Rubell and his brother Don spent their childhoods with their parents in Brooklyn. His father worked for the U.S. Postal Service and later became a tennis pro. Rubell attended Wingate High School, and was also an avid tennis player, but decided against playing professionally.
Entering Syracuse University, Rubell had the intention of becoming a dentist, but failed his courses and switched majors, studying finance and history. Rubell was reportedly not a good student but managed to complete his studies, going on to complete a Master's degree in Finance. While attending college Rubell met Ian Schrager, who became a lifelong friend and business partner.
Rubell joined the National Guard, returning to New York after a tour of duty in the military intelligence unit, he worked at a brokerage firm after his return. Rubell then decided to start his own business and opened two Steak Lofts restaurants: one in Queens, New York, and the other in New Haven, Connecticut.
Rubell and Schrager opened two clubs, one in Boston with John Addison from La Jardin, the other, called The Enchanted Garden, in Queens in 1975. In April 1977, they opened Studio 54 in an old television studio on West 54th Street. Rubell became a familiar face in front of the building, turning people down at the door and only letting in those who met his specific standards. Rubell also dealt with the club's celebrity patrons, ensuring that they were thrown lavish parties. His tactics worked, and the club made $7 million during its first year.
Steve Rubell (December 2, 1943 - July 25, 1989) was an entrepreneur and owner of the New York disco Studio54. While attending college Steve Rubell, co-owner of the New York disco Studio 54, met Ian Schrager, who became a lifelong friend and business partner. In 1985, after discovering he had contracted AIDS, Rubell (who was closeted for most of his life) began taking AZT, but his illness was furthered by his continued drug usage and drinking, which affected his already compromised immune system.
In December 1978, Studio 54 was raided after Rubell was quoted as saying that only the Mafia made more money than the club brought in. In June 1979, Rubell and Schrager were charged with tax evasion, obstruction of justice, and conspiracy for reportedly skimming nearly $2.5 million in unreported income from the club's receipts, in a system Rubell called "cash-in, cash-out and skim." A second raid occurred in December 1979. The pair hired Roy Cohn to defend them, but on January 18, 1980, they were sentenced to three and a half years in prison and a $20,000 fine each for the tax evasion charge. On February 4, 1980, Rubell and Schrager went to prison and Studio 54 was sold in November of that year for $4.75 million. In January 1981, Rubell and Schrager were released from prison after handing over the names of other club owners involved in tax evasion.
Once released, Rubell and Schrager purchased the Executive Hotel on Madison Ave and renamed it Morgan's. Rubell later opened the Palladium, a large dance club famous for displaying art by Keith Haring, Jean-Michel Basquiat and Andy Warhol, and considered central to the New York club scene in the 1980s. In 1998, the Palladium was demolished so that New York University dorms could be built in its place.
Mike Myers played the part of Steve Rubell in the movie 54. Rubell has also been the topic of an episode of Biography titled Steve Rubell: Lord of the Disco.
In 1985, after discovering he had contracted AIDS, Rubell (who was closeted for most of his life) began taking AZT, but his illness was furthered by his continued drug usage and drinking, which affected his already compromised immune system. Rubell died on July 25, 1989, with the official cause of death listed as hepatitis.
Burial: Beth Moses Cemetery, Farmingdale, Suffolk County, New York, USA. Plot: Block 21 Sanders Association Grave 2 Plot 15
The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco, and the Culture of the Night by Anthony Haden-Guest
Paperback: 480 pages
Publisher: It Books (December 8, 2009)
Amazon: The Last Party: Studio 54, Disco, and the Culture of the Night
Studio 54 was the icon of excess—a place where Andy, Mick, Bianca, and Elton lounged in the VIP section while patrons did drugs in the fabled unisex bathroom, and wannabes waiting for hours outside hoped to catch the eye of the nineteen-year-old doorman who was, for a brief moment, the ultimate gatekeeper of cool.
The Last Party is the story not just of Studio 54 but of the whole Nightworld, vividly recalled by a writer and reveler who was there on opening night and on many, many nights thereafter. Anthony Haden-Guest takes us past the velvet rope, down onto the pounding dance floor, up into the polymorphously perverse balcony, and into owner Steve Rubell's office, where millions of dollars were surreptitiously skimmed from the golden goose. Vibrant, shocking, nonstop, and revealing, The Last Party is as packed with sparkle, scandal, and celebrity as Studio 54 itself.
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