Dhen Mark Fleischman died Wednesday came as no surprise. The American, who ran the Studio 54 nightclub in New York in the 1980s, had announced weeks ago that he would bid farewell to the world on July 13 by assisted suicide. For six years, Fleischman told the New York Post, every day was torture. “I can’t walk anymore, my speech sucks, I can’t take care of myself anymore,” said the 82-year-old.
His wife Mimi had to help him get dressed, tie his shoes and get into bed. The doctors had never been able to determine what illness he was suffering from. Fleischman himself blamed his ailments on his lifestyle during his years running Studio 54. “I liked being high. That’s why I took drugs and drank. It can break you,” he said.
For years, Studio 54 in Midtown Manhattan was seen as a playground for America’s rich, beautiful and famous. Visitors later recalled spontaneous singing performances by Diana Ross, nights out with Andy Warhol and Michael Jackson, and Elizabeth Taylor’s 1978 birthday party—with gardenias, buttercream cake, and a horde of naked dancers with joints at the corners of their mouths.
On holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas, Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, who founded the club in 1977, would surprise their guests with cocaine-filled goody bags, extending the orgies on the infamous “Balcony” into the wee hours. “New York was very, very relaxed back then. Things happened in town that you can hardly imagine anymore,” author and regular Steven Gaines summarized the party excesses.
Fleischman’s era began when Rubell and Schrager went to prison for tax evasion in 1980. As the owner, he partied with celebrities like Liza Minnelli, Cher and Calvin Klein at Studio 54 before getting a chauffeur to club Crisco Disco around 4am. “That’s when I picked up women, all the women there were easy to get,” Fleischman wrote in his 2017 memoir Inside Studio 54: The Real Story of Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll. In 1986 the wild years were over. The trained hotelier and former soldier sold the club and moved to California, where he lived with his wife Mimi in the coastal town of Marina Del Rey near Los Angeles.
From there he started his last journey last week. Fleischman flew to Zurich with his wife Mimi to end his life there on Wednesday. Since assisted suicide is forbidden in California, he contacted the Swiss euthanasia association Dignitas two years ago. His wife initially tried to talk him out of assisted suicide, but eventually respected his desire to walk independently. “I’m calm about death,” Fleischman said three weeks ago. He didn’t want to make any secret of the decision to use assisted suicide. “I’m not ashamed of it,” he said in his most recent interview with the New York Post. “But there will be no farewell party.”