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]
Address254 West 54th Street
Manhattan, New York City
Coordinates 40°45′51″N73°59′02″W / 40.764303°N 73.983829°W / 40.764303; -73.983829 Coordinates: 40°45′51″N73°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 Kiss Me, Kate
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 Midtown 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.

Nightclub entertainment venue which usually operates late into the night

A nightclub, music club or club, is an entertainment venue and bar that usually operates late into the night. A nightclub is generally distinguished from regular bars, pubs or taverns by the inclusion of a stage for live music, one or more dance floor areas and a DJ booth, where a DJ plays recorded music. The upmarket nature of nightclubs can be seen in the inclusion of VIP areas in some nightclubs, for celebrities and their guests. Nightclubs are much more likely than pubs or sports bars to use bouncers to screen prospective clubgoers for entry. Some nightclub bouncers do not admit people with informal clothing or gang apparel as part of a dress code. The busiest nights for a nightclub are Friday and Saturday night. Most clubs or club nights cater to certain music genres, such as house music or hip hop. Many clubs have recurring club nights on different days of the week. Most club nights focus on a particular genre or sound for branding effects.

Broadway theatre class of professional theater presented in New York City, New York, USA

Broadway theatre, also known simply as Broadway, refers to the theatrical performances presented in the 41 professional theatres, each with 500 or more seats located in the Theater District and Lincoln Center along Broadway, in Midtown Manhattan, New York City. Along with London's West End theatre, Broadway theatre is widely considered to represent the highest level of commercial theatre in the English-speaking world.

54th Street (Manhattan) street in Manhattan

54th Street is a two-mile-long, one-way street traveling west to east across Midtown Manhattan.


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, and in the process created 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 Rubell and Schrager's convictions on charges of tax evasion. In 1984, Fleischman sold the club, which continued to operate until 1986.

Disco music genre

Disco is a genre of dance music and a subculture that emerged in the 1970s from the United States' urban nightlife scene.

Lighting designer person responsible for lighting on a stage

A theatre lighting designer works with the director, choreographer, set designer, costume designer, and sound designer to create the lighting, atmosphere, and time of day for the production in response to the text, while keeping in mind issues of visibility, safety, and cost. The LD also works closely with the stage manager or show control programming, if show control systems are used in that production. Outside stage lighting, the job of a Lighting Designer can be much more diverse and they can be found working on rock and pop tours, corporate launches, art installation and on massive celebration spectaculars, for example the Olympic Games opening and closing ceremonies.

Club drug Recreational drug

Club drugs, also called rave drugs, or party drugs are a loosely defined category of recreational drugs which are associated with discothèques in the 1970s and nightclubs, dance clubs, electronic dance music parties, and raves in the 1980s to today. Unlike many other categories, such as opiates and benzodiazepines, which are established according to pharmaceutical or chemical properties, club drugs are a "category of convenience", in which drugs are included due to the locations they are consumed and/or where the user goes while under the influence of the drugs. Club drugs are generally used by teens and young adults. This group of drugs are also called "designer drugs", as most are synthesized in a chemical lab rather than being sourced from plants.

Since November 1998, the site 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]

The Roundabout Theatre Company is a leading non-profit theatre company based in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, affiliated with the League of Resident Theatres.

Feinsteins/54 Below

Feinstein's/54 Below is a cabaret and restaurant in New York City owned by Broadway producers Steve Baruch, Richard Frankel, Marc Routh and Tom Viertel. It has hosted shows by such performers as Patti LuPone, Ben Vereen, Marilyn Maye and Barbara Cook. It is located in the basement of Studio 54.


WPA Theatre of Music Works Progress Administration Federal Music Project of New York City Theatre of Music LCCN98514961.jpg
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]

Eugene De Rosa American architect

Eugene L. De Rosa was an Italian American architect, called at birth Eugenio. He worked in New York City and specialized in the design of theatres.

Fortune Gallo Italian opera impressario

Fortune Thomas Gallo was an Italian-born opera impresario. Gallo was owner and General Manager of the traveling San Carlo Opera Company from 1913 until its disbandment in the late 1950s.

<i>La bohème</i> opera by Giacomo Puccini

La bohème is an opera in four acts, composed by Giacomo Puccini to an Italian libretto by Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa, based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger. The world premiere of La bohème was in Turin on 1 February 1896 at the Teatro Regio, conducted by the 28-year-old Arturo Toscanini. Since then, La bohème has become part of the standard Italian opera repertory and is one of the most frequently performed operas worldwide.

CBS Studio 52

In 1943, CBS purchased the theatre and renamed it Studio 52. CBS named its studios in order of purchase; 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 . [15] The soap opera Love of Life was produced there until 1975.

CBS is an American English language commercial broadcast television and radio network that is a flagship property of CBS Corporation. The company is headquartered at the CBS Building in New York City with major production facilities and operations in New York City and Los Angeles.

The original inventors of radio, from Guglielmo Marconi's time on, expected it to be used for one-on-one wireless communication tasks where telephones and telegraphs could not be used because of the problems involved in stringing copper wires from one point to another, such as in ship-to-shore communications. Those inventors had no expectations whatever that radio would become a major mass media entertainment and information medium earning many millions of dollars in revenues annually through radio advertising commercials or sponsorship. These latter uses were brought about after 1920 by business entrepreneurs such as David Sarnoff, who created the National Broadcasting Company (NBC), and William S. Paley, who built Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). These broadcasting business organizations began to be called network affiliates, because they consisted of loose chains of individual stations located in various cities, all transmitting the standard overall-system supplied fare, often at synchronized agreed-upon times. Some of these radio network stations were owned and operated by the networks, while others were independent radio owned by entrepreneurs allied with the respective networks. By selling blocks of time to advertisers, the medium was able to quickly become profitable and offer its products to listeners for free, provided they invested in a radio receiver set.

Television Telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images

Television (TV), sometimes shortened to tele or telly, is a telecommunication medium used for transmitting moving images in monochrome, or in color, and in two or three dimensions and sound. The term can refer to a television set, a television program, or the medium of television transmission. Television is a mass medium for advertising, entertainment and news.

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 .[ citation needed ]

Ed Sullivan Theater theater and office building used for The Late Show

The Ed Sullivan Theater is a theater located at 1697–1699 Broadway, between West 53rd and West 54th, in the Theater District in Manhattan, New York City. The theater has been used as a venue for live and taped CBS broadcasts since 1936.

CBS Broadcast Center Building in New York City

The CBS Broadcast Center is a television and radio production facility located in New York City. It is CBS's main East Coast production center, much as CBS Television City in Los Angeles is the West Coast hub. It is also where the satire show Last Week Tonight is recorded.

<i>Late Show with David Letterman</i> American talk show hosted by David Letterman on CBS (1993-2015)

Late Show with David Letterman is an American late-night talk show hosted by David Letterman on CBS, the first iteration of the Late Show franchise. The show debuted on August 30, 1993, and was produced by Letterman's production company, Worldwide Pants, and CBS Television Studios. The show's music director and leader of the house band, the CBS Orchestra, was Paul Shaffer. The head writer was Matt Roberts and the announcer was originally Bill Wendell, then Alan Kalter. Of the major U.S. late-night programs, Late Show ranked second in cumulative average viewers over time and third in number of episodes over time. In most U.S. markets the show aired from 11:35 p.m. to 12:37 a.m. Eastern and Pacific Time, and recorded Monday through Wednesdays at 4:30 p.m., and Thursdays at 3:30 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time. The second Thursday episode usually aired on Friday of that week.

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. [16]

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. [17]

Rubell and Schrager hired Scott Bromley as architect, [18] 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 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. [19] 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. [20]

Notable patrons
Other notables at the club
  • Actor Al Corley was a doorman during the late 1970s.
  • Alec Baldwin worked for two months as a waiter at Studio 54. [43]
  • Sally Lippman, also known as "Disco Sally", was a 77 year old widow and regular dancer at the club. [25]
  • The band Chic wrote a song in 1978, "Le Freak", after being refused entry to the club on New Year's Eve 1977, despite having been invited by Grace Jones. [23] [44]

End of the first era

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 "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. [45]

Studio 54 closed with a final party in February 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. [23] Schrager and Rubell pleaded guilty to tax evasion and spent 13 months in prison. [46] [47] [48]

On January 17, 2017, Schrager received a presidential pardon from President Barack Obama. [49]


In 1981, Rubell and Schrager sold the building but 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. [50] 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. Studio 54's Talent Executive Billy Amato (Billy Smith) promoted Z100/WPLJ Saturday night radio parties and Michael Fesco's "Sundays at the Studio". Billy Amato's Saturday night radio parties were broadcast from the club. Artists who performed during this period included Madonna, Wham!, Duran Duran, Cyndi Lauper, The Weather Girls, Culture Club, Lime, Spandau Ballet, Sylvester, Roberta Flack, Menudo, Denise McCann and Run-DMC New York City Breakers. KISS held a concert at the club in January 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.[ citation needed ] 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. [51]

Famed New York City doorman Haoui Montaug worked at Studio 54. [52] Paul Heyman was a photographer, producer, and promoter at the club in the mid 1980s. [53]

The Ritz and Cabaret Royale

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 owners, 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. [54] 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, April 2008 54-ny.jpg
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 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. [55] [56] 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. [57]

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

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

Studio 54 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas Studio54 Vegas.jpg
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. [58] Additionally, multiple works of art, entertainment, and media refer to or are associated with the nightclub. Examples include:


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A nightclub act is a production, usually of nightclub music or comedy, designed for performance at a nightclub, a type of drinking establishment, by a nightclub performer such as a nightclub singer or nightclub dancer, whose performance may also be referred to as a nightclub act. A scheduled performance, such as a wedding gig, is a club date.


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