In The Magazine

54/Forty and Still Fabulous

by Anton Perich Photographed by Anton Perich
Thursday, June 29, 2017
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It was the worst of times. In 1977, New York City was on the edge of the abyss. That summer, a blackout plunged the city into a darkness as symbolic as it was frightfully real. The Bronx was burning, the .44 Caliber Killer was on the loose, the weather was sweltering, the economy failing, poverty and crime seemed intractable, drugs were rampant and real estate values stagnant.


But…


It was also the best of times. A virtually lawless society encouraged indulgence, license and explosive creativity. Punk was percolating on the Bowery. Hip-hop was happening uptown. The city’s women and its gay and minority communities were tasting and savoring liberation. And a new sound, disco, was a pulsing beat uniting the world. 


Hedonism found its headquarters that spring when, late in April, Studio 54 opened in what had once been a midtown opera house. In a matter of weeks, it became the temple of a new cult that worshipped fame, beauty, wealth, fashion, entertainment and media, and the source of a new set of bacchanalian rituals that would redefine and revive the notion of Society. Nothing has been the same since.


Outside Studio 54, crowds queued for the approval that came with admission. Inside, the bold-faced were stirred together with the sexy and young into an addictive recipe by owners Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell. The nightly revels were chronicled by Anton Perich, a Croatian-born photographer and filmmaker who’d spent ten years in Paris before moving to New York, where he hosted an influential public-access cable television show and founded Night, the oversized journal that pioneered party photography.


This spring, Perich brought “AVENUE” a cache of more than a thousand images taken during Studio’s brief reign of less than three years – and unseen in the 40 years since.


The velvet rope has lifted again. Just for a moment, let’s party like it’s 1977.


CORRECTION: Due to an editing oversight, several captions in the print edition version of this portfolio are incorrect. Liza Minnelli‘s name was mis-spelled, Francesco Scavullo’s omitted, and Lisa Cooper was mis-identified as Lisa Taylor. The mistakes have been corrected online.


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