In late 1970’s New York disco reigned supreme and there was no better place to be seen than Studio 54. We take a look at the ever-changing interior themes and the people that filled them.
Bought by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager in 1977, it took just 6 weeks for these young entrepreneurs to transform the shell of an ageing Manhattan theatre into the now iconic venue.
Decked out with a mirrored entranceway, smoked glass and decadent chandeliers, the club first opened its doors on April 26th that same year. The stars were out in full force for opening night, with Andy Warhol, Cher and Mick Jagger among the names in attendance. As the crowds clamoured to get in, working joe’s and celebrities rubbed shoulders inside. The only house rule? Leave your inhibitions at the door.
With its strict guest policy allowing entrance only to the most glamorous, Studio 54 soon became the city’s epicentre of disco-fuelled debauchery. Famed for its extravagant decor and even more extravagant atmosphere, Studio 54’s success quickly turned into profits, raking in $7,000,000 in its first year alone.
Themed nights saw the club’s interior change from one evening to the next, with lavish parties thrown for its most elite clientele. One notable New Year’s Eve saw 4 tons of glitter unleashed on the dance floor, while a legendary photo shows birthday girl Bianca Jagger atop a white horse.
The club was fraught with legal difficulties from the day its doors opened, from an inadequate liquor license to suspicions of skimming cash. With its owner’s bold claims of the club’s vast amount of income, Studio 54 soon caught the attention of the IRS. Following a raid in 1978, bags of money, drugs and financial records were seized, having been concealed throughout various areas of the venue. Rubell and Schrager were arrested, and later pled guilty to tax evasion, for which they would spend 13 months in prison.
Their legal battle and its inevitable fallout signalled the beginning of the end for Studio 54’s golden era. After one final night of extravagance which saw Diana Ross and Liza Minelli take the stage, the club let down its velvet ropes for good in February 1980. In a fleeting moment in history where the pursuit of pleasure was king, Studio 54 left its mark on the world. Despite being open for less than 3 years, to this day it remains New York’s most scandalous nightclub.