Ian Schrager, Steve, Matt Lily discussed on Midday on WNYC
Matt tournament here about his new documentary studio fifty four as well as Ian Schrager, one of the co founders of the club. I want to go back to win you for your lawyer. You were a young lawyer and you met Steve rebel how we met in college. He would suppress man. He was a senior, and we instantly gravitated towards became just great, friends and. Dimly got out of college. Steve stated in school for a couple of years trying to avoid the draft. I went to New York and became a lawyer for a couple of years, and then I go into the nightclub business believe it or not because I used to see people standing in line taking abuse trying to get into nightclubs and the business I had to get into just straight with supply and demand. Let's talk about that velvet rope. It's such an interesting concept. You know, you wanna be in somewhere that won't have you. Right. So what was it? What made the decision about? Who who go past the velvet rope. Do you think it lead to any kind of backlash about the club insurance schadenfreude, especially when things went south? I mean there to modern terms that apply to they probably come from it, actually, the culture of scarcity and foam, oh fear of missing out probably born at the velvet rope in studio fifty four the movie we cover the myth of the velvet rope. Apparently, it was leftover from CBS TV studio and homeless people and prostitutes would hang out in the vestibule. So they strung out the velvet robes, and then when the student became overwhelmingly popular they're afraid that the crowds would search warrant and break down the doors today. A raid rated in a square rectangle. So the crowds would stand around it and Steve rebel and the doorman Mark panicky, which is one of my favorite features of this. He's nineteen at the time and becomes overnight. One of the most powerful social arbiters in the city, actually, the most powerful next to probably Stephen then this was controversial. And I'll I'll handed over to. The in here because I think he can answer better than I can whether there was a backlash, but I think a lot of people were pissed off. It was a curatorial process. It was something new because while the war velvet robes at nightclubs before they were generally gay clubs, the keep straight guys out and things like that studio was being curated on the sidewalk, basically. And it wasn't the expected normal crowd that got in. And it did instill a lot of anger in society at large. The. I think that that was sowing the seeds of your eventual demise and part pissing people off like, oh, well, we upset the status quo. And I think all that anger and resentment found an institutional outlet. We weren't choosing people based upon how much money they had or what they did for a living. And so we had our own criteria. We wouldn't same thing that when people invite somebody to come over their own party. But when you do it in the public domain, not politically, correct. But you know, I was there. And you know, we we tried to do everything on the outside of the club that allowed to complete freedom and feeling of safety. You felt inside the club. Celebrities hip, nobody kit there were people doing things. Nobody cares. Nobody corked and you couldn't have had that without. Making some effort to screen people at the front door. And and what would come in on the inside the other thing about that? You know, when you're at the door, and you spontaneously making a decision, you know, somebody can get in the can't get in. It's a process that capable of making a lot of mistakes people, and maybe even get a little bit indulgent sometimes, but it was really done for a reason to make sure that everybody that got in had a good time and wasn't going to be bothered one thing. I learned a lot of people told me, I'm not sure whether you clocked this ever was that the crowd was so big outside the velvet rope and people were so hyped up that that became a party in its own, right? Actual lot of people have said that to me that there was a community of people waiting to get in and there were controlled substances being passed around. And there were good things and bad things happening. People were kind of for me community out there and having a party on the street it made the streets safer undoubtedly because when there are a lot of people on the street. It's safe. And then there was also some crop petty crime that were pickpockets in there and kind of flasher so we come because after all this was New York in the seventies. We're gonna take one more call. This is Don in new Milford high. Don Hello there. Hi, Julian it's Don crunch. How will you die? And welcome listening raptly to the whole interview terrific, so happy to hear from you. How do you know, how do you know? Ian, Don, I know we were all fraternity brothers at Syracuse. I got there a couple of years before Stevie any, and I was there in sixty got there and sixty two sixty three and I met Steve bell more or less one of the first days. She was actually at Syracuse because Steve was a scholarship tennis player coming into Syracuse. And my roommate Bill get Alicia now Bill Dale was the first singles on the tennis team. And one of the first people that Stevie met was Bill Bill introduced me to Steve. And it turned out that during turn rushing all the freshman. Stephen, Ian, would go around to different paternity houses. And because Steve was an athlete. He wasn't allowed to rush into the second semester. So knowing him I would bring them over to the fraternity in to introduce them to some of the older dies in the house. And that's where we. We first met and known each other over the years. Well, Don, thank you so much for calling in home week story of studio. You'll get a kick out of I was a sports agent representing among others. Ed too tall. Jones all pro defensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys, and it came up one day to to New York to visit and desperately wanted to get into studio. And because I knew Stephen, and I brought him over that was the night of Bianca Jagger's birthday party and true story will confirm it Bianca came riding into studio fifty four on a white horse, literally who's quite a moment, and Ed who'd been there and done that. So to speak was just dumfounded. I didn't we just stand with our mouths open time. Thank you so much. So that story about Bianca Jagger and the white horse is not apocryphal. It's true. I wanted to talk about Ian. I'm sorry in Matt you said at the beginning, you talked to Ann about doing this film. But you had to tell the whole story you had to tell the glamorous good part. And then they also had to tell the part that was more difficult and clearly as difficult for you in the film, and at some point you sort of embracing to have to talk about the IRS and talk about your time in jail. Matt how did you decide to approach that? And if you can explain for our listeners exactly what the issue was. I don't want to get it wrong. Sure. Studio was the fastest rise. Maybe in the history of New York and also one of the most decisive falls. There was a skimming operation going on at the club. And there was an informant who tipped off the IRS and the IRS tipped off the US attorney and the club was rated in December of nineteen seventy eight it had been open just over a year. And it was in in the film, you c- reenact this in a way he goes to the stage door of the existing theater which was studio fifty four and explains how the IRS agents were in the club when he arrived for work at nine in the morning. They. Couldn't open the door because they were holding a shot. And they said do you want to come in? You do not want to come in. Clearly, the club was being rated he decided fatefully to walk in the door. And then brings us through a really traumatizing series of events that beset union and Steve where eventually after a long grand jury process. They ended up being convicted of tax evasion and going to jail. For me. The rise was the known story. But we were telling in a way that never been told before certainly with the perspective, which is new to this because he's never spoken. But the fall of studio, I think is very important. And you can't tell the story without the rise and fall. So in the film, we bring you through this, and Ian, very bravely is confronted by me. And it's still I this is why I think he he didn't wanna talk about it for all these years, and I don't blame him because I think it was a a wound that might not have totally healed. I always tell people I'm interviewing for documentaries. You have to be brave. I wouldn't want to dock crew following me around for a year. It's not for the faint of heart. But we worked our way through the story which you would never talked about before in. What was it like for you? As you start to talk to Matt and tell him about this part of your life. You know, I had never really spoken to anybody about some of these things I trusted, Matt. And. In a point in my life of kind of very comfortable, and I don't mind talking about certain things, although I am I am very private. But I always talk. Whatever I told them, you know, if I wanted him not to put it in the film, people do it. But it was like trying to negotiate with the FOX after during the chicken coop. So at the end of the end of all of it, really, what happened was was still things know a I went along with Matt. Because I wanted to be involved in the great film. And I think Matt lily didn't make a great film, and recently graded because it not only a document a documentary. It will hurt a bit like a narrative movie motion with highs and lows, and and so it documentary, but it also is almost like a theatrical a narrative Novi with with characters. So I have never seen a documentary like that. And I think that what's so poignant. And then what's so special about it one of the things I really felt for you during that period. You you just said it was so so sadly, like I lost my law life you can practice law. I couldn't get a credit card. I couldn't open up Bank account couldn't get a driver's license. I know when when you do something wrong a crime like the way, even I did it's not only going to to prison. It's like taking your epilepsy away part of the process, stripping you down and taking everything from you. And. It was a profound profound thing that you can imagine. I can't imagine it today. As you. Go ahead. Matt. Oh, no. I was going to say he's talks about himself with Steve they went through this together. I think one of the key moments in the film is we rose and fell together. And he also points out in the film that something like what happened to them? Either tears you apart brings you closer together. The movies that I become fascinated in this pattern in some of the films. I've made are about partnerships that take on more meaning than just pure partnership. Ian himself describes the Steve rebellion Schrager relationship as a marriage, they weren't romantically involved. But he says in the film, I think quite touchingly Stephen are like Mary couple. I'm not sure which one was the husband in which one was the wife, but for me, this is a movie about a partnership, and in a way, a marriage with a nightclub is the backdrop, actually, I was sort of calling it the film Scorsese forgot to make it's an outer borough success and failure story that I think still. Today, as you were making the film, and you had to choose from archival footage. What Steve said, and what Steve could contribute film because obviously Steve rebel passed away of HIV aids. How did you decide to make his as two point a character in this story?.