A meteoric rise in the fashion industry made American designer Halston a household name in the 1970s, as he revolutionized women’s fashion from head to toe.
But his fall from grace, partly from pride, partly from bad business decisions, was even faster. In the mid-1980s, he had nothing.
In Halston, the Netflix series which premiered Friday, Ewan McGregor stars as the famous designer who came from a middle-class family in Indiana but has become a staple on wild nights at Studio 54 in New York City with d ‘other famous people.
These people lived big and lived larger-than-life lives, director and executive producer Daniel Minahan told The Daily News of Halston & People, which included Liza Minnelli, Andy Warhol and jewelry designer Elsa Peretti.
To tell the story, you had to express the incredible genius of this character so when you take it off, you really feel it.
Halston isn’t always sympathetic and is subject to bouts of rage and cruelty fueled by drugs and failure, especially as he sees his world begin to fall apart. He avoids his friends when they become too well known to him or when they ask for too much. He lashes out at those who try to help. He rejects the idea that anyone can do what they can.
But at the same time, you understand his anger and his frustration. You watch a man lose everything.
It is the story of an artist who creates an entire fabric himself and then stripped that away from him, Minahan said. It is about the human spirit and the soul of an artist.
At the end of the five-episode limited series, Halstons soul is shattered by the ups and downs of capitalism. But the path to his AIDS-related death in 1997, at just 50, is one of opulence and decline.
They were truly soul mates, Krysta Rodriguez, who plays Minnelli, told The News. They stuck to each other through thick and thin.
Unlike Peretti, Halston couldn’t take credit for Minnellis’ fame. Instead, the two flew off together. But Halston also focuses on the quieter moments of their friendship, home dinners and harsh but well-meaning conferences in the back of limousines.
His relationship with Perettis was more unstable.
It’s a love story without the physicality. It’s a friendship. It’s a mentorship, Rebecca Dayan, who plays the model and designer of Tiffanys who died earlier this year, told The News. He was probably one of the great loves of her life as he understood her (like) very few men (did) and gave her that impetus to be creative, to be who she wanted to be.
Their collaborations were legendary, but so were their fights, including an infamous one in which she threw a fur coat into the fire in her townhouse.
Eventually, because of everything that happened, they grew to the point that it was too difficult to have them both in the same space, Dayan told The News. They had to take their separate routes.
And then there’s David Mahoney, the CEO of Norton Simon, Inc., who lost the Halstons company in a poorly planned business move. Mahoney, who funded the creator as he rose, could easily be blamed for his collapse as well.
It was while talking to (Minahan) and then finally (executive producer Ryan Murphy) that I realized Mahoney wasn’t just the villain of the story, said Bill Pullman, who plays the man from stoic business, to The News. He really had a great feeling that he wanted to manage someone who had the creativity Halston had so he could do what he did best. It was his job to let the people involved do the best job they could.
Mahoney, for a minute, stood atop the mountain with Halston as the pair expanded the fashion empire to JCPenney, making Halston designs accessible to everyone. But it was also Mahoney at the helm when Norton Simon was taken over by Esmark in 1983. A year later, Halston was fired, paid for the next five years for not working.
It was a Hail Mary pass, Pullman said of the sale. They were sinking and he wanted to do something daring.
Halston the Man and Halston the Mark were so inexorably linked that the latter’s downfall also destroyed the former. The Creator collapsed when his empire collapsed and, internally, when his body began to collapse, ravaged by AIDS. Two years after his diagnosis, he passed away.
But for several decades, in the New York spotlight, Halston burned more than anyone.
We explore these moments of the difference between genius and mania and what you sacrifice for your art. Is it still art if no one can see it? Rodriguez said.
These were people who were broken and had to use their art to survive.
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