Studio 54 is a former nightclub and currently a Broadway theatre, located at 254 West 54th Street, between Eighth Avenue and Broadway in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The building, originally built as the Gallo Opera House, opened in 1927, after which it changed names several times, eventually becoming CBS radio and television Studio 52.
Gallo Opera House (1927)
Casino de Paree (1933)
WPA Federal Music Theatre (1937)
New Yorker Theatre (1939)
CBS Studio 52 (1942)
|Address||254 West 54th Street|
Manhattan, New York City
|Public transit||50th Street (C&E), 50th Street (1), 57th Street–Seventh Avenue, or 42nd Street–Bryant Park|
|Owner||Roundabout Theatre Company|
|Capacity||1,006 (519 orchestra/487 mezzanine)|
|Production||The Sound Inside|
|Architect||Eugene De Rosa|
In the late 1970s, at the peak of the disco dancing and music trend, the building was renamed after its location and became a world-famous nightclub. The nightclub founders spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on professional lighting design and kept many of the former TV and theatrical sets, and in the process created a unique dance club that became famous for its celebrity guest lists, restrictive (and subjective) entry policies (based on one's appearance and style), and open club drug use. Founded and created by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager in 1977, it was sold in 1980 to Mark Fleischman, who reopened the club after it had been shut down following Rubell and Schrager's convictions on charges of tax evasion. In 1984, Fleischman sold the club, which continued to operate until 1986.
Since November 1998, the site has served as a venue for productions of the Roundabout Theatre Company and retains the name Studio 54. A separate restaurant and nightclub, Feinstein's/54 Below, operates in the basement of the building.
Designed by famed architect Eugene De Rosa, the venue opened in 1927 as the Gallo Opera House (soon revised to Gallo Theatre), named for its owner, Fortune Gallo. Beginning with a very large-scale production of La bohème which closed after three weeks, the Gallo was met with a succession of failed attempts to draw an audience and was lost to foreclosure after only two years. It later reopened under new ownership as The New Yorker, but continued failing to attract sufficient crowds. It changed hands in the early 1930s, then in 1937 it became the WPA Federal Music Project of New York City's Federal Music Theatre/Theatre of Music, then it became the New Yorker Theatre in 1939, housing an all-black version of The Swing Mikado, originally from Chicago, for two months, when the production moved to the 44th Street Theatre to finish its run. The New Yorker Theatre saw its final production, Medicine Show, end in May 1940, following which the building remained vacant for three years.
CBS Studio 52
In 1943, CBS purchased the theatre and renamed it Studio 52. CBS named its studios in order of purchase; the number 52 was unrelated to the street on which it was located. From the 1940s to the mid-1970s, CBS used the location as a radio and TV stage that housed such shows as What's My Line?, The $64,000 Question, Video Village, Password, To Tell the Truth, Beat the Clock, The Jack Benny Show, I've Got a Secret, Ted Mack and the Original Amateur Hour, and Captain Kangaroo. The soap opera Love of Life was produced there until 1975.
In 1976, CBS moved most of its broadcast operations to the Ed Sullivan Theater and the CBS Broadcast Center, and sold Studio 52. The Ed Sullivan Theater once had access to Studio 52 through an access door, which was concrete-blocked during the theater's 1993 renovation for Late Show with David Letterman.
When CBS began marketing the building in 1976, various parties in the art and fashion world expressed interest in seeing it converted into a nightclub. Male model Uva Harden tried to get gallery owner Frank Lloyd to finance the club, until Lloyd lost a $9 million lawsuit to the estate of the artist Mark Rothko, in the Rothko Case.
In 1977, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager transformed the theater into a nightclub called Studio 54, with Jack Dushey as a financial backer. They operated the company as Broadway Catering Corp. It took only six weeks to transform the theater into a nightclub and cost $400,000 before its grand opening on April 26.
Rubell and Schrager hired Scott Bromley as architect, Ron Doud as interior designer, and Brian Thompson as lighting designer. Jules Fisher and Paul Marantz, two well-known lighting designers, created the dance floor environment and created movable theatrical sets and lights using the copious existing TV lighting circuits and fly system, which allowed for a dynamic, constantly-changing, environment and with which the crowd could be lit brightly.
Within a month of opening, the New York State Liquor Authority raided Studio 54 for selling liquor without a license and closed it. The owners of the nightclub said the incident was a "misunderstanding". The next night the club reopened, serving fruit juice and soda instead of liquor. Prior to the raid, the nightclub had been using daily "caterers' permits", which enabled the nightclub to serve alcohol but were intended for weddings or political events. The State had denied the daily permit for the night and raided the nightclub. The nightclub had been using these permits while waiting for its liquor license to be processed.
The scene (1977–1979)
Event planner Robert Isabell had four tons of glitter dumped in a four-inch layer on the floor of Studio 54 for a New Year's Eve party. Owner Ian Schrager said it was like "standing on stardust", and it left glitter that could be found months later in attendees' clothing and homes.
- Woody Allen
- Bella Abzug
- Drew Barrymore
- Mikhail Baryshnikov
- John Belushi
- Leonard Bernstein
- Jacqueline Bisset
- David Bowie
- Truman Capote
- Gia Carangi
- Allan Carr
- Pat Cleveland
- Salvador Dalí
- Janice Dickinson
- Faye Dunaway
- Doris Duke
- Farrah Fawcett
- Ric Flair
- Betty Ford
- David Geffen
- Martha Graham
- Vitas Gerulaitis
- Richard Gere
- Jerry Hall
- Debbie Harry
- Margaux Hemingway
- Tommy Hilfiger
- Lauren Hutton
- Michael Jackson
- Bianca Jagger
- Mick Jagger
- Rick James
- Bruce Jenner
- Elton John
- Beverly Johnson
- Grace Jones
- Tom Jones (singer)
- Jackie Kennedy Onassis
- Eartha Kitt
- Calvin Klein
- Karl Lagerfeld
- Amanda Lear
- Timothy Leary
- Lorna Luft
- George Michael
- Bette Midler
- Liza Minnelli
- Freddie Mercury
- Sylvia Miles
- Ilie Năstase
- Al Pacino
- Dolly Parton
- Paloma Picasso
- Richard Pryor
- Gilda Radner
- Lou Reed
- Geraldo Rivera
- Diana Ross
- Francesco Scavullo
- Brooke Shields
- Sylvester Stallone
- André Leon Talley
- Tallulah (DJ)
- Elizabeth Taylor
- Cheryl Tiegs
- John Travolta
- Margaret Trudeau
- Donald and Ivana Trump
- Tina Turner
- Valentino (fashion designer)
- Diane von Fürstenberg
- Diana Vreeland
- Andy Warhol
- Robin Williams
Other notables at the club
- Actor Al Corley was a doorman during the late 1970s.
- Alec Baldwin worked for two months as a waiter at Studio 54.
- Sally Lippman, also known as "Disco Sally", was a 77-year-old widow and regular dancer at the club.
- The band Chic wrote a song in 1978, "Le Freak", after being refused entry to the club on New Year's Eve 1977, despite having been invited by Grace Jones.
End of the first era
In December 1978, Rubell was quoted in the New York newspapers as saying that Studio 54 had made $7 million in its first year and "only the Mafia made more money". This got the attention of the IRS. Shortly thereafter, the nightclub was raided and Rubell and Schrager were arrested for skimming $2.5 million.
Studio 54 closed with a final party in February 1980, when Diana Ross and Liza Minnelli serenaded Rubell and Schrager. Ryan O'Neal, Farrah Fawcett, Mariel Hemingway, Jocelyn Wildenstein, Richard Gere, Gia Carangi, Jack Nicholson, Reggie Jackson, and Sylvester Stallone were among the guests that night. Schrager and Rubell pleaded guilty to tax evasion and spent 13 months in prison.
On January 17, 2017, Schrager received a presidential pardon from President Barack Obama.
In 1981, Rubell and Schrager sold the building but opted to keep a lease. Later that year, the building was sold to Mark Fleischman and Stanley G. Tate with Rubell and Schrager staying on as consultants for six months afterward. Studio 54 reopened on September 12, 1981, with a guest list of Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein, Cary Grant, Lauren Hutton, Gloria Vanderbilt, Mark Gastineau, Gina Lollobrigida, and Brooke Shields. Studio 54's Talent Executive Billy Amato (Billy Smith) promoted Z100/WPLJ Saturday night radio parties and Michael Fesco's "Sundays at the Studio". Billy Amato's Saturday night radio parties were broadcast from the club. Artists who performed during this period included Madonna, Wham!, Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, The Weather Girls, Culture Club, Lime, Spandau Ballet, Sylvester, Roberta Flack, Menudo, Denise McCann, Run-DMC and the New York City Breakers. KISS held a concert at the club in January 1982 that was broadcast via satellite to the Sanremo Festival in Italy. In 1985, heavy metal groups Slayer, Venom, and Exodus filmed a video at Studio 54 called Ultimate Revenge for Disco. In the 1980s, many legendary freestyle music artists performed at the club such as Noel Pagan, Nocera, Cynthia, Coro, Company B, Tony Moran, The Cover Girls, India, TKA, Black Riot, Fascination, Sweet Sensation, Pajama Party, Johnny O, Hanson & Davis, and many others. Radio stations such as 92 KTU, HOT-103, and HOT-97 would broadcast each live event for these freestyle music artists. Mark Fleischman published his memoir Inside Studio 54 in October 2017; many details of his years as owner are detailed as well as his experience buying the club from Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell while they were incarcerated.
The Ritz and Cabaret Royale
From 1981 to April 1986, Mark Fleischman owned Studio 54. In April 1989, The Ritz nightclub, which had previously operated at 11th Street and Third Avenue from 1980 to 1987, moved into the former Studio 54 under the name The New Ritz. In 1990, the club changed the name back to that of its former location, The Ritz. The new owners, CAT Entertainment Corp operated the club primarily as a venue for new wave, punk, Eurodisco, and heavy metal artists and also offered it as a public venue available for rent.
In 1993, CAT Entertainment was acquired by Cabaret Royale Corporation, a nightclub operator based in Dallas. CAT Entertainment completed a renovation of the nightclub earlier abandoned because of a lack of funds, and resurrected both the nightclub and the Studio 54 trademark, which had never been properly registered by any of the prior owners or operators. The newly remodeled nightclub was operated as "Cabaret Royale at Studio 54" by CAT Entertainment until early 1995. The Pilevsky interests which owned the theater itself and the adjacent office building had several years earlier granted a mortgage on the properties to the Bank of Tokyo and, in an effort to resolve a large unpaid indebtedness of Pilevsky to the bank and to forestall foreclosure, a trustee had been appointed by Pilevsky and the bank and granted the right to sell those and numerous other properties owned by Pilevsky.
In late 1994, Allied Partners acquired the Studio 54 properties and, after protracted litigation, CAT Entertainment lost its lease on the nightclub and ceased operations.
Roundabout Theatre at Studio 54, mid-1990s–present
In 1994, Allied Partners bought the building for $5.5 million. They restored much of the architectural detail that had been painted black or covered with plywood by Schrager and Rubell. The nightclub reopened with a live concert by disco stars Gloria Gaynor, Vicki Sue Robinson, and Sister Sledge. The building again went into bankruptcy in 1996 and Allied announced plans to demolish it and replace it with Cyberdrome, a virtual reality gaming venue, however, the project was never completed.
In July 1998, the collapse of a construction hoist blocked access to the Henry Miller Theatre on 43rd Street, where the successful revival of the Broadway musical Cabaret was playing. To keep the show accessible, the Roundabout Theatre Company agreed to move the performance to Studio 54. Roundabout later bought the building in 2003 from Allied for $22.5 million, and Cabaret played until 2004.
- 1998: Cabaret
- 2004: Assassins, Pacific Overtures
- 2005: A Streetcar Named Desire, A Touch of the Poet
- 2006: The Threepenny Opera, The Apple Tree
- 2007: 110 in the Shade, The Ritz
- 2008: Sunday in the Park with George, Pal Joey
- 2009: Waiting for Godot, Wishful Drinking
- 2010: Sondheim on Sondheim, Brief Encounter
- 2011: The People in the Picture
- 2012: Harvey, The Mystery of Edwin Drood
- 2014: Cabaret
- 2015: An Act of God, Thérèse Raquin
- 2016: She Loves Me, Holiday Inn
- 2017: Sweat, Latin History for Morons
- 2018: Children of a Lesser God, The Lifespan of a Fact
- 2019: Kiss Me, Kate; The Sound Inside
- 2020: Caroline, or Change
Upstairs at Studio 54
The second floor of the theater was used as a nightclub, called Upstairs at Studio 54, on weeks when plays were not being staged. The club was operated by Noel Ashman and Josh Hadar, who was one of the Allied partners. Upstairs at Studio 54 performers included Mark Ronson, Samantha Ronson, Gloria Estefan, Jody Watley, and Newsical.
The building, which is still frequently referred to as the Studio 54 building, houses a variety of tenants, among them a theater venue, offices, and an educational facility called Mandl School, the College of Allied Health. This building also houses Olivtree Securities LLC. In 1965, the building housed Scepter Records's offices, warehouse space and a recording studio, where The Velvet Underground & Nico album was recorded in April 1966.
In the late 1970s, Studio 54 was one of the best-known nightclubs in the world, and it played a formative role in the growth of disco music and nightclub culture in general. Several franchises, notably in Las Vegas, have sprung up around the country. Additionally, multiple works of art, entertainment, and media refer to or are associated with the nightclub. Examples include:
- Fiorucci, an Italian fashion shop formerly located on East 59th Street, became known in the late 1970s as the "daytime Studio 54".
- Casablanca Records released a compilation album of disco music, A Night at Studio 54, in 1979; it peaked at No. 21.
- 54, a movie about the disco, was released in 1998.
- In 2011, Sirius XM launched Studio 54 Radio, a satellite radio station featuring classic disco and dance tracks from the 1970s to the 2000s, hosted by original doorman Marc Benecke and Myra Scheer featuring testimonials from the people connected to the club. It originally debuted at channel 15 and was moved to channel 54 in 2013.
- In 2018, Studio 54, a 98-minute documentary by Matt Tyrnauer, reached both the Tribeca and Sundance film festivals before being screened at select theaters. This film has never-seen footage of the club as well as interviews with Ian Schrager.
- In 2019, Studio 54 became the theme for mutiple collections from fashion and cosmetics brands, including Michael Kors and NARS Cosmetics. The collections took inspiration from the club's glamorous heyday and showcased the iconic "54" logo.
- Gaines, Steven; Cohen, Robert Jon (1979). The Club, a Novel. New York: William Morrow and Company.
- Haden-Guest, Anthony (1997). The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco, and the Culture of the Night. New York: William Morrow and Company. ISBN 978-0688160982.
- Ricardo, Jack (2012). Last Dance at Studio 54. ISBN 978-1-4675-1362-3.
- Cook, Joan (August 30, 1990). "Gilbert Lesser, 55, Poster Designer For Plays and Promotion Director". The New York Times.
- "Rent a Venue: Studio 54". Roundabout Theatre Company. Retrieved 2014-07-10.
- "Studio 54". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved January 19, 2008.
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- Colacello, Bob (September 3, 2013). "The Seventies: Anything Went". Vanity Fair. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
- Dowd, Vincent (April 26, 2012). "Studio 54: 'The best party of your life'". BBC News Online. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
- Itzkoff, Dave (January 16, 2013). "Selling Some Old Sparkle From Nights at Studio 54". The New York Times.
- Itzkoff, Dave (January 22, 2013). "Disco Inferno at Fire-Sale Prices as Studio 54 Items Go On the Block". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
- Nobile, Philip (May 7, 2007). "Studio 54, Where Are You?". New York.
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- "Feinstein's/54 Below – Broadway's Supper Club". 54below.com. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
- "Works Progress Administration Composers' Forum-Laboratory, third series Fortnightly concerts of contemporary American music, W.P.A. Federal Music Theatre". Loc.gov. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
- "WPA, Federal Music Project of New York City, Theatre of Music, Symphony concerts". Loc.gov. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
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- "Who We Are: Studio 54". Roundabout Theatre Company. Retrieved 2014-07-11.
- "Studio 54". And We Danced. Archived from the original on 2009-01-29.
- "Operators of Studio 54 In New York Indicted On Skimming Receipts". The Wall Street Journal. June 29, 1979. p. 22.
- "Behind the Studio 54 Door" by Rosemary Feitelberg, Women's Wear Daily, August 16, 2011
- Blau, Eleanor (May 22, 1977). "Liquor Authority Head Stops Discothèque's Music". The New York Times.
- Weber, Bruce (July 10, 2009). "Robert Isabell, Who Turned Events Into Wondrous Occasions, Dies at 57". The New York Times. Retrieved July 14, 2009.
- Robinson, Katie (2017-04-27). "25 Incredible Photos of Celebrities Partying at Studio 54, photo of Woody Allen and Michael Jackson". Town & Country. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
- "Drew Barrymore: 'My mother locked me up in an institution at 13. Boo hoo! I needed it'" by Simon Hattenstone, The Guardian, October 25, 2015
- "Studio 54: 10 Wild Stories From Club's Debauched Heyday" by Jordan Runtagh (citing Haden-Guest), Rolling Stone, April 26, 2017
- "Studio 54 owner looks back at partying with Rick James and others in new book". Daily News, New York
- Valenti, Lauren. "Glitter, Gold And Sequins Galore: The 20 Most Iconic Looks From Studio 54". British Vogue. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
- "10 Crazy Things That Happened at Studio 54". mentalfloss.com. 2016-04-26. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
- Hofler, Robert (2010). Party Animals: A Hollywood Tale of Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll Starring the Fabulous Allan Carr. Hachette. p. 119. ISBN 9780306818943.
- "Alice Cooper Remembers His Encounter with Salvador Dalí". AnotherMan. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
- Morley, Paul (2009-08-20). "Disco years: Studio 54 and New York City in the 70s". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
- Christopher Hooton (31 May 2018). "Studio 54: 15 things we learned about the hedonists' mecca from the new documentary"". The Independent. Retrieved 29 September 2019.
- "Party at Studio 54 with Betty Ford May 21, 1979" by Robin Platzer, Northwest Indiana Times, July 14, 2011
- "Why Studio 54 Still Lives on in Our Imaginations" by Bob Colacello, Vanity Fair, August 22, 2017
- Hasse Persson (2015). Studio 54. Max Ström. ISBN 9789171263292
- "Cher, Grace Jones and zipless dresses: why Studio 54 still defines dancefloor dressing" by Lauren Cochrane and Scarlett Conlon, The Guardian, May 29, 2018
- "Going Bankrupt at Age 25 Changed Tommy Hilfiger's Life—for the Better" by Monte Burke and Tommy Hilfiger, Forbes, September 5, 2013
- Wild, Chris. "Studio 54: The Star-Magnet of the 1970s". Mashable. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
- Dool, Steve (2017-10-09). "Disco and debauchery inside Studio 54". CNN Style. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
- "One Night at Studio 54" (photos), vintag.es, October 1, 2015
- Gleick, Elizabeth (2015-01-01). "Geraldo Rivera". People.com. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
- "Geraldo's Last Laugh". Nymag.com. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
- "Brooke Shields". Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (Interview). New York City: NBC. 2011-02-07. Archived from the original on August 20, 2011. Retrieved 2016-11-01.
- "A Snapshot of Gay London Clubbing From One of Its Pioneer DJs, Tallulah", July 2004 interview, DJHistory.com, via Red Bull Music Academy, Bill Brewster, June 22, 2016
- "DJ Tallulah" (obituary), The Times, April 8, 2008
- "New Again: Alec Baldwin". Interview Magazine. 2012-06-19. Retrieved 2019-04-09.
- Richard Buskin (April 2005). "Classic Tracks: Chic – 'Le Freak' ". Sound on Sound. Retrieved September 13, 2018.
- Flint, Peter B. (July 27, 1989). "Steve Rubell, Studio 54's Creator And a 'Pasha of Disco,' Dies at 45". The New York Times.
- "Studio 54 owners admit tax evasion". The Miami News. Associated Press. November 2, 1979. p. 12A.
- Neill, Michael; Little, Benilde; Gross, Ken (August 14, 1989). "Steve Rubell, Studio 54's Puckish Ringmaster, Follows His Club into History". People. 32 (7).
- Abrahams, Andrew (December 10, 1990). "With Prison and Steve Rubell's Death Behind Him, Studio 54's Ian Schrager Is Back on Top with a Hot New Hotel". People. 34 (23).
- Nir, Sarah Maslin (2017-01-18). "On Obama's Pardon List: A Hotel Magnate Who Owned Studio 54". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-02-07.
- "Reality News; Studio 54". The New York Times. August 31, 1981.
- "Inside Studio 54 Takes You Behind the Velvet Rope, and into Some Dark Corners" by Glen Weldon, NPR, September 23, 2017
- "Haoui Montaug; Disco Doorman, 39". The New York Times. June 12, 1991. p. 25.
- Thom Loverro, Paul Heyman, Tommy Dreamer. The Rise & Fall of ECW. Gallery Books (2007). ISBN 978-1416513124
- Howe, Marvine (December 19, 1993). "Neighborhood Report: Midtown; A Stripped-Down Studio 54 for the Post-Disco Era". The New York Times.
- Greenhouse, Steven (July 22, 1998). "Construction Collapse in Times Square: The Accident; Scaffold Collapses, Paralyzing Times Square". The New York Times.
- "Studio 54, Broadway New York". Newyorktheatreguide.com. Retrieved 2016-01-01.
- Holusha, John (October 1, 2003). "As Cabaret Nears End, Cabaret Still Has a Place". The New York Times.
- Adams, Mark (November 16, 2011). "54 days to go until Studio 54 Las Vegas closes". Las Vegas Weekly.
- Chaplin, Julia (June 10, 2001). "Once So Hot and Now, Can It Be Again?". The New York Times.
- Lang, Brent (May 21, 2018). "Studio 54 Sells to Zeitgeist Films and Kino Lorber (Exclusive)". Variety. Retrieved 2018-10-16.
- Kenny, Glenn (October 4, 2018). "Review: Against the Odds, Studio 54 Sheds Light on the Club". The New York Times. Retrieved 2018-10-16.
- Clark, Evan (October 10, 2019). "Still Partying With Studio 54". Women’s Wear Daily. Retrieved 2019-10-19.
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