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Pictures That Show Just How Crazy 1970s Disco Really Was

Written by Lyra Radford

Disco clubs were all the rage throughout the 1970s and while all of them boasted similar music and decor only a few clubs became iconic and none were as legendary as New York’s Studio 54. The club scene offered a safe haven of acceptance and excitement to those a little on the weird side. People of various professions and social classes could all let loose together and forget the expectations of the world outside.  

Bill Murray dancing with Gilda Radner at Studio 54 in 1978.

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The Woodstock generation was thrust into this whole sparkling little world of 70s’ disco that embraced their idealism, sexual freedom, and drug use and gave it 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.

No club could attract a crowd like Studio 54

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 Studio 54 quickly built up a conflicting reputation for itself. It seemed the population was torn, people either absolutely loved the club or couldn't stand it. There didn't seem to be much of an in between.

Not that it mattered, 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 Village People performing YMCA

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Pictured here are The Village People performing live at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California, circa 1970. As can be seen, by the outstretched arms here, the audience is singing and dancing along to the "YMCA."

Andy Warhol at his favorite spot, Studio 54

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Pictured here is the man responsible for the creation of pop art, Andy Warhol. Surrounded by beautiful models and adoring fans, he is enjoying the atmosphere at Studio 54. Warhol was yet another famous frequenter of the club that always seemed to attract an excessive amount of attention.

For Andy Warhol's 50th birthday in August of 1978, co-owner Steve Rubell went above and beyond the norm, 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. 

The Jacksons performing, circa 1975

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Pictured here are The Jacksons performing a concert, circa 1975. From a musical standpoint, Disco reigned supreme and artists like Donna Summer and Gloria Gaynor were asked to come into clubs for live performances. But for the most part, much of the entertainment was in-house and came from DJ's and the club’s provocative and flamboyant staff. And of course, there were always free shows provided by the unique clientele Disco clubs attracted.

"Disco fashion" consisted of some of the most insane looks

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Sometimes getting ready to go out meant wearing pasties and other times it meant rocking a disco ball on your face. You just never knew what was going to waltz through the club doors. No matter the theme, the sights, the drugs, the entire club scene was always decadent. Absolutely everything was done in excess.  

A 1979 style dance-off

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Pictured here are a man and woman taking center stage on the dance floor at the disco club 2001 Odyssey in Brooklyn, New York, back in 1979. By the determined looks on their faces, they are about to take home the gold in this dance-off.  The couple behind them don't seem nearly as into it. 

Bianca Jagger on her 30th Birthday

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One of the more memorable publicity stunts pulled at Studio 54 during a party, was when Bianca Jagger (wife to Mick Jagger) rode into the club on a white horse... and then partied until dawn of course. This grand entrance was organized by the clubs event planners in honor of Bianca's 30th birthday celebration back in 1977. 

You could go without pants or wear giant foil cupcake liners... no judgment here

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Every night was a different theme and everywhere you turned was something strange and new to gawk at. Strange color combinations, costumes, face paint, elaborate headpieces... it was hard for any one person to secure the spotlight inside Studio 54 for very long. The guests were the main source of entertainment. 

Tina Turner at Studio 54 

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Here we have Tina Turner looking fabulous as usual, in a dress studded to perfection on the Studio 54 dance floor. Studio 54 was notorious for its endless stream of celebrities and debauchery on a nightly basis. They were extremely 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.

David Bowie and Romy Haag

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Pictured here is the iconic David Bowie sitting alongside Dutch actor and singer Romy Haag. They're having a smoke at the Alcazar nightclub in Paris back in 1976. Romy Haag is a former lover and muse of Bowies, she's also one of the most famous transgender women in Europe. 

All she wants to do is dance

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Pictured here on the left is a woman dancing between two men at Studio 54, 1979. The photo on the right was captured in 1977, also at Studio 54. The rich, the famous, the infamously insane... drugs, booze, scantily dressed men and women of loose morals all resided behind those velvet ropes. An aura of exclusivity, an atmosphere that promoted sexual freedom, and open drug use made Studio 54 the biggest nightclub in the world. 

Disco date nights

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Despite all the debauchery that occurred at disco clubs, they were still a popular choice for date nights. Pictured here are Mick and Bianca Jagger enjoying a night out at Studio 54 together. 

Many famous couples chose this legendary hot spot for date nights including 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. Later Mick Jagger would return with his next future wife, model Jerri Hall. 

These dancers can hardly contain themselves

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Both, this purple sparkling man blowing a whistle and this woman dancing amongst other partygoers are at Studio 54 in the late 1970s. Studio 54's was the official go-to spot for celebrities and socialites to gather while in New York. 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. 

Grace Jones strutting it at Studio 54

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Pictured here is the Jamaican model, actress, singer, and Bond Girl, Grace Jones. Jones was one of the many glamorous celebrities who went club hopping in New York City on a regular basis and she could most often be seen at Studio 54. 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).  

1970s decadence and glamour

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Pictured here on the left is the Queen of Disco herself, Donna Summer performing on stage in an elaborate, feathered costume, circa 1976. Over on the right, is a woman dancing in what can only be described as pure ecstasy at a disco in New York City, 1976.

People literally danced until they dropped at Studio 54

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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.

Nothing to see here

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This outrageous couple is tearing up the dancefloor over at the disco club known as FunHouse, in New York City. This photo was taken back in 1978. You'd thing dance moves like this might summon an audience, but as can be seen by all feet turned away from them, spectacles like this were just a common occurrence.  

Girls getting friendly at Studio 54, 1977

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Pictured here on the is a couple sharing a sweet moment while wearing Studio 54 in New York City, 1977.  Notice the fishnet leggings, long velvet gloves, and groovy hair styles.  Studio 54 was a club where no one held back.  Hedonism was the best way to describe the sexual nature of the club goers who dabbled in many different types of drugs all night long.  What a time to be alive!

Rollerena at Studio 54

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Pictured here is the famous New York City drag queen, Dame Rollerena at Studio 54. 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. 

Grandmas can party hard, they've been doing it longer

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Here we have the infamous  "Disco Granny", cutting loose with a much younger man over at Studio 54, circa 1978. Studio 54 had such an amazingly diverse crowd. Sure just about everyone wanted to get in to bump elbows with the celebrities know to hang out, but many just wanted in to let loose and freely express themselves in ways most places didn't allow. It's because of this, that Studio 54 was always packed to capacity.

Club goers partying like it's 1978

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This particular photo was taken in 1978. This could have been any night of the week. groups of people would flock to the hottest clubs in town to get down on a mirrored dance floor. Even if you chose the same club every night, the party was continuously changing.  Club 'regulars' never seemed to grow tired of returning to the same location.

All the dance-floor is just a haze

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Pictured here is a crowd of dancers living it up at the disco club in New York City, circa 1978. The blaring music, the colored lights, and copious amounts of drugs and alcohol. Over stimulation of the senses and decadence in every way was the only recurring theme in the club scene.  It's a wonder anyone remembered anything they did during the 1970s. 

Grace Jones celebrating her birthday at club Xenon, circa 1978 

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Here we have Divine, Grace Jones, and a group of their friends all celebrating Jones' birthday at club Xenon back in 1978. Xenon was regarded as having much more of a "Fashion Crowd" than Studio 54 which was more about Hollywood glam. But both clubs attracted the same A-listers on any given night. 

Trippy dance numbers with balloons

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Pictured here is a group of partygoers joining in a synchronized dance number, circa 1977. The lens flares and trails captured here are probably a pretty accurate representation of what it felt like to be out on that dance floor at the time.    

DJs and sparkle motion

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Live music performances did happen but DJ's really did reign supreme in the New York Disco club scene. Pictured here on the left is a disco DJ smoking and spinning a record at a club in New York City, 1979. Over on the right is a glittering man in a leather thong dancing at Electric Circus in New York City, also in 1979.

Nothing could keep people out of Disco clubs

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When people talk about how popular Studio 54 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!

There just may be a rumble at this disco 

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Pictured here is a man performing with fire at the disco club Infinity in New York City, 1979. While most of the crowd looks thrilled, this half dressed spectator seems unimpressed. Aggressively standing in his tighty whities, he looks as if he may soon bust out some Mortal Kombat moves right there on the dance floor. 

Just sit back and enjoy the show

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Not everyone who went out to disco clubs wanted to boogie, some just went to sit on the sidelines and watch all the marvels around them, like this group at a club in New York City, circa 1978. Although... they also look like they may be there to hold a seance. After all, anything goes at the disco, right? 

These clubgoers look ready for a SciFi convention

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Just because the many Disco club attendees went out of their way to throw together outlandish outfits, doesn't mean those wardrobe choices were glamorous by any means. Sometimes they were just... weird.  

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Lyra Radford

Writer

Lyra spends her days exploring all shades of history. In her writing, she covers topics ranging from the 'groovy' to the downright strange. She enjoys books, movies, and strong coffee. She also fancies herself the world's greatest air hockey player. She learned the ins and outs of writing and producing film/television at Palm Beach State and The Art Institute of Fort Lauderdale. She is currently enrolled at Arizona State University studying psychology and writing. Her work has been featured by some of the most prolific sites on the web and she is the author of the travel guide "Two-Days Exploring Haunted Key West".