The ironclad rule about gaining entrance to the original Studio 54 (i.e., Schrager-Rubell, April ’77 to the ’80 shutdown over tax evasion) was that you had to not only look good but dress well. That meant Giorgio Armani small-collared shirts if possible and certainly not being a bridge-and-tunnel guinea with polyester garb and Tony Manero hair stylings.
As I watched Matt Tyrnauer‘s Studio 54 I was waiting for someone to just say it, to just say that Saturday Night Fever borough types weren’t even considered because they just didn’t get it, mainly because of their dress sense but also because their plebian attitudes and mindsets were just as hopeless.
It finally happens at the half-hour mark. One of the door guys (possibly Marc Benecke) says “no, the bridge-and-tunnel people never got in“…never.” I can’t tell you how comforting it was to hear that again after so many years.
Another thing: Bob Calacello or somebody mentions how Studio 54 happened in a glorious period in American culture that was post-birth control and pre-AIDS. The film explains how liberal sexual attitudes were particularly celebrated by urban gay culture, which was just starting to sample freedoms that today are more or less taken for granted. Guys couldn’t hold hands on the street but they certainly could once they got inside Studio 54.
But one thing you can’t say in today’s climate (and which Tyrnauer’s film doesn’t even mention in passing) is that the ’70s were also a glorious nookie era for heterosexual guys. It was probably the most impulsive, heavily sensual, Caligula-like period (especially with the liberal use of quaaludes) to happen in straight-person circles since…you tell me. The days of Imperial Rome?
This kind of thing is now a verboten topic, of course, with the 2018 narrative mainly being about how guys need to forget “impulsive” and turn it down and be extra super careful in approaching women in any context. But things were quite different back in the Jimmy Carter era. I’m not expressing any particular nostalgia for those days, but the new Calvinism of 2018 couldn’t be farther away from what the social-sexual norms were 40 years ago. Just saying.