Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Sex. Drugs. Fame. Fabric.

Six inches of glitter dusted the floor.

Pink disco balls sparkled from the ceiling.

On the crowded dance floor, a gorgeous blonde supermodel gyrated against a rock star. In a dark corner, sitting on a velvet couch, a famous pop artist discussed politics with a flamboyantly gay journalist. A sultry brunette movie star sat next to them, sipping a neon orange cocktail and staring into space, stoned out of her mind.

This was the glitzy, drug-induced, money-soaked, rock-and-roll masturbation fantasy of the 1970s Studio 54 scene in New York City.

This was the world of Halston.

I recently watched a very interesting documentary called Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston.

It chronicles the career of the world's first superstar designer, focusing on the height of his fame during the 1970s.

Halston was born in Iowa and started his career in Chicago, designing hats. His world changed forever when Hollywood and Camelot took an interest in his work. His pillbox hats were made legendary by the brand new First Lady Jackie Kennedy and his haute couture hats were worn by Audrey Hepburn in Breakfast at Tiffany's.

His career escalated into a billion-dollar empire. By the 1970s, there wasn't a supermodel, movie star, or princess who wasn't draped in his long, flowing dresses.

Halston was jaw-droppingly wealthy, blindingly handsome, and fabulously eccentric. In his giant modern New York City apartment, he threw elaborate dinner parties attended by his closest friends, such as Andy Warhol, Bianca and Mick Jagger, Elizabeth Taylor, and Michael Jackson. Most of the time, things got inappropriately out of control, with clothes flying off and people waking up the next morning in questionable locations.

His best friend was the dazzling superstar Liza Minnelli.

Together, his jet-setting group of glamorous, beautiful friends stormed the New York City night club scene. Studio 54 became their home away from home. While hundreds of attractive, shivering people stood in line for hours outside in the freezing winter nights, desperate to be chosen for admittance, Halston and his friends laughed and danced and basked in their fabulousness inside the protected paradise.

They were the most famous people in the world. And they knew it.

I don't want to give away too much, because I think it is really important, especially if you are a fashion blogger, to view this documentary.

Let's just say Halston's contributions to the fashion world were astounding.

You can see the influence of his work in fashion today. His style has never left us.

Halston ran his empire like a homosexual Hugh Hefner. He never went anywhere without his entourage of stunningly gorgeous models. They were like his family. He not only chose all of their outfits, but made them change five times a day, usually in matching or complimentary dresses. With his movie-star good looks and his bevy of long-legged beauties trailing behind him like puppies, Halston always made an unforgettable entrance.

Of course, Halston had no romantic interest in his sexy models. They were merely his background dolls.

He loved men. But not just any men. He craved intellectual, wild, and exotic men. Bad boys.

He was so, so gay.

Unfortunately, a risky business move (ironically, something that would have probably saved his career today) finished him professionally during the 1980s.

Depressed and sick, he uncharacteristically withdrew from his social circle later that same decade. His desire to be fabulous simply vanished.

He died in 1990.

What do you think of Halston?


Nicki Fanning said...

What a great post, so informative, I've always loved his look, so 70's and beautiful. You're images are fab very inspiring.
Hope you're having a great weekend.

nicki fannings blogspot

Tanvi said...

What a life. It would have been interesting to attend one of his parties. I am definitely going to watch that documentary and get back to you! (:

∞ © ∞

Krista said...

Thanks for your sweet comments on my blog! Made my day :) I have never heard of Halston but I am not so up on famous designers, I will totally check him out as I'm loving what I see. I recently discovered Zandra Rhodes who makes my heart melt with her use of color.

Alex said...

I need to see that documentary. ASAP. This is SO interesting.

David Macaulay said...

you have to take your hat off to this guy - who I am not really familiar with - sounds glam. It's funny but if you think about all the people you post about it's like they suddenly decline or something bad happens to them. Or they wake up one day and there are in their 40s and have no energy to be cool any more (eeeek)

Bunny Moreno said...

He was fabulous! I wonder what he would have thought of the wonderful world of the internet...humm? Great post hun! xox

Couture Carrie said...

Amazing story and pics.
Love the Hugh Hefner comparison!


Miss Caitlin S. said...

I don't know much about it but I loved these images!

Sherin said...

Wow, what an interesting story. I need to find this documentary. Your posts have inspired me to learn more about the famous people of yesterday, and I have got a few relevant books recently.

The Dainty Dolls House said...

So interesting and sad. I think he would have been even more famous now for the way he was. I quite like what the ladies are wearing :) I'd like to the documentary :) x

A Brit Greek said...

Such an incredible legend, think I would have fit into the world of glitter and disco balls and maybe a little Halston without the cray cray and depression though.


A Brit Greek said...

Such an incredible legend, think I would have fit into the world of glitter and disco balls and maybe a little Halston without the cray cray and depression though.


Cafe Fashionista said...

As someone who loves the Halston line, I am so excited to have read this. What an incredible backstory! :D

Josie said...

Such a sad ending for such a talented man. His pieces were just so stunning.
xo Josie


What an icon! I remember doing a paper on him for class. He was always one my favourite designers. Great post Jen!

Kim (A Very Sweet Blog) said...

I often wondered what happened to him. He was a HUGE name in the fashion industry. I definitely want to see that documentary Jenn! Excellent post about him. In the first paragraph, when you were describing everything Studio 54 definitely came into my mind. HAHAHAHA

Katherine / Of Corgis and Cocktails said...

i have always liked a lot of his designs but knew nothing about him so this was an interesting post.

Amy K said...

I absolutely LOVE your blog... I just wanted you to know. Miss Liza Minnelli is great!

Much Love

Ashley Aspinwall said...

I love that movie!

xo SideSmile,

SideSmile Style

Anonymous said...

I'd give everything to get a hat like Audrey Hepburn's.


I personally love Halston gowns. My favorite was the purple double frill layer that Sarah Jessica Parker wore in Sex and the City. Curious to know what business move he made that ended his empire? I thought Halston was still in business.

Nonetheless, I don't find him devastatingly handsome :P


Miss Laia said...

I never heard about Halston before although I knew his work, so sad to see how some artists and designers end up like that such after a successful career.
The gowns are awesome and Holly (Audrey) was fabulous on that hat.
Xx have a wonderful weekend Jenny

Movies on my Mind said...

Halston sounds like one of those decadent ‘70s characters straight out of a Jackie Collins novel. I always identified with the New York CBGB setting than Studio 54 scene of that era, but as I wasn’t alive (or American enough) to participate in either, I guess I’ll never know.

I just read your piece on Meena Kumari. Her last movie, PAKEEZAH, is one of my dad’s favourites. It’s a seriously good film and ought to be digitally restored and entered into a film preservation achieve. It’s like one of the greatest romantic tragedies ever created, up there with the stories of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, at least that’s what I think. You should try and watch it. In fact, I wonder if your dad is familiar with it.

Also, thanks for appreciating my thoughts on PURANA MANDIR. Medeia Sharif, the YA author and blogger, says there’s a copy of the film on Youtube, which there is with captioned English subtitles. You can watch it, but I can’t guarantee you’ll love it on the many complex levels I do.

You enquired about my e-mail address? I’m far too scared to give it out publically and have my secret identity left in ruins. The stiff upper-lipped Brit in me adores this level of retentive anonymity, though, I totally understand that it’s at odds with the current way of doing things. After reading about what happened to Amber Mouthwash recently, I’m even more hyper-protective.

Kelly Ann said...

Great post!

Sparkles and Shoes

Oh to Be a Muse said...

I like Halston, and I like him even more now after this post. I will have to see about watching that movie. Had no idea he was from Iowa.

Emily said...

Wow, I never knew. I knew he was a fabulous hat designer (love Jackie and Audrey), such a sad tragic story!

starla said...

So strange to see you writing about a tragic fabulous man instead of a woman. But great post of course!

Movies on my Mind said...

Hey Jennifer- thank you for that super nice comment you left on my blog. My dad read it and I think it piqued his interest in some of the stuff I’ve been doing online, though, Western pop music and Indian horror movies aren’t really his thing.

America is a country that fascinates me in every way, but I do prefer to observe it from a distance. I know it’s not a place I can actually live in because it feels at odds with many of the things I hold dear, but I’ve always loved my trashy visits to Vegas and Manhattan. I think that when my father chose to come to Britain to study in the ‘60s it may have had a lot to do with avoiding the risk of being drafted into Vietnam, so in an amazing quirk of history, I was born British. It’s a good fit for me and my siblings as we all grew up with the tremendous comfort and opportunities this country affords its people.

I think you and I have strong similarities in that we share a heritage that harks back to the subcontinent, but both of us are very much products of the respective countries we were born and brought up in. We’re kind of like the middle children of history, geography and culture, striving to make sense of how we fit into the larger scheme of things. I also think we’re of the same generation (late twenties/ early thirties) which is further common ground. I’m sure that if you lived locally you’d be a really cool person to hang with, but, alas, you don’t.

Anyhow, thanks for understanding my reservations about publically issuing an e-mail address. I realise this isn’t the best way to have a conversation. In fact, perhaps it would’ve been better to have this exchange privately because it feels too personal for it to be on your public comment page.

Audrey Allure said...

My college had a screening of that documentary -- it was so interesting! We also got to meet the director and model Pat Cleveland that knew Halston personally. It was so sad how he lost that passion but his designs remain so inspiring.

Midwest Muse said...

I love all of these pretty outfits. Such an interesting decade.

Elisse said...

I admire you gift of story-telling. In fact, I look forward to these biographical posts :)