In 1979 Andy Warhol spoke about Studio 54 in an interview, manipulating his own already infamous quote: ‘It’s the place where my prediction from the sixties finally came true: ‘In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.’ I’m bored with that line. I never use it anymore. My new line is, ‘In fifteen minutes everybody will be famous.’’ As usual, Warhol was being both oblique and articulate, but the quote accurately described the club. It was the location for your ‘fifteen minutes’.
Studio 54 was initially converted from a theatre into a nightclub in 1977 and immediately became the place to be seen. The opening night was graced by Debbie Harry, Michael Jackson, Jerry Hall and even Salvaldor Dalí among a host of other names; those at the top of their game, mainly musically, but also from every artistic field. It was the coolest people of a generation in one club with some alcohol thrown into the mix and a soundtrack that showcased the best of disco in particular and music in general. Unfortunately said alcohol caused the club an early hiccup and a run-in with the authorities, followed only a couple of years afterwards with another closure due to allegations of fraud. The club was, however, re-launched with Warhol himself in attendance and became a golden place for new music.
Madonna, Wham! and Culture Club all performed at the club on their rise to fame, cementing it in music history. The old adage of ‘sex, drugs and rock’n’roll’ was never more adept. The club was a hotbed of all three, with young music and film stars mixing with those deemed beautiful and interesting enough on the door. If you were young, gifted and talented it was the place to be. But, like all the best things, it quickly burnt itself out. By the late 80s, only a decade after it was first opened as a nightclub, Studio 54 was almost over.
Studio 54 was an inspiration. Anything went; in fact, the more outrageous the better. Of course, it was also a hub for drugs and plagued by financial and red tape difficulties, but this only adds to the myth. The artistic and the beautiful drank, danced and watched the next big thing rise. Even Frank Sinatra once failed to get past the doorman. The policy of mixing the beautiful with the famous created a concept that was bigger than the club itself. It wasn’t models or actresses or artists or people after their own ‘fifteen minutes’ by themselves in their own little niche, it was all of them thrown together in a riot of glitter with Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass’ on the soundtrack.
At its peak the club was the most well known nightclub in the world. It had a huge impact on clubbing culture and spread of disco music globally. But the legacy it left was more than that: it broke some damn good artists and, most of all, it gave people a damn good time. Warhol hit the nail on the head with his assertion that it was all about feeling (or being) famous, no matter who you were. It’s one of those places any music fan would travel in their time machine to. Though, I’m not sure I’d have been let in at the door.