In 1980, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager – Studio 54’s creators – were serving time in federal prison for tax evasion, and Studio 54 had been shut down by the government. I found myself in the precarious position of negotiating to buy the club while the two were incarcerated, which meant I often had to visit the two of them in jail as we were working out the details – an experience that wasn’t always the most comfortable of situations.
As a result, I had a need to blow off some steam after one such visit – and that led me to New Orleans, where I had the kind of debaucherous adventure that usually only happens in sex-soaked beach reads. I wouldn’t have believed the experience myself, had I not lived it. But read on, and you’ll get a little window into my world in the early 80s – wild, adventurous, and on the verge of owning the most notorious venue in night club history.
Carmen, Steve, and Ian and began plans for a lavish Studio 54 reopening thinking that it would take place within a few months. That was well before we realized that my application for the liquor license would be stonewalled for over a year by both the State Liquor Authority (SLA) and the New York Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC). That spring, there were also some issues to be ironed out with the sale, but by that time Steve and Ian had been transferred to the Federal Prison at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama.
In Spring 1980, I flew to Montgomery, Alabama via New Orleans to make sure the deal was on track, bringing Steve and Ian’s longtime secretary Honey Aldrich with me. The Federal Penitentiary System, permitted visitors to see one prisoner per visit and without Honey, I would have been forced to have two separate visits, which made no sense. The facility reminded me of the Naval base in Newport, Rhode Island where I’d gone to Officer’s Candidate School. It was a minimum-security prison with small buildings surrounded by well-manicured lawns and trees, and didn’t seem all that unpleasant But Steve and Ian were two Jewish guys from New York and hated it, particularly the food. I brought them corned beef sandwiches from the Carnegie Deli in Manhattan, which they gobbled up and they seemed very happy to see me. I had begun to think of them as close friends.
During that visit, Steve seemed anxious but he told me about prison life, “It was very uncomfortable in the beginning, but I’m getting used to it now.” He also bragged, “I talk to Calvin, Halston, and Claudia all the time.” As editor of The New York Post’s Page Six section, Claudia Cohen helped to put Studio 54 on the map. I guess this was Steve’s way of assuring me that everyone was still his friend and I could count on them returning to Studio when I got my license to open. Ian was also encouraging and more upbeat than when he was in the Manhattan prison. From what I remember, many of the other prisoners were crooked Southern politicians who got caught with their hands in the cookie jar. Steve and Ian had each other for moral support and they managed to get decent work detail, mostly gardening jobs. I recall Ian saying that Steve was like the mayor of the prison, everyone loved him and they got great treatment because of it.
Originally, the purpose of my trip was not intended to be about fun, but I made the most of it with some extra curricular activities. After sending Honey back to New York, I decided to spend a few days in New Orleans, which was and is one of the most charming and happening cities in the world with food and music to delight your soul. On my first night, I began the evening in The Garden District at the award-winning Commander’s Palace, a New Orleans landmark dating back to the 1880’s, and then later that evening I was introduced to Aaron Neville as “The new owner of Studio 54” at a hot club across the river. They rolled out the red carpet for me and the evening lasted into the wee hours of the morning.
The weekend’s major highlight turned out to be an introduction to Camille, a nurse who I believed may have been a semi-professional girl in New Orleans, by a Louisiana girl who I was having sex with in New York. Camille was most definitely my type. Although she wore outdated-matronly glasses, she was attractive, voluptuous and incredibly sexy. Camille was not alone – she brought a friend with her, Tara, who was slender and more reserved than Camille. I sensed that Tara would be along for the ride – wherever that ride took us.
Speaking of hot rides, my driver for that trip, a very foxy lady with her very own white classic Cadillac limo for hire, had all been arranged by another friend of mine from New York. So, there I was in sensuous New Orleans with two hot dates and a hot driver for the night – which sounds like a lead-in to a porn flick. It was a harbinger of things to come as the owner of Studio 54.
I met up with Camille and Tara that evening which was to be my last night in New Orleans. I chose Antoine’s for dinner, as it was the oldest – dating back to 1840 – and most elegant and prestigious restaurant in New Orleans. It has entertained several U.S. Presidents and a visiting Pope John Paul II in its now 175-year history. I was determined to impress these new friends with my choice in fine dining, but from the moment the three of us sat down, Camille’s hands were all over me, teasing me under the table. By that time, I was ready to forego dinner and head straight to the hotel room.
Back at my hotel, although the three of us were already high, I opened my in-room bar and suggested more drinks and a little weed and coke to keep us going. Camille and Tara happily agreed, and soon we were all doing lines and passing around a joint.
No encouragement was needed to lead me to the bed. Camille then tore off her clothes and got on top of me, and I couldn’t have been more excited. Tara began to warm up – as I had hoped. Camille had talked Tara out of her clothes too as she cuddled up to us in bed. Camille and I were going at it hot and heavy but I didn’t want to leave Tara out of the action so I started licking her until everyone had incredibly explosive orgasms. That was day one. It got wilder.