The Legends: Pat Cleveland and Ian Schrager, Studio 54

The Legends: Pat Cleveland and Ian Schrager, Studio 54

Ian Schrager, cofounder of the iconic hotspot, talks with supermodel 
and club regular Pat Cleveland in advance of his new tome with Rizzoli, out September 5.

Ian Schrager, cofounder of the iconic hotspot, talks with supermodel 
and club regular Pat Cleveland in advance of his new tome with Rizzoli, out September 5.

This article originally appeared in V109, on newsstands August 31. Pre-order your copy here.

Pat Cleveland: You set up such a beautiful paradise for all of us. Tell me: how did that all start?

Ian Schrager: It might have had something to do with my parents—they always threw great parties. I was coming of age in the 1970s when sexual mores were changing and “anything goes” was in the air.

PC: You met Steve [Rubell] in college, and he was the more outgoing, crazy guy and you were the responsible Cancerian, right?

IS: Exactly. Steve was a guy who really loved people. I think you gotta love something if you’re gonna be good at it, and he really loved people.

PC: You created things that encapsulated music and sexuality. It just exploded into this amazing club. I can’t imagine something so important to the history of New York just being born. Do you remember that?

IS: I was probably shell-shocked because we were trying to open in six weeks and had a burst of energy. I remember Steve made me go buy a suit so I had something to wear. I guess we both had the same goal in mind of people coming into a place and feeling absolutely protected, allowing them to feel absolutely free. That freedom made Studio unforgettable.

PC: Absolutely! Everybody had a chance to express their true nature. You never felt like you didn’t belong, except at the door [laughs], with that no-entry policy.

IS: It was a circus! Everyone thought that what we were doing was very elitist, but we never thought that. If you have a party at your house, you invite people you think are going to get along, you sit somebody who’s talkative next to somebody who’s not talkative. That’s all we were trying to do there, but it got misunderstood. We didn’t want somebody like you feeling like you couldn’t come in and dance by yourself without getting bothered and hit on by a lot of guys.

PC: You did very well with that. You hosted a zillion theme parties. Was there a theme party that you loved the most?

IS: I used to like the Halloween party—I think those pre-dated the Village parade. They were so freewheeling.

PC: And don’t forget the boys without shirts in roller skates! Whose idea was that? [laughs]

IS: That happened kind of spontaneously!

PC: Sometimes I walk past [Studio]. What does it feel like when you walk past the old building?

IS: I haven’t walked by in a long time. I’m always looking forward, not back. I did the book because I wanted my children to know [about Studio] and to set the record straight. I’m just amazed that after 40 years, young people talk about two seminal cultural events: Woodstock and Studio. It’s a phenomenon.

PC: People need some sort of gathering place like that.Your places! PUBLIC Hotel, man. I walked through that lobby, I saw those young people, and thought, “Oh my God, I’m in the future.” I got that feeling, that 54 feeling.

IS: Studio was mostly focused on dancing, and it was very underground music, music for dancing, born in the nightclub. The music now is kind of different. We had a lot of performances at Studio. Stevie Wonder once threw a party there for his secretary, and he came in and jammed with Teddy Pendergrass, Stephen Stills, and Stephanie Mills, who was from The Wiz. He came in and we played “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” on the loudspeaker. It was incredible. Whenever a music person was in the house, we would always play one of their songs for the crowd.

PC: Oh, it was a scream! Stevie was up on a platform. I remember singing happy birthday to Steve Rubell just before Stevie Wonder’s performance. Everybody was blown away. And you could dance!

"Studio 54" is out September 5 via Rizzoli


Film Spotlight: 'Beach Rats' Explores Teenage Angst In This Bold New Drama