Is there anything as decadent and debauchery-filled as Studio 54? Not any more. The notorious New York nightclub hailed regulars from Andy Warhol to Grace Jones, Mick Jagger to Liza Minnelli, and was a space of freedom from judgement and hate. Perhaps the most mysterious part of the disco movement, everybody wants to know what happened behind the thumping doors, and director Matt Trynauer is finally telling that story.
Following the journeys of club founders and owners Ian Schrager (who narrates a majority of the film) and the late Steve Rubell, we see them dominate the NY nightlife scene in the 70s. Featuring never seen before footage of the inside of the club and its vibrant attendees, the documentary celebrates the glitz and glamour but reveals the darker truths beneath. With a pumping soundtrack and intoxicating visuals, you’ll be transported to the world of Studio 54, almost 40 years after the grand opening.
Although only open for 3 years, to this day Studio 54 is synonymous with disco, drugs and debauchery. The epicentre of 70s hedonism, it exemplifies the entire era with every boogie, bump and bedazzled look: rising out of nowhere, the club quickly took over New York society, presiding over a new decadent group who celebrated freedom of all kinds. Tyrnauer’s film captures these treasured and storied moments flawlessly: digging up a treasure trove of never-seen-before footage from inside the illustrious club by an NYU student back in the day.
But, the documentary also delves deeper into the notorious tales, and determines the downfall. Led by brutally honest storytelling from the surviving founder Ian Schrager – a spitting image of a young mobster De Niro – the film exposes the reality beneath the decadence and liberation, vividly following its meteoric rise and shocking crash. A vivid tale of a time past, Tyrnauer reveals everything you’d ever want to know, so here are 5 things we learnt from Studio 54…
it really was an old studio
No wonder it attracted movie stars and mobsters alike, because Studio 54 really was an old CBS TV studio: transformed from a disused location, Schrager and Rubell kept the iconic balcony and dazzling lighting rigs to keep the movie magic alive.
it’s all about sex, baby…
From the doormen being offered sex for entry – “Did you ever take them up on it?” Marc Benecke was asked. “…Sometimes,” he answered – and debauchery was rife inside too… There’s the blowjob balconies to the all-the-way basements: a Studio spot for whatever the endeavour. During the major refurbishment the pair built a bridge that could oscillate over the dance floor and fitted the balconies with wipe-clean rubber. Subtle. “Were you building a sex pit?” one of the builders was asked in Studio 54, “…Yes” he proudly replies.
…but it was a safe space
The 70s for the LGBT community was a danger-zone, but Studio 54 was a space free of judgement and abuse: transgender individuals could dress as they wished, drag queens went all out, gay people could be true to themselves and the ones out of the boxes could experiment all night long.
founder, dancer, dealer
Founding was his name, parties were his game… Steve Rubell was truly the life and soul of Studio 54, and him and his padded coat were behind it all. Packing cocaine and Qualuudes galore under the duvet folds. Looking like the original Mans Not Hot, he’d go about offering his guests a treat from underneath the floor-length puffer, and keep the night going a whole lot longer.
the regulars were anything but regular
From the 75-year-old lawyer Disco Sally who the owners loved, to the icons like Michael Jackson and Grace Jones, to the unliklies of Jackie Onassis and sneaky senators, people of “all walks of life” came together with the help of a lot of disco.