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Disco Fever 

New documentary examines the wild world of New York’s Studio 54

The legendary '70s club, owned by Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, gets its own documentary and, unsurprisingly, there are many interesting stories to tell about the club where all the stars played.

Director Matt Tyrnauer has scored the ultimate interview with surviving owner Schrager, who sits down to discuss his '70s adventures with the late Rubell, who died in 1989. Those adventures included movie stars, musicians, models, problems with liquor licenses and taxes and, of course, mountains of cocaine.

Rubell has a presence through archival footage, a character not unlike Joel Grey's emcee from Cabaret. The man (played by Mike Myers in the so-so 1998 film 54) was the ultimate entertainer, willing to do anything to make all evenings memorable. He and Schrager managed to get themselves into heaps of trouble during their run, including a jail stint for tax evasion.

There's interview footage of a young, excited, and glorious Michael Jackson standing next to Rubell, with Jackson trumpeting his joys for the venue. It's a moment that truly signifies a bygone era, two entertainment giants who died way too young, standing together and ready to party. The likes of Andy Warhol, Liza Minelli, Mick Jagger and others make archived appearances.

The film goes into detail of how the club worked. You couldn't just walk in the door; Rubell had a strict and relatively random admittance policy. Basically, if he didn't like your shirt, you didn't get in. He also had a lot of party favors in his big, puffy jacket.

Schrager is quite revelatory in his interviews, admitting that it's time to talk about the crazed discotheque that got him his start. He's now a real estate developer and, along with Rubell before he passed, helped create the first Boutique Hotels. He's a mild mannered man, everything that Rubell wasn't. He's also a fascinating subject in a fascinating documentary.

More by Bob Grimm

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