Delving into the disco archives, this new documentary about the legendary Manhattan night spot adds another layer of glitter to the club culture mythology.
It tells the story as a bromance between founders Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager and it’s Schrager, now an international hotelier – he practically invented the boutique hotel with destinations such St Martins Lane in London and the Royalton in New York – who survives to tell the story in his street-fighterish Brooklyn drawl.
I’m not sure he gives us the full story even now, but there’s glamour and nostalgia aplenty with photos of all the celebs who piled through the doors and all the plebs who couldn’t. Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Andy Warhol, Lisa Minelli, Bianca Jagger – for the 33 months the club was in its pomp from 1977 to 1979, it was certainly a hot destination and played into the hands of the glitterati.
I’m not sure it was really the coolest place in town, but it certainly had the most press and this film revels in the coverage and clippings, as well as inheriting the shiny beats of tunes such as Don’t Leave Me This Way, You Make Me Feel Mighty Real and Young Hearts Run Free.
It’s undeniably enjoyable as a doc that captures a moment and a place and there’s a rags to riches, supernova trajectory to power it along. Schrager and Rubell found themselves busted by authorities and jailed for tax evasion, claiming they didn’t know how all that cash got stuffed in the floorboards. The party was over.
And so, too, was the hedonism and exhibitionism as AIDS swept through New York, felling many of the people who worked at Studio 54, including, eventually, Rubell himself. But there’s something cold and guarded about the film, too – I felt I was one of the people behind the velvet rope, not one of the revellers inside on the dance floor. Still, I couldn’t help have a boogie in my seat.