How drugs, sex, and celebrity shenanigans made 254 West 54th St. infamous on the 1980s Manhattan nightclub circuit.
When entrepreneur and author Fleischman was 10, his parents took him to the Copacabana; from that point, he admits that everything “onward propelled me on a trajectory toward Studio 54.” For four years, the author was the “ringleader” of the iconic disco, which quickly became known for its glitzy, star-studded clientele and nightly drug-addled debauchery. As owner and distinguished host, his job became his life and a great part of a heady journey “that nearly killed me.” Fleischman also chronicles his life before Studio 54, which featured significant commercial property acquisitions and a first long-term relationship, all set against a backdrop of sexual revolution and the game-changing Stonewall Riots. The author notes that the process of purchasing the nightclub building came with a sketchy liquor license deal and a sale contingent on heeding the counsel of the former owners, imprisoned for tax evasion, from their jail cells. The club’s reopening in 1981 featured a distinguished guest list, as well as 10,000 eager partiers and voracious young celebrities. With sharply drawn detail from an obvious insider’s vantage point, Fleischman graphically brings to life seasons of provocative parties and notorious “Rubber Room” antics, all of which cemented the club’s racy reputation as the premier destination in Manhattan. The stories of DJs, models, live performances, early Madonna, and scandal flow with the juiciness of a name-dropping gossip column. The hangover, however, proved a harsh reality check since, by the author’s third year of operation, his swift decline into drug addiction and mental instability became a potentially fatal reality: “I’d take Valium to go to sleep, wake up around three in the afternoon, do several lines of coke to get myself going and repeat the routine of yet another day.”
This unfettered tell-all will prove nostalgic for those who manage to remember being there and engrossing for readers wishing they were.