Studio 54

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Studio 54
Gallo Opera House (1927)
Casino de Paree (1933)
WPA Federal Music Theatre (1937)
New Yorker Theatre (1939)
CBS Studio 52 (1942)
Studio 54 logo.svg
Logo, designed by Gilbert Lesser[1]
Address 254 West 54th Street
Manhattan, New York City
Coordinates 40°45′51″N 73°59′02″W / 40.764303°N 73.983829°W / 40.764303; -73.983829Coordinates: 40°45′51″N 73°59′02″W / 40.764303°N 73.983829°W / 40.764303; -73.983829
Owner Roundabout Theatre Company
Type Broadway
Capacity 1,006 (519 orchestra/487 mezzanine)[2]
Production Latin History for Morons
Opened 1927
Architect Eugene De Rosa[3]

Studio 54 is a former nightclub and currently a Broadway theatre, located at 254 West 54th Street, between Eighth Avenue and Broadway in Manhattan, New York City. The building, originally built as the Gallo Opera House, opened in 1927, after which it changed names several times, eventually becoming CBS radio and television Studio 52.

In the late 1970s, at the peak of the disco dancing and music trend, the building was renamed after its location, and became a world-famous nightclub and discotheque.[4][5][6] The nightclub founders spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on professional lighting design, and kept many of the former TV and theatrical sets, in the process creating a unique dance club that became famous for its celebrity guest lists, restrictive (and subjective) entry policies (based on one's appearance and style), and open club drug use. Founded and created by Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager in 1977, it was sold in 1980 to Mark Fleischman,[7][8][9] who reopened the club after it had been shut down following the conviction of Rubell and Schrager on charges of tax evasion. In 1984, Fleischman sold the club, which continued to operate until 1986.

Since November 1998, it has served as a venue for productions of the Roundabout Theatre Company and retains the name Studio 54.[10] A separate restaurant and nightclub, Feinstein's/54 Below, operates in the basement of the building.[11]


WPA Theatre of Music

Designed by famed architect Eugene De Rosa, the venue opened in 1927 as the Gallo Opera House (soon revised to Gallo Theatre), named for its owner, Fortune Gallo. Beginning with a very large-scale production of La bohème which closed after three weeks, the Gallo was met with a succession of failed attempts to draw an audience, and was lost to foreclosure after only two years. It later reopened under new ownership as The New Yorker, but continued failing to attract sufficient crowds. It changed hands in the early 1930s, then in 1937 it became the WPA Federal Music Project of New York City's Federal Music Theatre/Theatre of Music,[12][13] then it became the New Yorker Theatre in 1939, housing an all-black version of The Swing Mikado, originally from Chicago, for two months, when the production moved to the 44th Street Theatre to finish its run. The New Yorker Theatre saw its final production, Medicine Show, end in May 1940, following which the building remained vacant for three years.[14]

CBS Studio 52[edit]

In 1943, CBS purchased the theatre, renaming it Studio 52. CBS named its studios in order of purchase; the number 52 was unrelated to the street on which it was located. 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, Video Village, Password, To Tell the Truth, Beat the Clock, The Jack Benny Show, I've Got a Secret, Ted Mack and the Original Amateur Hour, and Captain Kangaroo.[15] The soap opera Love of Life was produced there until 1975.

In 1976, CBS moved most of its broadcast operations 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 concrete-blocked during the theater's 1993 renovation for Late Show with David Letterman.

Nightclub era[edit]

When CBS began marketing the building in 1976, various parties 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.[16]

In 1977, the theater was transformed into a nightclub called Studio 54 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 before its grand opening on April 26.[17]

Rubell and Schrager hired Scott Bromley as architect, Ron Doud as interior designer and Brian Thompson as lighting designer. Jules Fisher and Paul Marantz, two well-known lighting designers, created the dance floor environment and created moveable theatrical sets and lights using the copious existing TV lighting circuits and fly system, which allowed for a dynamic, constantly-changing, environment. Where formerly all clubs had been very dark, at Studio 54 the crowd could be lit brightly.

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.[18] 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 (1977–1979)[edit]

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.[19] Frequent regulars at Studio 54 included Andy Warhol,[20] Liza Minnelli, Bianca Jagger,[20] Elizabeth Taylor,[20] Halston, Mick Jagger,[20] Jerry Hall,[20] Debbie Harry,[20] Lotti Golden, Grace Jones,[20] Michael Jackson,[20] Calvin Klein,[20] Elton John,[20] Rick James, Tina Turner,[20] Gia Carangi, Divine, Margaret Trudeau, Sylvia Miles, Faye Dunaway, Francesco Scavullo, Truman Capote, Margaux Hemingway, Pat Cleveland, Janice Dickinson, Drew Barrymore, Freddie Mercury, Ric Flair, Lorna Luft, Tommy Hilfiger, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Diana Ross, Lou Reed, Al Pacino, Cher, Bruce Jenner,[21] Allan Carr,[21] David Bowie, Woody Allen, Iman, Salvador Dalí, Robin Williams, Donald Trump, Diana Vreeland, John Travolta,[20] Beverly Johnson, Lauren Hutton, Karl Lagerfeld, André Leon Talley, Diane von Fürstenberg, Amanda Lear, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Geraldo Rivera,[22][23] Brooke Shields,[20][24] Martha Graham,[citation needed] Ilie Năstase, Vitas Gerulaitis and Cheryl Tiegs. Actor Al Corley was a doorman during the late 1970s.

Under the direction of the talent producer Billy Amato (Smith), performers at Studio 54 during its first few years of operation included Grace Jones, Donna Summer, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Gloria Gaynor, Sylvester, Amii Stewart, Stephanie Mills, The Ritchie Family, Village People, Billy Ocean, Anita Ward, Two Tons o' Fun, Jocelyn Brown, France Joli, Cheryl Lynn, Jean Carne, Claudja Barry, Klaus Nomi, and Linda Clifford.[citation needed]

The band Chic wrote "Le Freak" in 1978 after their guitarist Nile Rodgers was turned away from Studio 54, despite being invited by Grace Jones.[25] The lyrics invite the listener to "come on down to the 54".

End of the first era[edit]

In December 1978, Rubell was quoted in the New York newspapers as saying that Studio 54 had made $7 million in its first year and that "only the Mafia made more money". This got the attention of the IRS. Shortly thereafter the nightclub was raided and Rubell and Schrager were arrested for skimming $2.5 million.[26]

Studio 54 closed with a final party in February 1980 when Diana Ross personally serenaded Rubell and Schrager. Ryan O'Neal, Farrah Fawcett, Mariel Hemingway, Jocelyn Wildenstein, Richard Gere, Gia Carangi, Jack Nicholson, Reggie Jackson, and Sylvester Stallone were among the guests that night. Schrager and Rubell pleaded guilty to tax evasion and spent 13 months in prison.[27][28][29]

On January 17, 2017, Schrager received a presidential pardon from President Barack Obama.[30]


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 six months afterward.[31] 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. Billy Amato's "Z100/WPLJ" Saturday Night radio parties and Michael Fesco's "Sundays at the Studio" artists who performed at the time, Madonna, Wham!, Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, The Weather Girls, Culture Club, Lime, Spandau Ballet, Sylvester, Roberta Flack, 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. In 1985, heavy metal groups Slayer, Venom, and Exodus filmed a video at Studio 54 called Ultimate Revenge for Disco. In the 1980s many legendary freestyle music artists performed at the club such as Noel Pagan, Nocera, Cynthia, Coro, Company B, Tony Moran, The Cover Girls, India, TKA, Black Riot, Fascination, Sweet Sensation, Pajama Party, Johnny O, Hanson & Davis, and many others. Radio stations such as 92 KTU, HOT-103, and HOT-97 would broadcast each live event for these freestyle music artists. Mark Fleischman published his memoir Inside Studio 54 in October, 2017. Many details of his years as owner are detailed as well as his experience buying the club from Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell while they were incarcerated.

Famed New York City doorman Haoui Montaug worked as a doorman at Studio 54.[32]

The Ritz and Cabaret Royale[edit]

From 1981 to April 1986, Studio 54 was under the ownership of Mark Fleischman. Then from 1988 until early 1993 Studio 54's name was changed to The Ritz (previously located on 11th Street and Third Avenue from 1980 to 1987). The club then became strictly a concert venue for New Wave, Punk, Eurodisco, and Heavy Metal artists. The new owners were CAT Entertainment Corp and 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.[33] The newly remodeled 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.

In 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 Theatre at Studio 54, mid 1990s–present[edit]

Studio 54, April 2008

In 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.

In 1998, the collapse of a construction hoist blocked access to the Henry Miller Theatre on 43rd Street, where the successful revival of the Broadway musical Cabaret was playing.[34][35] To keep the show accessible, the Roundabout Theatre Company agreed to move the performance to Studio 54. Roundabout later bought the building in 2003 from Allied for $22.5 million, and Cabaret played until 2004.[36]

Notable productions[edit]

Upstairs at Studio 54[edit]

The second floor of the theater was used as a nightclub (on weeks when plays were not being staged) under the name Upstairs at Studio 54. The club was operated by Noel Ashman and Josh Hadar who was one of the Allied partners. Upstairs at Studio 54 performers included Mark Ronson Samantha Ronson Gloria Estefan, Jody Watley, and Newsical.

Other tenants[edit]

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. In 1965, the building housed Scepter Records's offices, warehouse space and a recording studio, where The Velvet Underground & Nico album was recorded in April 1966.

Cultural impact[edit]

Studio 54 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas

In the late 1970s, Studio 54 was one of the best-known nightclubs in the world, and it played a 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.[37] Additionally, multiple works of art, entertainment, and media refer to or are associated with the nightclub. Examples include:

See also[edit]

  • Fiorucci, an Italian fashion boutique, known as the "daytime Studio 54"



  1. ^ Cook, Joan (August 30, 1990). "Gilbert Lesser, 55, Poster Designer For Plays and Promotion Director". The New York Times. 
  2. ^ "Rent a Venue: Studio 54". Roundabout Theatre Company. Retrieved 2014-07-10. 
  3. ^ "Studio 54". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved January 19, 2008. 
  4. ^ "1977: Studio 54 opens". History. April 26, 2016. Retrieved November 1, 2016. 
  5. ^ Colacello, Bob (September 3, 2013). "The Seventies: Anything Went". Vanity Fair. Retrieved November 1, 2016. 
  6. ^ Dowd, Vincent (April 26, 2012). "Studio 54: 'The best party of your life'". BBC News Online. Retrieved November 1, 2016. 
  7. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (January 16, 2013). "Selling Some Old Sparkle From Nights at Studio 54". The New York Times. 
  8. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (January 22, 2013). "Disco Inferno at Fire-Sale Prices as Studio 54 Items Go On the Block". The New York Times. Retrieved 2016-01-01. 
  9. ^ Nobile, Philip (May 7, 2007). "Studio 54, Where Are You?". New York. 
  10. ^ "A Short History of Roundabout Theatre Company". Archived from the original on 2010-12-21. 
  11. ^ "Feinstein's/54 Below – Broadway's Supper Club". Retrieved 2016-01-01. 
  12. ^ "Works Progress Administration Composers' Forum-Laboratory, third series Fortnightly concerts of contemporary American music, W.P.A. Federal Music Theatre". Retrieved 2016-01-01. 
  13. ^ "WPA, Federal Music Project of New York City, Theatre of Music, Symphony concerts". Retrieved 2016-01-01. 
  14. ^ "Studio 54 – Roundabout Seating Chart – Broadway". Retrieved 2016-01-01. 
  15. ^ "Who We Are: Studio 54". Roundabout Theatre Company. Retrieved 2014-07-11. 
  16. ^ "Studio 54". And We Danced: Disco and Dance Music History. Archived from the original on 2009-01-29. 
  17. ^ "Operators of Studio 54 In New York Indicted On Skimming Receipts". The Wall Street Journal. June 29, 1979. p. 22. 
  18. ^ Blau, Eleanor (May 22, 1977). "Liquor Authority Head Stops Discothèque's Music". The New York Times. 
  19. ^ Weber, Bruce (July 10, 2009). "Robert Isabell, Who Turned Events Into Wondrous Occasions, Dies at 57". The New York Times. Retrieved July 14, 2009. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Hasse Persson (sv) (2015). Studio 54. Max Ström (sv). ISBN 9789171263292
  21. ^ a b Hofler, Robert (2010). Party Animals: A Hollywood Tale of Sex, Drugs, and Rock 'n' Roll Starring the Fabulous Allan Carr. Hachette. p. 119. ISBN 9780306818943. 
  22. ^ Gleick, Elizabeth (2015-01-01). "Geraldo Rivera". Retrieved 2016-01-01. 
  23. ^ "Geraldo's Last Laugh". Retrieved 2016-01-01. 
  24. ^ "Brooke Shields". Late Night with Jimmy Fallon (Interview). New York City: NBC. 2011-02-07. Archived from the original on August 20, 2011. Retrieved 2016-11-01. 
  25. ^ "Classic Tracks: Chic – "Le Freak"". Sound On Sound Magazine. 2005. Retrieved July 7, 2010. 
  26. ^ Flint, Peter B. (July 27, 1989). "Steve Rubell, Studio 54's Creator And a 'Pasha of Disco,' Dies at 45". The New York Times. 
  27. ^ "Studio 54 owners admit tax evasion". The Miami News. Associated Press. November 2, 1979. p. 12A. 
  28. ^ Neill, Michael; Little, Benilde; Gross, Ken (August 14, 1989). "Steve Rubell, Studio 54's Puckish Ringmaster, Follows His Club into History". People. 32 (7). 
  29. ^ Abrahams, Andrew (December 10, 1990). "With Prison and Steve Rubell's Death Behind Him, Studio 54's Ian Schrager Is Back on Top with a Hot New Hotel". People. 34 (23). 
  30. ^ Nir, Sarah Maslin (2017-01-18). "On Obama's Pardon List: A Hotel Magnate Who Owned Studio 54". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-02-07. 
  31. ^ "Reality News; Studio 54". The New York Times. August 31, 1981. 
  32. ^ "Haoui Montaug; Disco Doorman, 39". The New York Times. June 12, 1991. p. 25. 
  33. ^ Howe, Marvine (December 19, 1993). "Neighborhood Report: Midtown; A Stripped-Down Studio 54 For the Post-Disco Era". The New York Times. 
  34. ^ Greenhouse, Steven (July 22, 1998). "Construction Collapse in Times Square: The Accident; Scaffold Collapses, Paralyzing Times Square". The New York Times. 
  35. ^ "Studio 54, Broadway New York". Retrieved 2016-01-01. 
  36. ^ Holusha, John (October 1, 2003). "As Cabaret Nears End, Cabaret Still Has a Place". The New York Times. 
  37. ^ Adams, Mark (November 16, 2011). "54 days to go until Studio 54 Las Vegas closes". Las Vegas Weekly. 

External links[edit]