Tim Lawrence is Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of East London and the author of
Lighting the Fuse
Studio 54 owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager went to jail in early 1980 for tax evasion. Because they also lost their liquor license, they agreed for black promoter and onetime Loft regular Mike Stone to start to stage Saturday-night parties at their venue because of his experience in organizing parties where alcohol wasn’t served. Stone accordingly became the first promoter to usher a predominantly black and Latin crowd into a venue once renowned for its celebrity crowd. The transformation indicated how the denizens of high disco were exploring more integrated ways of partying. Migrating to New York from all over the country, artists and musicians contributed to the democratic renaissance. But as Mayor Koch sought to revive the city’s finances by attracting corporations back to the recently bankrupt city, property prices began to rise and gentrification entered the lexicon. Republican candidate Ronald Reagan won the presidential election in November.