December 2, 1943|
Brooklyn, New York
|Died||July 25, 1989
New York City, New York
Rubell and his brother Don spent their childhoods with their parents in Brooklyn. His father worked for the U.S. Postal Service and later became a tennis pro. Rubell attended Wingate High School, and was also an avid tennis player, but decided against playing professionally.
Entering Syracuse University  Rubell had the intention of becoming a dentist, but failed his courses and switched majors, studying finance and history. Rubell was reportedly not a good student but managed to complete his studies, going on to complete a Master's degree in Finance. While attending college Rubell met Ian Schrager, who became a lifelong friend and business partner.
Rubell joined the National Guard, returning to New York after a tour of duty in a military intelligence unit, he worked at a brokerage firm after his return. Rubell then decided to start his own business and opened two Steak Lofts restaurants: one in Queens, New York, and the other in New Haven, Connecticut.
Studio 54 Era
Rubell and Schrager opened two clubs, one in Boston with John Addison from La Jardin, the other, called The Enchanted Garden, in Queens in 1975, which later became Douglaston Manor. In April 1977, they opened Studio 54 in the old CBS television studio on West 54th Street that the network was selling. Rubell became a familiar face in front of the building, turning people down at the door and only letting in those who met his specific standards. Rubell also dealt with the club's celebrity patrons, ensuring that they were thrown lavish parties. His tactics worked, and the club made $7 million during its first year.
In December 1978, Studio 54 was raided after Rubell was quoted as saying that only the Mafia made more money than the club brought in. In June 1979, Rubell and Schrager were charged with tax evasion, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy for reportedly skimming nearly $2.5 million in unreported income from the club's receipts, in a system Rubell called "cash-in, cash-out and skim." Police reports state that cash and receipts were in the building and were hidden in the ceiling sections of Rubell's office, where both he and Schrager worked. A second raid occurred in December 1979. The pair hired Roy Cohn to defend them, but on January 18, 1980, they were sentenced to three and a half years in prison and a $20,000 fine each for the tax evasion charge. On February 4, 1980, Rubell and Schrager went to prison and Studio 54 was sold in November of that year for $4.75 million. In January 1981, Rubell and Schrager were released from prison after handing over the names of other club owners involved in tax evasion.
Once released, Rubell and Schrager purchased the Executive Hotel on Madison Ave and renamed it Morgan's. Rubell later opened the Palladium, a large dance club famous for displaying art by Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, and considered central to the New York club scene in the 1980s. In 1998, the Palladium was demolished so that New York University dorms could be built in its place.
Mike Myers played the part of Steve Rubell in the movie 54, much to Rubell's relatives' protest after the movie portrayed him as an overly sleazy gay man and an alcoholic junkie with mob connections. Rubell has also been the topic of an episode of Biography titled Steve Rubell: Lord of the Disco.
In 1985, after discovering he had contracted AIDS, Rubell (who was closeted for most of his life) began taking AZT, but his illness was furthered by his continued drug usage and drinking, which affected his already compromised immune system. Rubell died on July 25, 1989, with the official cause of death listed as hepatitis.
- Colacello, Bob (1998-08-01). "Steve Rubell's Interview with "INTERVIEW"". Interview. Retrieved 2007-12-29.
- Lemon, Brendan (1998-07-21). "The real Rubell - Studio 54 owner Steve Rubell". The Advocate. Retrieved 2007-03-16.
- Martin, Douglas (1990-07-25). "About New York; Nights of Glitz, A Velvet Rope And Memories". New York Times. Retrieved 2007-12-29.
- "Cocaine Caper?". Time. 1979-09-03. Retrieved 2007-12-29.
- Stoler, Michael (2006-05-30). "Plans at Union Square to Enhance Its Place in History as a Gathering Place". New York Sun. Retrieved 2007-12-29.
- Ganahl, Jane (1998-08-28). "Boring "54" a coup de grace for '70's". SFGate.com. Retrieved 2007-12-29.