7. MICHAEL OVERINGTON, 53
Then: General Manager. Days before the club opened, Overington talked his way into a $3-an-hour janitor job, and then worked his way up. “Maybe a few busboys like Lenny [Miestorm] partied, but the doormen, the people who dealt with money, the technical people handling sets in the back, they didn’t party. We were all there to work really long hours. And we all made really good money. It’s almost like asking the cast of a major show like A Chorus Line, ‘Well, did you guys really go out and party all the time?’ No. We were all really serious about creating a great show.”
Now: Vice-Chairman, Ian Schrager Co. Overington, whose wife is a former Studio coat-check girl, is still Schrager’s right-hand man. When Rubell passed away just months after the Royalton Hotel opened, “Ian had to kinda jump in to fill Stevie’s role [as the front man]. So I had to jump in to fill Ian’s role.” They went on to build the Paramount, the Delano, Mondrian, the Hudson, and the Gramercy Park Hotel, among others.
8. JOANNE HOROWITZ, 54
Then: Celebrity Wrangler. She got paid by the star. “Everybody was a different price,” she says. “Once in a while, Ian and I would argue because I thought Alice Cooper [$60] was worth as much as Sylvester Stallone [$80], but Ian thought no.”
Now: Kevin Spacey’s Manager.They didn’t meet at Studio 54, but they did strike up a friendship, and Horowitz helped the then-unknown actor get into the club. Horowitz did movie-studio and personal publicity before becoming Spacey’s full-time manager. “It’s just a different kind of hustle,” she says. “I still work 24/7.”
9. SCOTT TAYLOR, 50
Then: Bartender. “Steve wanted all big, gay, muscle-bound bartenders, and I was, like, this Jewish straight boy from Queens. But I was a really hard worker,” he says. On opening night, he just showed up and volunteered his services in coat check. The second night, he showed up again and was put behind the bar when another bartender, also named Scott, called in sick. “Then, at the end of the night,” he says, “when all the other guys went out dancing, I took out the garbage and mopped the floor. Steve was still like, ‘I don’t want him working here.’ But the other bartenders were like, ‘No, no, no. He’s staying!’” Rubell finally relented. “Steve said, ‘You’re okay. You blend in with the gray walls.’”
Now: Real-Estate Developer. After Studio, Taylor started a string of bars. Then, at age 40, “I just realized, ‘What the fuck? I’m sick of the kids and being drunk.’” In 2005, he started a real-estate development company; soon after, he married clothing designer Sylvia Heisel.
10. SCOTT NILSSON, 49
Then: Busboy. A ballet student at NYU, he’d arrived at Penn Station for the first time to be greeted by a man in a wedding dress, on roller skates, wearing a tiara, and carrying a fairy wand. “He smiled and blessed me on the way by.” When Bitterman (Scott’s last name then) got a job busing tables at Studio a few months later, he became friends with Rollerina, who was a club regular, and, rumor had it, a stockbroker. Nilsson also met his future (ex) wife on the Studio dance floor.
Now: Small-Business Owner.After Studio was busted, he left the city altogether, moving to Atlanta with his wife to run a nonprofit Baptist ministry, and changed his last name. “By about 1984, it was very hard to stay in touch,” he says. “You would catch up for two minutes and then you’d find out about all the people who had died. I stopped calling.” He and his wife divorced in 1988. In 2001 he remarried, to a 29-year-old choreographer. Recently he had an epiphany: “I’ve got about 30 years left, and if I’m going to try something different, it’s got to be now.” So he left the nonprofit to buy into a photography business that specializes in shooting dancers.
11. MIESTORM, 47
Then: Entertainer. A teenage art student from a farm in the Hamptons, Miestorm, or “Lenny 54,” as everyone called him then, was originally hired as a busboy and a part-time bartender, but soon gave up on the concept of work. “I told Steve on opening night, ‘Look at these little shorts I’m wearing. Do you expect me to pick up glasses and sweep the floors? I’m not going to do that. I’m going to entertain your guests.’” Rubell thought that was a great idea and gave him a quaalude, his first. Later that night, he says, he snorted coke with Andy Warhol, Divine, and Halston. He still got a regular paycheck.
Now: Aspiring Photographer. “Quaaludes, coke, shots of whiskey became my drugs of choice,” he says of the post–Studio 54 years, “and then maybe once in a while I’d pop a black beauty, a hit of blue-blotter acid, sometimes pink, sometimes yellow, sometimes magic mushrooms.” He lived in Brazil, Paris, Rome, Sicily, and California—where he spent two years working as a porn actor. During those years he had several “wake-up calls,” once literally waking up in a room full of naked people and finding that he couldn’t remember how he got there. Eventually, he decided “that I needed to get it together and not be high.”