Ian Schrager says New York “really isn’t” center of the world anymore

Developer and Studio 54 founder dishes on the legendary club and what's changed since then

(Credit from left: Vimeo, Broadway Tour via Flickr)
(Credit from left: Vimeo, Broadway Tour via Flickr)

In the 1970s, hotelier and real estate developer Ian Schrager was a different person.

He played fast and loose with the rules. In short order: Schrager had family ties to real life gangsters; he co-founded the legendary club Studio 54 with Steve Rubell; hired infamous mob lawyer Ray Cohn to represent them when they ran into trouble with the law; and, finally, he ended up in jail for tax evasion. (Obama later pardoned him.)

The edgy formative years of the developer is on full display in a new documentary by Matt Tyrnauer about Studio 54, as reported by Vulture, and Schrager has some fixed ideas about what he wants viewers to think.

First and foremost, he wants everyone to know he’s changed: “I was a different person then,” as he told Vulture. “The thing that I love is that you can play by the rules and be very successful. Back then, I did things by corner-cutting.”

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Next, in exchange for opening up about his infamous past, he’s expecting to win an Oscar: “I’ve been saying to everyone who will listen I want to get an Academy Award nomination.”

And, lastly, New York is just not what it used to be: “I think New York is living off its reputation for being the center of the world, but it really isn’t anymore … I’ve felt like that for a long time.”

For one thing, there’s isn’t an establishment today that could hold a candle to the antics and reputation of Studio 54 and Schrager believes the reason “can be explained in terms of economics.”

“The club business didn’t take much capital, and there weren’t a lot of rules or regulations. You just had to like music. I did my first club for $27,000. Studio [54] for $400,000 … It’s a young person’s business, and young people can’t afford it,” he concluded. [Vulture] —Erin Hudson