A photo journey to Studio 54, the legendary New York club

Written by Jacqui Palumbo, CNNNew York

The photographic work of Dustin PIttman — the main focus of this characteristic — is a part of the exhibition ‘Studio 54: Night time Magic’ on the Brooklyn Museum, which is briefly closed. Throughout this time, you’ll be able to go to and benefit from the museum’s online collection.

From 1977 till early 1980, fortunate revelers who obtained previous the velvet ropes of Studio 54 in Manhattan had been greeted with a haven for hedonism and creativity.

The previous opera house-turned-television studio grew to become a playground for dancing, medicine, intercourse and diamond mud through the nightclub’s transient however meteoric rise, earlier than founders Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager had been jailed for tax evasion and the studio closed its doorways.

“It is the place you come whenever you need to escape. While you dance right here, you are simply free,” the late Michael Jackson mentioned in footage that later appeared within the 2018 documentary “Studio 54.”

Steve Rubell and Carmen d'Alessio in Norma Kamali coats (1977)

Steve Rubell and Carmen d’Alessio in Norma Kamali coats (1977) Credit score: Dustin Pittman

It was a joyous prelude to the AIDS epidemic, which reared its head within the early 1980s, earlier than claiming round 50,000 American lives a yr throughout its peak within the mid-1980s, and essentially altering New York nightlife.

Dustin Pittman was one among many photographers who entered the hallowed grounds of Studio 54 to doc and take part within the membership’s notorious events. He has additionally develop into one of the distinguished chroniclers of the period, featured in each the 2018 documentary and a 2017 coffee-table e-book on the membership.

Now Pittman, together with many different artistic skills in pictures, trend, make-up and design, is featured within the Brooklyn Museum’s ode to the midtown hotspot. Although the exhibition, “Studio 54: Night time Magic,” is briefly closed because of the coronavirus pandemic, it crystallizes the glamorous nights set towards gritty 1970s New York.

When Studio 54 opened, Pittman was working as an editorial photographer for publications like W journal and The New York Occasions. He frequented the opposite golf equipment of the period, reminiscent of Paradise Storage, Infinity, Max’s Kansas Metropolis, and Mudd Membership, however Studio 54, which he attended from opening night time, was completely different. The photographer credit this to the late Rubell, who died in 1989, and Schrager.

Red Balloons (1979)

Pink Balloons (1979)

Diana Ross, New Year's Eve (1979)

Diana Ross, New Yr’s Eve (1979) Credit score: Dustin Pittman

“A number of the golf equipment had their power, their pleasure,” he mentioned in a telephone interview. “What made Studio 54 nice was that every part they did — each night time and each operate — they did in extra. However they did it so professionally, and to the nines. Everyone they employed was an artist.”

The group that introduced Studio 54 to life in simply six weeks included architects Scott Bromley and Ron Dowd, set designer Richie Williamson, and lighting designers Jules Fisher and Paul Morantz. However Pittman additionally nodded to florist Renny Reynolds and occasion planner Robert Isabell, the latter of whom as soon as dumped 4 tons of glitter on the dance ground when the clock struck midnight on New Yr’s Eve.

That kind of spectacle is what made Studio 54 intoxicating for partygoers. On one night time, Pittman recalled, the membership’s ascending and descending revolving ground featured a efficiency from the complete forged of the musical “A Refrain Line,” as glitter and balloons rained down. “It was an assault of the senses,” he mentioned.

Iman (1978)

Iman (1978) Credit score: DUSTIN PITTMAN

'Two Dancers' (1977)

‘Two Dancers’ (1977) Credit score: Dustin Pittman

For the brand new exhibition, Pittman mirrored on the night time of actress Elizabeth Taylor’s birthday. “Renny the florist adorned the complete studio with dwell gardenias for Liz, as a result of that was her favourite flower,” he wrote as a caption for one of many exhibition pictures . “While you walked within the entrance door, not solely did you get the sound of the disco music, the odor of intercourse and style the sweat, however you bought the odor of all these dwell gardinias. It was the final breath and final hurrah earlier than the AIDS epidemic.”

Pittman mentioned he had limitless freedom throughout the disco’s partitions, affording him the sense of abandon he felt on the events and the flexibility to {photograph} no matter he wished. Rubell, who usually insisted that photographers hand over their pictures for approval, did not ask the identical of Pittman, he mentioned.

Pittman additionally famous the boundless “creative change” that occurred at Studio 54 events — it was a weekly assembly place for musicians, visible artists and different artistic minds. The photographer mentioned he solely skilled that sort of power at Andy Warhol’s studio, the Manufacturing facility, which the photographer frequented within the 1970s.

Pittman recalled capturing at Bethesda Fountain in Central Park, which was then a social spot to “peacock trend,” drink sangria and socialize, in 1969. There he met one among Warhol’s interior circle of “superstars,” the actress generally known as Ingrid Celebrity, and he or she took him downtown to the Manufacturing facility to fulfill the famed Pop artist.

“My fashion is the Andy Warhol Polaroid faculty of pictures,” Pittman mentioned of the artist’s affect on his work.

Richard Gallo (1979)

Richard Gallo (1979) Credit score: Dustin Pittman

Warhol was recognized to seize the spirit of the period, and all of his associates, by means of snapshots on on the spot movie. Pittman took an identical method at Studio 54. “(I might) again off slightly bit and really feel the vibe, after which doc issues,” he mentioned. If Pittman was taking a portrait, he appreciated to make it extra collaborative, capturing the entire of their persona in a single shot.

What made the ambiance particular, the photographer mentioned, was the co-mingling of individuals from all walks of life. Although the door was notoriously difficult because of the sheer variety of individuals lined up every night time, inside there was no hierarchy. Warhol as soon as mentioned: “Studio 54 is a dictatorship on the door and a democracy on the dance ground.”

With few cameras within the membership, and Rubell and Schrager cautious about which pictures had been made public, celebrities had been extra uninhibited. “It was the entire mixture of the individuals: individuals from all all over the world, all earnings ranges, all professions mixing collectively and completely getting alongside (and) having fun with themselves,” Pittman mentioned.

“What was nice about Studio 54 was that the unallowed was allowed,” he added. “Individuals had been capable of let go of their inhibitions, let go of all their emotional baggage that they had on the surface and simply be who they had been.”

New Year's Eve (1979)

New Yr’s Eve (1979) Credit score: Dustin Pittman

Since then, the photographer mentioned, there’s by no means been one other membership prefer it, although many have tried to recapture the spirit (together with Rubell and Schrager, who opened the nightclub Palladium after their stints in jail).

“Studio 54 solely ran for 33 months, which is outrageous — you’d assume it ran longer as a result of … individuals are all the time attempting to reinvent (it),” he mentioned. “It is all the time within the air.”

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