In the past few years, Matt Tyrnauer has made it his stock-in-trade to pry into the seamy undersides of glitz and glamour — and all the sexy secrets that go along. Earlier this year, his documentary Scotty and the Secret History of Hollywood attempted to shock and awe with the tales of Scotty Bowers, legendary “pimp to the stars,” and his potentially scandalous conquests of famous men and women. He also delved into the backstory of fashion royalty with Valentino: The Last Emperor. But let’s not forget he also gave us the intimate and polemical portrait of the Village’s legendary rabble rouser and community organizer, Jane Jacobs in Citizen Jane: Battle for the City. So perhaps it makes sense he’d want to raise the stakes and tackle one of the most well-trod tales of New York City decadence: Studio 54.
What hasn’t been written, photographed, adapted or promoted when it comes to the Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell’s infamous late-1970s nightclub? It may have only remained open for 33 months, but it has been wrapped in so much exuberant mythology — horses on the dance floor, an orgy in the street, Andy Warhol and Donald Trump sightings — it feels like all of us from later generations who missed the fun times could almost taste the bacchanal’s bubbly.
Tyrnauer says it’s complicated why the club resonates so powerfully, but in a recent interview, he explained that it “symbolizes a lost period of freedom that will never be attainable again. It was the last volcanic moment of the sexual revolution. And to help explain that allure, he did manage one coup: to get Schrager, who has never spoken at any length about it, to share his memories of Rubell, the tax-evasion charge that brought them down and the legacy this place left behind. Oh, and Nile Rogers shares the time he got kicked out and wrote “Freak Out” in response. But don’t forget the drugs. Here, a clip from the film that gives a little context to all those party favors that aided the hedonism — and helped bring the place crashing down.