Do you regret anything Studio 54 introduced to clubland?
No, but you know, I hate the idea of the velvet rope. Steve and I invented that. And I’m surprised, quite frankly, that in 30 years no one’s come up with something better. This may come as a shock to you, but when we did it, we thought it was an incredibly democratic process. It had to do with exercising the same discretion people exercise when they invite people into their home. It really wasn’t elitist. It was just a couple of guys from Brooklyn rolling up the rug and saying, “Let’s have a party!” It was like a lightning bolt, and it almost destroyed us.
Then why does your latest venture, the Gramercy Park Hotel, have a velvet rope and a newly opened private roof garden no one I know can get into?
We didn’t want to do that, but if you do something special, you just get overrun with people and you can lose your idea.
What was that idea?
It’s about redefining luxury, because there’s so much money and everyone has access to it, and about how this age of celebrity has turned into a Frankenstein, and about how the Internet has made everything instantly known, so there is no more underground. Gramercy is about trying to keep a lid on it.
Would you ever do another nightclub?
No. I don’t have anything new to offer. I do hotels because I have things to say. Gramercy Park Hotel was the most difficult project I had ever done. I’d never worked with a painter [Julian Schnabel] before, an artist who wasn’t used to having his work edited. I was so exhausted, I thought that was it: No more hotels. But now I’ve recovered.
Are there any nightclubs that you like?
No. They’re all derivatives and permutations of what we’ve done. When you used to be out at night in New York, there was an energy in the air. And I don’t feel it anymore.
Do you miss Steve Rubell a lot?
I’ll never get over that. I’ll never have that kind of friend again. We didn’t even have a partnership agreement.
Is there anything about your Studio days you don’t want your kids to know about?
Well, you know, I had to deal with telling my kids I got in trouble. I had to sit down and say to them, “You know, I made a very big mistake, and I got intoxicated with success and I paid for it,” because I was afraid they might read about it on the Web. It was very difficult for me. I’ve been doing things for 30 years, but when I die and there is an obituary, they’re going to talk about Studio 54. And I guess there is nothing I can do about that.