"The key to a good party is filling a room with guests more interesting than you," said Steve Rubell, who—with partner Ian Schrager—opened Studio 54 in 1977. On a routine night, that meant people like Bianca Jagger, Andy Warhol, Liza Minnelli and the designer Halston—and that's just for starters. Here, as the new documentary "Studio 54" hits theaters, are 40 snapshots taken in the club's disco-era heyday.
The Making of a Nightclub
It took six weeks and $400,000 for Rubell and Schrager to transform an opera-house-turned-television-studio into what instantly became the trendiest and most decadent disco club of the 1970s. A decade earlier, you wouldn't have recognized the place. Occupied by CBS, it was the filming location for popular TV series like "Captain Kangaroo" and "To Tell the Truth."
Music mogul David Geffen with Cher, who showed up at Studio 54 the night it opened (as did a 30-year-old Donald Trump). She appeared on the front page of the New York Post the next day. It was the first new nightclub ever to get that kind of attention.
Wake Up, Maggie
That's Ryan O'Neal with his date Margaret Trudeau, the free-spirited first lady of Canada who famously hung with Warhol and the Rolling Stones before officially divorcing her husband, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, in 1984.
Mick and Jerry
Mick Jagger with model Jerry Hall, who provided the grounds for his divorce from Bianca—though maybe that was just a technicality. As Bianca once put it, "My marriage ended on my wedding day."
Bianca Jagger cuts loose with Sterling St. Jacques, who played a model in 1978's "Eyes of Laura Mars."
Blonde on Blondie
Debbie Harry poses in front of an oversize Interview magazine cover emblazoned with her own face. Among those there for the occasion were Truman Capote, Paloma Picasso and Judy Garland's daughter (Liza Minnelli's half-sister) Lorna Luft.
The Doorman Ruled
Every night, hopefuls crowded the rope outside Studio 54, masochistically waiting for the approval of a doorman (like Mark Benecke, seen here) or Steve Rubell. "I only want fun-looking people in here," said the club's co-owner, who grew up in Brooklyn long before it became fashionable. A year earlier, Rubell added, he wouldn't have let himself in.
Of Course, Some People Had No Trouble Getting In
Richard Gere and Diana Ross walk straight inside.
I'm Coming Out
On another night, Diana Ross hits the strobe-lit dance floor.
Love to Love You Baby
Donna Summer sometimes performed live at the club. When she wasn't there, DJs favored the extended version of "Love to Love You Baby," in which the moans and groans go on for nearly 17 minutes. "People would be on the balcony at Studio 54 actually doing it while that song was playing," reported fashion designer Stephen Burrows.
It's 10 p.m., Do You Know Where Your Children Are?
There was no point in carding Brooke Shields and Mariel Hemingway. After all, Drew Barrymore danced at Studio 54 when she was 7 years old.
You Should Be Dancing
Fourteen-year-old Brooke shows her stuff.
Not Everyone Danced
Writer, Paris Review editor and bon vivant George Plimpton works the room.
Nor Was It Exclusively for the Young
George Burns, 82, enjoys cigar at a "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" party.
Alice in Wonderland
Alice Cooper and his wife Sheryl at the "Sgt. Pepper" event.
Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
Rumor had it that Woody Allen was once turned away. In any case, he got in this night and spent some quality time with Michael Jackson, who was known for slipping away to the DJ booth to dance on his own.
Rubell greets Michael, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith and Cherrie Currie of the Runaways.
Robin Williams dances with first wife, Valerie Velardi. (The club's heyday coincided with that of "Mork & Mindy.")
It's Always Something
Gilda Radner boogies with British actor Peter Firth. Bill Murray and John Belushi were among the other original "SNL" cast members spotted at Studio 54.
Rock 'n' Roll Party Queen
Olivia Newton-John and Elton John (no relation) at a "Grease" premiere party held at Studio 54.
Walk on the Wild Side
Lou Reed with Andy Warhol, who managed the Velvet Underground in the band's early days, well before Reed became a solo artist. Said Ian Schrager, "When Andy Warhol went to a club, it was like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval."
Design for Living
Media mogul Barry Diller with wife-to-be Diane Von Furstenberg. "We were the generation who happened to be young between the Pill and AIDS," she later noted. "And we really knew how to have fun."
Turn on, Tune In, Get Down
LSD pioneer Timothy Leary in a festive mood.
Liza and Liz Meet Betty Ford
Elizabeth Taylor flanked by Liza Minnelli and Betty Ford, all three decked out in Halston dresses. Taylor later celebrated her 46th birthday at Studio 54, appearing on a float alongside a colossal cake—a life-size replica of the Golden Age star—after a performance by the Rockettes.
Paul Newman, who'd co-starred with Elizabeth Taylor two decades earlier in "Cat on a Tin Roof," appeared at the club the year after it opened.
An Evening to Remember
Even Cary Grant—seen here with Farrah Fawcett and Margaux Hemingway—had to check the place out.
Sylvester Stallone and his wife Sasha, the year after he won two Oscars for "Rocky."
Going to a Party Party
Candice Bergen attending Mick Jagger's 35th birthday bash.
Conductor/composer Leonard Bernstein greets Jackie Onassis at a Studio 54 party held after the premiere of "The Turning Point," a 1988 movie about the ballet world.
Following her mother's lead, Caroline Kennedy makes an appearance with her then-boyfriend, writer Tom Carney.
Birthday cake flies as Steve Rubell mixes it up with Franco Rossellini, producer of the X-rated historical drama "Caligula."
Truman Capote was at the center of "the closest thing to a barroom brawl at Studio 54," according to Vanity Fair's Bob Colacello. It began with an apology to soigné socialite Nan Kempner, who recalls "this vile little man" telling her, "I'm so sorry, but when I get smashed, I look at you and see Jerry Zipkin." (If you don't remember Zipkin, suffice it to say that the comparison wasn't flattering.)
Dolly Parton pets a horse at a concert after-party.
Bianca Jagger famously rode a white horse inside the club to celebrate her 32nd birthday. At another point, she popped out of her own birthday cake.
Help Me, Obi-Wan Kenobi
David Geffen with a skeptical-looking Carrie Fisher at the peak of her "Star Wars" fame.
Do You Think I'm Sexy?
Rod and Alana Stewart. Is it us or do they look a little bored?
Now Hear This
Model Lauren Hutton. A year later, she would co-star with Richard Gere in "American Gigolo."
"Only the Mafia made more money," said Steve Rubell (seen here with Ian Schrager and attorney Roy Cohn) in 1979. Rubell should have done like the mob and kept his mouth shut. The IRS took notice, Studio 54 was raided, and Rubell and Schrager were arrested. Their club threw its final party in February 1980, after which the two pled guilty to tax evasion and spent 13 months in prison.
All Was Not What It Seemed
If one clubgoer appeared to have the best time, it was Bianca Jagger. Or maybe not. "I would rather die than talk about Studio 54," she told Vanity Fair in 2013. "I wish it never existed."
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