I don’t know when Hidden Secrets Of Studio 54 was originally published, but I was in my thirties when it was going strong and always wondered what it was like inside. I thought about trying to get in once when I was in New York on business but my hotel concierge advised me to not waste my time unless I had a famous friend to go along with me. That was the end of that.
A glimpse behind the curtain of history can tell us so much about the stars and celebrities that we think we know so much about. On the surface, Studio 54 was a bright, decadent, non-stop party, but behind the scenes, it was a world of darkness and depravity. Seeing photos of the events as they unfolded, colorized just for you, shows just how decadent the most famous club in the world really was.
Studio 54 was the one club where the famous and the infamous mixed with reckless abandon, with lines of would-be dancers begging to be let inside. What happened behind the walls of this storied New York City club? How late did the parties go and exactly what did stars like Mick Jagger, Jamie Lee Curtis, and a very young Drew Barrymore get up to at these all-night ragers?
Look closer, these new colorized rare photos and stories dig deeper into the history that you think you know to tell the real stories and hidden secrets of Studio 54.
John Travolta shows off his Saturday Night Fever Moves
While regular people shared the dance floor with celebrities like John Travolta, that doesn’t mean that normies could mingle with the stars all the time. Everyone knows about the club’s famous dance floor, but there were more places where the rich and famous could disappear. Often they hid away together.
One area where wild things happened was the “Rubber Room,” a private room above the balcony that was covered in rubber so it was easy to clean. The basement is where most VIPs went. There are rumors that the co-owners supplied this area with mattresses for anyone who wanted to get a little “shut-eye.”
The Village People pose with a young Michael Jackson and a couple of babes… look closer to see Bruce Jenner on the left
In 1977 a confluence of styles and subsets of people mixed in New York City, changing the world forever. Gay, straight, working-class, and wealthy, they were all welcomed into Studio 54. The club created a place where everyone could be their true selves – even if they had to hide it as soon as they hit the pavement.
Studio 54 really was the only place where you could see a young Michael Jackson hanging out with the Village People and Bruce Jenner of all people. It was a special place that, in spite of its darkness, brought people together. It’s hard to imagine a place like this existing again.
Jamie Lee Curtis and her mother Janet Leigh party at Studio 54 together
Like mother like daughter… It must have been shocking to see Jamie Lee Curtis going out on the town with her mother, Janet Leigh, and even more mind-boggling to see them in semi-matching outfits at Studio 54. It takes a strong bond to want to go out and party all night with your family.
Curtis was close with her mother, closer than she was with her famous father, but it’s still wild to know that she liked to go dancing with her mom. It’s hard to imagine anyone having that close a relationship with their parents. Maybe they just liked to dance.
Donald Trump never danced at Studio 54
Everyone who was anyone had to make an appearance at Studio 54 during its golden years. It didn’t matter if they were a mogul or an actor, if they wanted to be seen and admired they knew that they had to pass those velvet ropes. In the late ’70s and early ’80s going to Studio 54 wasn’t just a thing to do, it was a right of passage.
Co-owner Ian Schrager describes seeing everyone who was everyone come through the club, including you know who:
Over the next few years, every celebrity or big shot came to Studio 54. But nobody pestered anyone for an autograph, so they could be themselves. Andy Warhol was shy and just liked to watch. Mick Jagger was the same as he was on stage and Diana Ross was an amazing dancer. I never saw Donald Trump dance, though. He was a serious guy.
1970s party girl Jerry Hall
Jerry Hall’s early days as a model parallel the rise of Studio 54, but they’re also on track for another monumental moment in rock history: the marriage of Mick and Bianca Jagger. At the time, Hall was just having a blast in New York City. She might have also been creating a wedge between the Rolling Stones singer and his bride.
There’s no straightforward story or clear evidence, but the Jaggers separated in 1977. That’s the same year that Mick and Jerry began dating. It’s a relationship that didn’t specifically require the hottest club of the ’70s, but it’s hard to imagine their under-the-radar meet-ups happening frequently without the help of the darkness of Studio 54.
Celebrities were treated very well at 54
To be a star at Studio 54 was to be pampered beyond belief. Co-owner Steve Rubell knew that he had to keep his famous patrons happy to make sure they kept coming back and giving the club free press. To make sure they were always around he resorted to more than a few underhanded tactics.
One anonymous celebrity who was a regular at the club told Vanity Fair:
Steve would see his friends a mile away. He would whisk you in, put a quaalude in your hand, give you a drink, and give you a bartender too. There was a great deal of sexual tension all the time. And there was sex going on—in the balcony, on the fire escapes, down in the basement.
Dustin Hoffman shows off his wild ’70s fashion on the dance floor
Is that Dustin Hoffman staring out at us through the camera lens? It certainly looks like it. He may be known for his stature as a critical darling, but he was getting down at Studio 54 just like the rest of New York City in the ’70s.
At the time, Hoffman says that his private life was nothing like his public persona. He confessed:
They were the candy-store years because there were drugs, stardom, the Pill. I met a couple of girls in bed more than once, and I had sex in public places – like the Studio 54 club in New York.
A pre-teen Drew Barrymore was a constant fixture at Studio 54
Is it right to allow a child into a dance club full of deviants and debauchery? Definitely not. Did it happen? Absolutely. The doors to the club were always open to the not even 10-year-old star.
In 2018, Barrymore told Norm MacDonald that the reason she went to the club so often is that her mother brought her as a way to help her escape the harsh realities of child stardom:
I had a mom, but she was more like my best friend. She was like, ‘Do you want to go to school and get bullied all day, or do you want to go to Studio 54?’ And I was like, ‘Yes, absolutely! I don’t want to spend the day with these little f*ckers who are just awful.’ Kids are so mean.
Andy Warhol posing for his 15 minutes of fame
Andy Warhol once described Studio 54 as “Dictatorship at the Door, Democracy on the Floor.” The pop artist was a regular at the club which gave him a ton of ammunition whenever it came to spilling dirt of his famous friends. It didn’t matter how close he was to someone, he always had something shocking to say.
After attending Elizabeth Taylor’s birthday party in 1978, Warhol wrote:
Liz looked like a—bellybutton. Like a fat little Kewpie doll…. Diana Vreeland was there, and people were being brought over to Liz—she was the queen. I met a quarterback. Bob was watching Bianca [Jagger] take poppers and he said to Diana Vreeland, ‘It really becomes more like pagan Rome every day,’ and she said, ‘I should hope so—isn’t that what we’re after?’
Sylvester Stallone and Joyce Ingalls pose for the paparazzi
One year before Studio 54 became the place to be, Sylvester Stallone made a huge splash with Rocky in 1976. He went from a struggling actor to one of the most famous people on the planet, and he flexed that muscle whenever he had the chance… Especially on the dance floor.
At the time the club was struggling so the owners made sure to pay Joanne Horowitz a kind of finder’s fee for every celebrity she could get into the joint. If they wound up on the cover of a magazine she made even more money. She told Page Six:
For [Sylvester] Stallone and Michael Jackson, I was paid the most; $250 each if they got the covers of The Post or the Daily News, $150 for inside. For People magazine, I got $250. Same for Time or Newsweek… Stallone got photographed with his girlfriend, not his wife, and he wasn’t too pleased.
Hugh Hefner and one of his bunnies survey the dance floor
Hugh Hefner was a man about town long before Studio 54 became the must-see nightspot in New York City. At the time he was running his magazine and its Bunny Clubs, but they weren’t really a place where someone would go and dance. Hefner traveled to Studio 54 for a change of pace, he wanted to know what young people were doing.
Bill Farley, the former publicist for Hef’s magazine wondered out loud about the difference between Hefner’s world and Studio 54 to Vanity Fair:
I wonder if the entertainment model hadn’t changed a little because—taking Studio 54 as an example—people had moved on to loud dance clubs, a lot of coke was going around, and that kind of stuff wasn’t happening at the our clubs. Dancing was part of what you could do there, but they weren’t dance clubs primarily.
Tina Turner lights up the dance floor
Tina Turner was escaping the harsh present when she went to Studio 54 to dance her blues away. At the time she had just ended a tempestuous relationship with her then-husband Ike Turner and she wanted to go out. Not only did she want to go out and dance after that horrible time, but she also deserved to do so.
Studio 54 was a safe haven for people who were searching for personal freedom. Within the walls of the club, they could be safe from the harsh realities of the outside world. Sadly, when the sun came up and the music faded those realities were still waiting.
Elton John and Cher never missed an opportunity to look good
It was one thing to be on the dance floor at this infamous club, but there was a myriad of secret rooms and hidden areas that we can only dream of finding today. Elton John was a mainstay at the club and he admits that during his wildest years he wasn’t on his best behavior. Unfortunately, he ended up breaking a few hearts at Studio 54.
In 2020, Elton John told Perth Now how he rudely got out of a marriage proposal from Liza Minelli:
There was a downstairs area that had pinball machines with lines and lines of coke and you’d bump into everyone there, from politicians to ballet dancers to actors to singers. Everyone down there was doing lines of coke. Liza Minnelli once proposed to me down there. She asked: ‘Will you marry me?’ At which point I broke the 100m sprint record and left.
All eyes are on Debbie Harry
Debbie Harry has lived an insane rock n roll lifestyle, and in the ’70s that meant getting on the dance floor at Studio 54. As the singer for Blondie, most of her nights were taken up by performing. However, she admits that she found plenty of time to get up to no good.
Harry told Elle about her memorable trips to Studio 54:
I remember going to Studio 54 and getting drunk. And not really knowing how I got drunk, and ending up in a pile of bodies. I don’t think I went there a lot – it wasn’t my scene. We were more downtown rockers. The time that I do remember [most] specifically was when Andy threw the party for Interview magazine. I was on the cover and I met Truman Capote – I was so starstruck I could barely talk. I think he was high. With the loud music you couldn’t really talk.
Bill Murray and Gilda Radner were no strangers to the party at Studio 54
It’s crazy to think that Studio 54 and Saturday Night Live were both happening in New York City at the same time. It must have felt like raw, unbridled energy was unleashed in Manhattan every Saturday night. Once the show came to an end the cast had to have somewhere to go – and they went to the Studio.
Remember, at the time the cast of SNL were rock stars. When they walked into the club there was a palpable energy, things got more exciting and everyone wanted to be around them. However, it’s believed that the cast liked to keep to themselves and hang out in the mysterious rubber room…
Bianca Jagger rode a white horse through Studio 54 on her 30th birthday
There’s no image that stands out as a signifier of the opulence of Studio 54 like this shot of Bianca Jagger riding a white horse across the dance floor. Supposedly on May 2, 1977, Bianca Jagger rode through the club on this beautiful white horse. But is that the whole story.
In 2015, Bianca Jagger said that the story that’s been told is far from true and that she finds the entire idea of her riding through a club to be offensive. She explained:
It was a beautiful white horse that reminded me of mine and I made the foolish decision to get on it for a few minutes. No doubt you will agree with me that it is one thing to, on the spur of the moment, to get on a horse in a nightclub, but it is quite another to ride in on one. As an environmentalist and an animal rights defender I find the insinuation that I would ride a horse into a nightclub offensive. I hope that you can understand the difference between ‘coming in’ on a horse and getting on one.
Jerry Hall, as good as gold…
Even the celebrities at Studio 54 were known to get star-struck from time to time. It happens to the best of us. At the time Jerry Hall was just getting used to being a celebrity and she had stars in her eyes.
While speaking with Harper’s Bazaar, Hall admitted that she was incredibly overwhelmed with the level of celebrity in the dance club:
That was wonderful. Because you’d see all these amazing people, famous people from all over the world, in one place on one night. It was quite something! It was wonderful. You’d see Martha Graham, Rudolf Nureyev, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams. Elizabeth Taylor.
Robin Williams loved to bring his wife to Studio 54
Fame brings darkness upon people, even the most outrageous of us all. Robin Williams was only at the beginning of his long career when he started going to Studio 54, but according to eyewitnesses, he was already being followed by a cloud. He was one of many stars who flirted with cocaine at the club, but he did it enough to draw notice.
Mark Fleischman, who purchased Studio 54 from its original owners at the dawn of the ’80s, writes that the club’s most extravagant years were fueled by cocaine:
There were drugs all over the place — that’s what fueled it. I partied with the people who loved cocaine. Belushi used to freebase and would get extremely aggressive with the clientele and staff. Robin Williams would get very energetic and funny.
Grace Jones… forever cool
It was an open secret that Studio 54 was a haven of debauchery. In the 1970s and ’80s, the world was still getting into the groove with illicit substances. Anyone who made it past the velvet ropes of Studio 54 received a crash course in the world of Bolivian marching powder.
According to model/actress/singer Grace Jones, a night at Studio 54 wasn’t complete without hitting the slopes so to speak. She said:
At the time, it wasn’t so much a question of quantity as of quality. Doing cocaine was a lot more festive and social then. We snorted it like others drank coffee. And it was never hidden. The proof: at Studio 54, a huge coke spoon was hung above the dancefloor.
Divine, ‘the Godzilla of drag’
Divine was made for Studio 54. This larger-than-life, loud and proud drag queen was more than just a known entity on the New York club scene, they were the star of a series of cult films by John Waters and everyone wanted to be around them. They weren’t the average person that you’d find out at the club, but Studio 54 wasn’t your average club.
Studio 54 was a place where everyone could mingle no matter what they were into. It was assumed that if you were allowed in the club that you were cool, or at the very least that you could hang with some of the more outrageous people that were a constant presence on the dance floor. You didn’t have to match eyeshadow for eyeshadow with “the Godzilla of drag,” but it would help you get in if you did.
Cher stuns on the dance floor
For all of the talk about how Studio 54 was a place where people tossed off conventions and were just themselves, it was still an amazing place to see famous people. Of course, people wanted to dance under the infamous spoon, but they also wanted to be close to someone they’d only seen in a magazine. Imagine seeing Cher in this outfit standing right in front of you.
Getting into the club was not only a chance to be next to beautiful people, it was a chance to be one of the beautiful people. It was an entry point into a world that most people never see. For a lucky few, it changed their lives forever.
Liza Minnelli shuts down the dance floor
Liza Minelli was such a constant presence at Studio 54 that even when the first iteration of the club was going downhill she was seen as an integral part of the nightly operation. In 1978, the IRS brought the hammer down on the club’s original owners and found that they were skimming 80% of the profits. Obviously, the club’s owners went to jail.
The night before their sentences began the two owners threw the biggest going away party that New York had ever seen. People partied like there was no tomorrow. As a send-off, Diana Ross and Liza Minnelli serenaded the crowd with song after song as if Rome were burning.
A young Michael Jackson hangs out with Steven Tyler from Aerosmith and club co-owner Steve Rubell
With so many famous people coming and going out of Studio 54 it’s kind of insane that they never actually had a liquor license. Most of the people going to the club were usually on something other than booze, but a liquor license is still required to have a functioning club. The way club owners got around that is honestly genius.
Rather than apply for a liquor license, the owners bought single-day catering licenses. Of course, the authorities began to wonder why a club would need hundreds of catering licenses and they started to move in. It didn’t take long for the party to stop and the music to end once that happened.
David Bowie goes full glam for his night at the Studio
Studio 54 came at the dawn of the age of celebrity when everyone knew exactly what David Bowie and Mick Jagger looked like. Fans knew that if they wanted to see their favorite stars all they had to do was get into Studio 54. That is if they could get in.
In the late ’70s, going to Studio 54 was a must-do for any visiting celebrity, no ifs and or buts. As co-owner Ian Schrager put it:
Any celebrity that came into New York made a stop on The Tonight Show, then made a stop at Studio 54. That’s just the way it was.
Mick Jagger, cooler than a Rolling Stone
It’s as if Mick Jagger and his then-wife Bianca set up shop and lived at Studio 54 in the mid-’70s. They were such regulars that Bianca had her birthday party at the club and allegedly rode in on a white horse. Or at least that’s what everyone remembers, Bianca says that’s not the case.
Jagger says that she didn’t ride into the club on a horse, but that 54’s owner – Steve Rubell – already had the horse there and made it available for her to ride. She wrote:
It is one thing to, on the spur of the moment, get on a horse in a night club, but it quite another to ride in on one… I often ask myself how people visualise this fable . . . Where was Mick during this time? Was he holding the reins and pulling me and the horse through the streets of New York, or following submissively behind me!?
Every night was a party at Studio 54, especially when there were girls dancing in a giant champagne glass
Every night at Studio 54 was something different. To keep the experience of wildly popular club new and fresh there was constant churn and burn of ideas flowing through the staff. Some nights women were dancing in champagne glasses, other nights it was a free for all foam party – anything to give regulars something new.
One former reveler told the New York Times:
Ian Schrager understood right away that the experience was going to be everything and that everyone was going to come back for a different experience and he would make each one different every time. He’s such a detail freak. To him, the details were everything.
David Bowie and Iman… the perfect couple
It’s no secret that Iman saved David Bowie’s life. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Bowie was a mad man who prowled the streets of New York and stayed in plush penthouses in Gramercy Park. When he wasn’t at Studio 54 he was at CBGB and getting up to no good in the after hours.
Bowie was known for hoovering up large quantities of powders and who knows what. But after meeting Iman the “Rebel Rebel” singer turned all of that off like a switch. All it took was the love of a good woman to set him on the right path.
John Travolta and Sylvester Stallone were regulars while filming ‘Staying Alive’
During the making of Staying Alive, the Broadway-themed sequel to Saturday Night Fever, John Travolta and Sylvester Stallone frequented Studio 54. It was the perfect time for these two stars to hit the floor. Not only were they young and looking for fun, but they were flush with cash.
The biggest stars of the day made their way to the club so they could flaunt their newfound success. Even though it was democracy on the dancefloor they were still known entities and treated as such. At the onset of a culture focused on celebrities, these two men lived like kings.
A beauty in blue…
Glamorous and out of control, Studio 54 was the one place where everyone fits in as long as you were willing to lose yourself. The original incarnation of Studio 54 only lasted for just over two years (33 months to be exact), but everyone who visited the scene knew that they were in for a good time. However, visitors who didn’t likely wouldn’t return.
Myra Sheer, a longtime acolyte of the club, explained the elation of entering the club for the first time:
The first time I went there, I remember my mouth was dropping. Then I looked around and realised, ‘No one else’s mouth is dropping. Act like you’re cool.’ I had just moved to New York and thought, ‘Wow this is the glamour!’ I didn’t realise it was one singular sensation.
A girl in green lets her inhibitions go at Studio 54
The phrase “anything goes” was tailor-made for Studio 54. The club may have been in the middle of Manhattan but behind its brick walls was a bacchanalia not seen since the days of ancient Rome. People did what they wanted when they wanted and they didn’t care who saw.
Photographer Dustin Pitman saw all of the insanity and didn’t turn away, he welcomed it all. He later said:
I started going to Studio 54 on opening night. It was a madhouse filled with theatrics like the moon and the spoon [sculpture], the lights coming down, the drugs, the sex going on downstairs, the disco music and the sound system, the flowers, and the non-stop frenetic energy all night long. What was special about Studio 54 was the marriage between the boy and the girl in the street and the celebrities. It was the first time a massive mix of crowds from fashion, music, celebrities, socialities, and people from the suburbs were assembling under one roof.
A real beauty in gold takes a break from the action
Everyone in New York City – and the rest of the world – knew about Studio 54, but few people were ever able to see what happened inside. The mystery of the dance palace drew people to its velvet ropes night after night. People drove in from everywhere for a chance at getting a look at the club’s famous dancefloor.
Inside, the club was a free for all of dancing and debauchery. The famous mingled with the rest of the world without their agents or managers tugging on their arms. Although, more often than not it was the celebrities who made it through the door first.
Rod Stewart enjoys the sights of 54
Young hearts be free tonight… Rod Stewart could have been singing about any given night at Studio 54. As a place to dance and a place to play, the short-lived NYC club couldn’t have been better. But many stars didn’t know the darkness at the heart of the club.
Owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager made sure to hide their financial woes from the celebrities who stopped in for a night. They didn’t want anyone to know that they were hiding a ridiculous amount of money and cooked books in their offices. If they gave up that information it would have ruined all the fun.
Bianca Jagger studied political science before becoming a regular at Studio 54
With all of the secretive partying happening behind closed doors at Studio 54, it’s hard to imagine that someone was actually walking around with a camera. Rose Hartman was one of many photographers who brought their work to the dance floor and captured hundreds of amazing shots. She was never officially hired to do the job, she was just always allowed inside.
Hartman explained the excitement of capturing the essence of Studio 54 throughout the late ’70s:
I was thrilled that I was able to take these pictures, for example Lou Reed talking with Andy Warhol, or Jerry Hall sitting with Diana Vreeland, who was Editor-in-Chief at Vogue. Images like that just thrill me! I was delighted that I was able to take them. People come up to me all the time, and some don’t know I took the photo, obviously they weren’t even born back then, and they would say ‘You took that photo? That is a fabulous photo.’ It was true, it is true. It never gets old.
The aftermath of the party
It’s no secret that everyone who was anyone wanted to be in Studio 54, but space was limited and so many people were left in the cold. People wanted to be inside where the action was, where dancers were leaving their inhibitions behind. Some people were even willing to break in.
There are rumors that someone printed up a map showing how to sneak into the club, but at some point, a person ended up meeting their end in the air conditioning ducts on the search for the perfect party. Author Anthony Haden-Guest said:
This guy got stuck in a vent trying to get in. It smelled like a cat had died. He was in black tie.
Anything goes at Studio 54
When Studio 54 was happening it was at the height of a new sexual revolution. Hangups about sexuality were falling by the wayside. This was one of the few places where the straight world mixed with everything else.
Many people had to get over their preconceived notions of “normal life” to be able to party at Studio 54, but once they did they were better off for it. The experience allowed people to experiment, or at the very least create space in their brains for another way of life. It’s wild to think that a club changed the minds of so many people in such a short amount of time.
Some people just aren’t made for an all-night party
How much partying is too much partying. This woman has clearly gone a little too hard at the most exciting nightclub of its era. But is totally wasted or just overwhelmed?
Fashion designer Zandra Rhodes told the New York Times that on her visit to the club she stayed sober and still passed out:
There is one very embarrassing picture of me asleep sitting next to Tina Chow, who was also asleep. I’m not really a nightclub person. I don’t drink. When you’ve got green hair, though, and you wear a dress with feathers all over it, people automatically think you’re drugged up.
Andy Warhol invented the selfie
It’s an industry secret that many of the celebrities who attended Studio 54 on the regular were often there by invitation only. Some stars had to actually pay to get in, but there were a few who were specifically asked to show up. Stars like Andy Warhol and Grace Jones weren’t just there to dance, they were part of the attraction.
Myra Sheer, the club’s publicist, explained how she got so many stars in, and who had to pay:
They hired me on instinct. In the first week or so, Steve gave me the call list. Andy Warhol, Richard Gere — it was my job to call them. Andy would always take the call. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards were comped but the rest of the group had to pay.
If the balloons fit…
When a club is as hot as Studio 54, people will do anything they can to get inside. The doormen knew that they couldn’t just let anyone in, and they wielded their authority as if it were absolute. Would-be dancers did whatever they could to stand out and make themselves amenable to the men at the door.
Some people who were desperate to get in paid thousands of dollars for a chance to experience the fun of the club. Others offered up their bodies to the doormen who were “sometimes” swayed. It may have been the late ’70s but it was the wild west.
The life of the party…
By 1977, New York City was basically a wasteland. Regular people were moving to the suburbs in droves leaving nothing more than those who were truly able to lose themselves in city life. For them, Studio 54 was the one place that glittered in the sea of gray.
Fashion designer Norma Kamali explained exactly why so many people were drawn to studio 54:
New York was bankrupt, a disaster. Everybody was leaving. At Studio 54 everybody could shake free of the doom and gloom. It was the answer, the release, the place where you could go and not feel threatened. Nobody was going to judge you. Everybody wanted to be there to experience total exhilaration.
As always Divine was the center of attention at Studio 54
Normal people, the regular Joes, and bridge and tunnel folk weren’t always going to get into Studio 54. Regulars had to have something special, and Divine had that untouchable, intangible “it” factor. They carried a danger with them that was impossible to ignore.
While speaking about Divine in 2015, director John Waters explained why Divine was the perfect fit for the era and Studio 54:
His legacy was that he made all drag queens cool. They were square then, they wanted to be Miss America and be their mothers. Divine frightened drag queens because he would show up with a chainsaw and fake scars on his face, wearing mini skirts when you’re 300 pounds. He broke every rule. And now every drag queen, every one that’s successful today is cutting edge.
The corners of Studio 54 could be a strange place
The danger of a place like Studio 54, where inhibitions were dropped and expectations were lowered, was that it was never clear what anyone wanted. Some revelers were just looking for a good time, but there were people with nefarious desires. Take this photo for example, what could that man be whispering in her ear?
While these guys could just be having a normal night, you never know what you’re going to get in a club known for its extreme hedonism. There were so many dark corners and unknown spaces in Studio 54 that someone could slip away and do whatever they wanted. It was rare that anyone found out everything that happened inside this famous club.
Jerry Hall’s outfit leaves nothing to the imagination 👀
There was no such thing as subtlety at Studio 54. As you can see from this very sexy photo the outfits on display at this daring club were not only meant to entice but to make everyone stop and do a double-take. The plan definitely worked on the fellow in the photo.
The 1970s were a time when people were taking the concept of “free love” from the ’60s and blending them with the superstar chic of the then-modern era. Even if you didn’t want to meet anyone at the club you still had to dress like you were looking for something extra. That was the whole point of Studio 54 and the debaucherous decade.
A long night at 54…
There was an unspoken rule at Studio 54: there needed to be more women than men on the dance floor. Not only did the women of the era provide a specific vibe, but they made sure that the club wasn’t brimming with testosterone. To make sure that happened the doormen made sure to let in about one guy for every ten women.
That practice may have felt unfair to the guys waiting outside in the cold, but 19-year-old Marc Benecke says that he was always happy to let people in if they had the right energy. He said:
One of the things I think that made me a good doorperson was that I can really feel [people’s] energy and for the most part, where they’re coming from.
Robin Williams was a regular at the club throughout its incarnations
While a lot of celebrities went to Studio 54 on their own in the search for something specific, Robin Williams was known for bringing his wife to this extremely hot dance club. Onlookers say that he was always dressed up and ready to get down. Even though the club was considered a spooky place it could provide moments of levity.
An evening at Studio 54 wasn’t complete without Liza Minnelli
Liza Minelli was a mainstay at Studio 54, so much so that it was as if she lived on the dancefloor. She was such an important part of the club for its first year that they tried to make a part of their one-year anniversary celebration. It turns out that she wasn’t really into that kind of adulation.
While speaking with Harper’s Bazaar, Minelli explained that she didn’t know and didn’t care for the Studio’s plans to spin her records while she danced for an audience of onlookers:
There was a platform set up, and they were playing one of my records, and Bianca was like, ‘What the hell?’ And I said, ‘Just keep moving.’
Andy Warhol and Bianca Jagger were the best of friends… until they weren’t
Even though Andy Warhol and Bianca Jagger look quite chummy here this would be one of the last times that they were friendly. The duo partied often at Studio 54, but Bianca had no idea that Warhol was taking notes the entire time they were hanging out. The last thing she wanted was for her secret life to become known to the world.
Years after this photo was taken, the diaries of Andy Warhol were released and they didn’t paint Bianca in a kind light. She sued Warhol’s estate because she said that she was made to look “dumb.” Who knows if that’s really what Warhol meant to do?
Rod Stewart and Steve Rubell hold court just off the dance floor
Studio 54 was known for being a haven for people living outside the norm. It didn’t matter how someone identified, as long as they were cool they would be welcomed at the Studio. Of course, the outside world didn’t understand that mindset at the time.
Rod Stewart made countless sojourns to the club where he partied until dawn. Many members of the rock press were critical of his time at this experimental club, but he didn’t care. For Stewart, he was just living life. He told the Guardian:
I was surrounded by gay men at the time. I had a gay manager and a gay PR guy. Long John Baldry, who discovered me, was gay… [People] thought that was shocking. It’s certainly not nowadays.
Bianca Jagger wishes that she’d never ridden a horse in Studio 54
Today there’s no way that someone would just be able to ride through a club on a horse. People would be upset about the cleanliness of the animal and whether or not something was wrong with the horse. But in the ’70s it was just another night at Studio 54.
Regardless of the fact that Jagger just took the horse for a spin whether it was just once around the Studio or all the way down the block, it’s telling that there was a horse in the club. This was an era when the ID was in control. There were no thoughts outside of “I want it, let’s make it happen.”
Brooke Shields and Debbie Harry play dress up
Brooke Shields is an anomaly in the world of Studio 54. She was a teenager when the club was at its height. She dressed up and went into this very grown-up world while she should have been hanging out with people her own age.
Shields says that she was able to go to the club and still be home in time to study and get a good night’s sleep. Her self-control must be off the charts. While speaking with the Guardian she explained that even though she’s led a crazy life, show business helped her keep her world in line:
If not for the entertainment industry, I would have been a train wreck. The movie business kept me afloat and sane.
Bianca Jagger holds doves while at a party thrown by fashion designer Halston at Studio 54
Taken at a party thrown by the fashion designer Halston, this shot shows Bianca Jagger dancing with two white doves and in a white dress created by the designer. As amazing as Bianca looks in this photo, Halston wasn’t always kind to his models. Often, before going to 54 he would play tricks on people wearing his designs.
Friend Bob Colacello told Town and Country Mag:
We’d gather at his house before you’d go to [Studio] 54 or before you’d go to some Martha Graham gala and he would give the girls dresses to wear. Marisa would come down and he’d say ‘don’t tell her she’s wearing it backwards.’ And he thought that was so funny. It actually looked good frontwards or backwards.
Farrah Fawcett is stunning in white
Without a doubt, Farrah Fawcett is a star who essentially defined the 1970s. She was on the cover of every magazine and her famous poster (you know the one) was on the wall of every dorm room in America. It makes perfect sense that she was a presence at Studio 54.
Doorman Marc Benecke told the New York Times about the first time he saw Fawcett at the Studio:
I never was that super star-struck, but I remember very vividly when Farrah Fawcett first came to the club. A white limo pulled up and she got out with this white blond hair and wearing all white. I remember it was snowing. It was this total Hollywood cinematic vision come to life.
The end of the party…
Things came to a halt for the original incarnation of Studio 54 on December 14, 1978, when the IRS sent dozens of agents to the club. They seized garbage bags full of cash from hidden areas and discovered multiple sets of financial books in the ceiling panels. Co-owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager were arrested for skimming more than $2 million from the club.
One close friend of Rubell’s notes that the co-owner thought that he would never be caught. They told Vanity Fair:
Ultimately, Steve became completely mad with his power. He lost his mind. He thought he was above the law. The drugs—the quaaludes—had a lot to do with it. He was completely out of touch with reality.
John Travolta and his date show off their moves
John Travolta may be the most sighted star at Studio 54. Not only was he seriously hot at the time thanks to his roles in Saturday Night Fever and Welcome Back Kotter, but he loved to dance. Some stars disappeared into the club’s dark corners, but if you wanted to find Travolta then all you had to do was look for the dance floor.
It makes sense that someone like Travolta would want to strut his stuff in the most famous club in the world. He was an amazing dancer at the time who was known for bringing disco to the mainstream. What better place to show off his moves?
Rod Stewart and Elton John take in New York, New York
Rod Stewart and Elton John may look like they’re in their element, but Stewart was famously stressed about how much attention would be lavished on him at the club. He wasn’t used to a place where there was no distinction between famous and normal. It wasn’t until he let his guard down that he managed to have fun.
In 1977, club owner Steve Rubdell described just how uptight Stewart could be:
You know the other night Rod [Stewart] was really worried about how people would react to him and he just loosened right up. He was dancing, running around the dance floor.
Bianca Jagger rides a white horse through Studio 54
One of the most infamous moments in the history of Studio 54 is Bianca Jagger’s trip around the club on a white horse. Ten days after the club opened Jagger had her birthday party at the club and there were only 20 people inside the space made for 3,000. So why are there so many photos of this moment?
According to the club’s DJ at the time there were photographers waiting in the wings to capture the moment, all of whom were hired by the club’s owners to make a stir. He told Vice:
[Bianca} had asked me to play, ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ which I did. And then, all of a sudden I turn around and the scrim goes up and there’s these big letters on the back wall that read ‘BIANCA’ and they start flashing white lights. And she rides in on this white horse out of nowhere. Out of nowhere these hundred photographers come out like … I don’t know where they came from! They just appeared all of a sudden and they’re snapping pictures of her.