By Amy Phillips Penn

Studio 54 is like soooooooooo busted.

It’s 1978. Do you know where your cocaine and the I.R.S. are?

I am sitting at my desk, with a Jack Russell on my lap, two German shepherds pawing to go out, and our bosses’ kids home from prep school, when I hear their parents practically shove two V.I.P. Daily News columnists out the door.

They were having a nice relaxed breakfast, when… when what?

No PR pisses this team off, not even the bear of the publicity world, Ed Gifford.

Something “big” happened that Michael and Ed didn’t want them to know… yet.

Studio 54, the world legendary disco roped in with wannabes and celebrities who could pass go, was brimming with feds: you know the really pissed-off ones who probably couldn’t get past those snotty twisted red ropes.

No way to treat the press, you say.

But, then again, you might not have known the Giffords.

Michael (a keenly talented woman) and her husband Edwin, or Ed to those who knew him well enough to stand back for his volcanic moods, were the team that publicized New York’s plum-issimo of the era, Studio 54.

They were no strangers to stardom and taking their clients to the top of the top: Hair, Godspell, like that.

Read your contract: “Melodrama” is in bold, with no escape clause.

Today was the Mama of Melodrama.

The feds muscle into the disco that’s shocked out of its narcotic sleep.

The tough guys are armed with guns and search warrants.

“No way to treat a lady.”

One of Studio’s owners is said to be arrested for cocaine possession.

Quick, hide the Quaaludes!

Leaving no clue untouched, the feds saw off the wood on the tables.

”Who knows what evil lurks in the sawdust?”

Meantime, Michael Gifford is on her way out the door with her teenage daughter to go Christmas shopping.

By now, we, the staff, have been informed that Studio 54 is deep in disco kaka and may be no more, so why the “h” is Michael taking Tierney Christmas shopping?

But never underestimate a Gifford.

Michael has seen it all. She’s been on the road with the cast of Hair when they were busted for weed (“when in Mexico”) and bailed them out and waved adios to pesos.

That was a good day.

Meanwhile, the phones are screeching at apoplectic levels. We were commanded to either ignore them or act as if we know nada.

Ed Gifford takes George (not his real name, or is it?) aside and makes him recite a nursery rhyme:

“Hey diddle, the cat in the fiddle, the dish ran with the spoon,”

“If anyone asks you why that big bright moon hooks up with a spoon at Studio, and the crowds go bat sh*t, recite this. It’s a nursery rhyme, get it?”

George is nauseated.

Word on the disco floor is that George supplements his “impossible to live on” PR salary, by sniffing out extra transactions at 54.

“Po no mo,” is now “Gucci gone.”

The afternoon quiets down. The phones are eerily silent.

Michael returns from Christmas shopping.

She is cheerfully showing off her Bloomingdale’s purchases then causally mentions, “Oh, and we stopped by 54.”

Not one word more.

When the afternoon New York papers blared the headlines, we waited for the phones to go ballistic again. Strangely, they didn’t.

And then, one rang slowly and calculatedly.

I looked at George and he rolled his eyes.

We picked it up together. Two bitchy gossips from another PR firm were smirking and drooling.

We knew nothing.

That night, the entire office was summoned to work at Studio 54. We had no idea what to expect.

I stood within the inner ropes and waited. It was still early for 54.

Then, one by one, they came. The beautiful, the damned, the damned beautiful, the celebrities, the fashionistas, the drag queens, and the loyal.

Gloria Gaynor’s voice loudly embraced “I will Survive,” the moon slurped up the spoon, and George smiled.

The next day, the columnists who were 86’d at breakfast wrote about the big brouhaha.

“On her way to Christmas shopping with her fourteen year old daughter, a mother stopped in at Studio 54.”

No mention of who the woman was, why she was there, only the illusion of innocence and a well played game beyond checkmate.

In memory of Michael and Ed Gifford


Featured image courtesy of Keenan Evans

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