22 photos that show the grit and the glamour of Studio 54, New York City’s most infamous club

On April 16, 1977, crowds of hip revelers cheered as nightclub Studio 54 first opened its doors at a building on 54th Street in New York City.

It would only be open in its original form for 33 months, but it soon became known as one of the hottest and most exclusive clubs in town, making a whopping $7 million in its first year alone.

The space would later be adapted into a theater, but Studio 54’s party scene in the ’70s and early ’80s will forever be remembered for its wild nights, high-profile guests, and massive crowds.

We’ve put together a collection of photos that will take you back 40 years into the club.

Talia Avakian contributed reporting to an earlier version of this article.


Studio 54 officially opened its doors on April 16, 1977, in a building that previously housed a theater. The club quickly became popular, with regular crowds lingering outside in the hopes of getting in.


Steve Rubell (pictured in the short satin jacket in the center) was the co-owner of Studio 54 and often the one to determine who was cool enough to enter. The club became notorious for its exclusivity thanks in part to Rubell’s motto: “The key to a good party is filling a room with guests more interesting than you.”


Still, the dance floor was consistently packed with people dancing to disco beats. Among the guests were an array of high-profile influencers and celebrities.


Singer Bette Midler is pictured greeting members of The Temptations during a party thrown to announce the soul group’s new recording contract with Atlantic Records in 1977.


Singer Grace Jones strutted through the club in colorful attire in March 1979.


Fashion designers like Diane Von Furstenberg quickly became regulars. “I had more fun at Studio 54 than in any other nightclub in the world,” Furstenberg once said in an interview with Vanity Fair.

Source: Vanity Fair


Designer Roy Halston Frowick (or just Halston), Andy Warhol, and Liza Minelli were often seen together at Studio 54. Minelli is pictured here teasing an unidentified man about his shoes as they meet on the floor before dancing.

Source: Harper’s Bazaar


The disco’s guests often donned crazy getups, like this tattered denim ensemble worn by a partier in 1979.


This brightly attired patron used a fan to cool off in the club’s lounge area in 1979.


Women wearing zoot suits — menswear with high-waisted, wide-legged, tight-cuffed, pegged trousers — could be seen hitting the dance floor.


Even busboys were scantily clad, carrying containers on their heads in gym-inspired getups.


But the dancing was just as important as the social scene. Pictured here is Margaret Trudeau, the estranged wife of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, dancing the night away in 1978. She and the prime minister would divorce in 1984.


Even Elton John pulled up the legs of his pants to join in the dancing. The singer is seen here attending a party thrown at Studio 54 in his honor in 1979.


Timothy Leary, the former American psychologist and writer known for advocating psychedelic drugs, dances while celebrating a post-premier party for the opening of the “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” movie in 1978.


Halloween was a huge event at Studio 54. Here, Halloween revelers dance the night away at a party on October 31, 1977.


Rock legends like Chuck Berry and Keith Richards were often spotted at Studio 54. The pair is pictured chatting away in February 1980.


Studio 54 also stood as a place to watch events like the Academy Awards, which guests observed on television screens on April 4, 1978.


At the end of the day, though, it really was about the party scene. Disco dancers would work up a sweat showing off their moves.


Not everyone loved the disco scene. Aaron Kay, a member of the counter-cultural Youth International Party, is remembered for throwing a cream pie at Rubell in January 1979, saying discos were decadent and meaningless and that his group would be launching a war against them.


While that incident didn’t stop the club from going on, a legal issue did. In 1979, the club was raided and bags full of money were found stashed within the building.


Rubell and co-owner Ian Schrager were charged and sentenced with tax evasion. Here, agents can be seen loading the files for transfer to government offices.


Studio 54 was reopened in September 1981 and continued as a club until the ’90s, when it was turned into a theater company.