For a place open just 33 months and closed for half a lifetime, New York’s Studio 54 should be nothing more than a footnote in popular culture. But the memory of the nightclub remains fluid, the gold standard by which the success of any other is measured. It was wild. It was sexy. And it was packed with 2,000 of the world’s most Beautiful People with a nightly line of bodies to spare.
In the good old bad old days of 1977 to 1980, there was a confluence of factors that made the club both possible and probable: cheap rents afforded artists and emerging creatives space in the city; urban decay fomented that creativity; the AIDS epidemic had yet to strike; and the crime rate was peaking, making it exciting and dangerous to be out and about. According to writer Edmund White: “Rich or poor, you were stuck together in misery (and the freedom) of the place, where not even money could insulate you.” You could almost do whatever you wanted to do and, without cellphone cameras, leave little trace.
The club was founded by college friends and business partners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager. Rubell owned a chain of Steak Loft restaurants and Schrager practiced law. In 1975 they opened up a disco in Queens then, two years later, signed a lease for Studio 52, an empty radio and television studio. In six weeks it would be transformed into Studio 54, named for its midtown location.
Schrager worked behind the scenes while Rubell worked the door. In addition to a pre-determined guest list of heavy-hitters, Rubell personally selected who would be in or out. He described it as “casting a movie” or “composing a salad”: the right mix of straight and gay, creative and society types, glamour, energy and notoreity. Andy Warhol described it as “Dictatorship at the door, democracy on the floor.” Anointed regulars included Warhol, Elizabeth Taylor, Mick and Bianca Jagger, Michael Jackson, Elton John, Diana Ross, Tina Turner, Bruce (Caitlyn) Jenner, Truman Capote, Freddy Mercury, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Cher, David Bowie, Woody Allen, Salvador Dali, Robin Williams, John Travolta, Karl Lagerfeld, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and the then tweenage Brooke Shields.
A lesser-known Donald Trump and wife Ivana graced opening night and Margaret Trudeau, mother of Canada’s current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, was a regular. Many of Studio 54’s bright lights remain the center of conversation.
When the original iteration of the club was shut down in February of 1980, Rubell and Schrager moved into a complimentary hospitality space, opening New York City’s first “boutique hotel.” Rubell died in 1989 and Schrager moved on to create the EDITION group of hotels, currently with 21 international properties in their fold. The brand “showcases the best dining and entertainment options, services, amenities and offerings for guests and locals in the know.”
According to Mr. Schrager, the Brand’s unifying aesthetic is in its approach and attitude to the modern lifestyle rather than its appearance, with design and architecture derived from the scale, location and feel of the individual properties. “The Brand is about an attitude, about a feeling rather than a look,” he said. “Sophisticated public spaces, finishes, design and details serve the experience, not drive it.”
THE ‘TO-DO’ LIST
Stay at the New York EDITION and Dine at The Clocktower:
5 Madison Avenue (at 24th)
Under the direction of Executive Chef Jason Atherton and located on the second floor of the New York EDITION , The Clocktower offers a menu of updated classics and contemporary British fare, experienced in a series of three uniquely themed dining rooms.
Check out the local clubs:
Speak with your concierge for access
Take in a play at Studio 54:
254 W. 54th Street
Studio 54 still physically exists and has been home to The Roundabout Theatre Company since November 1998. Check the website for upcoming Broadway and off-Broadway productions
Peruse Rizzoli’s for Studio 54: The Book
1133 Broadway (at 26th)
Take a short stroll from the EDITION New York across Madison Square Park to Rizzoli’s aesthetically-stunning bookstore, considered the most beautiful in New York. Pre-order Ian Schrager’s Studio 54, due for release on April 4th, 2017. Website
Visit “New York at Its Core” at the Museum of the City of New York
1220 5th Avenue (at 120th)
In November 2016, a new collection of 400 objects opens that define the history and essence of New York, including a hand-written guest list from Studio 54 (one of three in their collection, amongst other club memorabilia) Website
Our Luxury Hotel Consultants Recommend:
Located in the Flatiron District in what was once the iconic Met Life Tower, The New York Edition is the newest (and hottest) addition to Manhattan’s burgeoning boutique hotel scene. The 273 guest rooms and suites feature some of the best views of New York City, modern styling, incredible amenities and, of course, location, location, location.
Nestled in Fitzrovia near London’s Soho district, the London EDITION features 173 guest rooms and suites that evoke the rich luxury and feel of yacht cabins while providing the ultimate in five-star hotel amenities to help make your stay memorable. The on-site restaurants and lounges offer inviting spaces and top-notch fare, while friendly, professional staff cater to your every need.
Miami Beach Edition is so much more than a place to stay — it’s a complete South Beach experience. Located on a 3.5-acre property that runs from Collins Ave. to the beach, this luxury resort features all kinds of amenities as well as impeccable rooms and suites. With a basement lounge, bowling alley, skating rink, and an incredible collection of indoor and outdoor eateries, this is the good life in South Beach.
Tags:Andy Warhol, Brooke Shields, Bruce Caitlyn Jenner, Donald Trump, EDITION hotels, Elton John, Ian Schrager, Ivana, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, John Travolta, Justin Trudeau, London, Margaret Trudeau, Miami Beach, Michael Jackson, Mick Jagger, Museum of the City of New York, New York, New York at Its Core, Rizzoli, Roundabout Theater Company, Steve Rubell, Studio 54, The Clocktower