Mark Fleischman, owner of Studio 54, dies at the age of 82 by assisted suicide
Mr. Fleischman announced his plans to die by suicide in an interview published in the New York Post last month. He had an unspecified degenerative condition that made it impossible for him to walk or dress himself. He said he attempted suicide two years ago with an overdose of Xanax but was resuscitated in a hospital.
Because there are limits to assisted suicide in California, where Mr. Fleischman lived, he and his wife Mimi founded a Swiss organization, Dignitas, which, after careful evaluation, helps terminally ill people who want to end their lives.
“You want to be sure that I’m making the decision for myself,” Mr. Fleischman told the New York Post. “After reading my material, they asked me a few questions to make sure I was serious. I had to make a notarized affidavit that I wanted to die. I had to see a psychiatrist and he confirmed that I am sane.”
“There’s no shame in what I do,” he added. “For my age, that’s reasonable and appropriate. I’ve done everything and been everywhere and met everyone I want to meet.”
Earlier in his career, Mr. Fleischman owned and managed hotels in New York, Florida, Virginia and the Virgin Islands. He was in his late 30s when he joined the party scene at Studio 54, which opened in Manhattan in 1977 and became a premier celebrity hangout.
The nightclub became notorious for its decadence, sexual encounters, and overt use of drugs, particularly cocaine and quaaludes. The nightclub’s co-founders, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, became almost as famous as the rock stars, actors and models who frolicked and danced the night away at Studio 54. Clients have included Elton John, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Liza Minnelli, Elizabeth Taylor, Freddie Mercury, Rod Stewart, John Travolta, Andy Warhol and Saturday Night Live cast members.
“The key to a good party is to fill a room with guests who are more interesting than you,” Rubell once said.
Rooms were reserved for group sex and other encounters, and nude trapeze artists and motorcyclists added to the ambience. The club’s excessive spirit was embodied in an episode starring Bianca Jagger, then married to Rolling Stones singer Mick Jagger. She spent years denying that she once rode a horse in Studio 54. In fact, Rubell knew of her love of horses and had one when she and Mick arrived at the club on her birthday in 1977.
“It was a beautiful white horse that reminded me of mine,” she wrote in a 2015 letter to the Financial Times explaining the incident, “and I made the foolish decision to mount it for a few minutes.” … No doubt you will agree that it is one thing … to spontaneously mount a horse in a nightclub, but it is quite another thing to ride one.”
In February 1980, the first incarnation of Studio 54 ended after Rubell and Schrager were convicted of siphoning money from the club and evading more than $700,000 in taxes. Both went to prison.
Mr Fleischman, through attorney Roy Cohn, who had been a key ally of young Donald Trump, arranged a prison meeting with the two owners. Mr. Fleischman eventually bought Studio 54 in a deal in which he sold an aging hotel to Rubell and Schrager.
Studio 54 reopened in 1981 with Mr. Fleischman as the new impresario.
“I was the ringleader for almost four years and got intoxicated by the scene,” he wrote in his 2017 memoir Inside Studio 54. “Each night, celebrities and stunning women made their way through the crowd to sip champagne and share cocaine with my golden straw or rolled up hundred dollar bills.”
One employee’s job was to even cut up to 40 lines of cocaine at once. To avoid the crowds, Michael Jackson went to the DJ booth and danced alone. At 5 a.m., Mr. Fleischman hailed a cab to take Robin Williams, Christopher Reeve and other members of the Dawn Patrol to after-hours clubs for more parties.
Mr. Fleischman said he took Valium to get to sleep and then took cocaine to get rid of the lightheadedness when he woke up in the afternoon.
In 1984, friends organized an intervention and helped Mr. Fleischman seek treatment at the Betty Ford Center in California and later at a facility in Mexico. He sold Studio 54, which closed permanently in 1986.
Meanwhile, Rubell and Schrager found new successes with the opening of exclusive “boutique” hotels. (Rubell died in 1989.)
When he visited Rubell in prison to arrange the purchase of Studio 54, Fleischman recalled to the New York Daily News in 2017 that Rubell said, “The pressure of having to entertain people every day and night really got to me annoy. I’m glad this is over.” I didn’t know what he meant. But after 3½ years of owning Studio 54, I felt the same way.”
Mark H. Fleischman was born on February 1, 1940 in New York City and grew up in the Long Island community of Great Neck. His father owned hotels and his mother was a housewife.
He was 10 when his parents took him to New York’s Copacabana nightclub, “and it forever colored my world,” he wrote in his memoir.
Mr. Fleischman graduated from Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration in 1962 and then served in the Navy for two years, where he ran an officers’ club. He was in his 20s when – with a loan from his father – he bought his first hotel in Forest Hills, Queens, near the US Open tennis stadium. He later owned other hotels, restaurants and ski resorts.
After Studio 54, Mr. Fleischman opened Tatou, a New York City music club and restaurant, and then opened branches in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Tokyo and Aspen, Colorado. From the 1990s to around 2007 he ran the Century Club, with hip hop music, near Los Angeles.
“We’ll always have stars, we’ll always have friends with stars,” Mr. Fleischman told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in 2001. “I know how to take care of them. That’s how you keep a club hot and fresh.”
In later years, he ran a chain of gyms with his second wife.
His marriage to Laurie Lister ended in divorce. Survivors include his wife since 1994, formerly Mimi Leonard of Marina del Rey, California; a daughter from a first marriage; and two stepchildren.
In 2016, Mr. Fleischman said he noticed his left leg dragging while walking and his condition steadily worsened. He said his father had the same condition and could no longer use his legs.
“Doctors originally thought he had some form of Parkinson’s disease,” Mimi Fleischman told the New York Post. “But that’s not it. Nobody knows what he has.”
Mr Fleischman said his wife would be by his side in Switzerland when he drank a solution that would put him to sleep and then lead to his death.
“At 82 I decided why keep it a secret?” he said last month. “I lived on my own terms. I’m not afraid of anything. Not even death. I look forward to it. I don’t believe in the afterlife. But I want to know what happens when I die. I’m curious.”
https://www.washingtonpost.com/obituaries/2022/07/13/studio-54-mark-fleischman-suicide-dies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=wp_lifestyle Mark Fleischman, owner of Studio 54, dies at the age of 82 by assisted suicide