Studio 54
Studio 54 was a notable disco in the 70s and early 80s. Studio 54 was originally a New York City Broadway theatre, then a CBS radio and television studio. In the 1970s it became a busy discothèque located at 254 West 54th Street in Manhattan. The club opened on April 26, 1977 and closed in March 1986. Since 1998, it has been a venue for the Roundabout Theatre Company.


Early years
The building originated as the Gallo Opera House by Fortune Gallo in 1927 for his San Carlo Opera Company. It opened on February 7, 1927, with the opera La bohème . A 1928 musical entitled Rainbow with a score by Vincent Youmans and Oscar Hammerstein II and choreography by Busby Berkeley lasted 29 performances. The Opera House closed in 1929 after a dismal runs of the comedies Ladies Don't Lie and A Tailor-Made Man. Over the course of the next decade, the venue changed its name several times. It became known as the New Yorker Theater in 1930, booking Ibsen's play The Vikings ( The Vikings at Helgeland ) and the 1931 revue Fast and Furious with a cast that included Zora Neale Hurston, Moms Mabley, Juano Hernandez, and Tim Moore. Both flopped. From 1933 to 1936 it became a dinner theater called the Casino de Paree, managed by Billy Rose. It was then the Palladium Theater in 1936. The Federal Theatre Project leased it for its productions and changed its name to the Federal Music Theater in 1937. The Chicago Federal Theater achieved minor success here with its production of Swing Mikado , a jazzy update of the Gilbert & Sullivan operetta which competed with the smash hit The Hot Mikado with Bill Robinson. Later in 1937, the name was changed back to the New Yorker Theater.

CBS Studio 52
CBS purchased the facility in 1943, renaming it Studio 52 (CBS named its studios in order of purchase and the number had nothing to do with the street). During these pre-television years, CBS would use the theater for radio broadcasts. From the 1950s 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 , Password , To Tell the Truth , Beat the Clock , The Jack Benny Show , I've Got a Secret , Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour , and Captain Kangaroo . The soap opera Love of Life was produced there until 1975. In 1976, CBS concentrated most of its New York broadcast functions around the corner to its storied Ed Sullivan Theater (CBS-TV Studio 50) or west to the CBS Broadcast Center, and sold Studio 52. The Ed Sullivan Theater once had access to Studio 52 through an access door, which was cinder-blocked during the theater's 1993 renovation for Late Show with David Letterman . However, it is possible that the door that was covered was, in fact, leading to an MTA utility building, instead of the Sullivan Theater.

Nightclub era
Founding When CBS began marketing the building in 1976, various interests in the art and fashion world pushed for turning it into a trendy disco, including male model Uva Harden, who 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. Carmen D'Alessio, a Valentino public relations agent who had been throwing fashionable parties, encouraged Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, who were operating the Enchanted Garden in Queens, to make the leap into Manhattan. D'Alessio had "reluctantly" hosted parties outside of Manhattan at the Queens venue and had been profiled in Newsweek for doing so. She was to introduce Rubell and Schrager to the jet-set crowd, including a pre-opening dinner with Andy Warhol, Halston, and Calvin Klein. John Addison, owner of the disco "La Jardin" on West 43rd Street, New York City in 1974 introduced Steve Rubell to Billy (Amato) Smith and then to Ian Schrager. Billy (Amato) Smith later in 1975 was asked by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell to handle the promotions for their new disco club called "Enchanted Gardens" a dinner/disco in Douglaston, Queens New York. Billy (Amato) Smith then joined Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager at Studio 54 in the spring of 1977 part time, and then full time in 1981 until the closing of Studio 54 in April 1986. During 1977, the building was purchased and renamed for its street address, 254 West 54th Street, between Broadway and Eighth Avenue, a location already noted for another tenant in the building, famed disco recording company West End Records, as well as being the former home of Scepter Records. The nightclub was then founded by four equal partners: Steven Rubell, Ian Schrager, Tim Savage, and Jack Dushey. They operated the company as Broadway Catering Corp. Another partner, Richard DeCourcey, was present until September 1977. 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, but gave free fruit juice and soda instead of liquor. Prior to the raid, the nightclub had been using one-day use "caterers' permits", which enabled the nightclub to serve alcohol but were intended for weddings or political affairs. 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 Among the many celebrities present during opening night: Michael Jackson, Mick and Bianca Jagger, Rick James, Liza Minnelli, Jerry Hall, Diana Vreeland, Halston, Margaux Hemingway, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Salvador Dali, Brooke Shields, Francesco Scavullo, Janice Dickinson, Cher, Martha Graham, Debbie Harry, Robin Leach, newlyweds Donald and Ivana Trump, newly engaged Rick Hilton and Kathy Richards. Some celebrities, including Warren Beatty, Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Henry Winkler, and Frank Sinatra were unable to get in, in part due to Studio 54's doorman. The nightclub held around 700 patrons who paid an $8 cover charge to get in each night. Studio 54 was operated by the flamboyant, publicly visible Rubell and his retiring silent partner Schrager. At the nightclub's prime, Rubell became widely known for hand-selecting guests from the always-huge crowds outside, mixing beautiful "nobodies" with glamorous celebrities in the same venue. Alongside Rubell, doorman Mark Benecke became a fixture on the scene selecting and admitting people to the club. "Studio", as it came to be called, was notorious for the hedonism that occurred within it; the balconies were known for sexual encounters, and drug use was rampant. Its dance floor was decorated with a depiction of a Man in the Moon that included an animated cocaine spoon. Michael Fesco presented "Sundays at the Studio." 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. End of the first era During December 1978 Rubell was quoted in the New York newspapers as saying the Studio had made $7 million in its first year and that "only the Mafia made more money." Shortly thereafter the nightclub was raided and Rubell and Schrager were arrested for skimming $2.5 million. After the arrests Rubell accused Jimmy Carter's White House Chief of Staff Hamilton Jordan of snorting cocaine in the basement. A grand jury met 19 times and interviewed 33 witnesses before concluding that Rubell's testimony was hearsay and not reliable enough to file charges. The nightclub closed with one final party called "The End of Modern-day Gomorrah", on February 4, 1980. Diana Ross, Ryan O'Neal, Mariel Hemingway, Jocelyn Wildenstein, Richard Gere, Gia Carangi, Jack Nicholson, Reggie Jackson, and Sylvester Stallone were among the guests that night. New York lawyer Gary P. Naftalis represented Schrager successfully in the ensuing tax-evasion prosecution. After the nightclub's closing, cocaine and money were found in its walls. Schrager and Rubell were found guilty and would spend 13 months in prison.

During 1981, the building was sold by JISA Associates, of which Steven Rubell was a principal, to Philip Pilevsky for $2.2 million. Pilevsky in turn leased it to Mark Fleischman and Stanley Tate, and Studio 54 reopened on September 12, 1981. That night's guest list consisted of Andy Warhol, Calvin Klein, Cary Grant, Lauren Hutton, Gloria Vanderbilt, Mark Gastineau, Gina Lollobrigida, and Brooke Shields. Emerging artists at the time, Madonna, Wham!, Duran Duran, Culture Club, 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. During 1985, heavy metal groups Slayer, Venom and Exodus filmed a video at Studio 54 called Ultimate Revenge for Disco.

The Ritz and Cabaret Royale
From 1989 until early 1993, the nightclub's lease was owned by CAT Entertainment Corp and known as The Ritz. 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. The newly remodelled 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. During 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 Theater at Studio 54
During 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. During 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. To keep the show accessible, the Roundabout Theater 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.

Notable productions
  • 1998: Cabaret
  • 2004: Assassins
  • 2004: Pacific Overtures
  • 2005: A Streetcar Named Desire
  • 2005: A Touch of the Poet
  • 2006: The Threepenny Opera
  • 2006: The Apple Tree
  • 2007: 110 in the Shade
  • 2007: The Ritz
  • 2008: Sunday in the Park with George
  • 2008: Pal Joey
  • 2009: Waiting for Godot
  • 2009: Wishful Drinking
  • 2010: Sondheim on Sondheim
  • 2010: Brief Encounter
  • 2011: The People in the Picture

Upstairs at Studio 54
The second floor of the theater was used as a nightclub on weeks when plays are not being staged; when it does so it operates under the name Upstairs at Studio 54. The club is operated by Josh Hadar who was one of the Allied partners. It was also briefly owned by Noel Ashman. Upstairs at Studio 54 Performances:
  • Gloria Estefan
  • Jody Watley
  • Newsical

Other tenants
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.

Cultural impact
In the late 1970s, the club was arguably the most well known nightclub in the world. The club played a major 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. A compilation album of disco music, A Night at Studio 54 , was released by Casablanca Records in 1979. It peaked at #21.

DJs during the Studio 54 Nightclub era
  • Richie Kaczor
  • Leroy Washington
  • Richie Rivera
  • Robbie Leslie
  • Frank Corr
  • Oscar Padilla
  • Johnny 'Jellybean' Benitez
  • Kenny Carpenter
  • Nicky Siano

Building Activity

  • Kiril Pavlov
    Kiril Pavlov activity.buildings_person.create
    about 6 years ago via