Animals were life at the party at NYC’s legendary Studio 54

Studio 54 could be a real zoo.

Although many were turned away at the door of the late, great New York icon – which opened 45 years ago on April 26, 1977 – many animals managed to get inside.

“The live leopard was my favorite – a couple brought him on a leash,” recalled Gerard Renny, who landed a gig as a security officer at Studio 54 when he was just 18. “They said I could pet him and had to keep guests away.”

“I guess I was his bouncer bodyguard that night,” said Renny, 63, an Upper East Sider who’s now an operations manager at the70’s themed bar Ethyl’s.

One night, a line – another guest’s plus line – also snaked its way through the bar.

“I was called into the main bar because someone said there was a boa constrictor there,” said Chuck Garelick, who started as the studio’s head of security in 1977, when he was 19. “Turns out it wasn’t … but it was a very large, very long line that someone had put in their bag.”

However, some animals were admitted by order of club owners Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager.

“There was one Halloween where the front lobby was decorated as a pleasure house and it had a maze on the floor that was covered in plexiglass and there must have been a few hundred white mice,” said Garelick, 64, who is now alive in Union Square and is a security guard.

“It was all black light, so they put a strip of UV paint on it [on the mice]. After we cleaned that up, they stayed in this place for a long time. We had white mice running around for months,” he said.

New York City was the capital of the'70s disco scene, home to dance clubs like Studio 54, Mudd Club and Bonds.
The legendary Studio 54 opened on April 26, 1977.

Things got a bit fishy on Valentine’s Day 1979 when management installed metal fish ponds in the lobby.

That night, a fire at another Manhattan club sparked surprise FDNY inspections. They ordered the club to get rid of the goldfish-filled ponds.

“So a bucket brigade was formed with all sorts of staff, security guards and auxiliaries — wearing short shorts, sneakers, no shirts and angel wings at the time,” Garelick recalled.

“We poured [the ponds] straight onto 54th Street without thinking about the goldfish,” he said. “It was very cold that night and when we left that morning there were frozen goldfish all over the curb.”

The club closed in 1980 after the founders were convicted of tax evasion and operated under new ownership from 1981 to 1986. Ex-studio employees – who call themselves the “Class of 54” – gather at Ethyl’s on April 24 for an anniversary and reunion. Some recalled bringing their own pets past the velvet ropes.

Dolly Parton with a horse during an after party at Studio 54 in May 1978.
Dolly Parton with a horse during an after party at Studio 54 in May 1978.
Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

“If you worked in the studio during the day, you could bring your dog to work,” said Myra Scheer, who was in her 20s when she worked as an executive assistant at Rubell and Schrager.

There were a trio of canines – Scheer’s English sheepdog Mateus; Friend, a setter who was with Neil Wilson on the tech crew; and Pepe, a chow owned by Shay Knuth, the studio’s private party booker — who was given a free hand.

Scheer, 71, who now hosts “The Marc and Myra Show” on Sirius’ Studio 54 Radio, said, “The most glamorous, exclusive place in New York City had three normal dogs roaming the dance floor at night.” Animals were life at the party at NYC’s legendary Studio 54


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