Few people have equaled Ian Schrager's impact on American commercial design and popular culture. But what a long, strange trip it has been for the 61-year-old hotelier.
Thirty years ago, with his best friend and fellow Brooklynite Steve Rubell, Schrager launched Studio 54. The legendary disco was for a brief, shining moment the epicenter of celebrity, hedonism, and status anxiety that epitomized what Tom Wolfe famously branded "The Me Decade." After a small detour--13 months in prison for tax evasion--Schrager and Rubell rose from the ashes to start another famed nightclub, Palladium, before finding their true calling, the hospitality business. In the early 1980s, they renovated a down-at-the-heels hotel on Madison Avenue according to their quirkily chic design sensibility and dubbed it Morgans. Thus was born the Morgans Hotel Group, which still claims such Schrageresque landmarks--noted for their theatrically stylized lobbies, dimly lit corridors, elegantly compact rooms, and aggressively cool staff--as the Royalton in New York, the Mondrian in Los Angeles, and the Delano in Miami. Schrager still keenly feels the absence of his closest friend and confidante, Rubell, who died of AIDS in 1989.
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