Today's 54




Las Vegas gives new meaning
to a legendary name.

When John Travolta held a film release party at Las Vegas’ Studio 54, club director Michael Milner unearthed some dirt from the actor’s disco past. Travolta mentioned that he hadn’t been an avid clubgoer back when the original 54 was open in New York.
“I said, ‘John, I have something I want to show you,’” laughs Milner, “and I showed him a picture of himself inside Studio 54, with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in another, just to prove that he really did go out. He looked at me and said, ‘Well I guess I did.’” Travolta’s wife Kelly Preston saw the picture and liked it so much that she had Milner send a copy to her home.
But when the “new” 54 first opened its doors on Christmas Day 1997, it never claimed to be like the original. In fact, a wall of snapshots showing celebrities who once mingled in the original Studio 54 is the only reminiscent feature that links the iconic 70’s club to the present Las Vegas spot. The new 54 is modern and resort-style, with only hints of the exclusivity that defined the original. Think of it as an adult clubber’s Hard Rock, with Steve and Ian’s Bacchanal as the theme.

Are We In Or Out?

There are two types of clubs in Vegas: Those that are independently owned, and those that are inside those mammoth hotels. And for 54, being located inside the legendary MGM Grand, has certainly helped. Milner cites the hotel’s 5,005 tourist-filled rooms as an obvious benefit, in addition to the ease of a big budget and shared resources. Studio 54 is able to utilize MGM’s services to launch their ad campaigns every year, which consist of radio, billboards, television, and trade magazines. “If we want a billboard in an airport we can get one,” says Milner. “Most independent clubs cannot afford that.” The hotel also provides a security staff: “There are consistencies in security in the hotel that we bring into the nightclub to make it a safer environment, which I believe is very important today,” he says. To top it off, the MGM Grand also put up the money to buy the Studio 54 name.

Mohair and VIPs

Vegas’ 54 is a 22,000-square-foot club with two floors that house four bars (two upstairs, two down), one glass dancefloor (14,400 square feet), two raised dance platforms, and two movable go-go cages. There’s also a “party-crashers” lounge area, which has its own bar and seats 100. This room is fully decorated with mohair and leather furniture (without any of the grime of Tunnel New York’s fuzzy walls).
And then there’s the VIP lounge, an exclusive area that’s quieter and offers views of the entire club. That night’s VIPs are treated to more upscale service, while “people peer in and wonder how they can get into that room,” says Milner. Seating around 65, it’s meant for the high-end clientele and casino VIPs.
While the club does not resemble the original in anyway architecturally, it does have its flair for drama. This 54 is not just for lounging: It’s a full-scale production, including aerial acts, bungee jumpers, and dancers that swing from the club’s 46-foot ceiling. Equipment from Martin Professional, High End Systems, and Turbosound provide the audio and visual elements.

DJ Booths
4 - Technics 1200 turntables
2 - Pioneer CDJ-1000 CD players
1 - Rane MP 2016 rotary mixer
1 - Rane XP 2016 external processor
1 - Pioneer CMX-3000 Twin CD player
1 - Pioneer DJM 600 mixer


18 -Turbosound THL-2H speakers
12 - Crest Audio 7001 amplifier
9 - BSS FCS960 Dual Mode Graphic Equalizer
8 - Turbosound Impact 120 speakers
7- Crest Audio 6001 amplifier
6 - Impact 110 speakers
6 - Impact 50 speakers
6 - Turbosound THL-828 speakers
5 - BSS Dual Time Corrector
5 - Crest Audio 8001 amplifier
5 - Turbosound TSW-721speakers
4 - Turbosound THL-2 speakers
4 - Crest Audio 7301 amplifier
2 - Crest Audio 9001 amplifier
1 - EAW MX 200i close coupled electronic processor
1 - Intelix Zone Control
1 - XTA Electronics Audiocore DSP SIDD

30 - ArcTrace sticks
24 - Martin Roboscan 518 scanners
12 - High End DataFlash strobes
10 - Martin Roboscan 1220 scanners
8 - Martin MiniMAC Profile moving heads
6 - High End Systems Trackspots
4 - High End Systems Cyberlights
2 - Martin Centerpieces
1 - ETC Expression 3 console
1 - 100s Leko and PAR can
1 - Martin Case Pro II console

Garden Variety, Main Attraction

Steve Ecks, Studio’s tech guy, says that the Martin and High End Systems lights and Turbosound speakers were already in the Grand’s possession when he came upon them, and he had no objection to their use. With these tools, his nightly goal is to create a high energy, clear-sounding party area, and to keep guests entertained at all times.
Ecks describes the light rig, which includes big-time Martin Roboscans, plus Trackspots and Cyberlights from High End, as “your garden variety intelligent lighting set-up. Most of the lights, including the Roboscans and some conventional lighting, are concentrated on the middle of the dancefloor to make that the high energy spot of the club. We program to make sure the lights are always going with the music and staying with the mood of the songs.”
But apart from the dancefloor focus, lighting also helps set the mood elsewhere in the club. “There are super high-energy areas and there are some quiet places,” said Ecks. “There are some places where a guest can feel like they’re right in the spotlight, in the very center of attraction, like they’re part of the show. And there are dark corners where people can hang out and watch what’s going on.”
Sonically, 54’s Crest-driven Turbosound speaker system is never at full power: “We’re going for a high energy, clean crisp sound, and our system has way more power than we’d ever need, which is nice. That’s a luxury that very few clubs have.”
The club also has two DJ setups, one built in behind the bar, and a mobile one, which has been everywhere from the dancefloor to upstairs to suspended from the rafters - a unique piece that offers versatility and a creative edge. Booth booths house Technics turntables, Pioneer CDJ 1000 CD players, and Rane mixers.

A Tour of Decades

Milner describes 54 as “a tour through different eras,” which functions as a three-part journey with three distinctly different crowds each night.
“The first two hours of music lean toward the disco era, and as the night goes on the music progresses to the hard house of today,” says Milner. “The earlier, tourist-y crowd leaves around 12:30 am, while the next crowd fills the club at about 1:30 am. Another crowd after that, which I call ‘another subculture’ comes in around 2:30 in the morning and they stay with us until 5:30.”
Studio’s resident DJ and program director Frankie Anobile came up with this musical crowd rotation. He starts the night with hits like Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop Till You Get Enough,” and Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover,” to set the disco mood of the original club. He continues the night’s program with newer pop hits including artists like Jennifer Lopez and Nelly, but “steering clear of the bubblegum,” he says. Anobile concludes the night with progressive European house music. He stresses the importance of mixing sounds together, and not forgetting disco - an important part of Studio 54’s history.
“I think it’s great to start the night with the evolution, starting from the beginning, which is disco,” says Anobile. “To leave that portion of dance music out would be silly, because Studio 54 got its name and fame from the disco era.”
Because of that name, clubgoers anticipate hearing those songs they know,
Anobile continues. “Because I’m DJ-ing in the most famous name in nightclub history, people have an expectation to hear
certain songs.
I give them something old, something
new, something they love and something they haven’t heard before but end up liking anyway. Spinning is fun anywhere, but I think the energy level is increased by ten at Studio 54 by the crowd and crew.”

Eden on Earth: A Tuesday Celebration

Studio’s biggest coup isn’t the three-part club night or the airport advertisements: It’s putting together a wildly successful Tuesday night after-hours party. Tuesday? Every Tuesday night at Studio 54 is Erotically Delicious Entertainment Night (EDEN). It’s a performance of The Bible’s Adam and Eve story, leaf pasties and all, in the Garden of Eden. The award-winning act draws in a crowd of about 2,700 people. “The night is popular because it’s well received by the whole town,” says Anobile. “The actual club industry supports it totally. Managers, DJs, and doormen from other clubs come and they all support us, whichis great.” Ecks said that Anobile’s music also helps keep the energy levels up at EDEN, and the club itself. “The whole club evolves as you get later and later into the night. The feel of the spirit of Studio 54 is there, and as the music gets more progressive the people get a little bit crazier.”

Making It’s Own Mark

Whether it be traveling through a musical time machine, or taking a carpet ride to Eden to witness the beginning of mankind, today’s Studio 54 is as on-the-cusp and theatrical as the original. But this 54 offers its own experience, a night to remember without looming, aged nostalgia. So for those who want to reminisce about the notorious, hot disco celebrity hangout, go ahead and rent Mark Christopher’s 54, but if you want to make your own memories, this club is the place to be.


Copyright 2002 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2002 TESTA Communications