The date is May 1, 1974, and a new club opened in the city of West Hollywood at 652 N La Peer Drive, called Studio One. The establishment opened 49 years ago as one of the biggest of its kind with four bars, a dinner theater, a jewelry concession, and a game room, making it Los Angeles County’s premier gay nightclub and disco.
Back to Stonewall reports that in the 1979 edition of the Bob Damron guidebook, during the height of the disco years, Studio One was characterized by its young crowd and entertainment, which included cabaret performances. It was called a “top super bar” and the club’s owner, Scott Forbes, was dubbed ‘Disco King’ by the Los Angeles Times in a 1976 feature.
Forbes told the LA Times in 1976, that Studio One was planned, designed and conceived for gay people, gay male people. Forbes also fixated on the issue of “the Door,” (much like Steve Rubell and Studio 54 in NYC) which he thought was the demise of many discos, unwelcome patrons gaining entry. This is apparently what made Studio One what it was: a sort of gay male haven.
The LA Times also ran a story on Studio One’s controversies when the club catered almost exclusively to upper-class, white gay men in 1976, accusing the establishment of discrimination.
The legendary disco is the subject of a documentary called Studio One Forever about West Hollywood’s historical Studio One gay disco and its sister music venue The Backlot, from 1974-1993. The doc covers the rise of the disco craze and the gay civil rights movement, to the tragic days of the AIDS crisis that rocked the community.
Directed by Marc Saltarelli the documentary pays tribute to a generation of gay men who came of age during the era of Scott Forbes’ Studio One, the significance of the club and the turbulence of the times hold a profound place in their hearts and minds. From 1974-1993, the club saw the rise of the gay rights movement, the rise and fall of disco and the darkest days of the AIDS crisis when the club became ground zero for AIDS activism. Climbing the staircase and entering the hallowed hall gave its young LGBTQ patrons a sense of freedom and acceptance during a time of rampant homophobia and police harassment. Young gay men would find a sense of community and safety here.
Connected to the dance club, The Backlot evolved into the hottest live music venue in town. On any given night, you could catch established stars like Liza Minnelli, Chita Rivera or Eartha Kitt alongside up and comers like Roseanne Barr or Rosie O’Donnell on the verge of taking off.
Studio One would become AXIS and then The Factory in later incarnations. The building was demolished in 2020 to make way for Faring’s Robertson Lane project hotel structure, which continues to be an empty lot with weeds growing out of control.
Do you have photos you’d care to share with us? If so, we’d love to see them and share them with our readers. Email them to [email protected]
To help with the completion of the Studio One Forever Documentary, visit: https://www.gofundme.com/f/studiooneforever.
Donors may remain anonymous or may choose to donate on behalf of someone they may have lost along the way.
To learn about films Fiscal Sponsor, The Film Collaborative, visit: https://www.thefilmcollaborative.org/fiscalsponsorship/projects/studioone.