Micanopy man's Studio 54 nights to premiere at Sundance

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Glenn Albin lives a life today that's the polar opposite of the one he lived just years ago — especially 40 years ago.

Albin, 59, lives a quiet life in small-town Micanopy on the outskirts of Gainesville, running his small, mid-century modern collectibles business, selling art, furniture and a mix of everything.

Stepping out of his Subaru Outback into the brisk, 40-degree air Thursday, Ablin nearly tripped on his snow boots’ untied shoelaces, hustling to open Micanopy Modern's door for visitors.

“I’m just a regular guy,” Albin said.

But years ago, the “regular” Albin, then a 19-year old film student at New York University, found himself inside Studio 54, the legendarily exclusive Manhattan nightclub, known for its celebrities, disco music, wild nights and white powdery substances. Between Eighth Avenue and Broadway, it would become the lasting symbol of both excess and fun in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“I went to Studio 54 as a regular,” the 59-year-old said. “I don’t know how it happened.”

As a regular, word got back to Studio 54 management that Albin wanted to direct a film about the famed disco for his junior year film project, focused on how hard it was to get into the club and the electric atmosphere inside. Management approached him and for three weeks, he gained complete access to the outside, inside, basement and scaffolding. He directed a 15-minute film about the club, while his partner and classmate Susan Shapiro shot the film. It took many years for them to complete, Albin said.

That 16mm footage, which outlasted other footage taken at the time by news crews, turned out to be a gold mine for Altimeter Films, a Los Angeles-based studio that was looking to film a new documentary about the famous nightclub. Representatives approached Albin and Shapiro around six months ago.

Six months later, Albin and Shapiro have been paid for their footage and received an invitation to watch Altimeter’s “Studio 54” at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah on Sunday. The documentary is directed by Vanity Fair writer Matt Trynauer and produced by Corey Reeser.

"(The invitation) was a condition of the contract," Albin said, half joking, half proud of their bargaining.

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Albin was born and raised in Miami by parents who told him he could do anything he worked for, he said, which is the explanation he gives those who ask how he got into the club frequented by A-list celebrities from artist Andy Warhol to rock 'n' roll star Mick Jagger and his former wife, Bianca Jagger.

“How did I get in? I was just a face in the crowd and I got called out by Steve Rubell or Mark Benecke, whoever was the doorman at the time,” Albin said. “You get called and you have one second to appear at the door and if you’re not chosen at that second, you may as well go home … It was probably the hardest club to get into and no matter who you were, there were no guarantees.”

Once guests were inside, Albin said, the scene quickly changed from chaos to excitement.

“You were in a mob scene outside and you walked through this dark corridor that was very, very dark,” he said. "Then you were in this room and the energy and the feeling of getting in there was at least half of it.”

Albin acknowledged there was drug use in the club but said that was true in most clubs in those times.

“I don’t think that there was anything unique about drugs in Studio 54 versus like Miami in the Coconut Grove hotel or any other place, including Paris or London,” Albin said. “Drugs were part of the scene at the time in a pre-AIDS era and we all saw how that ended up — not so great.

“So it did have its payback, but at the time, it was a pure escape.”

After producing the film, Albin worked in New York for Andy Warhol TV, a show that aired on Manhattan cable.

He got the job using connections he'd made while hoping to get Warhol to be in his student film.

Albin’s first job at the television show was transcribing video, before he moved to Interview, a magazine co-founded by Warhol.

Albin started as a copy editor Warhol’s third “Factory,” which is what he called his studios. He eventually worked his way up to managing editor of Interview before it sold after Warhol's 1987 death.

While at Interview, Albin interviewed Madonna.

“She was initially concerned about why Andy Warhol wasn’t doing the interview,” Albin joked, describing her as flirtatious and bratty.

After Interview, Albin went on to create Miami’s version of Interview, Ocean Drive Magazine, where he served as editor-in-chief. Ocean Drive was the first of many magazines produced by Albin and many partnership groups, like “Vegas,” an upscale magazine for designed Las Vegas, Nevada and “Trump Magazine,” a magazine that was offered to guests in the lobby of Donald Trump's hotels and other properties.

Albin said when he retired from the magazine business, he moved to Micanopy, after he drove through the town while looking for somewhere to change into a nicer shirt on the way to a Philip Glass concert. He said he fell in love.

“When you hear too much noise, you want to hear silence,” he said. “I describe (Micanopy) as a place of nice intellectuals and you find all kinds of great people. It’s a good, mixed group of people.”

Few people in Micanopy know Albin’s story about Studio 54 and no one really asks, he said.

But it's something he’ll never forget, he said, though his memory of it is in snippets.

“It was so much about unexpected things happening,” he said. “And you can never go back and create something that’s magic. Magic just kind of like happens.”

Albin said Saturday, the night before the new documentary’s premiere in Utah, there's a party for guests with a start time at 11:30 p.m.

He said he wasn’t given a list of celebrities that will be attending but anticipation of the party has started to creep in.

“I just hope I’m on that list,” Albin joked.

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