Known for its raucous parties and A-list guests, the first three years of Studio 54's existence were the most exclusive and enticing — and that was by design.
As Rubell said, "the key to a good party is filling a room with guests more interesting than you."
On the left, Andy Warhol takes his camera out and mingles with Steve Rubell while Brooke Shields and Calvin Klein share a kiss in the DJ pit. Bokförlaget Max Ström/Hasse Persson Studio 54
Woody Allen and Michael Jackson, 1977.Getty Images/Russell Turiak
Actor and author Chris Lawford shares a dance with Mick Jagger's wife, Bianca.Getty Images/Ron Galella
Andy Warhol and Lou Reed, 1977.Getty Images/Rose Hartman
Bianca Jagger appears on horseback for her birthday.Getty Images/Richard Corkery
Sylvester Stallone and Sheryl Slocum, 1977.Getty Images/Images Press
Actress and model Margaux Hemingway celebrates her 24th birthday in style.Getty Images/Michael Norcia
Mick Jagger and his then significant other Jerry Hall entering the club.Getty Images/Michael Norcia
Andy Warhol, mingling backstage with friends Bianca Jagger and fashion designer Halston.Bokförlaget Max Ström/Hasse Persson Studio 54
For many guests (celebrity or not), Studio 54 was a place to dance, discover, and dip into the unknown. Here, a woman twirls her hat and two men chat over drinks. STANLEY BARKER/Tod Papageorge Studio 54
Revelers inside Studio 54.STANLEY BARKER/Tod Papageorge Studio 54
Four women in shimmery dresses sit in the club's lounge area. STANLEY BARKER/Tod Papageorge Studio 54
Throughout its three-year lifespan under Rubell and Schrager, Studio 54 served as a lab to experiment with everything from illicit drugs to gender. Left, male partygoers sport dresses.Bokförlaget Max Ström/Hasse Persson Studio 54
A nearly naked couple dances together on top of a speaker at the club's first Halloween party in 1977.
Getty Images/Allan Tannenbaum
A woman wears nothing but pearls and a mask as she grinds on two men in jewels and makeup.Bokförlaget Max Ström/Hasse Persson Studio 54
A club-goer exposes a bare chest, garters (with keys attached to them), and a mask as a woman pops her gum and a man seduces the camera in his costume. Bokförlaget Max Ström/Hasse Persson Studio 54
A woman throws her head back at the bar.STANLEY BARKER/Tod Papageorge Studio 54
Studio 54 photographer Hasse Persson said of this photo: "This may sound unusual today, but if you wanted to make love with somebody, people were making love on the balconies, and they were making love in the bathrooms. This was taken in the ladies’ room. In the very, very far left you can see me – I didn’t know that I was in the picture.”Bokförlaget Max Ström/Hasse Persson Studio 54
Persson on this photo: "I think this is the same horse Bianca Jagger turned up on for her birthday in 1977. If you came on a white horse, with almost no clothes on, you were guaranteed to get in. What was interesting is that women felt secure enough to dance nude in the place. This is after the feminist movement of the 70s: if a woman wanted to be nude that was her privilege, no one would ever touch her or say anything. They were like queens on the dancefloor."Bokförlaget Max Ström/Hasse Persson Studio 54
Club attendees wait to enter.Bokförlaget Max Ström/Hasse Persson Studio 54
A man dressed up in leather and an NYU tank chats with his friend, decked out in pearls and garters as two other club-goers look on. Getty Images/Sonia Moskowitz
A man dangles a cigarette inside Studio 54, 1977. It would be decades before New York City's smoking ban forbade smoking in indoor spaces.Getty Images/Rose Hartman
A man wears a gold costume, eyeliner, and a headdress while dancing.
Bokförlaget Max Ström/Hasse Persson Studio 54
A glitter-covered go-go dancer sways in a G-string.
Bokförlaget Max Ström/Hasse Persson Studio 54
A couple dances intimately, 1977.
Getty Images/Waring Abbott
A couple relaxes next to a comatose man, 1978.
Getty Images/Sonia Moskowitz
A woman in a bustier and garters finds her partner — the "punk" behind her, at Studio 54's 1977 Halloween party. Getty Images/Allan Tannenbaum
Studio 54's golden age came to an end when the federal government came after Schrager and Rubell for tax evasion. Ultimately, as the judge said, theirs was a crime of hubris.
"Your crime, I conclude, is one of tremendous arrogance. You assumed you achieved your success on your own and you owed nothing to fellow citizens and the economic system…”
After selling the club in 1980, Schrager and Rubell would spend 13 months in prison. And just like that, the party was over.Getty Images/Charles Ruppmann