Over the course of my tenure owning Studio 54, I had a wide range of interesting and sometimes wild people who worked for me. One of them was Hilary Clark, my very popular night time assistant who was with me from ’82 to ’84. Everyone liked her, particularly the men, two of whom were Ian Schrager and Tony Curtis. In the latest excerpt from my upcoming memoir, “The Studio 54 Effect“, you’ll read how Tony and Ian vied for her affections — and put me in the middle of it. (The picture below is of Hilary and Tony.)
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Hilary Clark, a luscious teenager from England, eventually became one of my key nighttime assistants. Just after I hired her, she introduced me to her tweedy, straight-laced father, who asked me in his distinctive English accent for assurance that I keep an eye on her. Though I didn’t know exactly what he meant by that, I promised him she would not be harmed. What used to happen is I’d be with Hilary at the big square bar manned by the chiseled bartenders, situated under the balcony adjacent to the dance floor. It was really a scene – usually three or four people deep. I’d have Hilary helping me give out free drinks as we entertained people, going from group to group, partying with everyone, squirting club soda out of the soda guns, sometimes doing lines on the bar, popping champagne bottles, or just lining up a bunch of shots and down them with the folks. We’d grab people, and squeeze them, Hilary doing it to guys and girls, me to girls… we created a scene together. It didn’t sound like work, but it was – and it was easier having her with me in case I needed her for something.
Anyway, Ian who was always a ladies man, had nothing to do as he wasn’t running things anymore. Apparently he had no place else to go as Studio was his life at the time. Of course, he really knew his way around the club. So he’d take the passageway under the dance floor, come up the back steps and open the service door at the back of the bar, he would yell to me in his raspy voice with his thick Brooklyn accent, “Hey Mark! Mark! Can I see ya for a minute?”
I would always tell him, “Okay Ian, what do you need?”
Sometimes, he’d have something important to say – for example, telling me there was an issue that he spotted that needed taking care of, or that there was something wrong at the club. But more often than not he would say, “Can you do me a favor? Can you let Hilary off early?”
I tried to accommodate him because I felt we were friends – we’d developed a relationship from jail to the club’s opening. He was like a buddy. So as soon as I could let her off, I did. She seemed like a naive, very cute young girl with blonde ringlets, who used to tell me with a big smile, “I really like Ian!”
Then, sometime a year or so later, Tony Curtis developed a crush on Hilary. The Tony Curtis of those days didn’t look like Tony Curtis from 10 years earlier. Although Tony was a very attractive, charismatic man, at the time he was drawn, pale white, sometimes slurred his words thanks to his constant drinking, was usually stoned because he did a lot of coke, always dressed in black… his lifestyle really got the best of him. I don’t know what got into me to allow it, but Tony really begged me to let him take her to the Manilla Film Festival. He said, “I promise nothing will happen, I’ll take care of her. She’ll be safe – we’ll be with the Marcoses (Imelda and her husband Ferdinand, The President of the Philippines).”
At the time I thought to myself that he was a guest of honor and wanted to look good with Hilary on his arm. So I let her go.