Studio 54
Gallo Opera House (1927)
Casino de Paree (1933)
WPA Federal Music Theatre (1937)
New Yorker Theatre (1939)
CBS Studio 52 (1942)
Address254 West 54th Street
Manhattan, New York City
Coordinates40°45′51.7″N 73°59′01.6″W / 40.764361°N 73.983778°W / 40.764361; -73.983778Coordinates: 40°45′51.7″N 73°59′01.6″W / 40.764361°N 73.983778°W / 40.764361; -73.983778
Public transitNew York City Subway:
OwnerRoundabout Theatre Company
TypeBroadway
Capacity1,006 (519 orchestra/487 mezzanine)[2]
Construction
Opened1927
ArchitectEugene De Rosa[1]
Website
www.roundabouttheatre.org

Studio 54 is a Broadway theatre and a former disco nightclub located on 54th Street in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. The building opened in 1927 as the Gallo Opera House.[3] It operated as an entertainment venue under various names until 1942, when CBS began using it as a radio and television studio dubbed Studio 52.[4]

In 1977, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager opened a nightclub in the building, retaining many former TV and theatrical sets and naming it for its street. Launched at the peak of the disco dancing and music trend, the club became world-famous,[5][6][7] noted for its celebrity guest lists, restrictive (and subjective) entry policies (based on one's appearance and style), rampant club drug use, and open sexual activity in the club's infamous balcony and basement VIP rooms.[8] In 1980, the club shut down after its founders were convicted for evading taxes. They sold the club to Mark Fleischman,[9][10][11] who reopened it, then sold it in 1984 to new owners, who closed it in 1986.

Since November 1998, the site has served as a venue for productions of the Roundabout Theatre Company and retains the name Studio 54.[12] A separate restaurant and nightclub, Feinstein's/54 Below, operates in the basement of the building.[13]

In 2020, it expanded into a music imprint including a record label, Studio 54 Music, and radio station on Sirius XM, Studio 54 Radio.[14]

Early history

Opera and theater

WPA Theatre of Music
WPA Theatre of Music

Designed by famed architect Eugene De Rosa, the venue was developed as the Gallo Opera House (soon revised to Gallo Theatre), named for its owner, Fortune Gallo. De Rosa publicized plans in August 1926 for a 16-story office building on 254–256 West 54th Street, which would contain a three-story opera house on the lower floors.[15] The plans included a lounge with an opera museum below the primary floors. Ida Louise Killam was hired to design the interior decorative scheme with a color palette of gold, blue, and rose.[16]

The opera house premiered on November 8, 1927, with a large-scale production of La bohème,[17][18] 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,[19][20] 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.[21]

CBS Studio 52

In 1943, CBS purchased the theatre and renamed it Studio 52. CBS named its studios in order of purchase;[citation needed] the number 52 was unrelated to the street on which it was located. 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.[22] 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.

Nightclub era

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, in the Rothko Case.[23]

In 1977, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager transformed the theater into a nightclub called Studio 54, 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.[24]

Rubell and Schrager hired Scott Bromley as architect,[25] 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 movable theatrical sets and lights using the copious existing TV lighting circuits and fly systems, which allowed for a dynamic, constantly-changing, environment and with which 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. Before 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.[26] 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)

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. Owner Ian Schrager said it was like "standing on stardust", and it left glitter that could be found months later in attendees' clothing and homes.[27]

Notable patrons

Other notables at the club

End of the first era

In December 1978, Rubell was quoted in the city's newspapers as saying that Studio 54 had made $7 million in its first year and "only the Mafia made more money". This got the attention of the IRS. Shortly after that, the nightclub was raided and Rubell and Schrager were arrested.[56] In June 1979, the two men were indicted on charges of skimming $2.5 million, as much as 60 percent of Studio 54's receipts over the past two years.[57]

Studio 54 closed with a final party on the night of February 2–3, 1980, when Diana Ross and Liza Minnelli 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.[30] Schrager and Rubell pleaded guilty to tax evasion[58][59][60] and were each sentenced to three and a half years in prison,[61][62] though they were paroled after 13 months.[63] On January 17, 2017, Schrager received a presidential pardon from President Barack Obama.[64]

1981–1994

In August 1981, Rubell's company sold the building to Philip Pilevsky for $1.15 million in cash, but Rubell and Schrager opted to keep a lease. Later that year, the building was sold to Mark Fleischman and Stanley G. Tate with Rubell and Schrager staying on as consultants for six months afterward.[65] Studio 54 reopened in September 1981.[66][67] Mark Fleischman published his memoir Inside Studio 54 in October 2017; many details of his years as the owner are detailed as well as his experience buying the club from Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell while they were incarcerated.[68]

Famed New York City doorman Haoui Montaug worked at Studio 54.[69] Paul Heyman was a photographer, producer, and promoter at the club in the mid-1980s.[70]

The Ritz and Cabaret Royale

Main article: The Ritz (rock club)

From 1981 to April 1986, Mark Fleischman owned Studio 54. In April 1989, The Ritz nightclub, which had previously operated at 11th Street and Third Avenue from 1980 to 1987, moved into the former Studio 54 under the name The New Ritz. In 1990, the club changed the name back to that of its former location, The Ritz. The new owner, CAT Entertainment Corp operated the club primarily as a venue for new wave, punk, Eurodisco, and heavy metal artists and also offered it 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.[71] 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

Studio 54, July 2019
Studio 54, July 2019

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 July 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.[72][73] 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.[74]

In March 2020, the theater closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It reopened on October 8, 2021, with performances of Caroline, or Change.

Notable productions

Upstairs at Studio 54

The second floor of the theater was used as a nightclub, called Upstairs at Studio 54, on weeks when plays were not being staged. 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

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The building, which is still frequently referred to as the Studio 54 building, houses various 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.

Record label

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Launched in 2020, Studio 54 Music's first release, Night Magic Vol. 1, is a four-track compilation EP of disco anthems from the club's prime days, revised into 2020s music-style versions by an ensemble of musicians from both the original scene and today's dance music world.

The project was led by producer JKriv, current member of Escort, a former member of Tortured Soul, and label boss of the disco-edits label, Razor-N-Tape. Essential keys, synths, and the overall EP co-production were by Morgan Wiley, known for his work with DFA Records and LCD Soundsystem; Hercules and Love Affair; and disco band Midnight Magic.

The Night Magic EP name lines up with its corresponding five-month Brooklyn Museum exhibition that premiered on March 13, but was postponed due to the museum closing over COVID-19 pandemic concerns. The label also works in close partnership with Sirius XM on Studio 54 Radio, found on Channel 54, which is executive produced by Jellybean Benitez.

Cultural impact

Studio 54 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas
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.[106] Additionally, multiple works of art, entertainment, and media refer to or are associated with the nightclub. Examples include:

Bibliography

References

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  76. ^ Assassins (Original) at the Internet Broadway Database; "Assassins, Broadway @ Studio 54". Playbill. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  77. ^ Pacific Overtures (2004 Revival) at the Internet Broadway Database; "Pacific Overtures, Broadway @ Studio 54". Playbill. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  78. ^ A Streetcar Named Desire (2005 Revival) at the Internet Broadway Database; "A Streetcar Named Desire, Broadway @ Studio 54". Playbill. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  79. ^ A Touch of the Poet (2005 Revival) at the Internet Broadway Database; "A Touch of the Poet, Broadway @ Studio 54". Playbill. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  80. ^ The Threepenny Opera (2006 Revival) at the Internet Broadway Database; "Threepenny Opera, Broadway @ Studio 54". Playbill. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  81. ^ The Apple Tree (2006 Revival) at the Internet Broadway Database; "The Apple Tree, Broadway @ Studio 54". Playbill. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  82. ^ 110 in the Shade (2007 Revival) at the Internet Broadway Database; "110 in the Shade, Broadway @ Studio 54". Playbill. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  83. ^ The Ritz (2007 Revival) at the Internet Broadway Database; "The Ritz, Broadway @ Studio 54". Playbill. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  84. ^ Sunday in the Park with George (2008 Revival) at the Internet Broadway Database; "Sunday in the Park with George, Broadway @ Studio 54". Playbill. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  85. ^ Pal Joey (2008 Revival) at the Internet Broadway Database; "Pal Joey, Broadway @ Studio 54". Playbill. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
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  89. ^ Brief Encounter (Original) at the Internet Broadway Database; "Brief Encounter, Broadway @ Studio 54". Playbill. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
  90. ^ The People in the Picture (Original) at the Internet Broadway Database; "The People in the Picture, Broadway @ Studio 54". Playbill. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
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  96. ^ She Loves Me (2016 Revival) at the Internet Broadway Database; "She Loves Me Broadway @ Studio 54". Playbill. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
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  102. ^ Kiss Me, Kate (2019 Revival) at the Internet Broadway Database; "Kiss Me, Kate, Broadway @ Studio 54". Playbill. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
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  104. ^ Caroline, or Change (2021 Revival) at the Internet Broadway Database; "Caroline, or Change, Broadway @ Studio 54". Playbill. Retrieved December 13, 2021.
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