Disco revisited: Kingsford grad auctions Studio 54 collection


Staff Writer

IRON MOUNTAIN – An Iron Mountain-Kingsford area native recently got a chance to relive the disco era when his Palm Beach, Fla. auction house won the right to sell a collection of Studio 54 memorabilia.

Wade Terwilliger, a 1979 Kingsford High School graduate, co-owns Palm Beach Modern Auctions with auctioneer Rico Baca.

Last month, the two auctioned off $332,500 worth of items from the estate of the late Steve Rubell. Rubell was the co-owner of Studio 54, the famous New York City nightclub that opened in 1977 and helped foster the growth of disco.

“Disco was a big thing back in 1979 when I graduated, even in the Iron Mountain area it was big,” said Terwilliger. “This collection represented such a great era.”

Items in the auction included a metal sculpture with a stenciled dollar bill motif that was given to Rubell by Studio 54 regular Andy Warhol, a Studio 54 front door reservation book, black and white photographs of celebrities such as Truman Capote and Diana Ross at Studio 54, and Polaroid photographs of Rubell with stars like Tina Turner, Cher, and Rod Stewart.

At a final price of $52,800, the Warhol sculpture was the auction’s biggest seller. Individual photos fetched as much as $12,000 each.

The auction attracted more than 400 potential bidders in person and hundreds more online. Normally, Palm Beach Modern Auctions events bring in about 100 people.

“It really was a great event,” said Terwilliger.

After earning a degree in marketing and economics, Terwilliger owned an engineering company in Florida with his brother. However, his passion was elsewhere.

“I started collecting 20th century furniture and art,” he said. “Then, I was able to turn it into a business.”

About 10 years ago, Terwilliger and Baca opened a gallery that shows 20th century furniture. They started Palm Beach Modern Auctions several years later.

“It (the auction house) was a natural extension of the gallery,” Terwilliger explained.

Terwilliger is the son of Rex and Janet Terwilliger of Iron Mountain and Phyllis Boyle of lower Michigan.

Nikki Younk’s e-mail address is nyounk@ironmountaindailynews.com.