First-Ever Celebrity Wrangler Joanne Horowitz Reveals PR Secrets, Economics of Studio 54's Star-Studded Nights
The talent manager remembers luring Bianca, Cher, Liza, a young Kevin Spacey and more to the notorious NYC club when it opened 35 years ago. Superstars were worth $250 each back in the day.
I had just come to New York and had a job as a secretary at Universal. I went on a date with a guy named Neil Schlesinger to this club in Queens called the Enchanted Garden owned by his bosses Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, who were getting ready to open Studio 54 in New York. I told them, "I get Celebrity Bulletin -- if you send me a bunch of invitations, I'll send them out." In those days, they listed where the celebrities were staying.
For opening night, April 26, 1977, Cher, Henry Winkler, JFK Jr., and Warren Beatty came by just from my sending notes with invites to their hotels. The next morning Cher was on the front page of the New York Post and 54 was the place to be.
Shortly after, I went to work for Studio 54 booking most of the private movie premieres including Eyes of Laura Mars, The Turning Point, New York, New York, Superman and The Wiz, with Michael Jackson. We became friends and whenever he was in town, he would come to the club with me. I got paid for each celebrity I booked, on a sliding scale from $30 to $250. A superstar was worth $250. Ian and I always argued about what they were worth. If they got the cover of the Post or Daily News, I made an additional $250. If they appeared in Time or Newsweek, another $250.
I bartered with a limo company that if I referred celebs, I'd have free access to their limos. Most nights around midnight, the limo would pick me up to take me to 54 in my $1,200 Maud Frizon lizard shoes. I guess you could say it was the dawn of reporting celebrity sightings and a whole school of journalism. The Post and News had never put celebs on their front pages before. Truman Capote, Liza Minnelli, Bianca Jagger, Halston and Andy Warhol all became part of Steve's inner circle.
One night I met a young actor, Kevin Spacey, at a restaurant called Cafe Central (I overheard him doing his Johnny Carson impersonation) and we became fast friends. I started to invite him to a lot of my events.
After Studio, I moved on to become vp of publicity at United Artists Pictures doing PR for Alec Baldwin, Chris Reeve and briefly Robert Downey Jr. Then, one day Kevin asked me to be his manager, and here I am today. I guess you could say Studio 54 is pretty much responsible for my career. -- as told to Merle Ginsberg