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“It’s pretty debaucherous down there. But I guess that’s the idea,” Tony Hawk said on Tuesday night at Studio 54, throwing a hand loosely outwards to encompass the endless flood of bodies orgiastically bumping and grinding and swilling drinks on the dance floor mere stories below. Sirius XM Radio had thrown open the doors of the grand dame of New York city nightlife for “one night only,” and the infamous club-turned-theater was besieged by friends and fans of the disco era — those who had been there in decades past writhed against those whose parents had. Hawk was surveying the scene from the mezzanine level. “It’s sort of crazy, isn’t it?” the professional skateboarder mused, calmly considering the masses that spun and twirled and weaved around each other in circles below before adding thoughtfully, “It’s sort of unbelievable. Imagine what it was like when it opened.”
It was easy to imagine: all of Studio 54’s storied decor was on display. Neon light-up poles extended and retracted from the ceiling alongside long, thick silver streamers in time with musical crescendoes and a large gold Aztec-style sun against the back wall later made way for what Patti Hansen gleefully explained midshimmy on the dance floor as “the man in the moon with the cocaine spoon!” Hansen was there with her husband, Keith Richards, and their daughter, Alexandra. Did she ever expect to be at Studio 54 as a family? “The last time I was here I can’t say I was thinking about that,” Hansen laughed uproariously.
Riccardo Tisci cut a dapper figure in a tuxedo and had brought Naomi Campbell as his date. The pair held court by a pair of silver couches and endless personal security that lined the dance floor. “I’m too young to have been here before,” Tisci shouted over the music, “but Naomi insisted that I come tonight and she’s a legend here and a legend in general, so how could I resist?” Campbell kissed his cheek with a flourish, roping in a nearby Cameron Diaz to dance. Diaz obliged. “I wanted everyone to come,” Campbell cried, “I love this....New York needs more of this. Where has this gone? Really, where?”
Isaac Mizrahi greeted Liya Kebede and blew a kiss in Campbell’s direction as China Machado cut through the dance floor, dodging the swinging limbs of revelers as she made way for the slanted ramp that led to the stairways. Pursuing friends through the venue proved hazardous, with the dense intensity of the merriment under way meaning spilled cocktails and speared cigarettes, let alone the occasional interruption of a full marching brass band (behind which would inevitably form a conga line) necessarily impairing the ability of most to traverse the space. Lady Bunny and Amanda Lepore caroused on the upper levels for the first few hours of the evening, admiring and rating some of the physiques of the service staff. Bartenders and busboys wore boxer briefs and tube socks and not much else.
There is a nostalgia to the embrace of decadent madness that Studio 54 represents: of better times had before one’s conception and the danger and mystique and willful obfuscation of current events in exchange for a good time (purportedly, the good time to end all good times). “Dancing while Rome burns,” Lady Bunny winked towards the end of the night, her several-feet of blonde wig glinting in the strobe lights, “What the hell else are you going to do?”
Evidence of the change in the times was everywhere, however: Kevin Bacon and Donald and Melania Trump all had passed through the mirrored entry hall and kicked their way through the white confetti that lay heavily on the floor in thick clumps, but none stayed past 10:30 p.m. Not exactly Mick and Bianca Jagger, the Trumps endured a less-than-dignified departure when they faced the crowds that had amassed on 54th Street to rubberneck: they were jeered at and booed by passersby (some identifying themselves as Occupy Wall Street sympathists) while mugging for photos outside.