Opening on April 26, 1977 Studio 54 became an immediate sensation. Driven by the youthful exuberance of co-owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, the Manhattan nightclub quickly became the place to be. Once home to the CBS studios for game shows such as What’s My Line? and The $64,000 Question, 54th Street and Eighth Avenue was transformed into a world famous den of inequity frequented by Truman Capote, Cher, Mick Jagger, Liza Minnelli and others. Matt Tyrnauer’s latest documentary delves into how two college buddies with limited funds created the legendary Studio 54 and the buzz that surrounded it, only to see it crash a mere 33 months later.
Steve Rubell was the public face of the club. A natural P.R. man, Rubell made sure the Studio was front page news from the start. Admittance was arbitrary, depending largely on Rubell’s whims, though it was well known that you couldn’t get in wearing a baseball cap, a beard, or anything polyester. When you walked through those blacked-out doors, you were in another world,” recalls one patron. Schrager was behind the scenes, avoiding the limelight and away from prying eyes. Here, Tyrnauer brings Schrager front and center to tell his side of the story. Now 72, Schrager shares memories and provides a perspective on the Studio 54 experience that no else can.
Along the way, we also hear from the club’s silent partner Jack Dushey, lighting designers, and the club’s first doorman, Mark Benecke, who become a quasi-celebrity himself. Though none of the celebrities who frequented the club are interviewed, there are enough photographs and video to satisfy any enquiring mind. Mix in the period newscasts and the pulsating soundtrack and you’ll feel like you’re there.
Everything came crashing down at 9:00 a m. on December 14, 1978, when a police raid revealed narcotics and a skimming operation that cheated the IRS out an unreported $25 million dollars. Schrager and Rubell were arrested and indicted on 12 criminal counts of tax evasion. Joseph McCarthy and mob lawyer Roy Cohn couldn’t get them out of trouble, and they went to prison. Desperate to reduce their sentences, Schrager and Rubell ratted out other clubs and their tax schemes. Even so, Schrager lost his license to practice law, and as convicted felons both men surrendered credit cards, driver’s licenses, and their right to vote. Undeterred, they would launch Palladium night club in the 1980’s and later branch out into boutique hotels. While Steve Rubell succumbed to AIDS related illness in 1989, he would have been thrilled by the famous names that turned up for his New York City funeral.
Presented in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p presentation is a solid one. As with most documentaries, this film offers a mix of footage old and new, photographs, newspaper clippings, and news footage. The newly recorded interviews offer crystal clear images, while some of the older footage has some age-related dullness, but remains above par. The film has been well edited, making the most of the vast materials available.
The 5.1 surround sound track serves the film well, providing an enveloping environment when one of the many disco era tunes begins to play. There’s a nice level of bass that gives your subwoofer some real thump. Dialogue remains clean and clear throughout, and is never forced to compete with the music.
English SDH subtitles are included.
There are no extras.
Movie title: Studio 54: The Documentary (2018)
Director(s): Matt Tyrnauer
Actor(s): Steve Rubell, Ian Schrager, Robert Sharenow