Studio 54: How the elitist disco paradise was quietly progressive


It was one of the hardest nightclubs in history to get into, but the iconic Manhattan club Studio 54 still maintained a sense of freedom and diversity on the inside in the 1970s.

Documentary filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer explores every aspect of the nightclub’s rise and fall from 1977 to 1980 in his new documentary “Studio 54,” in theaters now. And while co-founder of the club Steve Rubell was in charge of the elite list of people who were allowed in the club, Tyrnauer still calls the club a “star-chamber of diversity.”

“Steve Rubell ran the door and was a great people person,” Tyrnauer explained on “Salon Talks.” “He was a kind of a visionary in cultural blending. He had no hang ups about anybody that was kind of like participating in dance culture and nightlife culture.”

But Tyrnauer doesn’t claim complete inclusivity. The list was very specific and included stars like Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Liza Minnelli, Freddie Mercury and Andy Warhol. The club still maintained a hand-selected atmosphere. “You could attack them all you want for being elitist though and they were elitist,” Tyrnauer said.

“Studio 54” covers the short-lived haven of glitz, glamor, sex and drugs all the way up to the club’s ultimate implosion of financial scandal. It features unprecedented access and interviews with the club’s insiders.

Watch the video above to hear how nightlife culture pushed for equality and diversity during the 1970s. And check out the full interview to learn about the time Donald Trump showed up at Studio 54.

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