live at Studio 54. He recorded his double album 'Live in New York" in 1980 at the club. There is also a film recording of Brown's Studio 54 performance. It has received various releases, most notably is the 2008 DVD Double Dynamite.
Here is yet another group of eclectic celebrity friends. We have Liza Minnelli is record producer David Geffen's arms. Next to him is none other than Michael Jackson (with a huge smile on his face) and another producer, Quincy Jones.
Owners of Studio 54 had a method to their madness at the front door. They wanted only the most famous, glamorous, rich, beautiful, and interesting people inside. Steve Rubel used to joke, ‘If I wasn’t the owner, I wouldn’t be allowed in.’
Rumors swirled that drug-use was encouraged in the club. In fact, many people said that the 'special cocktails' contained said drugs. This is one of the reasons why the club was frowned upon by many members of the public. It was accurately described in Hive as "a disco hothouse of beautiful people, endless cocaine, and every kind of sex."
Here is a young twenty-something year old Madonna chilling on one of Studio 54's couches. At the time, she wasn't a solo artist yet. She was the member of the band Breakfast Club, and later Emmy. Although, according to those around her at the time, she had quite the attitude for someone who wasn't even famous yet.
As former Studio 54 owner put it, "I don’t know when she first became a diva, but it was in her blood.”
He went on to describe one of her less than flattering moments: “She was there one afternoon to do a soundcheck on her song ‘Holiday.’ She was meeting Frankie Crocker, who was the top DJ in the United States. Most performers really wanted to please him. And she was cursing at him because he was late. I found it interesting that was her attitude before she even became famous.”
Pictured is Andy Warhol, Brooke Shields and some other VIP guests getting a tour of the iconic club. The DJ booth and control panel was often manned by multiple people. Club co-owner Steve Rubell often brought his favorite clients there to select the songs they wanted to hear. Bottle service, song choices, private tours, elaborate parties, celebratory gifts... all these little things were just Rubell's way of making his more glamorous guests feel special and want to return. Clearly, it worked. The place was packed with celebrities until the day its doors were forced closed.
Studio 54's doors were open not just to the young and famous, people of all age groups (over the age of 21) were welcome. Of course, they weren't immune to the club's standards, they still had to be influential in some way.
Pictured here are dancer and choreographer Martha Graham, former First Lady of the United States Betty Ford, and Studio 54 co-owner Steve Rubell. Apparently, Jack wasn't the only Ford to have paid a visit or two, to the popular nightclub. His mother Betty Ford has also gotten all dolled up to see what all the fuss was about.
Pictured here is the former high fashion model and transvestite Potassa de la Fayette. Potassa was the muse of famed artist Salvador Dali. She was said to have a fantastic presence on the club's dance floor.
As photographer Hasse Persson put it, “She was probably the most famous transvestite in the world at the time and Dalí’s favorite model. As Dalí got older he looked for new, exciting people to use as a model, and she was one of them. She had a fantastic presence on the dancefloor – a person like that would make the evenings sparkle.”
Even retired athletes came to Studio 54. Here we can see NFL legend Joe Namath, nicknamed Broadway Joe. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame a few years after this visit to the club.
The lore-encrusted club attracted all kinds of people, and it was a time when (while still private) celebrities mingled comfortably with average people.
One partygoer recalled opening night, “I saw Halston standing by himself. I remember Dolly Parton just standing there. You could walk up and talk to them. They were eager. It was before they were jaded– before the publicists came, and the minders.”
People came out in so many different kinds of get-ups that it was soon difficult to differentiate between what was real and what was fake. This man was rumored to have just left the hospital after facial reconstruction, others say it was just a self-made mask.
The photographer Hasse Persson later commented that he didn't know if this 'get up' was a genuine injury or not but he understands why this guy was let through the front door: "The whole place was like a happening, Steve Rubell was looking for the right mixture to make this a magic night. The place existed for about 1,000 nights, from 1977 to 1980, and every night was magical.” Simply put, at Studio 54 'odd' is good.
Pictured here is film, television and theater actress and singer Shirley MacLaine as she celebrates the birthday of Congresswoman, social activist and feminist Bella Abzug. This was just one of several occasions Shirley MacLaine was spotted at Studio 54. Her famous actor and lady-killer of a brother Warren Beatty was also spotted working the dancefloor (and the crowd) on numerous occasions. In fact, Beatty began attending on opening night, which was exactly the hedonistic sideshow of an event you'd expect it to be– and naturally, it kept him coming back for more.
Pictured here is former child prodigy and music icon Stevie Wonder, alongside lead singer of Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Teddy Pendergrass.
Hosting theme parties and with birthday celebrations was a common occurrence at Studio 54. On this particular night, Stevie Wonder was throwing a party for his secretary there. Stevie was set up on a platform to perform. He Teddy Pendergrass, Stephen Stills, and Stephanie Mills all got together to jam out. They played “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” on the loudspeaker and everybody was blown away. And of course, there was dancing.
We'd expect heavyweight champions to have moves in the ring, but Leon Spinks proved that he had them on the dance floor as well. Here he's seen busting a move at Studio 54. Maybe it was because he defeated the one and only Muhammad Ali.
Spinks was allegedly staggering drunk and on a glee spree after taking the heavyweight title. Although his form of happiness translated into something more akin to chaos. He was known to lack impulse control back then and a place where the drinks kept pouring and giant bottles of Quaaludes got passed around... it's no wonder.
Pictured here, is the actress, author, singer and spokesperson Suzanne Somers dancing the night away with Canadian entertainer television host and producer, Alan Hamel.
She was best known in the 1970s for her television roles as Chrissy Snow on "Three's Company" and then later as Carol Foster-Lambert on the show "Step by Step". She also appeared in two Playboy cover-feature nude pictorials, in 1980 and 1984. And then became the spokeswoman for the Thighmaster. More recently, she's been on "Dancing with the Stars" and has authored a series of best-selling self-help books.
Steve Rubell and the other co-owner Ian Schrager were charged and sentenced for tax evasion. The building was raided and bags filled with money were found. The case eventually led to the downfall of the club. Schrager and Rubell both pleaded guilty to tax evasion and had to spend 13 months in prison.
Studio 54 was closed down, but not before one last party in February 1980. Glamourous guests like Farrah Fawcett, Mariel Hemingway, Jocelyn Wildenstein, Richard Gere, Gia Carangi, Jack Nicholson, Reggie Jackson, and Sylvester Stallone all showed up for one last hurrah. Diana Ross personally serenaded Rubell and Schrager goodbye.
The club's clientele included celebrities like Andy Warhol (as pictured), Elizabeth Taylor, Mick Jagger, Bianca Jagger, Calvin Klein, Grace Jones, Liza Minelli, Elton John, John Travolta, Cher, Brooke Shields and the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson.
The party was continuously changing. It was said to feel like going to a new place every night– hence the frequent 'regulars' who never seemed to grow tired of returning to the same location so often. The only constant throughout the club was decadence. No matter the theme of the night, the sights, the drugs, the entire club scene was always decadent. Absolutely everything was done in excess.
Steve and Ian ended up spending a little under a year in prison. Their sentence ran from February 4th, 1980 to January 30th, 1981. After their release, they opened another nightclub that they named Palladium.
Ian Schrager received quite a surprise in January of 2017 when he was one of 64 people who were all granted pardons from President Obama.
When asked why he applied for a pardon, even though he has served his time and business is going great, he said, “I wanted it for closure. I wanted it for my family.”
He went on to elaborate,“It’s hard to be a good example for your kids when you did something like what I did, and you try to teach your kids to live by the rules and be an upstanding person.”
The fashion rules were non-existent at Studio 54. Men were allowed to wear trousers as tight as they wanted. Ballet star Rudolph Nureyev took this to heart as you can see above. He's seen here with some friends of his who also visited the club in 1979.
Pictured here are two of Hollywood's biggest stars, Grease actor John Travolta and action movies star Sylvester Stallone. David Keith also makes an appearance in this shot. Actors who weren't necessarily friends were known to meet up and hang out at Studio 54.
Among the celebs who visited Studio 54, were basketball legend Pete Maravich, Rich Kelley and Aaron James. The guys went to the club after a game against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
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