|Studio 54 logo designed by Gilbert
254 West 54th Street
New York City
|Architect||Eugene De Rosa|
|Owned by||Roundabout Theatre Company|
|Capacity||1,006 (519 Orchestra/487 Mezzanine)|
|Previous names||Gallo Opera House (1927)
New Yorker Theatre (1930)
Casino de Paris (1933)
Palladium Theatre (1936)
Federal Music Theatre (1937)
New Yorker Theatre (1939)
CBS Radio Playhouse No. 4 (1942)
CBS Studio No. 52 (1942)
Studio 54 (1977)
The Ritz (1989)
Studio 54 (1994)
Studio 54 was a world-famous disco in the 70s and early 80s. Studio 54 originally was a New York City Broadway theater, then it became a discothèque located at 254 West 54th Street in Manhattan. The disco opened on April 26, 1977 and closed in March 1986 and briefly reopened in 1994 after a multi-million dollar renovation. Since 1998 it has been a venue for the Roundabout Theatre Company, with a 900-seat theatre equipped with two full-service bars.
The theatre originated as the Gallo Opera House by Fortune Gallo in 1927 for his San Carlo Opera Company. It opened on February 7, 1927, with the opera La bohème. It was not successful as an opera house: over the course of the next decade, it changed its name several times. It became known as the New Yorker Theatre in 1930, booking Ibsen's play The Vikings (The Vikings at Helgeland), but remained unsuccessful. From 1933 to 1936 it became a dinner theatre called the Casino de Paree, managed by Billy Rose. It was then the Palladium Theatre in 1936. The Federal Theatre Project leased it for its productions and changed its name to the Federal Music Theatre in 1937. The Chicago Federal Theatre achieved success here with its production of Swing Mikado, a jazzy version of the Gilbert and Sullivan operetta starring Bill Robinson. Later in 1937, the name was changed back to the New Yorker Theatre.
This name would remain until CBS purchased the facility in 1942, renaming it Studio 52 (CBS named its studios in order of purchase and the number had nothing to do with the street). During these pre-television years, CBS would use the theater for radio broadcasts.
From the 1950s 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, Password, To Tell the Truth, Beat the Clock, The Jack Benny Show, I've Got a Secret, Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour, Captain Kangaroo, and the ill-fated CBS version of the Johnny Carson Show. The soap opera Love of Life was produced there until 1975.
In 1976, CBS concentrated most of its New York broadcast functions around the corner to its storied Ed Sullivan Theater (CBS-TV Studio 50) or west to the CBS Broadcast Center, and sold Studio 52. The Ed Sullivan Theater once had access to Studio 52 through an access door, which was cinder-blocked during the Theater's Late Show with David Letterman renovation. However, it is possible that the door that was covered was, in fact, leading to an MTA utility building, instead of the Sullivan Theater.
When CBS began marketing the building in 1976, various interests in the art and fashion world pushed for turning it into a trendy disco, including male model Uva Harden, who 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, the Rothko Case.
Carmen D'Alessio, a Valentino public relations agent who had been throwing fashionable parties, encouraged Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, who were operating the Enchanted Garden at 63-20 Marathon Parkway in Queens, to make the leap into Manhattan. D'Alessio had "reluctantly" hosted parties outside of Manhattan at the Queens venue and had been profiled in Newsweek for doing so.
During 1977 the building was purchased and renamed for its street address, 254 West 54th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, a location already noted for another tenant in the building, famed disco recording company West End Records, as well as being the former home of Scepter Records.
The nightclub was founded by four equal partners: Steven Rubell, Ian Schrager, Tim Savage, and Jack Dushey. They operated the company as Broadway Catering Corp. Another partner, Richard DeCourcey, was present until September 1977.
D'Alessio, after working in Rome and around Europe as a fashion PR, was well known by fashion, music, and film people, and generally with the kind of celebrities from across the United States, South America, Europe, and other parts of the world who would be ideal patrons. Harden was pushed out of the project, and Rubell and Schrager gave D'Alessio much of the control for the design and promotion of the nightclub.
Before the April 26, 1977 opening, D'Alessio sent out 5,000 invitations to her exclusive mailing list, together with an enticing surprise gift to each of her invitees. Liz Smith, Rex Reed, Cindy Adams, and other New York gossip columnists announced a major event.
On May 21, 1977, 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, but gave free fruit juice and soda instead of liquor. Prior to the raid, the nightclub had been using one-day use "caterers' permits", which enabled the nightclub to serve alcohol but were intended for weddings or political affairs. 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.
Among the many celebrities present during opening night: Mick and Bianca Jagger, Liza Minnelli, Jerry Hall, Diana Vreeland, Halston, Pat Cleveland, Kevin Arpino, Margaux Hemingway, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Salvador Dali, Brooke Shields, Francesco Scavullo, Janice Dickinson, Martha Graham, Debbie Harry, Robin Leach, newlyweds Donald and Ivana Trump, newly engaged Rick Hilton and Kathy Richards, and many other well-known party-goers. Hordes scrambled to gain entry, but only a few got past the door. Some celebrities, including Warren Beatty, Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Henry Winkler, Cher, and Frank Sinatra were unable to get in, in part due to Studio 54's elusive doorman Marc Benecke. The nightclub held around 700 patrons who paid $8 cover to get in each night.
A week after the opening, Halston asked Rubell to open the nightclub on a Monday night (May 2, 1977, when it would have been closed) for Bianca Jagger's 32nd birthday party. Bianca entered on a white horse and the resulting publicity firmly established Studio 54 as the preferred nightclub for celebrities, including Michael Jackson,Yanique & Chantal, Rudolf Nureyev, Elton John, Truman Capote, Margaret Trudeau, John Travolta, Jackie Onassis, Elizabeth Taylor, Björn Borg, Gloria Swanson, Mae West, Farrah Fawcett, Telly Savalas, Salvador Dali, Olivia Newton-John, Cher, Muhammad Ali, Sylvester Stallone, Chuck Berry, Keith Richards, Lorna Luft, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Divine, Rod Stewart, Alice Cooper, Suzanne Somers, Bette Davis, Al Pacino, the Zsa Zsa and Eva Gabor, Bette Midler, Ann-Margret, Dolly Parton, Pelé, Hugh Hefner, Sophia Loren, Diane von Fürstenberg; Gloria Vanderbilt and her 10-year-old son, Anderson Cooper; John F. Kennedy Jr., Princess Grace, Prince Albert, Eartha Kitt, Vladimir Horowitz, Rev. Sun Myung Moon, Moshe Dayan, Fred Astaire, Christie Brinkley, Grace Jones, Diana Ross, Barry Diller, Betty Ford, Divine, Arnold Schwarzenegger; and Lillian Carter, then-president Jimmy Carter's mother. Some of the world's most famous performers also performed their new songs: Donna Summer, Dr. Buzzard's Original Savannah Band, Grace Jones, Gloria Gaynor, Sylvester, The Village People, Cheryl Lynn, Brooklyn Dreams, James Brown, Phyllis Hyman, Amii Stewart, Chic, The Ritchie Family, Rick James, Stephanie Mills, Roberta Kelly, and Arthur Russell all sang their most famous songs during the partying.
Studio 54 was operated by the flamboyant, publicly visible Rubell and his retiring silent partner Schrager. At the nightclub's prime, Rubell became widely known for hand-selecting guests from the always-huge crowds outside, mixing beautiful "nobodies" with glamorous celebrities in the same venue. London author/journalist Keith Barker-Main recalls his first time at 54. Then still underage, he nervously stood outside at the back of the crowd feigning a lack of interest. His black cut-away T-shirt caught Rubell's eye. Bearing the logo "Fuck Studio 54!" it earned him a life-time free membership from the owner, impressed by such chutzpah.
"Studio", as it came to be called, was notorious for the hedonism that occurred within it; the balconies were known for sexual encounters, and drug use was rampant. Its dance floor was decorated with a depiction of a Man in the Moon that included an animated cocaine spoon. Michael Fesco presented "Sundays at the Studio", which catered to a homosexual clientèle.
When Studio 54 re-open in 1981 to the closing April, 1986 - Saturday nights were the hot disco nights at Studio 54 with Billy Smith's A/K/A Billy Amato "WPLJ" and "Z100" disco radio nights parties.
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, which owner Ian Schrager described as like "standing on stardust" and left glitter that could be found months later in their clothing and homes.
During December 1978 Rubell was quoted in the New York newspapers as saying the Studio had made $7 million in its first year and that "only the Mafia made more money." Shortly thereafter the nightclub was raided and Rubell and Schrager were arrested for skimming $2.5 million. After the arrests Rubell accused Jimmy Carter's White House Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan of snorting cocaine in the basement. A grand jury met 19 times and interviewed 33 witnesses before concluding that Rubell's testimony was hearsay and not reliable enough to file charges.
The nightclub closed with one final party called "The End of Modern-day Gomorrah", on February 4, 1980. Diana Ross, Ryan O'Neal, Mariel Hemingway, Jocelyne Wildenstein, Richard Gere, Gia Carangi, Jack Nicholson, Reggie Jackson, and Sylvester Stallone (who, as rumor has it, bought the last drink) were among the guests that night. New York lawyer Gary P. Naftalis represented Schrager successfully in the ensuing tax-evasion prosecution. After the nightclub's closing, cocaine and money were found in its walls. Schrager and Rubell were found guilty and would spend 13 months in prison.
During 1981, the building was sold by JISA Associates, of which Steven Rubell was a principal, to Philip Pilevsky for $2.2 million. Pilevsky in turn leased it to Mark Fleischman and Stanley Tate, and Studio 54 reopened on September 12, 1981. That night's guest list consisted of Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein, Cary Grant, Lauren Hutton, Gloria Vanderbilt, Mark Gastineau, Gina Lollobrigida, and Brooke Shields (who was currently on the cover of the September issue of Vogue as well as starring in Klein's infamous jeans commercials), brought back a sense of glamour to the nightclub. Celebrities continued to pack the nightclub (witnesses on various nights ca. 1983-84 reported Janet Jackson, Demi Moore, Jennifer Grey, Tom Cruise, David Alan Grier, Vanity, Jermaine Jackson, Freddie Mercury, Boy George, Whitney Houston, and Leif Garrett in the club), though the level of sensationalism was toned down from the club's early years. Madonna, Wham!, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Menudo, and Run-DMC performed onstage before becoming famous. During 1985, heavy metal groups Slayer, Venom and Exodus filmed a video at Studio 54 called "Ultimate Revenge for Disco".
This second version of Studio 54 was closed in April 1986 because the insurance policy was cancelled. There was no closing night party.
From 1989 until early 1993, the nightclub's lease was owned by CAT Entertainment Corp (contrary to claims by a man named John Neilson, a sometime employee of Brian A Travis, the major shareholder in CAT Entertainment) and known as The Ritz. During that period, the nightclub hosted occasional rock concerts and was otherwise used by CAT Entertainment 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 remodelled 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. During late 1994, Allied Partners acquired the Studio 54 properties and, after protracted litigation, CAT Entertainment lost its lease on the nightclub and ceased operations.
During 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 not to happen.
During 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 Theater Company agreed to move the performance to Studio 54. Brooke Shields, who had been to Studio 54 many times, would eventually star as Sally in the Studio 54 production. Roundabout later bought the building in 2003 from Allied for $22.5 million , and Cabaret played until 2004.
The second floor of the theater was used as a nightclub on weeks when plays are not being staged; when it does so it operates under the name Upstairs at Studio 54. There have been huge, and very popular, "disco parties" held there. The most notable of these well attended nights were held in 2000 and 2001. The club is operated by Josh Hadar who was one of the Allied partners.
It was briefly owned by Noel Ashman.
Upstairs at Studio 54 Performances:
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.
In Antwerp Studio 54 is a successful event taking place in gay discothèque Red & Blue every first Sunday of the month. Keeping the spirit of the original Studio 54 in mind, the party is all about excess, disco and glamour. Every evening brings great disco music, drag queen entertainment and a performance by an international disco artist (Gloria Gaynor, Sister Sledge, Luv', Boney M.). Every Studio 54 has a different theme, guests are encouraged to dress up to the theme. The event also holds a strict dress code.
Every September Studio 54 moves to the Antwerp Sports Palace to host its yearly biggest disco party in the world.
In January 2005, MGM announced that they were scouting for the proper location in Berlin, Germany to open Studio 54 Berlin. The project was led by Joseph Jackson, the father of Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson. Only three months after its opening in May 2006 the club had to be closed because of insolvency.
In Spain, two locals carry the same name as the NY's discothèque. In Valencia, There is a discothèque called Deseo 54 ('54 Desire'), using the same logo.
Coventry University Students' Union on Cox Street goes by the name of Studio 54, which is commonly abbreviated in advertising and branding, and also known locally in roman numerals as 'LIV'.
Located at Hybernská 38, Prague 1 in the Czech Republic, Studio 54 is considered the largest afterparty venue in city, opening its doors at around 4.00am and closing at around 3.00pm on Saturdays and Sundays. The crowd is often a mix of late-night party goers and bar staff from other venues. Studio 54 was originally located in the neighbouring Karlín, but moved to its current location in 2001.
On the season seven (1981-1982 season) of Saturday Night Live hosted by George Kennedy (with musical guest Miles Davis), there is a musical sketch called "53 at Studio 54", about an old man who goes to the famous discothèque.
In an episode of Sex and the City, Studio 54 is mentioned when Carrie Bradshaw is discussing Aleksander Petrovsky's past loves. In an earlier episode, Samantha Jones's 25-year-old personal assistant makes a dig about Samantha's age, when she remarks "I also stood in line to get into Studio 54 - the movie!!"
In an episode of Ugly Betty, Studio 54 is mentioned when Amanda is asking Wilhemina for information about her father.
The Welsh band Stereophonics song Vegas Two Times mentions the Las Vegas Studio 54.
In King of the Hill the episode 'Strangeness on a Train', it mentions a Studio 54 as a train mystery theme.
A line in the Chic song Le Freak mentions "just come on down to 54", a reference to its days as an iconic disco dancing venue. Ironically members of the group were refused admission to Studio 54 on New Year's Eve 1978-9, despite their music being played there, returned to guitarist Nile Rodgers' apartment where they jammed and wrote Le Freak in a few hours. Because of the evenings events, the original lyric was "Ahhhhhhhh, Fuck Off!"
In the TV show Warehouse 13 the disco ball from Studio 54 is located inside the warehouse, causing one of the main characters to become trapped inside Lewis Carroll's mirror.
In the movie, Gia, starring Angelina Jolie. This movie depicts the life and times of Gia Marie Carangi and they show her going to Studio 54.