Someday These Will be the Good Old Days

If you’re looking for New York’s hottest club, look no further than 54th Street.  Studio 54 had it all:  glitter, butts, boobs, horses, elephants, and enough drugs to go around not only New York City, but the entire state of New York.

Good Old Days Studio 54
Liza Minnelli kissing Halston {Photo Credit: Studio 54 by Ian Schrager}

How did it come to be that an impressionable young girl in the Denver suburbs was even aware of this club in the heart of New York City?  Well, when I wasn’t riding with my bike gang around the mean streets of the Front Range, I was reading celebrity gossip on the back page of the Rocky Mountain News.

On that page, there was always something about Studio 54.  Or Andy Warhol.  Probably Studio 54 and Andy Warhol since he was there a lot.  How did this club become a New York institution and the catalyst for all other clubs since?  Let’s see…

Where did Disco Come From?

Disco came from the French word Discotheque, which were dance clubs popular in the 1960’s.  By the 1970’s, it was really the only form of dance music.  It was largely ignored by radio DJ’s and was only played by DJ’s in clubs.  By the mid-70’s it was being played on the radio as well because by then it was a full-on movement thanks to the Bee Gees, John Travolta and Saturday Night Fever.  See the trailer here, which is possibly one of the worst movie trailers of all time.  It’s amazing anyone even went to see this movie because the trailer is so bad.

Good Old Days Studio 54
David Keith, John Travolta and Sylvester Stallone {Photo Credit: Studio 54 by Ian Schrager}

By the 1980’s, disco wasn’t being played on the radio at all and had moved back into the clubs where performers, such as Madonna, kept it going.  Disco morphed into House and Techno music, and by the mid-90’s it was making a comeback.

Where did Studio 54 Come From?

Studio 54 arrived on the scene at a time when nobody wanted to be in New York City.  The late 70’s in this city were anything but glamorous, and while New York real estate is hot right now, back then no wanted a New York City address, including many companies, which fled the city in droves.  New York City streets were dirty, grungy, and crime-ridden, and tourists didn’t hang out in Times Square unless they wanted to do drugs or watch porn.

But there was also something else happening in this wonderful city.  Artists, musicians, dancers, fashion designers, and celebrity and gay culture were emerging.  This gritty city was home to Madonna, Keith Haring, Andy Warhol, John Travolta, Halston, and Debbie Harry.  Studio 54 came at the right time, when all this creativity was happening among the grit, and everyone was free to be you and me.

Steve Rubell, Ian Schrager and Jack Dushey came up with the idea of a club that would incorporate theatre, disco, nightclub, and café all in one.  It was a one-of-a-kind concept.

The building which housed Studio 54 was originally the Gallo Opera House which opened in 1927.  In 1943 Columbia Broadcasting leased the building and such shows as Beat The Clock, What’s My Line and even Captain Kangaroo were shot there.  I wonder if Mr. Green Jeans ever did the hustle at Studio 54?  Today, it is the Studio 54 Theatre which will be showing The Lifespan of a Fact starring Harry Potter himself, Daniel Ratcliff, beginning in October 2018.

It didn’t seem to matter how old you were, how young you were {Drew Barrymore famously frequented the club when she was 8 years-old,} how rich, or poor you were.  If you could get past those velvet ropes, you were golden.

My clubbing days started when I was in 9th grade at a local club called The Fizzz.  Local as in right down the street in a strip mall.  Today, I think it’s a church, which means one day it can be a club again.  It was a 15-year-olds dream.  We danced until it closed at 10 p.m. and drank New York Seltzer like it was water.

The Fizzz was my gateway drug.  Eventually, I graduated to the Denver big leagues, as in Thirsty’s, an 18 and older club where they served 3.2 beer, and Rock Island where I smoked clove cigarettes and made my lungs bleed.

When I was in college in Las Vegas, we danced until the sun came up at the Shark Club, Club Rio, and The Drink.  I hung out in L.A. where I danced at The Roxbury on Sunset.  I even danced in clubs that were once churches {see what I mean,} like Limelight in New York and The Church in Denver.  I danced on speakers taller than me, got on stage with the band, and made friends with the DJ’s.  Probably why I’m going deaf, but my ear doctor begs to differ.

In the late 90’s, when my friends Ashley, Alex and I were patiently waiting in line at Club Tatou in L.A. we witnessed an older woman and her boyfriend try to cut the line.  Ashley and I looked at each other and promised we would never be her; in our 40’s trying to get into a club.  It was bad enough being in our 20’s trying to get into a club.  But then, Alex knew a guy and we cut the line by non-chalantly walking through the kitchen.

My promise to Ashley may have been broken a few times when I, in my 40’s, have gone out to the club.  It might be my friend Myra’s living room, or a club downtown, either way, I’ve never waited in line.

Obviously, my love of Studio 54 runs deep.  So deep in fact, that on a recent trip to New York City, when I realized we weren’t that far away, dancing at a bar, I made my friends take a drunken 3 a.m. detour on our walk back to the hotel so we could go see the building that once housed the greatest club of all time.  That was until 1980, when the IRS raided the club and it’s owners were charged with tax evasion…

Studio 54: The Documentary hits theaters October 5, 2018

Good Old Days Studio 54
Studio 54 Theatre Today
Studio 54 Then {Photo Credit: Studio 54 by Ian Schrager}

 

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