Clockwise from top left: David Geffen and Joni Mitchell, October 1978; Farrah Fawcett, Cary Grant, and Margaux Hemingway, February 1978; Lorna Luft, Jerry Hall, Andy Warhol, Debbie Harry, Truman Capote, and Paloma Picasso, June 1979. Background, New Year’s Eve 1979.
Photographs by Martha Cooper (background), Robin Platzer/Twin Images (Luft), Allan Tannenbaum/SohoBlues.com (Fawcett), Russell C. Turiak (Geffen).
The late, great music mogul Ahmet Ertegun, co-founder and longtime
chairman of Atlantic Records, called Studio 54 “the greatest club of
all time.” And this from a man who had spent thousands of hours over
several decades at El Morocco and the Copacabana, Annabel’s in London,
and Régine’s in Paris. In retrospect, 54 has become the stuff of legend
and myth: the Valhalla of Hedonism, the Taj Mahal of Free Love, the
Camelot of Nightlife. Like the Kennedy White House, it is a lost
paradise never to be found again. Yet its reign as the world’s No. 1
nightclub was brief, from its riotous opening night, in 1977, to the
surreal “going away” party for its creators and impresarios, Steve
Rubell and Ian Schrager, in February 1980—a fleeting but unforgettable
moment of Pure Fun between the Era of Protest and the Age of Money.
Studio 54 was more than a disco, it was a sociological phenomenon and a
historical event, which is why it continues to inspire essays, books, TV
shows, documentaries, and feature films 40 years after it opened. It was
something that could only have happened when it did and where it did:
New York in the late 1970s. Getting in was no easy task, so if you did,
you felt as much of a star as the movie stars, rock stars, sports stars,
political stars, fashion stars, and society stars that were everywhere
you turned. As executive editor of Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine, I
was there on a near nightly basis. So much so that I was quoted in Vogue
declaring, “I live at Studio 54.” By the end of those three wild,
giddy, divinely mad years, I had a new line: “Tony Bennett left his
heart in San Francisco; I left my liver at Studio 54.” Fortunately, I
Adapted from the foreword to Studio 54, by Ian Schrager, to be published
this month by Rizzoli.
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