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Studio 54

Nothing This Fabulous Could Last Forever

An essential part of New York’s cultural history, legendary nightclub Studio 54 has been profiled in various books, documentaries and a 1998 film starring Mike Myers as late co-founder Steve Rubell. Still, Matt Tyrnauer’s excellent documentary proves that the club’s story is as interesting and relevant as ever and that, crucially, there’s plenty more to say.

Poster for the fabulous chronicle of NYC's famed Studio 54He’s helped by the fact that Studio 54 co-founder Ian Schrager now feels able to share his experiences, from optimistic beginning to terrible end. His narrative of the 33-month life-span of the club’s original incarnation is interspersed with fantastic archive footage and fuelled by a storming disco soundtrack.

While Studio 54, which opened in the old CBS studio on 54th Street in 1977, became a magnet for the rich and famous, its success came from the fact that it offered something of a safe haven for New York’s LGBT scene. Only the entirely fabulous were admitted, but once you were inside, absolutely anything went.

Paradoxically, that free-spirited attitude proved to be Studio 54’s biggest weakness. Schrager and Rubell were so successful, so beloved by the city, that they thought themselves invincible. Drugs changed hands like candy, liquor licence laws were flouted and they skimmed millions of dollars off their balance sheet.

The golden-moment snapshot of diversity and inclusion you would expect from such a documentary, Studio 54 is also a sobering, cautionary tale. Delving behind the Lycra and strobe lights, it’s an illuminating look at how arrogance and entitlement can derail even the most glittering of careers.

– Nikk Baughan, The List

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