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the life that was Studio 54
Confessions of a Celebrity Photographer
By Adam Scull
It was a very cold and overcast morning after the blizzard. It was a catastrophic nor’easter that struck New England, New Jersey, and the New York metropolitan area.Â Snow fell mostly from Monday morning, February 6, to the evening of Tuesday, February 7th.
As the storm receded, many had hauled out their cross-country skis, swooshing along a snow-blanketed Park Avenue. After snapping a few shots of the skiers, I walked over to 5th Avenue by 72nd street, and to my utter amazement, I stumbled upon an exclusive photoshoot of the famed artist Salvador Dali, by a New York Post staff photographer. All things being equal, I ruined the stafferâ€™s exclusivity and got quite a few shots of my own. Normally, I would have called the Post photo desk and asked if they wanted to see my photos, which were really good, but I held back this time. I liked the staff photographer who was shooting Dali, and didnâ€™tÂ Â want to upset her, so I just shot my own photos and that was that. This was a seminal moment for me, as I started looking around each day for events to cover; parties, film premieres, any event that had celebrities, I managed to get into many of the parties and started photographing the comings and goings of all the famous people in New York City.
Then came the opening night of Studio 54 on April 26, 1977. For New York City nightlife, it was the biggest slam-dunk ever. Everything paled in comparison to this magical wonderland that came from the gifted minds of owners Steve Rubell and his partner Ian Schraeger. The â€œbeautiful peopleâ€ did everything to get into Studio 54. I was inside shooting on opening night, watching the scene unfold before me. It was mesmerizing. I wound up going most every night of the week as well as the weekends, because the intake of celebrities was constant. Every night I wound up with 4-5 great shots of film and tv stars. I would call the Post photo desk and say, â€œI know you have a staffer shooting here, but I got some really great photos! Want to see them?â€ They always said yes, so I would cab it down to South Street, soup my film, make a contact sheet and let the editors pick their shots. They got printed as I banged out the captions on their old clunky Royal typewriters, I taped the captions to the back of the prints and ran out to the photo desk as if Iâ€™d just discovered gold. Invariably, I would wake up the next morning, run out to the newsstand and shouted with glee when I saw that I had once again made the front page with my photo. The staff guys were so angry at me, but this was business and I was hungry!
Not long after I started covering Studio 54, I got a phone call from the Executive Photo Editor of the Post. A few weeks ago, she had called me and offered me a staff job at the newspaper that the Post was hoping to bring out, an Americanized version of the London Sun. Foolish though it may have been, I declined the offer, because there was only one thing I wanted: a staff position on the New York Post. Nothing else would do. With this second call, my wish came true when I was offered a staff position on the Post.
One day, I was asked to shoot an evening of parties and film premieres for a new section the Post was putting together called Newsmakers. I was hooked. That day was my start of being the party photographer for the New York Post. I did so well at it that the photo desk said that was my new permanent assignment. I had arrived. New York City was an exciting place to be covering the rich and famous, with many gilded nightclubs, the men in finely tailored tuxedoes, and the society women dressed to the nines. I was invited everywhere. All the nightclubs wanted me there to shoot their parties.
This is a roundup of photographs of my nights at Studio 54, which became a second home to me.Â It was the best of times, and I was there to document all of it with my cameras.