Photo by Allan Tannenbaum
Studio 54 was the epicenter of ’70s hedonism—a monumental magnet for beautiful stars, casual sex, and mounds of cocaine, a den of excess that defined its own rules and enshrined the ostracized, queer, and fabulous. Matt Tyrnauer (Valentino: The Last Emperor) chronicles the rise and fall of this nightclub’s founders: two best friends from Brooklyn, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, who conquered New York City only to watch it crumble before their eyes.
With rare footage, a parade of colourful patrons and staff, and brutally honest interviews with Schrager himself, Studio 54 is a riveting study in contradictions. Inside the palatial theatre-turned-disco, the crowd revelled in an atmosphere of total acceptance, whether drag queen, octogenarian, waiter, or celebrity. Yet outside, a frenzied, excluded mob yearned to be noticed by the doorman and ushered into the sanctum of pulsating love. Schrager and Rubell’s glittering creation sprang from carefree naiveté and unbridled ambition—yet those same instincts managed to destroy it. This bracing story reveals how even the most culturally potent and transformative phenomena can be vulnerable and fleeting.
Month of Sundays: Beautiful Trouble is a series of feature-length documentaries showcasing individuals (and one nightclub) who unapologetically jolted their fields—and left enduring impacts in their wake. Each film begins at 1 PM and is free with museum admission.