Studio One Forever Image

Studio One Forever

By Michael Talbot-Haynes | October 27, 2023

AUSTIN FILM FESTIVAL 2023 REVIEW! Director Marc Saltarelli’s crucial documentary Studio One Forever uncovers conclusive proof of shirtless, good-looking life on the disco ball planet. It chronicles the history of a legendary West Hollywood gay club housed in a building where they made the cameras for The Wizard of Oz. It was opened as a gay disco in the mid-1970s and was one of the first queer spots in Los Angeles that was loud and flashy instead of quiet and hidden.

Studio One caught on with the Hollywood crowd, with famous faces from Burt Reynolds to Cary Grant showing up regularly. It was a novelty for straight celebrities to party in a gay disco and a secret release for the closeted ones passing in public. There was a nightclub in the back called the Backlot, featuring stars both onstage and in the audience. There was even a record store in the lobby that sold coke mirrors, lube, and amyl nitrate, also known as poppers.

“…chronicles the history of a legendary West Hollywood gay club…”

The club became a vast, safe place to be a white gay man surrounded by your kind in a hyper-hostile world. It was the spot that inspired Studio 54 in New York. The thing is, Studio 54 only lasted three years, while this lasted 19 years. The documentary doesn’t shy away from the uglier aspects of this fantastic world, such as admittance policies set up to keep blacks out and let underage boys in. However, the impact that Studio One had on the rise of queer culture is as amazing as it is that it hasn’t found its place in history yet.

Saltarelli interviews past patrons, employees, performers, and owners to tell the untold Studio One story, including Bruce Vilanch, Roslyn Kind, and Felipe Rose of the Village People. Studio One Forever is an important historical document as it covers a lot of forgotten history. That it was forgotten because everyone involved was on too many drugs to remember is what makes it all the more precious.

I suddenly realized Studio One’s stature when I gazed at a cloudy third-generation video of Elton John, Ann Margaret, Diana Ross, and Pete Townsend playing pinball there at the Tommy premiere after-party. There is also lots of footage of Divine sparkling through the night. The amount of pop culture foam that bubbles over is impressive enough to get everyone soaking wet. Also, there is the constant presence of poppers, which brings back a nostalgic odor for me.

Studio One Forever (2023)

Directed and Written: Marc Saltarelli

Starring: Bruce Vilanch, Roslyn Kind, Felipe Rose, Thelma Houston, Lance Bass, etc.

Movie score: 9/10

Studio One Forever Image

"…the biggest thrill was just being allowed to be yourself."

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  1. David Moore says:

    How can I watch thos folm. It would be fab if it were shown in the old Studio One!

  2. David Moore says:

    I loved dancing there with friends. One Halloween a Psychologist friend of my invited me to a pre Studio 1 party before we went there to dance in costume. He and 8 of his friends dressed up to look like Ann Miller and they got up in there matching costumes and wigs performed one of her songs. Guess what. Ann was in the audience and saw the performance and was thrilled and got up on stage with them.

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  4. Stephen Masterson says:

    Absolutely. I say 10 out of 10❤️❤️❤️

  5. Gary Mortimer says:

    So glad I could be a part of this wonderful documentary of the greatest safe gay hang-out that all loved.
    I was hired by Scott Forbes to be one of his bartenders after he gave me a tour of the whole club. I said “I’ll work the Backlot”
    and he said “You got it” so I was the original bartender in the Backlot and a few times I would also work one end of the long bar in the Disco.

  6. Gary Mortimer says:

    What a wonderful review for Studio One Forever. And it really does re-tell what it all was like back in those days…and I can relate because I was the original bartender in the Backlot. Working there many years was very exciting and just great knowing we all could be safe inside, being who we really were. Glad I was able to share things in the documentary that took place while I was working there.

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