“It was like an adult amusement park,” says a contributor to a new documentary about the late 1970s New York nightclub, Studio 54. “They had a real sense of what people – adults – wanted.”
Even if the talking head in question, the photographer Mr Bill Bernstein, didn’t put a deliberate emphasis on the word “adult”, it is not difficult to comprehend what he means. Many global nightspots from Berghain and Trade to The Haçienda and Space have thrived on the notoriety of their adult-only activities. But none are more mythologised as Mr Steve Rubell and Mr Ian Schrager’s Manhattan club that they ran, and then ran spectacularly into the ground, over 33 glorious months from 1977 until 1980.
A once-in-a-lifetime blend of celebrity, gay and disco cultures, sex, drugs, inclusivity and exclusivity, Studio 54’s legend has been well aired in news features, an exquisitely camp 1998 cinematic dramatization and a Rizzoli coffee table book on the matter, curated by Mr Schrager. So it is understandable to feel a little fatigued. But Mr Matt Tyrnauer’s new documentary reopens the doors to 254 54th Street and its secrets in spectacular, revelatory fashion to the sound of Sylvester’s “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)”.