The Secretive and Legendary Studio 54 Nightclub
Updated: Apr 5
Studio 54 was a legendary nightclub in New York City that was the epicenter of elusive celebrity culture in the 1970s, perfectly coinciding with the disco era. The club was open for three years, during which anyone who was anyone would make an appearance. There are so many stories about the goings-on of the nightclub, but how much of that lore is fact and how much of it is myth? Take a glimpse into this exciting and secretive world.
Ride In Style
Studio 54 had a notoriously exclusive entrance policy, with people lining up in desperate hopes of getting in. If you were not famous, it was pretty difficult to get in. That’s why this guy came in riding a horse in order to try to stand out from the rest of the crowd.
In the 1970s, Cher’s career was at its zenith, having already released ten successful albums, both as a solo artist and with then-husband Sonny Bono. By the late ’70s, she had begun to transition to acting and would later win an Oscar as well. Here she is dancing the night away at Studio 54.acting and would later win an Oscar as well. Here she is dancing the night away at Studio 54.
One of the most exciting aspects of Studio 54 was the many performances and shows that were put on. Here two trapeze artists dangle from the ceiling along excited club goers. Some of the crazy things that went on would be unbelievable without the photos that show proof.
Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger and then-wife model Bianca Jagger were frequent guests at Studio 54. The two were an unstoppable power couple that was always welcome at the exclusive nightclub.
Brooke Shields became a household name when she was very young after appearing at age 12 in Pretty Baby and later in the film The Blue Lagoon and TV show Suddenly Susan. Here she is with Mariel Hemingway, the granddaughter of the acclaimed author, Ernest Hemingway. Mariel, also an actress, was nominated for a Golden Globe award when she was only 14 for her role in Lipstick. She also appeared in Woody Allen’s Manhattan.
There was no telling just what wild scenes you’d encounter at each visit at Studio 54. It was pretty commonplace to see live exotic animals, adding to the already general mystique and excitement of the place. Here is Bianca Jagger among some white doves. Next to her is Steve Rubell, the owner of the club.
The Village People
The Village People were an unstoppable force during the 1970s, with mega-hit songs like “YMCA” and “Macho Man” topping the charts. They became icons for the LGBT community and were known for their flamboyant outfits that always made them stand out.
Comedian and actor Robin Williams was already a household name during the 1970s, particularly after he played Mork in the hit TV show Mork & Mindy. Here he is with Valerie Velardi, his then-future wife, who he would go on to have a son with named Zachary Pym Williams.
Here we see a truly impressive collection of guests that would often be seen at Studio 54. Accomplished boxer Muhammad Ali is pictured alongside Bianca Jagger and fashion designer Calvin Klein. It was very normal to see the stars mingle while at the nightclub.
Fashion designer Carolina Herrera elegantly dressed for her night out at Studio 54, donning a silk cape gowns on nights out at Studio 54 in 1977.
Model Beverly Johnson enjoyed some time at Studio 54. Johnson is best known for becoming the first African-American model to grace the cover of Vogue in August 1974.
The 1970s proved to a difficult time in American history, both politically and economically. Studio 54 gave people a release and a chance to enjoy pure hedonism during these hard times. Here is fashion photographer Francesco Scavullo laughing with singer Tina Turner.
Stevie Wonder and Steven Stills
Iconic singers and musicians Stevie wonder and Steven Stills joined forces for a live performance during a birthday party for 300 guests held at the nightclub. The intimate performance was surly quite entertaining
Supermodel and fashion icon Grace Jones was known for her incredible outfits that certainly made her stand out. Fans and photographers would always see what she would bring each time she showed up to Studio 54.
As is the case today, sports stars are just as high profile as Hollywood celebrities. Joe Namath, an NFL star who played for the New York Jets and Los Angeles Rams, also relaxed during some time off and enjoying drinks at the famed nightclub.
Andy Warhol, Jerry Hall, Debbie Harry, Truman Capote, and Paloma Picasso
Here’s an incredible grouping of artistic stars: pop artist Andy Warhol, model Jerry Hall, singer Debbie Harry, writer Truman Capote, and fashion designer Paloma Picasso all pose together while attending a night out at Studio 54. What an incredible combination of talent.
It was very common to see all of the famous faces of the day gather together while at Studio 54. Here we see Liza Minelli, Elizabeth Taylor, and First Lady Betty Ford. What a combination! We wonder what these ladies were discussing while this photo was being snapped.
Patti LaBelle and Nona Hendryx
Iconic songstresses Patti LaBelle and Nona Hendryx first became known for being members of Labelle, who were later named the Blue Belles. The two went to Studio 54 before their night of hosting the One to One Telethon in 1982.
Sylvester Stallone is best known for the Rocky film franchise. Many have said that he was inspired to write the screenplay after watching Muhammad Ali fight Chuck Wepner. Here is Stallone at Studio 54 with Sheryl Slocum circa 1977.
Fleur Thiemeyer and Elton John
Elton John was unimpressed by this cotton candy while attending the premiere party At Studio 54 for the film Grease in 1978. He was joined by costume designer Fleur Thiemereyer, who was equally unimpressed.
In the 1970s, musicians Michael Jackson and Steven Tyler, pictured here together, were on top of the world. This was a bit before Jackson’s solo career took off, and it’s said that the time he spent at Studio 54 help shape his signature sound that would take over the music world during the 1980s.
Actor Michael Caine is known to younger generations as Bruce Wayne’s butler in the Batman film series. At a much younger age in 1980, he was dancing the night away with his wife Shakira.
Steve Rubell was the co-founder and owner of Studio 54 who was known for being the manager of the famous club as well. He held very exclusive standards for entrance and would often be the one deciding who was allowed in and who was not. He always wanted to ensure that the celebrity clientele were well treated. Here he is with Brooke Shields, Calvin Klein, and Andy Warhol.
While Cher was known for her singing, she was also quite fond of dancing the night away, especially while at Studio 54. Here she is with Howard Himelstein. Before her career as a songstress, Cher started out her career as a dancer, working at clubs on Sunset Strip in Hollywood.
Studio 54 was known for drawing huge crowds of people who wanted to get in, but also for the crowds that did manage to make it inside the exclusive club. People were happy to cram into the club for the chance to rub shoulders with the famous stars that frequented the club.
Friends In High Places
Studio 54 was known for bringing together many famous people. For some reason, it’s fascinating to see famous people mingling together. Here are Tina Turner with Rod Stewart and his then-wife Alana. Tina Turner famously impersonated Stewart at the Ritz, where she wore a blonde wig and sang his songs.
Studio 54 was so exclusive that only celebrities would easily be able to get in, while the rest of the “mere mortals” had to wait in a long line outside to maybe have a chance to get in. You would have to impress the doorman to be let in.
Studio 54 was known for its wild antics, which is what led it to its legendary reputation. Bianca Jagger is seen here riding a white horse, which is what may have inspired the Rolling Stones song, “Wild Horses.” Jagger said that “It was a beautiful white horse that reminded me of mine.”
St. Jacques & Jagger
Studio 54 allowed celebrities to let their hair down and relax without having to worry about being mobbed. Here we see actor Sterling St. Jacques dancing the night away along with Bianca Jagger. He starred in the film Eyes of Laura Mars and was also a model working for Givenchy.
Suzanne Somers rose to fame when she appeared on the hit sitcom Three’s Company. The show, on which she portrayed the character of Chrissy, made her a star, which granted her easy access to Studio 54. Later in life, she turned to writing. Here she is with her husband Alan Hamel.
Although Studio 54 was extremely exclusive, it was still able to fit a large amount of people inside. The club was inside what used to be an old theater and had a capacity of over 1000. Even when it was jam-packed, there was still a line outside the door of hopeful people who were desperate to get in.
A Grand Show
One of the things that made Studio 54 so special was the fact that it was not just a nightclub, but also a source of entertainment. Lavish productions were put on.
Elizabeth Taylor was an absolute superstar, which is why she was a regular at Studio 54. Here we see her celebrating her birthday alongside fashion designer Halston. An incredible birthday cake can be seen behind her, which impressively captured her countenance.
Even though celebrities had easy access entry to Studio 54, it was a totally different story for the general public. In order to get into the exclusive club, you really had to wow the bouncers, which led to many creative and outlandish outfits. These kinds of outfits were known for helping people get into the nightclub.
Stirling St. Jacques certainly loved to enjoy himself and dance alongside other stars at Studio 54. Here he is with Dame Shirley Bassey, who by the end of the 1970s had released 18 successful albums. She even named a Dame by the Queen of England in 1999.
This giant mob of people who hoped to get into the club was quite the typical scene outside of Studio 54. Unfortunately for many of the waiting, only a few lucky handful would actually be able to get in due to Steve Rubell’s highly exclusive standards. They looked for exceptional style or beauty.
Barbara Streisand is an absolutely entertainment industry legend, with a singing and acting career that has garnered her Academy Awards, Grammys, Emmy Awards, and Golden Globes. Here she is at Studio 54 with producer Jon Peters, who she was in a relationship with briefly. Though they split, they stayed friends and she’s even his children’s godmother.
Queens of the Club
Studio 54 was also known for being a tolerant place for being to express themselves and being a safe haven for members of the LGBT community. Famous drag queens Angel Jack and Hibiscus are seen here as a part of their performance group The Angels of Light. They became regular performers at the club.
Actress and model Brooke Shields is no stranger to fame, as she became well known when she was just 12 years old after appearing in Pretty Baby. She was a regular at Studio 54 when she was a teenager.
Once again we see model and actor Sterling St. Jacques who was a fixture at Studio 54. This time, he’s dancing the night away with Liza Minelli, who is the daughter of Judy Garland. Minelli became a star herself, starring in many productions such as Cabaret, which earned her an Oscar.
John F. Kennedy Jr.
Son of President John F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Jr. was not only the president’s son but a celebrity in his own right. The Kennedys were considered something like American royalty, so JFK Jr. was often treated like a prince.
Studio 54 gave people a chance to truly let go and enjoy themselves in a non-judgmental environment. Here we see actress and model Debbie Dickinson having a wonderful time dancing with club owner Steve Rubell. Debbie’s sister Janice Dickinson is also a famous model.
When outlandish outfits weren’t enough, some people turned to actual costumes in order to try to impress the bouncers enough to get into the exclusive nightclub. People decided to dress up as clowns and were able to wow the bouncers enough to gain access into the club.
Victoria Mahoney and Djimon Hounsou
West African model and actor Djimon Hounsou is seen with his then-girlfriend Victoria Mahoney at the 1997 relaunch of the iconic Studio 54. Hounsou is known for appearing in films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Aquaman.
Diane von Furstenberg married Prince Egon von Furstenberg, making her royalty even before she was famous. After they separated, she kept the royal name and went on to become one of the most successful fashion designers of all time. Here she is at Studio 54 with her second husband Barry Diller.
At the peak of its success, Studio 54 was so exclusive that many people were absolutely desperate to have a chance to get in. Doormen and security had to physically hold people back from trying to storm into the famous nightclub. People so badly wanted to get in that they didn’t care about getting arrested or hurt in order to get a chance to get in.
Not only did Studio 54 put on impressive dance shows, but there were many stuntmen and women who would parade around the club as well.
The fact that the 1970s was a tumultuous decade in the United States helps explain why a place like Studio 54 was so successful. People were looking to forget the troubles of real life for a bit and just enjoy themselves.
Phyllis Diller was a comedian and actress, and here we can see her dancing with historian Barry Landau. Diller was in her 60’s already when Studio 54 was a huge deal, but that did not stop her from showing up and having a fantastic time. She only retired when she approached 90, but she was an unstoppable force.
Farrah & Ryan
Farrah Fawcett is one of the most legendary celebrities of the 1970s. She became famous for appearing in Charlie’s Angels and becoming one of the most beloved actresses of her time. Here she is with her partner, actor Ryan O’Neal, with who she had an on-again-off-again relationship until she passed away in 2009.
Jennie Garth and Peter Facinelli
Jennie Garth is best known for her role on Beverly Hills, 90210. She was married to fellow actor Peter Facinelli for 12 years before the two divorced in 2012. Facinelli is best known for playing Carlisle Cullen in the Twilight film franchise.
Diana Ross is one of the legendary stars from the 1970s, so of course, she was one of the VIP guests at Studio 54. She first became known as a member of the Motown group The Supremes but later had a massively successful solo career as well.
Bill Murray and Gilda Radner
Comedy legends Bill Murray and Gilda Radner sure knew how to let their hair loose and have a good time! The two were some of the early members of the Saturday Night Live cast. Radner sadly passed away in 1989, while Murray went on to become one of the most successful and prolific movie stars in the industry.
The Jackson Five
The Jackson Five were some of the biggest stars of their day, so of course, they were some of the celebrities that were seen spending their nights at Studio 54. Of course, Michael Jackson would go on to have one of the most successful musical careers of all time, becoming a pop star legend and becoming known as the King of Pop.
John Travolta rose to stardom in the 1970s after he starred in the smash-hit films Carrie, Saturday Night Fever, and Grease. After a brief hiatus, he went on to make a comeback after he appeared in Pulp Fiction, Get Shorty, The Punisher, Hairspray, and more.
Ian Schraeger and Steve Rubell
Without these two, Studio 54 would have never become the legendary club it was. Here are Ian Schraeger and Steve Rubell making plans for the nightclub that would become the favorite haunt of countless famous stars. Their hard work and planning clearly paid off.
Olivia Newton-John became a worldwide star when she appeared alongside John Travolta in the 1976 musical film Grease. Here she is at the premiere party of the film, which took place at the iconic Studio 54. She’s channeling her character’s style at the end of the film.
As a star who would often frequent the original Studio 54, it is no surprise that he would make an appearance at the 1997 relaunch of the club, which took place at the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas.