How Rikers became an iconic part of Studio 54

The eventful history of Studio 54 also includes someone who never entered the club as a guest.

The homeless man, who used to hang out outside and sometimes flag down taxis for guests, was a “nice guy,” said a former worker.

“We would send him on errands” and give him tips, said Chuck Garelick, the studio’s head of security. “He always drank… Budweiser Tallboys.”

“New Yorkers could tell he was a street guy. Tourists probably not,’ Garelick said.

In the winter he disappeared for weeks.

“And we would say, ‘Where have you been?’ And he would say, ‘Rikers, I had to warm up.’ He would smash a window or do something that he knew would get 30 days,” said Garelick, 64.

This earned him the nickname “Rikers”.

One night in the summer of 1977, a Texan showed up at the front door.

“This guy was wearing the western shirt, the big silver belt buckle, the cowboy hat, and he was dating a big-haired blonde,” he said. The cowboy tried in vain to bribe his way inside.

But he came back 20 minutes later and asked for the “servant”.

Studio 54 reopens in New York City.  September 15, 1981.
The man was dubbed the “Rikers” for his trips to the notorious NYC prison.
Dan Brinzac/NY Post

“Before that, a guy came by, I gave him my key and he parked my caddy,” he said.

But the club didn’t have valet parking.

When Garelick found out who was behind the ruse, he ran to the nearby parking garage and found the Texan’s red Cadillac Eldorado convertible.

“Who passed out in the passenger seat with a can of beer in hand? Riker.” How Rikers became an iconic part of Studio 54


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