If one takes a walk down to 254 West 54th Street, Manhattan, New York City you’ll find Studio 54. These days, it’s a theatre venue run by the Roundabout Theatre Company. While it’s now well-respected for its theatre scene, there’s no denying Studio 54 is a shadow of its former self.
First opened in 1927 as the Gallo Opera House, it largely failed in its attempts to draw audiences, despite numerous rebrands. In 1943, CBS bought the venue and renamed it Studio 52. There, plenty of TV shows were filmed up until the 1970s. Then, CBS sold the studio.
In 1977, the venue was purchased by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell. The place was renamed Studio 54 in reference to its address and its past use. The venue was immediately redesigned as a dance floor with bright dynamic lighting and moveable sets. The club became known for its special one-night-only parties during which the club completely transformed to match the theme of the evening.
Due to its focus on serving a unique experience and the razzle-dazzle, Studio 54 became popular with the celebrity crowd. Regulars at Studio 54 included Donald Trump, Michael Jackson, Robin Williams and Truman Capote.
Unfortunately, things fell apart when Rubell boasted that Studio 54 made $7m in its first year. He said ‘only the mafia made more money.’ This attracted the attention of the IRS who raided the club. This resulted in the arrests of Rubell and Schrager for tax evasion and skimming $2.5m. It also resulted in the closure of Studio 54.
A new era for the iconic club:
In 1981, Mark Fleischman took over Studio 54. He attempted to restore the club to its heady, 1970s glory. He commissioned performances by Madonna, Wham!, Duran Duran and Spandau Ballet among others.
At this stage, many of the club’s famous celebrity clients returned. Donald Trump, Robin Williams, Carrie Fisher, Liza Minnelli, and Peter O’Toole were just a few of the big names who enjoyed the club.
Fleischman is publishing a new book, Inside Studio 54 which will lay bare all the scandalous stories of the club’s history. Speaking to Page Six Fleischman said: “Ian (Schrager) painted a glossy picture of Studio 54, but this is the real story. There were drugs all over the place – that’s what fueled it. I partied with the people who loved cocaine.”
He claims that once Robert De Niro once locked himself in a bathroom with a jacuzzi full of champagne. He also dished the details on some well-known personalities’ drug habits, but we’ll let you read the book to find out more about that.
A presidential customer:
Fleishman didn’t have too many kind words for his old client, Donald Trump though. The former club owner said of Trump:
“He never touched drink or drugs. He liked looking at beautiful women, even though he was married to Ivana.
“Trump wasn’t a lot of fun — when you’re in a crowd drinking and drugging and one person isn’t, that person seems boring.”
The meaning of Fleishman’s use of the word ‘looking’ is clear, despite his indirectness.
This wasn’t the first time the former Studio 54 owner crossed paths with Trump though. He also blames Trump for having caused him to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars. Back when Trump owned the Plaza Hotel in New York, he commissioned Fleishman to create a club underneath it. He created a West African themed club that Trump refused. After finding another design, work began. However, Trump didn’t bother to tell Fleishman that the Plaza was in foreclosure.
Trump sold the Plaza and the club closed causing Fleishman to lose a fortune and his investors ‘over a million’.
Inside Studio 54 goes on sale in Europe on 26 October, 2017. It is already available for purchase in the USA. The official blurb is as follows:
“Inside Studio 54 takes you behind the scenes of the most famous nightclub in the world, through the crowd, to a place where celebrities, friends, and the beautiful people sip champagne and share lines of cocaine using rolled-up hundred-dollar bills.”