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When the City Truly Never Slept

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Billy Idol (right) and “me best friend” at the opening of Limelight on W. 20th St. in 1983. | Photo by Judi Jupiter

It was a time of sex, drugs, and disco.

Early this month, a firecracker storyteller amused a decidedly jaw-dropped crowd with an X-rated exposition about 33 of her photos — black and white and color — that capture the spirit of that bygone era. Judi Jupiter took most of her shots, now on display at a hair salon cum gallery on Eighth Ave., at Studio 54, but she also found celebs to photograph on the streets, in Broadway theaters, at private parties, and in international venues.

Judi Jupiter at the opening of “When ‘Paparazzi’ Was Not a Dirty Word: Celebrities in the 70’s” at MIDOMA Gallery. | Photo by Tequila Minsky

A long pristine wall at MIDOMA Gallery beautifully sets off these time-captures photographed by Jupiter when paparazzi was not a dirty word, which happens to be the name of the exhibit.

Usually dressed in risqué, themed outfits and traveling with her photo and business partner, Meryl Meisler — the duo self-styled as Neurotic Erotica — Jupiter was one of the first women in-house photographers at the iconic Studio 54. Costumed up like a performance artist was part of the night’s adventure.

Mid-wall in the MIDOMA exhibit, there is a photo of Meatloaf with a hot Judi Jupiter in a rubber dress.

James Brown at Studio 54. | Photo by Judi Jupiter

Sent by the PR firm Gifford/ Wallace, the photographer swept past the velvet ropes, a permanent name on the guest list.

“Once the bouncers knew me, entrée was unlimited,” she gloated as she revealed, “These photos have never been seen.”

Jupiter came to New York in 1974 from Detroit to be a buyer at Macy’s. That gig didn’t last very long — she boasts of great social skills but also concedes issues with authority. She met Meisler on a Grey Rabbit bus to New Orleans in 1977 and just a few months later the two began their nightlife forays. It was May of 1977 — a month after Studio opened — when the two began clubbing, mostly hanging out, dancing, and having fun — “our main reason to be there!” Meisler said. Jupiter carried a discreet spy Minox camera or a Leica CL.

A triple exposure photo of Calvin Klein, Janice Dickinson, Halston, and Steve Rubell is the first in the show.

“My Minox had a mind of its own, and I ended up with a lot of triple exposures that were really liked,” Jupiter beamed.

Judi Jupiter with Meatloaf. | Photo courtesy of Judi Jupiter

The entirety of Jupiter’s blue tales can’t quite be repeated in print, but she was prodded to point out her favorite pictures.

“I love the photo of Billy Idol shot at the opening of Limelight,” she swooned. “He’s so sexy, cool, provocative, and nice, really nice.

Winking, she added, “Years later he hit on me.”

On another occasion, “at a private party, Andy Warhol and I were at the entrance when Joni Mitchell entered. Photographing as if I was on a runway, with a very resistant, screaming Joni Mitchell, I created a really big scene.”

The Stallone picture?

“On West Broadway, Stallone flew up his hands, growling with that heavy Brooklyn/ Joisey accent, ‘Stop that!’”

Sylvester Stallone captured unawares and unhappy on West Broadway. | Photo by Judi Jupiter

On the other hand, Dianne Brill cooperatively planted a big red kiss on Peter Allen for her camera.

“I captured Karen Black in her Broadway dressing room, and Sandy Dennis exiting the theater,” Jupiter said.

With her Minox, she photographed Kiss backstage at Studio 54.

Also, on the wall are Fran Lebowitz, Bianca Jagger, Tony Danza, Debbie Harry, Cher, Keith Haring, Madonna, Tina Turner, Andy Warhol, and Keith Richards among others. There is a very young Paul Shaffer.

“We dated for two years,” Jupiter said.

Jupiter’s monologue on that early December evening was riveting.

“Of course, I remember it like it was yesterday,” she said, as she dropped names of other clubs she frequented — Heartbreak, Hurrah, Xenon, the Underground, and the Mudd Club.

Keith Richards and wife Patti Hansen. | Photo by Judi Jupiter

From scribbled notes on napkins and pieces of paper in the period from 1977 to 1981, Jupiter has also compiled a memoir of her exploits in topless, bottomless go-go bars. “Queen of the B Girls” has 200 photos in 120 pages, and is soon to be published and marketed online for $3.99.

“There will be two versions — PG, simple erotica, and the XX gay-friendly version — use your imagination,” she elaborated. “I’m looking for fame rather than money now.” (She’s not averse to the money following the fame, though.)

Obviously, MIDOMA, located between W. 37th and 38th Sts., is no ordinary Eighth Ave. hair salon. Its owner, Syracuse native Marianna Ranieri-Schwarzer, is a compelling raconteur in her own right.

As she introduced Jupiter’s show and photo talk that first night, she told of her father’s response to her opening a salon: “You want to open a barber shop?” And she did, which she runs with her husband, Michael Schwarzer.

A strong supporter of the arts, Ranieri-Schwarzer has been curating and sponsoring exhibits for 17 years. The salon, formerly on the Upper East Side, now has a seventh floor location on the West Side. Ranieri-Schwarzer handpicks local designer pieces for the MIDOMA Boutique that the salon also houses.

MIDOMA Gallery owner Marianna Ranieri-Schwarzer. | Photo by Tequila Minsky

Jupiter’s club-going pal Meisler exhibited at MIDOMA last December in an exhibit she dubbed “Disco 1.0.” Ranieri-Schwarzer bought a disco ball and fog machine for the occasion. Also documenting the club scene from a generation ago, Meisler showed photos from her two books, “A Tale of Two Cities: Disco Era Bushwick” and “Purgatory & Paradise: Sassy 70s Suburbia & the City.”

Debbie Harry. | Photo by Judi Jupiter

After the very adult discourse on how each image came to be during the opening of Judi Jupiter’s “When ‘Paparazzi’ Was Not a Dirty Word: Celebrities in the 70’s,” the assembled pack migrated to the back of the MIDOMA space. Under a spinning disco ball and percolating colored lights, all danced for hours to DJ Reckless’ classic ‘70s picks while fog poured into the sweaty crowd.

And about that time in New York. Though Studio 54’s opening was soon followed by the summer of the blackout and Son of Sam, those years were, in many ways, a simpler time than today. A keyhole into some corners of that era is richly celebrated by Jupiter, who, cameras-in-hand, scoured the famed clubs of the day.

Tina Turner. | Photo by Judi Jupiter

Christopher Reeve. | Photo by Judi Jupiter

“When ‘Paparazzi’ Was Not a Dirty Word: Celebrities in the 70’s” runs through Jan. 5 at MIDOMA (545 Eighth Ave., btw. W. 37th & 38th Sts., suite 750). Visit midoma.com/gallery for details.

Updated 5:17 pm, July 20, 2018
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