Imagine going to a nightclub and immediately rubbing shoulders with stars like Lady Gaga, Rihanna and Beyonce. You’re served drinks by half-naked barmen. There are elaborate theatrical-style musical performances from the stage and – not that we’re condoning it – sex and drugs on tap. Meanwhile, getting inside isn’t merely determined by if you can afford to pay, but if the club owner thinks you have the right look and if you’re ultra-cool enough. And it doesn’t matter if you’re gay, straight, transgender, or gender fluid — you’re free to just be, how ever you want to express yourself. Forget freeing the nipple, because bare breasts (out and proud, or peeking through see-through clothes) aren’t even an issue.
That – and so much more – is what the iconic Studio 54 was like. Even though the Manhattan celeb hangout was only open for 33 shocking, decadent months from 1977 to 1980, its legend looms large over today, four decades after it opened. Now the new documentary, Studio 54, is shining a light on the iconic nightclub, talking to the people who know the true story behind the rise and fall of the glitzy hotspot where Cher, Liza Minnelli, Andy Warhol and Bianca Jagger were regulars.
Director Matt Tyrnauer has captured brilliantly what a sensation Studio 54 was, at one point showing the heaving throng of people spilling into the street, behind the newly created velvet ropes, desperate to enter. And standing above them all was one of the two co-owners, Steve Rubell, who was savage when it came to deciding who was cool enough to get in. “You’re not shaved, there’s no way…you’re gonna get in. Listen, just go home,” he said to one disappointed, would-be partygoer. “That hat. Don’t ever come here with a hat,” he said to another.
If you think he was being harsh, spare a thought for The Rolling Stones. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards could just walk in. The rest, forget about it. They had to pay. A young Michael Jackson adored it. He said (in vintage footage) that when he thought of Studio 54, what came to mind was, “I’m ready to have a good time. It’s where you want to come when you want to escape. It’s really escapism… When you dance here you’re just free. You dance with whoever you want to. You just go wild.”
But, all good things come to an end, as they say. In this case it’s because Steve and his co-owner Ian Schrager ended up in prison for tax evasion. Tyrnauer – who’s not sure if even the Kardashians would have made it into Studio 54 – scored the ultimate scoop by getting an interview with Ian, who wasn’t ready to tell the wild, hedonistic story, until now. His BFF business partner Steve and the club have long gone, but for those who want to get a taste of what Studio 54 was like, check out the documentary, which begins its national opening on Oct.12. There’s already Oscar buzz surrounding it and it could likely find itself amongst other docs in the Best Documentary category at the 2019 Academy Awards. We’re not surprised because – after seeing it – we’re sure you won’t be disappointed.