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Studio 54

Studio 54

Studio 54 logo designed by Gilbert Lesser[1]
Address 254 West 54th Street
City New York City
Coordinates 40°45′55″N 73°58′57″W / 40.765266°N 73.98262°W / 40.765266; -73.98262Coordinates: 40°45′55″N 73°58′57″W / 40.765266°N 73.98262°W / 40.765266; -73.98262
Architect Eugene De Rosa[2]
Owned by Roundabout Theatre Company
Capacity 1,006 (519 Orchestra/487 Mezzanine)[3]
Opened 1977
Previous names Gallo Opera House (1927)
Casino de Paris (1933)
Federal Music Theatre (1937)
CBS Studio No. 52 (1942)
Studio 54 (1977)

Studio 54 was a popular and world renowned nightclub from 1977 until 1981 when it was sold by founders and creators Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager. It was called the most famous nightclub of all time and was a sophisticated, groundbreaking multi-media visual extravaganza. It continued to operate as a nightclub until 1991 by other owners. Located at 254 West 54th Street in Manhattan, New York City, the space was originally the Gallo Opera House, opening in 1927, after which it changed names several times, eventually becoming CBS radio and television Studio 54. Since November 1998[4] it has been a venue for the Roundabout Theatre Company and is still called Studio 54, but is no longer a nightclub.


CBS Studio 52

In 1943 CBS Radio purchased the theatre, renaming it Studio 52. CBS named its studios in order of purchase; the number 52 was unrelated to the street it was located on. During these years, CBS used the theater for radio broadcasts.

From the 1940s to the mid-1970s, CBS used the location as a radio and TV stage that housed such shows as What's My Line?, The $64,000 Question, Password, To Tell the Truth, Beat the Clock, The Jack Benny Show, I've Got a Secret, Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour, and Captain Kangaroo.[5] The soap opera Love of Life was produced there until 1975.

In 1976, CBS moved most of its broadcast functions to the Ed Sullivan Theater and the CBS Broadcast Center, and sold Studio 52. The Ed Sullivan Theater once had access to Studio 52 through an access door, which was cinder-blocked during the theater's 1993 renovation for Late Show with David Letterman.

Nightclub era

When CBS began marketing the building in 1976, various interests in the art and fashion world expressed interest in seeing it converted into a nightclub. Male model Uva Harden tried to get gallery owner Frank Lloyd to finance the club, until Lloyd lost a $9 million lawsuit to the estate of the artist Mark Rothko, the Rothko Case.[6]

In 1977, Studio 54 was transformed into a nightclub by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, with Jack Dushey as a financial backer. They operated the company as Broadway Catering Corp. It took only six weeks to transform the theater into a nightclub and cost $400,000.[7]

Rubell and Schrager hired Ron Doud as interior designer and Brian Thompson as lighting designer. Jules Fisher and Paul Marantz, two well-known Broadway theatrical set-designers, helped convert the theater into a dance floor and created moveable, theatrical sets and lights using the original theatrical fly rails, which allowed for a constantly changing environment.

Within a month of opening, the New York State Liquor Authority raided Studio 54 for selling liquor without a license, and closed it. The owners of the nightclub said the incident was a "misunderstanding". The next night the club reopened, serving fruit juice and soda instead of liquor. Prior to the raid, the nightclub had been using daily "caterers' permits", which enabled the nightclub to serve alcohol but were intended for weddings or political events.[8] The State had denied the daily permit for the night and raided the nightclub. The nightclub had been using these permits while waiting for its liquor license to be processed.

The scene

Event planner Robert Isabell had four tons of glitter dumped in a four-inch layer on the floor of Studio 54 for a New Year's Eve party, which owner Ian Schrager described as like "standing on stardust" and left glitter that could be found months later in their clothing and homes.[9]

End of the first era

In December 1978 Rubell was quoted in the New York newspapers as saying the Studio 54 had made $7 million in its first year and that "only the Mafia made more money." Shortly thereafter the nightclub was raided and Rubell and Schrager were arrested for skimming $2.5 million.

Studio 54 closed with a final party on February 4, 1980 where Diana Ross personally serenaded Rubell and Schrager. Ryan O'Neal, Mariel Hemingway, Jocelyn Wildenstein, Richard Gere, Gia Carangi, Jack Nicholson, Reggie Jackson, and Sylvester Stallone were among the guests that night. Schrager and Rubell were found guilty of tax evasion[vague] and spent 13 months in prison. It was the first time anyone had ever been prosecuted for a one year tax evasion.


In 1981, Rubell and Schrager sold the building, but opted to keep a lease. Later that year, the building was sold to Mark Fleischman with Rubell and Schrager staying on as consultants for 6 months afterward.[10] Studio 54 reopened on September 12, 1981 with a guest list of Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein, Cary Grant, Lauren Hutton, Gloria Vanderbilt, Mark Gastineau, Gina Lollobrigida, and Brooke Shields. Emerging artists at the time, Madonna, Wham!, Duran Duran, Culture Club, Menudo, and Run-DMC would perform at the club, before going on to future success. KISS held a concert at the club in 1982 that was broadcast via satellite to the Sanremo Festival in Italy. During 1985, heavy metal groups Slayer, Venom and Exodus filmed a video at Studio 54 called Ultimate Revenge for Disco. In the 80's many legendary freestyle music artists performed at this nightclub such as, Noel, Nocera, Cynthia, Coro, Tony Moran, India, T.K.A., Black Riot, Fascination, Sweet Sensation, Pajama Girls, Johnny O., Hanson and many others. Radio stations such as 92 KTU, HOT-103 and HOT-97 would broadcast each live event for these freestyle music artists.

The Ritz and Cabaret Royale

From 1981 until early 1993, the nightclub's lease was owned by CAT Entertainment Corp and known as The Ritz. During that period, the nightclub hosted occasional rock concerts and was otherwise used by CAT Entertainment as a public venue available for rent. In 1993, CAT Entertainment was acquired by Cabaret Royale Corporation, a nightclub operator based in Dallas. CAT Entertainment completed a renovation of the nightclub earlier abandoned because of a lack of funds, and resurrected both the nightclub and the Studio 54 trademark, which had never been properly registered by any of the prior owners or operators.[11] The newly remodelled nightclub was operated as "Cabaret Royale at Studio 54" by CAT Entertainment until early 1995. The Pilevsky interests which owned the theater itself and the adjacent office building had several years earlier granted a mortgage on the properties to the Bank of Tokyo and, in an effort to resolve a large unpaid indebtedness of Pilevsky to the bank and to forestall foreclosure, a trustee had been appointed by Pilevsky and the bank and granted the right to sell those and numerous other properties owned by Pilevsky. During late 1994, Allied Partners acquired the Studio 54 properties and, after protracted litigation, CAT Entertainment lost its lease on the nightclub and ceased operations.

Roundabout Theater at Studio 54

  Studio 54 in April 2008

During 1994 Allied Partners bought the building for $5.5 million. They restored much of the architectural detail that had been painted black or covered with plywood by Schrager and Rubell. The nightclub reopened with a live concert by disco stars Gloria Gaynor, Vicki Sue Robinson, and Sister Sledge. The building again went into bankruptcy in 1996 and Allied announced plans to demolish it and replace it with Cyberdrome, a virtual reality gaming venue; however the project was never completed.

During 1998, the collapse of a construction[12] hoist blocked access to the Henry Miller Theatre on 43rd Street, where the successful revival of the Broadway musical Cabaret was playing. To keep the show accessible, the Roundabout Theater Company agreed to move the performance to Studio 54. Roundabout later bought the building in 2003 from Allied for $22.5 million,[13] and Cabaret played until 2004.

Notable productions

Upstairs at Studio 54

The second floor of the theater is used as a nightclub on weeks when plays are not being staged; when it does so it operates under the name Upstairs at Studio 54. The club is operated by Josh Hadar who was one of the Allied partners. It was also briefly owned by Noel Ashman.

Upstairs at Studio 54 Performances:

Other tenants

The building, which is still frequently referred to as the Studio 54 building, houses a variety of tenants, among them a theater venue, offices, and an educational facility called Mandl School, the College of Allied Health. This building also houses Olivtree Securities LLC.

Cultural impact

  Studio 54 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas

In the late 1970s, the club was arguably the most well known nightclub in the world. The club played a major formative role in the growth of disco music and nightclub culture in general. Several franchises, notably in Las Vegas, have sprung up around the country. In November 2011, the Las Vegas Weekly reported that the club, located in the MGM Grand, would close on January 8, 2012.[14]

A compilation album of disco music, A Night at Studio 54, was released by Casablanca Records in 1979. It peaked at #21.

Studio 54 Radio

On August 15, 2011, Sirius XM Radio launched a 24/7 Disco channel based around the Studio 54 theme, billed as Studio 54 Radio, broadcasting of Sirius XM 15. The channel, which replaced the previous Disco channel "The Strobe," features pure disco and dance classics, along with interviews and tesimonials from the club's actual DJs and employees.

On October 18, 2011, Sirius XM Radio held a special "One Night Only" party at the club's original location to promote the new channel. In order to win tickets, contestants had to call in to the station and share their memorable Studio 54 experiences. 100 guests were also allowed to enter from the street. The club was decorated with both original and replica props to fully recreate the appearance of the club in its heyday. For the night, it featured the signature sun and "man on the moon" props as well as young, shirtless waiters (a "trademark" of Studio 54). The event featured many of the original staff members including Carmen D'Alessio, Mark Benecke, and original DJs such as John Benitez. Guest DJ Avicii also performed later in the night. The live DJ sets were broadcast on the Sirius XM channel. Many celebrities such as Martha Stewart, Kevin Bacon, Susan Lucci, Gayle King, Kirstie Alley, Cameron Diaz, Betsey Johnson, Kelly Preston, Tinsley Mortimer, Lance Bass, Carol Alt, Keith Richards, Tony Hawk, Donald Trump and Andy Cohen were spotted in the crowd.

DJs during the Studio 54 Nightclub era

See also

  • Fiorucci, an Italian fashion boutique hosting the Studio 54 opening party


Jack Ricardo. "Last Dance at Studio 54" (self published eBook amazon.com)2012 ISBN 978-1-4675-1362-3


  1. ^ Gilbert Lesser, 55, Poster Designer For Plays and Promotion Director New York Times August 30, 1990
  2. ^ ibdb.com - retrieved January 19, 2008
  3. ^ roundabouttheatre.org Retrieved January 19, 2008
  4. ^ http://www.roundabouttheatre.org/history5.htm
  5. ^ Studio 54 roundabouttheatre.org - Retrieved January 19, 2008
  6. ^ Studio 54 - andwedanced.com Retrieved January 19, 2008 Archived December 25, 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ A WALL STREET JOURNAL Staff Reporter. "Operators of Studio 54 In New York Indicted On Skimming Receipts. " Wall Street Journal [New York, N.Y.] 29 June 1979, 22.
  8. ^ New York Times. May 22, 1977 "Liquor Authority Head Stops Discotheque's Music."
  9. ^ Weber, Bruce. "Robert Isabell, Who Turned Events Into Wondrous Occasions, Dies at 57", The New York Times, July 10, 2009. Accessed July 14, 2009.
  10. ^ Reality News; Studio 54 New York Times - August 31, 1981
  11. ^ NEIGHBORHOOD REPORT: MIDTOWN; A Stripped-Down Studio 54 For the Post-Disco Era December 19, 1993
  12. ^ http://www.newyorktheatreguide.com/broadwayTheatres/studio54.htm
  13. ^ COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE: REGIONAL MARKET -- Manhattan; As 'Cabaret' Nears End, Cabaret Still Has a Place New York Times - October 1, 2003
  14. ^ http://www.lasvegasweekly.com/news/2011/nov/16/54-days-go-until-studio-54-las-vegas-closes/

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