Great Dresses | No Stresses

Photos: Studio 54 by Tod Papageorge published by Stanley / Barker





As Rizzoli prepares to publish the first ever official book on Studio 54 there are some lessons in Modern Deportment to be gleaned from the life and times of the legendary New York nightclub.


1.  Empowerment in Indignation.

Club co-founder Steve Rubell essentially orchestrated the original FOMO.  Studio 54 was a hotbed blend of celebrity, society, downtown superstar and party wildcard, and not knowing if you would get in was for some part of the thrill of the club.   You could be famous, distinguished, divinely beautiful, super rich, totally thinking you’re ‘it’ in your Halston, Gucci, Fiorucci… and still not make it past the door.  Chic famously wrote ‘Le Freak’ after being turned away - a song that would become one of Warner Music’s bestselling records of all time - the “Freak Out!” being of a more expletive origin after Nile Rogers was refused entry despite being a guest of Grace Jones.  Using a setback as a starting block can deliver an empowering twist in the face of indignation.


2.  Exclusivity Can Be Inclusive.

Steve Rubell's door policy is legendary, but it is the mix that is so interesting; the knowledge that the ultimate exclusive party was dependent on differences.   It can be tempting in todays world to unite in the perspectives of our subcultures, but Steve Rubell contradicted this.  “He would let the limo drivers in.”  Recalled a regular in Anthony Haden-Guest’s; ‘The Last Party.’  “He used to say the perfect party was like a tossed salad, wherein the choicest vegetables were not necessarily the most important.”  Rubell knew the power of inclusive exclusivity. Therefore, judgmental vegetables remember that legendary salads are so much more than just your kind of lettuce.  


3.  Joy is Power.  Don’t Save it for Special Occasions.

We can conjure a whole lot more energy for our causes if we don’t live in a perpetual state of distress.  New Yorkers in the 1970’s weren’t exactly living in Disneyland.  They had discrimination, inequality, street violence, and the fear of the then-unnamed health epidemic that was AIDS to contend with… and they still made it out at night… in lamé.    “I just went there to dance and forget everything.” remembered photographer Francesco Scavullo of Studio 54.  New York today hangs in the shadow of political angst, policy aghast, and Fifth Avenue police barricades; we have our problems, but taking a break from the pressure won't alter the outcome - it might just revive us for the next round.


4.  You’ll Always Have Tonight.

The same goes for getting ready.  The time short and city frazzled notoriously scrimp and pinch their hours so lean that the art of getting dressed for an evening becomes a nuisance come drive-by with a slick of lipstick and a grease blotting sheet.  Do you think Bianca Jagger rode that white horse on a cloud of dry shampoo and a new layer of deodorant?  No!  Find satisfaction and self-worth in acknowledging a mindfully indulgent pause between the demands of the day and the ensuing evening, because while the night may turn in the hands of others and events you can still savor some mindful preparation and a great outfit.


5.  Legend & Irreverence.

1970’s New York was bold, non-conformist, and creatively groundbreaking.  No need for permission or predecessor.   Studio 54 was irreverent and yes, irreverence towards the IRS led to the clubs demise, but irreverence to formula and function was the making of the club, the making of the era, and the making of a subsequent legend, and not just for Studio 54 but for punk, hip-hop, art, film, fashion, rights... failing to accept the status quo and creating something more.

The moral of the story is, when the story has no morals we are free to define the new in a way that reflects what we want from the future.  That and of course the search will be better in sequins.


Sam Smith is founder of Lifestyle Coaching House