Studio 54 Co-Creator Ian Schrager Wants to ‘Set the Record Straight’

In the 1970s, Studio 54 was the epicenter of New York nightlife. With wildly theatrical sets, a guest list of celebs, and jet-setters that included everyone from Andy Warhol to Grace Jones, and a pulsating disco beat, the nightclub helped define the Me Decade. But its reign was short lived. In 1980, founders Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager were convicted of tax evasion after skimming nearly $2.5 million in unreported income.

The club and Rubell and Schrager’s rise to the top of the Manhattan social ladder are documented in Matt Tyrnauer’s acclaimed new documentary, “Studio 54.” Rubell died of complications from AIDS in 1989, but the film boasts in-depth interviews with Schrager, who has been hesitant in the past to publicly reflect on that heady time.

It’s easy to see why he’d be wary of revisiting the more painful parts of his past. Schrager successfully reinvented himself, helping to popularize the concept of the boutique hotel by creating the Paramount Hotel and the Royalton Hotel. He’s a family man now, the father of five children, with a penthouse apartment in Chelsea that boasts 360 degree views of the city. And he has a clean slate, having received a presidential pardon in 2017. But he felt the need to, in his words, “set the record straight.” Schrager sat down with Variety recently to reflect on the club’s legacy, to open up about his decision to talk to Tyrnauer, and to share his unvarnished opinion of that other Studio 54 movie.


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