Tribeca Film Fest goes inside ‘Studio 54’

The film goes in depth into the history of the New York club

Nothing defined the era of disco and debauchery more so than the legendary nightclub Studio 54, infamous in its heyday as the place where illegal drugs and rampant sex were the norm as much as the celebrities and cool young trendsetters co-mingling with one another, and where gay culture was celebrated. It was where the underground became mainstream, where inhibitions were left at the door, and what happened in Studio 54 mostly stayed in Studio 54, even to this day. Fortunately, we do find out a little more of the behind the scenes happening in Studio 54, which screened at last month’s Tribeca Film Festival.

In director Matt Tyrnaur’s fun but informative documentary, we hear about the celebrated but also turbulent life of the famed New York City nightclub from Ian Schrager, the normally reclusive, quieter co-owner of 54, the other being the more outgoing Steve Rubell (who died of complications from AIDS in 1989). It’s quite a get as Schrager has rarely spoke at length about his days as New York’s club king (he has since become one of the world’s most successful hoteliers), but he is everywhere in this documentary. Although much of what is discussed has been documented before and with the same former 54 employees, with Schrager serving as the main voice, the stories seem to get a newer, fresher perspective. From the celebrities that were welcomed into arms, the drugs, the sex, Studio 54 also goes into Schrager’s and Rubell’s background a bit further than other documentaries have, where we see how their previous business endeavors were really the testing grounds for their idea of a new nightclub that would set itself apart from other nightclubs in New York.

While Studio 54 is a celebration of the now legendary nightclub, Tyrnaur also doesn’t neglect exploring its ugly side such as its judgmental door policy, only allowing the “pretty, entitled, popular people” in, and how the owners were skimming so much money from the nightly take. Schrager goes into detail how the government would eventually get him and Rubell on tax evasion charges and serving prison time, effectively ending what was once a fantasy land, where one could “escape” according to a young Michael Jackson, a 54 regular.

Still, Studio 54 was an important venue where gay men could escape to and feel safe, a club that celebrated all that was cool and weird, where one could dance to the disco music, sex wasn’t treated as taboo, and will never be repeated again. Studio 54, the documentary, does an excellent job of fairly portraying the highs, the lows and everything in between of this wild and eccentric era.

Rob Perez
Rob Perez

Rob Perez is a freelance writer who has been with The Music Universe early on. As a Correspondent for The Music Universe, you will find him writing reviews and live tweeting awards shows.