The brainchild of Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, Studio 54 opened its doors for the first time on this day in 1977 and immediately became the epicenter of nightlife in New York City. Here are five things you didn't know about Studio 54...
It Was A Party Even Out In The Street
People were desperate to get in from the first night it opened. Oddly, one of the first people ever in the club was Donald Trump. According to the Daily Beast, he and his friends had no problem getting in because they showed up unfashionably early and were basically first in line. The crowds outside grew, but by midnight, it turned into a Sodom and Gomorrah, especially when a doctor in the crowd passed out Quaalude. Soon after, a “sex orgy” began with people exposing themselves and becoming more than amorous with complete strangers.
People Tried Absolutely Everything To Get In
Getting into Studio 54 could be impossible. No one understood why some people got into the nightclub while others remained outside, but Steve Rubell, the owner, said they searched for a perfect mix of people. According to Rolling Stone, thousands of dollars changed hands to get inside, while others offered their bodies in trade. When sex and money didn't work, violence and attempts to sneak in commonly occurred. One night a rejected hopeful came back and brandished a gun. The doormen regularly had to be escorted home at the end of the night for their safety.
Drugs Were Absolutely Everywhere
To dodge strict rules about serving alcohol, the club didn't actually have a permanent liquor license for a long time. Instead, they would just apply for a temporary one every day. Amazingly, this worked for a while, until it didn't. People came to the nightclub for drugs anyway, not alcohol. Hung from the roof of Studio 54, dangling over the dance floor, was a giant crescent moon with a face, a cocaine spoon moving to and from its nose. People openly took drugs, and Steve Rubell allegedly kept a stash of cocaine and pills in his padded coat and passed it out.
Private Parties Were Completely Over The Top
If a regular night at Studio 54 was crazy, it was the special parties that were totally insane. One of the most famous photos ever taken at the club was of Mick Jagger's then-wife Bianca, riding a white horse led by a glitter-covered naked man. She said the horseback ride was a birthday surprise from the club owners. Rolling Stone reported that when Dolly Parton came to town for a concert, the owners decided the best way to make a country singer feel comfortable was to turn the club into a farm. The club was filled with donkeys, mules and horses running loose inside, along with chickens in a pen.
They Partied All The Way to Prison
In 1978, co-owner Steve Rubell openly bragged about how well things were going, saying "only the Mafia made more money." Comparing yourself to organized crime is not the best idea if you have something to hide, which they did. It got the attention of the IRS, and the club was raided. It turned out the owners neglected to report millions, almost 80 percent of their profits, something the federal government frowns upon. They kept books on their cocaine sales listed as “party favors,” but the IRS were not fooled. After a guilty verdict for obstruction of justice and tax evasion and sentencing of more than three years in prison, they held one last huge party the night before reporting to jail with Liza Minelli and Diana Ross appearing as performers.