screen gems

Journey to the gay paradise of the 1970s, and the coolest nightclub ever

Studio 54

Welcome to Screen Gems, our weekend dive into queer and queer-adjacent titles of the past that deserve a watch or a re-watch.

The Glittering: Studio 54

Maybe it’s Kylie Minogue’s new disco single. Maybe’s it’s ABBA’s new album. Whatever the reason, we crave a little glam, 70s style.

This epic documentary chronicle of the rise and fall and rise of fabled nightclub Studio 54 danced its way across the festival circuit back in 2018. Director Matt Tyrnauer tells the story of the mother of all dance clubs, which also marks a watershed moment when queer culture began to cross into the mainstream. As conceived by founders Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, Studio 54 united the worlds of celebrity and nobody, creating a space where a rollerskating grandmother could dance alongside Liza Minnelli, where drag queen Divine could chat with Gloria Swanson, and–perhaps most important of all–LGBTQ people could indulge in living openly…and maybe slip off to the balcony for sexy time.

Needless to say, Studio 54 attracted people from all walks of life. It also became a scandal magnet. Rubell, Schrager, and the club’s reputation for sex and drugs would attract the attention of everyone from the IRS to the DEA, eventually bringing about the end of the world’s hottest party. Using a mix of archival footage, photos, and interviews with the nightclub staff & patrons, Studio 54 paints an image of queer culture on the edge of superstardom, all before AIDS and the Reagan Revolution sent it back into the closet. Director Tyrnauer recounts this epic tale with utter reverence–he sees it as both as a celebration of an era, and as the preservation of vital queer history.

He has good reason to do so. Studio 54 changed the way the world looked at nightclubs and has spawned countless imitators (including the “transplanted” Studio 54 in Las Vegas). None, however, have come close to capturing the hedonism, innocence, and joy of the time. In the absence of a functioning time machine, none of us alive today can ever visit the mother of all discos. Studio 54 offers the next best thing–a window into a moment where mainstream and queer history united, and a taste of one Hell of a great party.

Streams on Netflix, Amazon, YouTube & VUDU.