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- October 05, 1981
- Vol. 16
- No. 14
Studio 54 Swings Again and So Does Former Owner Steve Rubell—Sort of
Except for a coat of whitewash, Studio looks much the same. So does Rubell. He has dropped most of the 30 pounds that he gained in prison. "My biggest concern was always the food," he recalls. "It was like being in the Army, only worse." But now that he is back in constant motion he is once more the center of attention at Studio. "I'm hyperactive," he admits. "On opening night I left the club at 7 a.m. and got up at 9:30. I don't need much sleep."
It is not, however, as if he had to get back into Studio's business office. This time around Rubell is on hand strictly as an ornament and drawing card. He and Schrager sold the club to businessman Mark Fleischman earlier this year. Fearing that any official involvement with the club would jeopardize its liquor license, Rubell and Schrager assured the state liquor authorities they would keep hands off. "I don't want to be controversial anymore," Rubell insists. "I love Studio and I want to support Mark."
In Rubell's case that kind of support still means life in the spotlight, and Fleischman is content to stay somewhat in the background. "I'm introducing Mark to all the people I know, and I'm going to come as a guest with all my friends," explains Rubell. Talent coordinator Jim Fouratt explains that even though "the emphasis will not be on Steve and Ian, let's face it, without them there's no nightlife. They'd run it if they were able to. It's not a new regime exactly—more a continuation."
Certainly, the new management plans to run the club in the old style. "When we got into trouble, we had a lot of offers to buy, but we wanted the most substantial person," Rubell says. "We wanted someone who'd run it the same way we had. Mark was dedicated to running it with a high level of taste!"
Fleischman has even retained one of the old Studio's most intriguing features—surly bouncers who guard the front doors, admitting only the celebrated, well-connected or amusingly exotic.
Without a business to call his own, Rubell is hanging free. "My private life is my public life," he observes. He lives around the corner from Studio in a two-bedroom apartment adorned with Mylar wallpaper and Warhol prints, shared with a young couple who work at the club. In an only-in-Manhattan turn of events he will this fall teach a course called "Pop Music and Nightlife in New York" at the New School for Social Research, featuring guest appearances by pals Halston, Andy Warhol and record producer David Geffen. Obviously, that's not enough to satisfy his ambitions. Even in prison, he and Schrager tried to keep up business connections. As Ian recalls, "Getting to the phone was rough—a dime a call, and you had to wait on line." Rubell is currently negotiating a deal he describes as "in the entertainment business in Europe." (He and Schrager still own 50 percent of the rights to the Studio 54 name.) "We do hope eventually to own and operate a club in New York," he allows. "I don't want to be thought of as the former owner of Studio 54 all my life."
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