Cocaine hidden in the walls, more than half a million dollars stuffed in hidden trash bags, and a “secret” set of accounting books listing celebrity clients’ favorite drugs were just a few of the scandalous items the FBI found when they busted New York hotspot Studio 54 in 1978. Owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager enjoyed a three-year reign as the kings of New York nightlife during disco’s heyday, attracting high-profile regulars like Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, Liza Minelli, Calvin Klein, and Halston. But the duo’s flashy lifestyle and boasts (“only the Mafia does better”) helped sink their ship — temporarily.
After spending 13 months in prison for tax evasion, neither Ian nor Steve could get a checking account, a driver’s license or a credit card. Still, in 1984, the duo talked financiers into helping them open Morgans, a boutique hotel. The pair turned the hotel into a chain worth $200 million before Steve died of hepatitis in 1989. (Rumors swirled that it was AIDS that got him.) For Ian, who has since opened hotels in New York, London, Los Angeles, Miami and San Francisco, the party hasn’t stopped.