You Should be Dancin’

Richard Manning, 1977, Gelatin Silver Print

I loved to dance and went to Studio 54 at least twice a week. I was in awe of that whole Halston-Liza Minnelli crowd. To me, they were the real celebrities, and I was just a girl from Idaho.” ~ Margaux Hemingway



Everyone wanted a part of the magic—everyone wanted in—but only those selected got past the velvet rope. And the fantasy continued in the minds of those left out on the street while it was fulfilled for those inside.

Photo courtesy of

For 33 fast-paced, frenetic months, the dance club Studio 54 dominated the headlines and captured the imagination of not only New York City, but the United States at large. It loomed as an ever-present urge in the hearts and minds of those desperate to feel the pulsing music, see the display of visual feasts, smell the eroticism in the air and listen to the nocturnal sounds of a crowd gone wild.

In short, anything went at Studio 54.

Charles Tracy, 1977, Color Photograph of Alva Chinn Modeling Bobby Breslau Disco Bag
The New Disco Look--Halter Top by Stephen Burrows and Fluid Silk Skirt, 1977
Charles Tracy, 1977, Color Photograph of Legendary Model and Halstonette Pat Cleveland Modeling the Disco Fashion at Left

The Brooklyn Museum has captured the very essence of this fabled place on West 54th Street in Manhattan in a superb exhibition documenting, in chronological order, the heady start, incredible success and slow burn demise of what was once the most famous night club in the world.

Allan Tannenbaum, 1977, Vintage Gelatin Silver Print of Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager

Told through video, an extraordinary collection of photography, lively audio, fascinating ephemera and thoughtfully curated garments, the story unfolds within the context of New York nightlife history and the social, economic and cultural impetuses that gave rise to such a venture that, under the creation and direction of Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, provided a new template for the dance club.

Anthony. F. Dumas, Gallo Theatre, 1928, Pen and Ink on Paper (what would become Studo 54

True impresarios, they sought to create an environment which anyone could enter as long as you had something going for you—whether in dress, attitude, confidence, wealth, celebrity or just plain chutzpah.

Roxanne Lowit, 1977, 35mm B&W Slides of Bill Haire Fashion Show


The club was much more than a dance hall, staging shows with Alvin Ailey Dance Company, sending models down a catwalk in the newest fashions, producing cabaret acts with Grace Jones or throwing ostentatious parties, whether for a movie premiere or to celebrate a holiday. There was always a reason to party.

Disco Fashion with Background Costume Sketches by Antonio Lopez for Alvin Ailey Dance Company
Ron Galella, 1977, Vintage Gelatin Silver Print of Shirley MacLaine and Bella Abzug at Bella Abzug's Birthday Party
Thanks to savvy PR reps, constant press coverage




Between 1977 to 1980, the leading set, sound and lighting designers of the time helped Studio 54 continually re-invent itself with new interiors and innovative ideas for dazzling the nightly revelers. All to delight, surprise and beguile.

The Infamous Moon and Spoon
High Fashion Evening Looks by Halston
Roxanne Lowitt, 1978, Inkjet Print of Liza Minelli--the quintessential Studio guest!

Studio 54 was a product of a specific time and a specific place, never to be repeated again. The Brooklyn Museum has beautifully revived the memory and provided a glimpse into the most democratic club there was and allows us to live the experience again, if only vicariously, if only posthumously.

Studio 54: Night Magic closes on November 8.