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How ‘Rikers’ Became an Iconic Part of Studio 54

Part of Studio 54’s rich history includes someone who has never set foot in the club as a guest.

The homeless man, who hung out and sometimes hailed taxis for guests, was a “nice guy”, said a former worker.

“We would send him on errands” and give him advice, said Chuck Garelick, chief security officer at Studio. “He was always…drinking Budweiser tallboys.”

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

In winter, he disappeared for weeks at a time.

“And we were going, ‘Where have you been?’ And he was like, ‘Rikers, I needed to warm up.’ He would break a window or do something where he knew he was 30 days old,” Garelick, 64, said.

This earned him the nickname “Rikers”.

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

“This guy was wearing the Western shirt, the big silver belt buckle, the cowboy hat, and he was with a blonde with big hair,” he said. The cowboy tried to bribe his way inside, to no avail.

But he came back 20 minutes later, asking for the “valet”.

The man was nicknamed “Rikers” because of his trips to the notorious New York prison.
Dan Brinzac/New York Post

“A guy came before, I gave him my key and he parked my Caddy,” he said.

But the club had no valet service.

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

“Who passed out in the front seat with a can of beer in their hands? Rikers.