Once upon a vanished time, in those boogie nights of yore when cocaine was queen, the nightlife of New York City shuddered under the heavy beat of an estimated 1,500 discos bursting with sweaty, protozoic dancing and mating. Pre-eminent among those clubs—supreme in its heyday, wreathed in lore and legend ever since—was Studio 54. “Studio,” as habitués called it, has become synonymous with the disco era, its parabolic rise and fall.

Opening in 1977, Studio 54, the brainchild of Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, immediately established itself as the Circus Maximus of disco extravagance, the galactic mother ship. “When you walk into the lobby,” wrote pop-music maven Albert Goldman in Disco (1978), “you’re overwhelmed by a Brucknerian symphony of high camp. Towering mirrored burgundy red walls, banana-leaf carpeting, sixteen-foot fig trees.” Once in the main hall, you found yourself agog and agape inside a hangar-size industrial cathedral of light and sound, immersed in a “supersonic vapor bath.”