Celebrities. Privilege. Debauchery. Hedonism.
We’ve all heard the stories about the most infamous (and legendary) nightclub of all time, Studio 54, but we didn’t have all the facts…till now.
For those who have no idea what I’m blathering on about, Studio 54, created by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, is the Manhattan nightclub that started velvet rope and VIP treatment. It was the first time where openly gay and straight people danced with the stars of their time. Where the only requirement to enter was to either be famous or be lucky enough to be chosen by the doormen that particular night.
In this documentary by Matt Tyrnauer, we learn the truth about what happened to Studio 54 from the horse’s mouth, co-owner Ian Schrager, as well as many of those who helped 54 become the success that set the standard for all other nightclubs.
Ian shares the story of his journey to create Studio 54 with his best friend from college, Steve Rubell. Their initial dream was to start a successful hub where only the coolest people would come out to play, but these men could not predict that their creation would become the most talked about “den of sin” in noted history.
Schrager was the “money man” and brains behind the scene. He confessed to hating cameras and the notoriety that was now apart of his daily life, which is why there are few publicity photos of him. Rubell, on the other hand, was the “larger than life” host of the club who reveled in his new found celebrity and power.
“…the only requirement to enter was to either be famous or be lucky enough to be chosen by the doormen...”
Rubell, also being a gay man himself during that time, made it point to cater to the homosexual community of the Manhattan area. In fact, it was the gay community the drove the success of 54 in the beginning. Once the word was out about this new gay mecca, people came from all over the burrows to be a part of the celebration.
But once Rubell got the insight to start bringing in the hottest film and music stars of the time, that’s when Studio 54 became a worldwide phenomenon. People from all over the world were flying to NY just to be part of the scene. To get the pictures taken with likes of Warren Beatty, David Bowie, Liza Minnelli, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, and the list goes on and on.
It was all excess to your heart’s desire! Cocaine and Quaaludes flowed through the club as much as the vodka. People were literally having sex in the middle of the dance floor (and every other part of the club). It was literally a modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah. And it seemed like nothing could stop the party… but nothing that good can last forever, right?
With great success comes the eyes of the world. And U.S government was looking! Starting with the fact that Schrager and Rubell’s entire operation was running without a liquor license for months until they were finally busted by the ATF (alcohol, tobacco, and firearms dept.). But even with this minor setback, the two men had enough money and a strong enough lawyer to make this problem disappear and even secured their license within a few days.
“…one of the best documentaries I’ve ever reviewed.”
But their luck couldn’t go on forever, and you can’t have a business dealing with that much cash on a nightly basis as Studio 54 did without attracting the IRS. And this is where everything begins to fall apart.
In the end, Rubell didn’t live long after the club closed its doors. He was one of the many back in the early 80’s to die of complications with AIDS. Schrager moved on to become a success in the hotel business. But, he hasn’t forgotten what he created with his best friend and is releasing a photo-book of the good times at 54.
This is could be one of the best documentaries I’ve ever reviewed. It’s a cultural piece of history that paints a picture of an era of New York that had a significant effect on the world. And it goes without saying, changed the nightclub industry forever. In fact, there still hasn’t been a club that has even come close to Studio 54 in all this time!
And just so you know, you will be doing yourself a disservice if you don’t watch the end-credit sequence… trust me!
Studio 54 (2018) Directed by Matt Tyrnauer. Starring Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell
10 OUT OF 10