Step Inside Studio 54: The Wild Nights of 1970’s Celebrities, Disco and Debauchery

Since its grand opening in 1977, Studio 54 became the most infamous nightclub in history. And remains so to this day. Not only was it located in the most exciting city in the world, but it also featured a nightly guest list of the world’s most elite celebrities and cultural icons of the time. Studio 54 was the ultimate symbol of the golden era of disco.
Getty Images Photo by Sonia Moskowitz
Getty Images Photo by Sonia Moskowitz
Nowadays, it may be your average New York theater, but no one will ever forget what went on inside the walls of the infamous nightclub. Get ready to discover the wildest, most surreal moments of the one and only, Studio 54.

Richard Gere Proved He Can Dance

The American Gigolo couldn’t stay away from Studio 54. Before he made women across the world swoon on the silver screen, Richard Gere discoed his evenings away at the popular nightclub.

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Clad in his best ‘70s garb, Gere partnered up with the most gorgeous women in NYC for a night of disco and debauchery. A big fan of one of the city’s best clubs, Gere proved on more than one occasion that he’s totally capable of busting a move.

I Got You, Babe

Since they were already divorced when the photo was taken in 1979, their appearance at Studio 54 together has gone down in history as one of the most memorable ones!

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Of course, the iconic rock duo Sonny and Cher would make their way to Studio 54. Though the couple’s career as a duo ended in 1975 after their split, they remained on good terms and even returned to their television show in 1976.

A Silent Movie Star and a True Crime Writer Go to a Club…

Clearly, the true-crime writer Capote had a little bit too much to drink that night. Although he does look fabulous with that classy white hat on his face. Taken on June 22, 1978, the photo below features a young Kate Harrington (“Love Story,” “Child’s Play”), a passed-out Truman Capote, and the legendary silent movie star, Gloria Swanson.

Getty Images Photo by Ron Galella

Swanson made history for being the silent films’ most successful and highest-paid star. And she was still partying hard at age 79!

Clubgoers Danced On Four Tons of Glitter On New Year’s Eve

Of course, Studio 54 had to step things up on New Year’s Eve. But if you’re the ultimate party destination every other night, how do you ensure that the wildest night of the year is truly special? Accordingly to Ian Schrager, the secret lies in ample glitter.

 

On New Year’s ever, the club owners brought in four tons of glitter to spread across the dance floor. Schrager described it as “dancing on stardust.” Although it made for a great night, it also stuck around for quite a few months after New Year’s Eve ended.

Grace Jones and Her Eccentric Costumes

Although severe inflation and a messy stock market made day-to-day life dismal, Studio 54 boasted a carefree environment. The club encouraged its patrons to leave all their worries at the door. When the rich, successful, and beautiful show up to the party, the outside world is temporarily forgotten.

Getty Images Photo by Gisela Schober

Embracing the opportunity to live that feel-good lifestyle, Grace Jones frequented the dance floor at Studio 54. Unwilling to fade into the background, Jones often arrived in eccentric costumes. She debuted many of her forward-thinking outfits at the disco, ensuring that she lived up to her name as a fashion icon.

The Party Never Dies. Not Even When the IRS Hits

Studio 54 was the epitome of nightlife partying for a few glorious years. When it did close its front doors for good, it wasn’t due to lack of popularity, but it would be unfair to say nobody saw it coming.

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Owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager weren’t exactly the kind of people who follow the rules or do things by the book. Not only that. but they bragged about it too. A 1978 interview in the Independent, literally quoted Rubell saying “only the Mafia made more money” the previous year.

The Club’s Opening Night Quickly Turned to Mayhem

Although Studio 54 was empty when Donald Trump arrived alongside Nikki Haskell, the vibe inside the place changed as the night went on. What started as a slow stream of party people into an unlit bar quickly transformed into a flood of newcomers as more and more celebrities swarmed to the building.

 

Thousands of people made their way to the club, and some of Hollywood’s biggest stars couldn’t even make it through the door. Cher and Brooke Shields made it inside, but famous singer Frank Sinatra was stuck outside the club, unable to exit his limo on the busy street.

Simon Says: Let’s Party

What does the memory game Simon has to do with Studio 54? Quite a bit, actually. In fact, the launch party for the game was held at the famous nightclub in 1978. It’s a little alarming to think that a children’s game was launched at a place associated with so much R-rated activity, but apparently, it worked.

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The manufacturers seemed to think their choice of venue was appropriate enough since all the sounds and colorful lights reminded them of disco. They even put up a huge (4 feet) model of the game right over the dancing patrons. So trippy!

Jerry Hall Added an Air of Elegance to the Evening

Joining the ranks of the other supermodels, Jerry Hall also spent her fair share of time at Studio 54. Dressed in luxurious outfits that showed off her incredible figure, Jerry could often be found lounging on the silk couches and soaking up the attention of the male celebrities around her.

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In her ‘70s’ attire, Jerry left little to the imagination. Lace, sheer bodysuits were a common choice for the model. Silky hair and an air of elegance completed her outfit. Every evening at Studio 54 was just a little bit better when Hall was in the room.

Donald and Ivana Trump Attended the Club On Opening Night

Although Donald Trump now has an entirely different set of interests, sits in the Oval Office, over 40 years ago he was one of the first in line to engage in the party lifestyle at Studio 54. On the club’s opening night, Trump was one of the first people to arrive alongside his then-wife Ivana.

 

After dining at Upper West Side restaurant ‘Elaine’s,’ with socialite Nikki Haskell and her date, the group decided to check out what was, at the time, simply a new club. According to Haskell, the club was nearly empty when they arrived. In fact, it looked like it was still being put together.

Party Pals Keith Richards and Chuck Berry

Rock ‘n’ Roll pioneer Chuck Berry was also a famous patron of the infamous nightclub. And apparently, so was the Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards. Below, the two rock legends are seen having a laugh and chatting it up on February 1980.

 

Maybe the seasoned, 54-year-old Chuck Berry was giving a wide-eyed, 37-year-old Keith Richards some guitar playing tips.

Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards Were Denied Entry

After being invited by Grace Jones, Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, the members of the band Chic, arrived at Studio 54 on New Year’s Eve 1977. Unfortunately, Jones failed to leave their names at the door and they weren’t allowed onto the hallowed dance floor.

 

Angry and dejected, Rodgers and Edwards returned to their apartment and started composing an angry song about their rejection. The irate tune ultimately turned into “Le Freak,” Chic’s first number one and biggest song of all time.

Karl Lagerfeld Hosted an 18th Century Party in Studio 54

After learning of Studio 54’s ability to throw an incredible party, Karl Lagerfeld decided to host his own get-together that centered on the theme of an 18th-century ball. In line with the theme, candlelight was used as the primary source of illumination.

 

Attendees and staff donned powdered wigs and court dresses and waltzed across the dance floor during an evening that felt like it was right out of a movie set. In an instant, Studio 54 could transform from a ‘70s club into a grand ballroom, a feat that shocked anyone lucky enough to attend these functions.

Even First Lady Betty Ford Found Her Way to Studio 54

Rumors of immorality aside, no one could pass up the opportunity to check out Studio 54. In fact, the First Lady herself, Betty Ford, eventually found her way into the club where she rubbed elbows with big names in entertainment, like Liza Minnelli and Elizabeth Taylor.

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Dressed in sparkling disco attire, Betty Ford returned to her entertainment roots during her evening at Studio 54. A dancer in her youth, Betty relished the opportunity to show off her moves once again, forgetting about her new position in the political sphere for just one evening.

Even Yves Saint Laurent Partied Hard

Studio 54’s elite guest list extended to fashion designers and stylists. In the photo below, taken on the eve of September 20, 1978, a young Yves Saint Laurent, Loulou de la Falaise, and Marina Schiano are seen entering the club for the Opium Perfume Launch party. Of course, leading the way is happy co-owner, Steve Rubell.

Getty Images Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd.

Exactly one year later, the club would be raided by the unforgiving IRS.

The Soul Legend Curtis Mayfield Makes an Appearance

Another music legend to walk through Studio 54’s doors was Curtis Mayfield. The master of soul and funk, best known for scoring the soundtrack to the cult 1972 film, “Super Fly,” posed in the nightclub in 1977.

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Judging by the huge smile on his face, Mayfield was having a great night. But we’re sure the people that decided to come to the club on that particular date were having an even better one!

The 1978 Academy Awards at Studio 54

Studio 54 was definitely not your run-of-the-mill nightclub, and one of its many “unique” functions was to be a makeshift theater for the Academy Awards. The photo below shows patrons at the club waiting anxiously for the 1978 Academy Awards to start, which they would see on the TV screens that were brought in for the special night.

 

The 50th Academy Awards were the last time the famous Bob Hope would serve as a host. That year’s Best Picture winner went to Woody Allen’s “Annie Hall.” And hey, maybe that’s why he wasn’t at the Oscars; he was probably watching at Studio 54.

Rubell Turned Someone Away For Wearing a Hat

While Rubell was picking and choosing his club attendees, his requirements got increasingly stringent. What was okay one night might not work the next, and revelers never knew if their outfit would be acceptable or offensive.

 

In video footage that shows Rubell turn away potential partiers, he can be heard saying to one dejected individual, “Don’t ever come here with a hat.” Did Rubell hate hats in general or was he simply not a fan of that person’s hat? Either way, it’s a depressing reason to be turned away when you can simply remove the headwear.

One Would-Be Patron Died Trying to Sneak Into the Club

While some rejected club-goers got angry, others resolved to find their way into Studio 54 by any means necessary. People would climb down buildings and jump barbed wire fences trying to get inside, often resulting in serious injuries.

 

One patron, however, made a fatal mistake. He decided to sneak in through an air vent, but he got stuck before he could get inside. His body was discovered in a black-tie suit that unfortunately never saw the dance floor.

Rubell and Schrager Almost Didn’t Have Booze for Their Opening Night

Although Rubell and Schrager poured their heart into their club, they never imagined that it would become as successful as it did. To enhance the disco theme, the two owners revamped the inside of what was once an old television studio, transforming it into a light-filled ballroom perfect for dancing.

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However, in all their preparation, the club owners forgot to take care of their liquor license. They failed to apply in time and found that they were left without booze just a few days before the club was meant to open.

Timothy Leary Turns On, Tunes In, and Drops Out at Studio 54

Even though it is not surprising to see Timothy Leary at a place where substances could be found at every corner, the photo below is truly a gem. Leary, a former psychologist from Harvard University, became the ultimate icon of ’60s counterculture and psychedelics.

Getty Images Photo by Allan Tannenbaum

We’re guessing that apart from whatever he took that night, Leary has a smile from ear to ear because he was at the post-premier party of the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” film, on March 6, 1978.

A Young Brooke Shields and Mariel Hemingway Somehow Made Their Way Into the Club

Before Brooke Shields graced the cover of Vogue, she was simply a young model looking to take advantage of everything New York City could offer. At only twelve years old, Brooke somehow made her way past the picky bouncer and onto the taboo dance floor of Studio 54.

Getty Images Photo by Tim Boxer

But Brooke wasn’t the only underage celebrity to sneak her way into the club. She was joined by Mariel Hemingway, the granddaughter of the famous American author, Ernest Hemingway. Together, the two young girls danced their evenings away at the nightclub, far before they transformed into the beauty icons they are today.

Bette Midler Was Starstruck When She Met The Temptations

While Studio 54 was always filled with the decade’s most notable A-listers, even celebrities could get a little starstruck at times. After releasing one of their albums, The Temptations — one of the biggest bands in the 1970s — threw a party at Studio 54 to celebrate.

 

Although Bette Midler was quite famous in her own right, she couldn’t hide her excitement when she met the band. Photos show complete shock on her face as she grabs their hands and introduces herself.

Disco Sally Loved Showing Off Her Moves

While Studio 54 was often filled with fresh faces, Sally Lippman didn’t allow the young crowd to deter her from having a good time. After her husband passed away, Sally visited Studio 54 while attempting to find some new purpose in life. She immediately fell in love with the club and visited it many times in the future, despite her old age.

Getty Images Photo by Allan Tannenbaum

The dance moves Sally brought to Studio 54 earned her the name “Disco Sally.” She was such a popular patron that the manager granted her access whenever she decided her dancing shoes could use a night out.

Bianca Jagger and Liza Minnelli Teamed Up to Provide Entertainment

In case you haven’t figured this out yet, Studio 54 was no ordinary club. While requests from the DJ may be frowned upon today, Studio 54 turned their illustrious patrons into the entertainment plan.

Getty Images Photo by Robin Platzer

On more than one occasion, the biggest names in music stepped up to provide entertainment at Studio 54. Liza Minnelli and Bianca Jagger once performed a duet while Andy Warhol documented the experience in photos. What most people might wait a lifetime to experience was simply another normal evening at the ‘70s disco.

Dolly Parton Brought a Strong Dose of Country to the NYC Club

While Bianca Jagger made the white horse famous, Dolly Parton was the reason the animal came to Studio 54 in the first place. Desperate to make the Queen of Country comfortable, owner Steve Rubell brought in the magnificent white beast.

Getty Images Photo by Ron Galella

While Dolly loved her stunning white steed, plenty of other animals roamed the disco as well. Chickens and mules wandered through the exclusive club, joining the celebrities on the dance floor or finding a bit of solace in the decorative wagon filled with hay. It may have been an NYC nightclub, but Studio 54 boasted a strong touch of country.

Warhol Gifted Rubell With a Money-Themed Sculpture

As repayment for his garbage can full of money, Andy Warhol gave Steve Rubell his own money-themed gift. When Rubell was sentenced to prison for tax evasion, Warhol presented him with a brass sculpture filled with cut-out dollar signs.

 

While some may have thought the gift was in poor taste, it was a Warhol original. Plus, it perfectly commemorated Rubell’s long friendship with the artist and his well-known love of money. No one could say it wasn’t personal.

Woody Allen and Michael Jackson Partying Together

Now, this is something you don’t see every day: a neurotic, introverted Woody Allen having a drink next to Michael Jackson..at Studio 54! But that’s exactly what this photo is. Taken in August of 1977, a young Woody Allen with an even younger Michael Jackson attend the Carter Burden Party at the club.

Getty Images Photo by Ron Galella

Obviously, the famous nightclub had a very strict and flashy dress code, which evidently, it decided to ignore when they let Allen in while looking like that. The funniest part is that Woody was the one hosting the entire event!

The Basement That Became a Supper Club

The basement of Studio 54 is where the more racy, clandestine events took place. But nowadays, the walls that used to house saucy celebrity secrets have been turned into a supper club/restaurant called Feinstein’s/54 Below.

 

The place offers a classic American menu with some interesting cocktails and nightly cabaret shows. And, of course, the experience of being in the same room where most of the world’s hottest celebrities once partied.

Rubell and Schrager Threw One Last Massive Party Before They Went to Prison

Before Rubell and Schrager left to serve their sentence for their crimes, they decided to throw a final farewell party in their renowned club. They entitled their bash “The End of Modern-Day Gomorrah” and invited 2,000 of the club’s most faithful attendees.

 

Rubell and Schrager parted next to Liza Minnelli, Reggie Jackson, Richard Gere, and other A-listers, as everyone mourned the loss of the club. The next morning, Rubell and Schrager left straight from the club to meet the authorities, leaving Studio 54 behind forever.

The Party Extended Into New York’s 54th Street

Since many club-goers never made it inside, Studio 54’s opening night party spilled out onto the street. Attendees danced and chatted away until one doctor decided to kick the party up a notch. Armed with a bottle of Quaaludes, the doctor started handing out the drugs to anyone in his vicinity who would take them.

 

The drugs transformed the evening into a wild, drug-induced celebration that apparently turned very sexual, all on the streets of New York City.

One Night, the Club Only Served Juice and Soda

After Schrager and Rubell were caught using their illegal liquor licenses, they were forced to close down for a night. However, they refused to let that stop their fun. They opened their doors the very next evening and posted a sign outside that explained their situation.

Getty Images Photo by Richard Corkery/NY Daily News

That night, Schrager and Rubell only served juice and soft drinks. Still, people arrived ready to party. Considering the illicit activities that occurred at Studio 54, people might not have even noticed the loss of alcohol.

Nightclub Turned Theater Company

After the club was shut down in 1979, due to a series of run-ins with the law and a very serious tax evasion charge, an entrepreneur bought Studio 54. He reopened it in 1981 and sold it again in 1984.

 

After several failed attempts by the new owners to restore the club to its former glory, they finally closed it down. The space remained largely empty until 1998 when it was turned into the main venue for the Roundabout Theater Company.

Elton John Really Liked His Sideburns

While Elton John is known for his wild costumes and boisterous personality, the ‘70s featured a cosmetic choice for the performer that is perhaps better left forgotten. Paired with his best disco fashion, Elton also boasted dark sideburns that sat prominently on his face.

Getty Images Photo by PL Gould

While the singer has never been able to give up his sideburns completely, they look especially out of place on his younger self. Elton, dear, it’s okay to shave your face. Trust us, those sideburns aren’t doing you any favors.

From Unemployed to Working at One of the World’s Most Famous Clubs

When interviewing former Studio 54 employees, the New York Magazine spoke with Scott Taylor, who used to tend the disco’s bar. According to him, he simply came in on the opening night, offered to work, and started taking care of the place.

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In fact, most of his co-workers used the opening night as an excuse to party with the rest of the patrons, but Taylor was diligent enough to sweep and take out the trash, which made him pretty popular. He was so popular, that at one point, when his coworkers got word of him possibly being fired, they firmly objected, demanding that he stays.

It Was Raining Couture

It seemed that Studio 54 always found ways to surprise its patrons. And it didn’t stop with costumes, outrageous amounts of alcohol, and barnyard animals roaming the dancefloor. Apparently, surprises used to fall from the sky, quite literally.

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The ceiling of the famous nightclub was equipped with a special net that held items that were dropped on the guests at some point during the evening. Usually, it was just party things like balloons or glitter, but there was one time (that we know of) that it was stocked with gift boxes from elite fashion brands.

The Sordid Rumors Originated In the Basement

While the dance floor focused on having a good time, the salacious rumors surrounding the club had to come from somewhere. Apparently, the truly lewd activities took place in the basement.

Getty Images Photo by Robin Platzer

One of the three levels in Studio 54, the basement featured secluded corners filled with sweaty bodies. While the lower level was used for storage, security guards constantly roamed the makeshift hallways. You don’t really need security guards to watch over unmoving props, so we’ll let you draw your own conclusions as to what went on down there.

Cher Was a Regular

Nestled between 8th and Broadway in New York City, Studio 54 was an escape from the outside world. For big stars like Cher, the club offered a place to be herself, free from the pressures of screaming fans and hungry paparazzi.

Getty Images Photo by Ron Galella

The Goddess of Pop was a common installment at Studio 54. The laid-back, party-centric environment allowed her to blend into the background, a necessary reprieve from her regular existence in the spotlight.

Rubell and Schrager Decided to Create Their Own Liquor Laws

Since Rubell and Schrager knew they couldn’t expect to find any success for their new club without alcohol, they decided to work around the laws of liquor licensing. Instead of getting their own permit, the owners bought individual catering permits that filled Studio 54 with booze on a nightly basis.

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Unfortunately, their plan soon backfired. The Liquor State Authorities caught on to their not-entirely-legal practice. An evening of dancing was interrupted by police, who swarmed the nightclub, arrested Rubell and Schrager, and shut down Studio 54 indefinitely.

Studio 54 Knew Something About Human Nature

Studio 54 was meant to cater to people’s most basic desires, which eventually made it the success story it is now. As Schrager sees it, people haven’t changed much — what they want is to socialize, interact, be around other people.

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We may have fancier technology now, new skyscrapers, and online communication, but that hasn’t really eliminated our need for human connection. And while the hospitality and entertainment industry has changed, we as humans have not changed that much. As long as the club saw these desires and urges, people just kept coming.

Even the Fonz Couldn’t Get In

It seemed as if there were special demands to meet and that those demands were secretly changed on a nightly (or even hourly) basis. Celebrities were a little more likely to get in than common folk, but sometimes even that wasn’t enough.

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The best example of someone famous being turned down at the door is Henry Winkler. At the time, he was playing Arthur Fonzarelli, aka Fonzie, in the super successful TV show, “Happy Days” but even that couldn’t get him past the velvet ropes.

The Subjective Entrance Requirements Led to a Confrontation With a Gun

Although many patrons knew that getting through the door was difficult, some still didn’t take rejection well at all. Disgruntled would-be customers could even get violent in their anger about not being allowed into the club.

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The scariest experience with a rejected club-goer occurred when security chief Chuck Garelick was ambushed in the early hours of the morning by a group of men carrying guns. The men shot above his head and Chuck managed to escape without a scratch, but the experience was terrifying all the same.

Bianca Jagger Celebrated Her Birthday at Studio 54

Since Studio 54 quickly established itself as an A-list destination, it should come as no surprise that former actress and women’s rights advocate Bianca Jagger celebrated her 32nd birthday at the club.

Getty Images Photo by Ron Galella

Alongside her then-husband, Mick Jagger, Bianca danced the night away at the most popular disco in New York. Photos of Bianca and Mick depict an evening of carefree celebration within the walls of the legendary club.

The Famous Vinyl

Even though Studio 54 was open for less than three years, it definitely made an unforgettable mark in disco history. The nightclub, famous for playing mostly disco music, always brought in the best DJs in the business.

 

The music they played was so popular that a label called Casablanca Records released an album with the club’s most famous songs, titled “A Night At Studio 54.”

David Bowie Look-alike Blows His Cover

In what can only be called ‘a very sweet anecdote’, one of the greatest musicians of the 20th century put a fan’s admiration before his own personal interest.

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As the story goes, on the night of May 24th, 1979, David Bowie tried to quietly sneak into Studio 54 when somebody from the crowd shouted, “You look just like me!”. And so, a young Bowie decided to blow his cover and go say hi to his fan.

The Iconic ’60s Drag Queens — Hibiscus and Angel Jack

It is known that Studio 54 was a safe haven for trans people, who were often spotted at the club. But the photo below is not of any trans partygoers; these are legendary drag queens Angel Jack and Hibiscus. For those that didn’t live through the ’60s or ’70s, Hibiscus was one of the famous founders of the iconic avant-garde, psychedelic theater group, The Cockettes. The group lived in a commune in the famous Haight-Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco.

Getty Images Photo by Tom Gates

Angel Jack was a known member of Hibiscus’s other theater group, called The Angels of Light. They were insanely creative and very well-known in 1970’s California. Angel Jack also gave regular performances at Studio 54. The happy drag queens are seen above in glamorous feathered and sequined costumes, at the re-opening party of the club, on September 15, 1981.

Funny Girl’s Night Out

Even Yentl attended Studio 54! Wearing a beautiful ’70s fur coat and her trademark curly hair is the legendary Barbra Streisand.

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The man beside her is Jon Peters, an American film producer that worked on some of the most famous movies of the ’80s and ’90s, including “Rain Man,” “The Color Purple,” “Flashdance,” and countless more. The smiling friends were photographed entering the nightclub back in 1977. What a time!

How Much Would a Modern Studio 54 Cost?

In an interview with “Business Insider,” the former disco co-owner Ian Schrager said that establishing another club in the spirit of Studio 54 would be much harder than it initially was. One reason for that is that it would be significantly more expensive.

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When he had his first steps in the nightlife world, Schrager started his first nightclub with an initial capital of $27,000. To open Studio 54 cost him $400,000. To his estimate, opening a nightclub today would require at least a million-dollar investment.

Bianca Jagger Rode a Live Horse Into the Club

As if debauchery and dancing weren’t enough, Studio 54 always managed to take things one step further. In order to get into the club, the bouncer would determine if you were worthy of entry based on your wardrobe and overall vibe. While many people were turned away, one four-legged patron was often allowed inside: a live horse.

Getty Images Photo by Rose Hartman

Pictures from Studio 54 show Bianca Jagger, the then-wife of Mick Jagger, straddling a stunning white beast in her nightclub attire. There’s not much to say about that interesting snapshot, except that the lady certainly knows how to make a grand entrance.

Diana Ross Often Took Over the DJ Booth

A huge fan of the loose environment in Studio 54, Diana Ross was a frequent patron at the club. Though she often made her way to the DJ booth, she could also be found tearing it up on the dance floor and belting out the lyrics to her favorite tunes.

Getty Images Photo by Richard Corkery

Before the club closed for good, Diana Ross attended the final party. She serenaded the club owners one last time and fully embraced the carefree energy that was almost palpable within Studio 54.

Robin Williams Embraced a Night Out With His Wife

While plenty of single A-listers roamed the dance floor at Studio 54, Robin Williams decided an evening out was nothing without his wife. During the club’s heyday, Robin arrived with his partner in tow, dressed to the nines and ready to boogie all night long.

Getty Images Photo by Robin Platzer

Photos of Williams and his wife depict a happy couple who simply loved spending time together. Their partnership continued long past evenings at Studio 54, and they even welcomed their first son into the world just three years after the club shut its doors forever.

The Rubber Room Was Another Interesting Club Addition

Along with the much-talked-about basement, Studio 54 also featured one room entirely made of rubber. According to certain sources, the odd furnishings made the room easier to clean.

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With topless dancers and women running around in see-through garments, it’s only logical that the most basic instincts might get the best of some Studio 54 patrons. If a rubber room truly existed, we’ll leave it up to your imagination to think about what might have gone on in there.

The IRS Confronted Club Owners Rubell and Schrager in 1978

From an outside perspective, Studio 54 was a dream. It was filled to the brim with the rich and famous, and many people could only dream of stepping within its doors. To the government, however, the club was an illegal operation run by criminals.

Getty Images Photo by Richard Gummere

In 1978, the IRS confronted club owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager. Studio 54 was a safe haven for celebrities from across the country. Unfortunately, its popularity and carefree attitude didn’t stop the government from closing its doors.

Studio 54 Was the Best Party In NYC

While the club boasted plenty of wild antics on any given evening, Studio 54 also loved the opportunity to throw a real party. If you think a live horse running through the dance floor is crazy enough, think again.

Getty Images Photo by Ron Galella

To celebrate the premiere of ‘Grease’, Studio 54 hired men to ride motorcycles through the crowd of patrons. At one point, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre performed in the middle of the club. Whatever the occasion, Studio 54 always found a way to go over the top and host the best party in the city.

Diane Von Furstenberg Loved Attending Studio 54

Joining the ranks of other A-listers who found a home at Studio 54, Diane Von Furstenberg was a regular at the club. The famous fashion designer enjoyed the freeing environment of Studio 54, where she would often strut around in her latest designs with confidence.

 

Von Furstenberg once told Vanity Fair that she had more fun at Studio 54 than any other nightclub in the world. That’s quite the glowing recommendation for the short-lived disco.

Ignoring the Haters

The doors to Studio 54 were constantly met with masses of people hoping to get in and see a little bit of the action. But this hotspot wasn’t everybody’s cup of tea. The wild parties and hedonistic practices that infamously took place there had many people shaking their heads.

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Schrager recalls facing great backlash and resentment. People pegged the Studio as the poster boy for everything that was wrong with the younger generation, the economy, nightlife, and more. Apparently, that didn’t stop the place from holding more epic parties until the very end.

Getting Inside Was About More Than Notoriety

As we’ve said, getting inside the doors of Studio 54 was nothing short of a miracle. However, it was about much more than notoriety. Owner Steve Rubell explained that he wanted a mix of guests in his club, which led to his subjective picking and choosing of random patrons that lined up outside the door.

 

Rubell didn’t care if a normal person mixed with his A-listers, but they had to bring something unique to the table. From certain energy to a festive outfit, any random attribute could be enough to grant you access to the world’s most famous club.

Cocktails, Dancing, and Nitrous Tanks

Back in the ’70s, people took their partying very seriously. And in Studio 54, people took the concept of partying even further. Below is a group of young party-goers having fun with some laughing gas at a Halloween party in 1978.

Getty Images Photo by Allan Tannenbaum

Ah, the good old days, when you could just take a huge tank of nitrous oxide onto the dance floor.

Steve Rubell Gave Andy Warhol a Trash Can Full of Cash For His Birthday

Despite the club’s shady business practices, the owners could also be very generous. For Andy Warhol’s birthday, Steve Rubell gifted his club regular 5,000 free drink tickets and a trash can full of money.

 

When opened, the silver garbage can revealed $1,000 dollars worth of crisp, new $1 bills. Excited club-goers tipped the trash can over Warhol’s head to celebrate, but he wanted to keep the cash. He scrambled to pick up the fluttering bills before they disappeared into the busy crowd.

Rockstars, Writers, and Picasso’s Daughter

There is no other nightclub in history that hosted as many celebrities as Studio 54. But the photo below is just something else. Rock princess Jerry Hall is seen standing next to Andy Warhol, who has Blondie’s lead singer, Debbie Harry by his side. And who is that grabbing Harry’s hand? None other than Truman Capote, one of the greatest American writers in history.

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But maybe the most surprising person in this photo (and the most unrecognizable) is the woman standing at the far right, at the other side of Capote. The woman in the white jacket is none other than Paloma Picasso, Pablo Picasso’s daughter! Talk about an elite guest list.

Bianca Jagger Brought Her Own Doves to the Club

Bianca Jagger celebrated plenty of iconic nights at Studio 54. Beyond her mounted entry and her birthday festivities, the star also donned an outrageous outfit for one evening out. Two doves perched on her hands and a gold crown atop her head resulted in a Grecian look other women would be hard-pressed to pull off.

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Bianca’s outfit, however, had a motive. When club owner Steve Rubell decided to act as a bouncer, he determined that only the best of the best could make their way inside the doors of Studio 54. Bianca’s outfit ensured her entry into the exclusive club.

The End of Studio 54 Was the End of Disco

A little while after their first run-in with the law, Rubell and Schrager faced allegations from the IRS that they were hiding unreported money and illicit drugs within Studio 54. When two dozen IRS agents arrived to investigate the claims, they searched the club’s vault and found the illegal cash and substances.

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In all, the club owners hid $2.5 million from the IRS, resulting in two prison sentences for fraud. After Rubell and Schrager were caught in 1980, Studio 54 permanently closed its doors. Although the owners were eventually released, disco itself ended when Studio 54 went under.

Been There, Done That, Wrote the Book About It

No doubt, the walls of Studio 54 could tell stories that would make you blush like an innocent maiden at a debutant ball. But since the walls are pretty quiet, you’d have to settle for the tell-all novel, “The Club.” Published in 1980, the book was written by a past employee of the infamous nightclub.

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American author Steven Gains and former Studio 54 bartender Robert Jon Cohen didn’t go to great lengths to cover the identities of the people involved. In fact, their depiction of the events was so close to reality, they were almost slapped with a $20 million lawsuit. The suit was only dropped because literally, no one of the people involved would go on record admitting to taking part in the obscene acts.

Rubell and Schrager Didn’t Learn From Their Mistake

Although Rubell and Schrager were arrested for selling alcohol without a license, their incredible legal representation managed to get them out of trouble. To fix their problem, Rubell and Schrager hired Roy Cohn. The ruthless attorney served other big names like Senator McCarthy and Donald Trump, and he had a reputation as a big-shot lawyer with plenty of pull.

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Cohn freed Rubell and Schrager from prison and they immediately returned to the club. However, they didn’t learn from their mistake. After a few more years of success, the owners had the IRS breathing down their necks.

The Owners Wore Their Books on Their Sleeve

When business owners do something illegal, they usually put in at least a small amount of effort trying to cover up their tracks. Or at the very least, keep their illegal activities to a minimum. Not the owners of Studio 54.

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In order to get away from skimming some of a business’s profits, the owners would have to limit themselves to about 1-2 percent. The famous disco, however, had up to 80% skimmed by the owners, who were proudly tracking all of their unseemly records, as well as their purchases of so-called “party favors”.

The Bouncers Had Power. Maybe Too Much Power

During the club’s few years of operation, many people tried to get through its doors to no avail. According to co-owner Steve Rubell, he viewed picking the mix of patrons as casting for a theater play.

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While he’s had his fair share of “casting,” more often than not, the bouncers were the ones to do it most of the time. Marc Benecke, one of the club’s bouncers was only 19 when he started working there as a bouncer. From his position by the door, he learned that the people of New York were willing to pay thousands of dollars or offer their very bodies to get in. In accordance with Studio 54’s hedonistic spirit, Benecke says he occasionally accepted those offers.

Michael Jackson Moonwalked Through the Doors

Before he moonwalked across the stage to audiences around the world, Michael Jackson moonwalked into Studio 54. Prior to achieving superstar status, Jackson donned his best disco attire and spent long evenings tearing up the dance floor at the reputable nightclub.

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During his time at Studio 54, Michael didn’t yet know about the future that awaited him. His appearance on the music scene changed pop forever. It’s only fitting that he would frequent the most popular disco club in existence, a destination that embraced change and liberation in all its forms.

Location, Location, Location

If anyone was to start a new club today and model it after Studio 54, they would, first and foremost, have to consider the club’s location. One of the things that made Studio 54 so popular was its prime location — right by Times Square.

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Now, however, finding a good enough place for a club would prove difficult, because New Yorkers have a much lower tolerance for the nightlife scene and how noisy it can be.

Two Patrons Rented a Horse and Still Weren’t Granted Entry

Since costumes were often a big determinant of who was allowed inside and who wasn’t, patrons would continuously go over-the-top with their attire in an attempt to get through the door. None were more committed, however than two women who dressed as twin Lady Godivas on Halloween.

 

In an effort to capitalize on the iconic photo of Bianca Jagger on her steed, the women rented their own horse, which they rode nude right up to the velvet ropes. Unfortunately, it still wasn’t enough. The horse was granted entry, but the women were turned away.

The Club Was a Safe Haven for Trans People

Studio 54 was essentially a free-for-all. Rules didn’t apply inside the club. While that made for some pretty wild sexual misadventures, it also made the club a safe haven for trans people.

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At the time, trans people weren’t at all accepted in the larger society. They ran the risk of being beaten up every time they stepped out in public. In Studio 54, however, LGBTQ+ people were free to express themselves. Gay people felt comfortable kissing on the dance floor, and trans people felt comfortable within the walls of the wild nightclub.

Canada’s Former First Lady Partied Like Nobody’s Business

Before she became the mother of Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, Margaret Trudeau used to party like a rockstar at Studio 54. The former wife of Pierre Trudeau was frequently seen at the nightclub, but never beside her ex-husband. Maybe that was one of the reasons they divorced in 1984?

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The young beauty is seen in the photo above after a legendary walk-off from the “Today Show”. It was a beautiful night on April 23, 1979, and Maggie made the most of it.

Studio 54 Is One of the Most Famous Nightclubs in History

While the 1970s were a time of dramatic cultural change, the decade also touted the benefits of individuality. The ‘70s arrived with a need to lean into the party lifestyle, and Studio 54 offered the perfect environment for people’s self-expression to run free.

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Although Studio 54 was only open for three short years, the nightclub featured a guest list so exclusive that it went down in history as one of the most luxurious places to party. The biggest names in entertainment were installments at the club, though even a few of the most recognizable A-listers couldn’t get through the door.

Valentino Celebrated His Birthday In Studio 54’s Circus

Joining the ranks of famous celebrities who celebrated another year of life at Studio 54 was fashion designer Valentino. His partner, Giancarlo Giammetti, decided to host Valentino’s party at the nightclub just three days before it occurred.

 

Even in that short time, the club transformed into a circus, complete with a circus ring and mermaids on trapezes. Valentino stepped in as the ringmaster and other guests wore clown costumes as they danced around the nightclub. While the party itself was amazing, the more incredible feat was putting together an entire indoor circus in such a short time.

Elizabeth Taylor Celebrated Her 46th Birthday at Studio 54

Not to be outdone by Bianca Jagger, Liz Taylor also rang in her birthday at Studio 54. The gorgeous actress celebrated her 46th year of life at the nightclub, complete with a cake that boasted her own face.

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The star of the silver screen invited friends and family to her NYC celebration, where they all rang in the joy of a new year of life. How could she celebrate anywhere else but at Studio 54? It was the place to be at the time.

How About Some Modern Technology?

Co-owner of Studio 54, Ian Schrager, believes that if the disco was to open nowadays, it would feature some high-tech gadgets. Despite the fact that it’s been more than four decades, he believes the magic could be recreated and modernized.

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According to him, the place would feature sophisticated visual effects, LED lights, and even VR goggles. The vibe would be the same with the excitement and thrill people got way back, only much more immersive.

Sylvester Stallone Enjoyed a Visit to the Club

Soon after his iconic performance in ‘Rocky’, Sylvester Stallone capitalized on his fame by taking a quick jaunt over to Studio 54. He spent time with fellow actor John Travolta, as well as his co-star in ‘The Man Who Would Not Die’, Joyce Ingalls.

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Surrounded by fellow successful people, Stallone relished the opportunity to take a night off and let loose at the famous nightclub. He was often joined by his wife, Sasha Czack. The pair would dance all night long while they chatted with other big names in Hollywood.

Liza Minnelli Enjoyed the Disco, Despite the Seedy Rumors

Although A-listers roamed the dance floor at Studio 54, the club gradually gained a sordid reputation. Outsiders claimed that the disco featured ever-present drugs and nightly sexual misadventures. Rumors painted the owners as hedonistic degenerates lacking basic morals.

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Although the club had a less-than-stellar reputation, A-listers like Liza Minnelli had no problem spending their evenings at Studio 54. Whether the nasty rumors were true or not, Minnelli often ruled the dance floor, showing off her best disco moves in her quintessential ‘70s attire.

On Opening Night, the Club Was Practically Falling Apart

Although Studio 54 catered to 1970s A-listers, the club was practically falling apart on opening night. Less than an hour before the doors officially opened, workers were still in the process of laying black flooring to create the necessary vibe of the club.

 

When the first patrons arrived, the indoor lights were flickering and the music wasn’t yet working. The lights behind the bar actually went out completely, forcing workers to purchase candles from a nearby shop for illumination. When Donald Trump arrived, no one even heard him knock.

If the Club’s Going Down, It’s Taking Other Clubs With It

When the party eventually had to be brought to a full stop (illegal activities and ignoring the IRS would do that), Rubell and Schrager had to face some jail time. Each of them had to serve 3.5 years which were ultimately cut in half. How did they get the cut? Simple, they gave some names and numbers regarding similar establishments who also had trouble keeping their finances fully legal.

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Apparently, Schrager’s run-ins with the law didn’t bother him as much as snitching did. He explained that his father was closely tied to mob-boss Meyer Lansky, who obviously wasn’t too fond of snitches.

The Infamous Bartenders of Studio 54

It was a known fact that the club’s co-owner, Steve Rubell was gay. And so, it was not surprising that instead of beautiful, busty women serving your drinks you’d find young men as bartenders. Even a young, handsome Alec Baldwin served as a busboy for a brief period of time! As you can probably guess, the bartenders’ uniform was a very small pair of shorts. And not much else. The photo below pretty much proves that the men were chosen more for their looks than their bartending skills.

 

Reportedly, there was an employee nicknamed “Lenny 54”, that told Rubell outright that he wasn’t going to work in that ‘ridiculous’ pair of shorts, and declared he was going to hang out with the guests and keep them entertained. Clearly, Rubell had no problem with this and kept Lenny employed for quite some time.

What If We Send You a Limo?

While many people were willing to pay an arm and a leg for a chance to get inside Studio 54, there are some celebrities who actually courted and personally invited to the fine establishment. Courted how? We’re happy you asked.

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The owners would send limos to the celebrities they invited. Very on-brand with the club’s reputation of dispensing all sorts of illegal substances, those limos were packed with white powders that were nothing like flour.