The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on April 30, 1997 · Page 28
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 28

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Salina, Kansas
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Wednesday, April 30, 1997
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Page 28
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4 WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30, 1997 APPLAUSE THE SALINA JOURNAL The party never ended at Studio 54 By Fred Eric M. Diddle The Bosfcw Globe Nostalgia has grabbed the 70s by the shiny lapels for one more spin under the mirrored disco ball. The latest reminiscence whirling in the wake is "The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco, and the Culture of the Night," by Anthony Haden- Guest. The aptly surnamed author crossed the line from journalist to invited Guest. Most of 54's celebrity stars are dead or rehabbed, but Haden-Guest has emerged unscathed to tell us all about it. Unfortunately, he has written a blurry coda to what he pretentiously calls "nightworld." He fails to link the relatively innocent debauchery of the 70s scene to its metastazised '90s successor. That's a downer, as they used to say. For, notwithstanding howling factual errors, such as his reference to Johnny Carson's "Today" show (did this book's editors, in the spirit of the enterprise, indulge in a toot or two?), Haden-Guest is qualified to tell the tale. Several confusing chapters explain how a cavernous, dormant midtown Manhattan TV studio was discovered by associates of Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, an odd couple of obscure restaurateurs who would become as famous as the celebrity clientele of their Studio 54. Haden-Guest passably marshals the social forces that imploded and then exploded as a cultural supernova on opening night, April 26, 1977. Post-Vietnam, the energy that drove late '60s social protest re-expressed itself as 70s frivolity, he argues. Post-Stonewall, meanwhile, many gay men expressed their own liberation in such institutions as discos. So too did Betty Friedanized heterosexual women, finally able to cast off the social taboo against partying alone and.indulging their sexuality. But celebrities, who were the uppermost strata of Studio 54's fame, were the nexus. Haden-Guest all too briefly excels in telling us why. "None of the core group — who quickly achieved first-name status in the tabs as Liza, Andy, Truman, Bianca and so on — was created by Studio 54, but what they got from Studio was an astonishing drenching in gossip column and tabloid fame. ... suddenly, there was a new elite in Manhattan, a Praetorian Guard, a social commando unit." . The democracy of the dance floor made everyone a star in his or own right, even a septugenarian known as Disco Sally. Combined with the glow of the stars and the only-in-New York lunacy, Studio 54 became a brand-name validation of self-esteem. Thousands waited outside as velvet-rope despots mercilessly decided whom to admit to toss the perfect salad of chic. Either you got in, or you didn't. Two hopefuls rented a white horse, approached the door and stripped, hoping to get in as twin Lady Godivas. "OK. The horse can come in," Rubell reportedly replied. "But you girls have to stay outside!" Indeed, Haden-Guest reports, the horse hoofed its way in. Once, someone died trying to crash the party, suffocating in an airshaft, he reports. The smell eventually gave the fatal ruse away. That such neo-Roman excess lasted even three years is remarkable; Rubell and Schrager brought it all crashing down on their heads almost literally in 1980, as the IRS — tipped off by equally greedy competitors and who-knows-what people Studio 54 wouldn't let in — ripped open false ceilings to discover garbage bags full of millions of dollars in skimmed profits. . In a comeuppance whose succulence Haden-Guest barely savors, Rubell and Schrager went to prison for a year. When they returned, nearly broke, from what they euphemistically called "our time away," they amazingly rebounded to open not only another disco (Palladium), but a chain of pricey hotels that made them richer than they had ever been. Meanwhile, disco didn't die, but thumped far underground. As if he were one with the phenomenon, Haden-Guest lurches unsteadily through the 1980s in chapters that describe would-be successors to 54. A reader must have foreknowledge on the subject to pick out from his fragmentary prose reasons why a 54 could never be recreated: for example, the loss of innocence that accompanied AIDS (which killed Rubell in 1989), or the rise of party promoters whose popularity eclipsed that of the venues themselves. Eventually, Haden-Guest regains his footing — or, at least, a ADAMHEALY 2075 S. Ohio, Suite 7B 823-7713 For auto, home and life- Being in good hands is title only pkce to her New Lindsborg Construction 605W.Garfleld 3 bedrooms, 2 baths, close to completion with full unfinished basement. $118,500 Carol Gusenlus, Owner/Broker 913-227-2913 I IM)SIK)K(. 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