They once poured four tons of glitter on the floor. A gatecrasher died in an air vent trying to get in. Grace Jones regularly arrived naked. Its owners were jailed for tax evasion. When Studio 54 opened in New York on 26 April 1977, this boogie wonderland of sex, drugs and disco changed the face of nightlife forever.
Before Studio, disco had been largely an underground affair. Emerging from New York’s downtown gay scene, its early clubs were friendly, small-scale and discreet. Early disco was the soundtrack for an era of gay liberation and carried a politically charged message of freedom and togetherness. But demand for this exciting musical hedonism grew until everyone wanted to join the party. In 1977 two things happened to take disco screaming into the mainstream: The massive success of the Saturday Night Fever movie and soundtrack was one; the opening of Studio 54 was the other.
The club was the brainchild of Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, Brooklyn businessmen who ran a chain of steakhouses. Their only foray into clubs was a suburban spot in Queens called The Enchanted Garden, but drawn to the bright lights of Manhattan they took over the lease of a huge former theatre and TV studio on West 54th St and began construction.