Halston’s glittering party posse! Designer’s inner circle is brought to life in glamorous Netflix series – from BFF Liza Minnelli to ‘Queen of Studio 54’ Elsa Peretti and the ‘dial-a-d**k’ sex worker who became his boyfriend
- Netflix miniseries Halston charts the rise and fall of the influential US designer
- Stars Ewan McGregor in the title role – but also features his glam inner circle
- Rebecca Dayan plays Elsa Peretti and Krysta Rodriguez is BFF Liza Minnelli
- Gian Franco Rodriguez plays call-boy Victor Hugo who became his boyfriend
Glamorous new Netflix show Halston charts the dramatic rise and fall of the influential American fashion designer – and the gaggle of models, muses, friends and lovers who made up his inner circle.
At the height of his powers, the self-made ‘king of New York nightlife’ and Studio 54 regular held sway over a court of fawning celebrities, including Liza Minnelli, Anjelica Huston, Truman Capote, Margaux Hemingway, Calvin Klein and Andy Warhol.
He also travelled with a squad of models dubbed the ‘Halstonettes’ who would pour out of limos at the city’s biggest nightspots wearing Halston’s designs.
Socialite: Netflix show Halston charts the dramatic rise and fall of the influential American fashion designer – and the gaggle of models, muses, friends and lovers who made up his inner circle. Pictured, Halston (second from right) with Elsa Peretti (left) and Liza Minnelli, who are portrayed in Halston. Also pictured: Jack Haley Jr and Margaux Hemingway
The ‘Halstonettes’: Halston also travelled with a group of models who would pour out of limos at the city’s biggest nightspots wearing Halston’s designs, ensuring he made an entrance
Making an entrance: Ewan McGregor as Halston, centre, with Rodriguez as Minnelli
Members of this glittering posse are portrayed in Halston, alongside Ewan McGregor in the title role.
Among them is Italian-born model and Tiffany jewellery designer Elsa Peretti, played by Rebecca Dayan, who became Halston’s model and close friend.
Meanwhile film director Joel Schumacher (Rory Caulkin) of Batman Forever and Batman and Robin fame, is seen in his early days working alongside Halston in New York.
Also depicted is Halston’s on again-off again boyfriend, Victor Hugo (Gian Franco Rodriguez), whom he met through a ‘dial-a-d**k’ call-boy service.
Played by: Gian Franco Rodriguez
Toxic influence? Venezuelan sex worker Victor Hugo was Halston’s on-off boyfriend of over a decade and some friends blame him for the designer’s downfall. Pictured, with Elsa in 1977
Call-boy: The pair met in 1972 through a call-boy service Halston used following the breakdown of his relationship with Ed Austin. Pictured, Gian Franco Rodriguez as Hugo
Venezuelan sex worker Victor Hugo was Halston’s on-off boyfriend of over a decade.
The pair met in 1972 through a call-boy service Halston used following the breakdown of his relationship with menswear buyer Ed Austin.
Steven Gaines, author of biography Simply Halston, on which the Netflix show is based, recalls: ‘He would perhaps order them both a steak and a baked potato delivered up, then take them to bed and show them the door.
‘Joe Eula, the fashion illustrator and one of Halston’s closest confidants, took to calling this practice “dial-a-steak, dial-a-d**k,” which Halston thought was hysterically funny.
‘One night in 1972, the young man who showed up at Halston’s apartment from the call-boy service changed his life.’
The call-boy, then 24, told the designer his name was Victor Hugo, in reference to his manhood.
Over the next 10 years, Halston followed Hugo down a path of drug-fuelled destruction and funded his lavish tastes.
The couple became regulars at Studio 54 and hosted after-parties at Halston’s Upper East Side townhouse that reportedly featured ‘man-on-man orgies late into the night [that Andy] Warhol enjoyed photographing from the sidelines.’
Lavish lifestyle: Halston, left, and Victor Hugo at a gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York in 1980. The pair enjoyed hosting after-parties at Halston’s New York townhouse
As someone else put it: ‘Victor had the keys to the safe with the cocaine’.
The couple eventually stopped sleeping together but Halston struggled to make a clean break from Hugo.
Indeed he continue to fund his lifestyle after they broke up, paying for his housing. Despite this Hugo stole from Halston to feed his drug habit.
‘He stole some Warhols, but he also took the sterling silver Elsa Peretti candlesticks on the table,’ Gaines told Vanity Fair.
Halston, who died his AIDS-related cancer in 1990, moved to California in his final years and was finally able to distance himself from Hugo.
But his friends are still bitter about the destruction he brought into Halston’s life.
‘That Venezuelan call boy was his downfall,’ longtime friend André Leon Talley Talley told the New York Times. ‘He was a grifter who clung on like a parasite, like a barnacle on a ship.’
Hugo died in 1993.
Played by: Rebecca Dayan
In crowd: Halston with Elsa Peretti (left) in 1971. The pair were close friends but had a tempestuous relationship. Halston was one of the first designers to cast Italian-born Peretti
Model and muse: Rebecca Dayan as Peretti in Halston. Elsa became a firm fixture on the vibrant social scene and frequented Studio 54 where she rubbed shoulders with Halston
Jewellery designer Elsa Peretti, who died in March aged 80, was a friend, model and muse to Halston.
Daughter of a wealthy conservative businessman, Elsa was educated in Rome, studying interior design before taking up an internship as an architect in Milan.
However it wasn’t to last and she had stints as a language teacher and ski instructor in Switzerland before deciding to try her hand at modelling.
Cut off by her conservative parents who disagreed with a career in fashion, Elsa spent time in Paris and Barcelona, where she modelled for Salvador Dali, in her 20s.
She moved to Manhattan in 1968, where she initially struggled to find work as a model due to her distinctive appearance.
‘The perfect American model was blonde, looked 16 and was beautiful,’ she later recalled in an interview with the New York Times. ‘I was too strange, too Spanish, they said.’
Nonetheless, the striking Elsa became a firm fixture on the vibrant social scene and frequented Studio 54 where she rubbed shoulders with Halston and the rest of his set.
Close friends: Halston and Peretti embrace at a New York party in 1977. Right, Elsa in 1978
Striking: Dayan as Peretti in Halston. The model and designer became best known as a jewellery designer for Tiffany & Co
Some suggest Peretti, who never married and had no children, became hooked on the hard-partying lifestyle.
‘Thanks to her fondness for vodka and cocaine, Peretti barely made it out of disco-era Gotham alive,’ noted a 2014 Vanity Fair profile.
In his diaries, Warhol recalled a ‘huge fight’ in the basement of Studio 54 in 1978 in which Peretti ‘smashed glasses and everything’. He added: ‘It’s enough to make you want to stay home for the rest of your life.’
Despite their sometimes explosive relationship, Halston was one of the first to hire Peretti. Spotting her eye for jewellery design, he also styled his clothes with her pieces.
It was Halston who was responsible for introducing her to senior executives at Tiffany & Co. and helped her negotiate her first contract in 1974.
The relationship would last the rest of Peretti’s career, with the designer signing a new 20-year contract in 2012.
The exclusive partnership, which later expanded to include bowls, cutlery, and even a silver pizza cutter, was lucrative for Tiffany & Co. In some years Peretti’s creations accounted for 10 percent of the company’s global net sales.
Played by: Krysta Rodriguez
BFFs: Halston with Liza Minnelli in 1978. The pair met in the early 1970s and were ‘joined at the hip’, as Minnelli recalled, supporting each other both professionally and personally
Doe-eyed: Krysta Rodriguez as Minnelli in Halston. Halston treats the inseparable bond between the pair as the ‘love story’ that runs through the film
The most recognisable face in Halston’s entourage is his stylish BFF Liza Minnelli.
The pair met in the early 1970s and were ‘joined at the hip’, as Minnelli recalled, supporting each other both professionally and personally.
Halston treats the inseparable bond between the pair as the ‘love story’ that runs through the series.
‘When I met Halston, I just remember him talking and me listening…he’d say, “Alright, I got it”. ‘He put [a design] on you. And it danced with you.
‘His clothes danced with you. We were joined at the hip from then on,’ she said of her friend in 2019 documentary Halston.
The pair were by each other’s side during the Studio 54 glory years, although Minnelli has remained tight-lipped on any scandal that might have transpired.
‘It’s very hard to do an interview about your best friend, especially if what’s popular in that day and age is digging a little,’ Minnelli previously said.
By his side: Minnelli and Halston out in New York in 1974. The pair remained friends until his death and Minnelli continues to champion him and his brand decades later
‘I don’t like it. I hated it when they did it to my mother, or my father, or myself. And I won’t do it to Halston, I just won’t. I refuse.’
Halston created some of Minnelli’s most memorable ensembles of the 1970s, including the stunning yellow gown she wore to collect her Best Actress gong at the 1973 Academy Award.
He also designed her stage and film wardrobes.
Meanwhile Minnelli was more than happy to bring her signature showbiz glamour to Halston shows and continues to support his brand decades after his death.
The actress, who was 14 years Halston’s junior, saw the designer as ‘like a big brother’ or father figure.
Minnelli, now 75, remained close with Halston until his death in 1990.
Two years later she co-hosted a tribute to the designer who she remembered as ‘tender always, courageous always, challenging always’.
She continues to be a regular contributor to Halston documentaries and works to protect his legacy.
Before filming Halston, Ewan McGregor met with Minnelli, although he has kept the details of their encounter under wraps.
Played by: Kelly Bishop
An important character in Halston’s career was Eleanor Lambert, played in the Netflix series by Kelly Bishop
Kelly Bishop and Ewan McGregor are seen on the set of ‘Simply Halston’ as Eleanor Lambert and the influential American fashion designer
An important character in Halston’s career was Eleanor Lambert – a publicist hailed the ‘godmother of fashion’.
Born in 1903, Lambert is the founder of various iconic events including New York Fashion Week and the Council of Fashion Designers of America, of which she remained an honorary member until her death in 2003.
The fashion legend founded the Met Gala and the International Best Dressed List – which she left to four pals at Vanity Fair a few months before she died at the age of 100 in her Manhattan home.
The show depicts Lambert as she urges Halston to take part in what would later be known as the ‘Battle of Versailles’ – where the world’s social elite gathered for an international fashion show.
The 1973 extravaganza, held as a fundraiser for the restoration of the Palace of Versailles, made history when five top American designers faced off five of France’s fashion elite.
Lambert convinced Halston to join Stephen Burrows, Bill Blass, Oscar de la Renta and Anne Klein as they were pitted against Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, Marc Bohan and Hubert de Givenchy.
The spectacle even featured a closing number from Halston’s pal Liza Minnelli, fresh from her Oscar-win for Cabaret.
Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion critic Robin Givhan writes in his 2015 book, The Battle Of Versailles, that the American clothing was seen as a refreshingly ‘practical, accessible and simple’, while the French offering was seen as too overtly grandiose.
He added that Halston, as a recent millionaire, had began speaking about himself in the third person – at one point screaming ‘Halston is leaving’ while storming out of a dress rehearsal.
While her character only appears briefly in the series, Lambert is seen as a essential part of how Halston secured his place in the fashion hall of fame.
Lambert was born in Indiana and attended the John Herron School of Art before moving to Illinois to study fashion at the esteemed Art Institute of Chicago.
She then moved to New York in 1925 where she worked briefly for a Manhattan advertising agency before moving on to the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Lambert helped to launch the Museum of Modern Art and her career shifted towards fashion when she helped found the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1937.
But one of her most memorable achievements came in the 1940s when she launched New York Fashion Week – which she originally called ‘Fashion Press Week’.
Cementing America’s place in the fashion world, Lambert travelled all around the world under request of the US government to exhibit the best American designers had to offer.
She was married twice, to Wills Conner, in the 1920s, which ended in divorce and followed by Seymour Berkson in 1936, which ended with his death in 1959. Eleanor and Seymour had one son together, the renowned poet Bill Berkson.
Played by: Rory Culkin
Hollywood career: Joel Schumacher arm-in-arm with Candice Bregen in 1987
Joel Schumacher is portrayed by Rory Caulkin, of the Caulkin acting family, in Netflix’s Halston (above)
Film director Joel Schumacher, best known for Batman Forever, Batman and Robin and St. Elmo’s Fire, described Halston as ‘one of the most loving friends I’ve ever had’.
The pair met in the 1960s while Schumacher was studying at Parsons School of Design in New York and Halston was working as a milliner before he established himself as a womenswear designer.
‘I was on scholarship at Parsons in interior design and I ran into a friend on the beach and he asked me if I wanted to come over to meet his boyfriend who was sharing a house with Halston,’ Schumacher recalled in 2019.
‘I knew who he was – everybody knew who he was. And we were friends from then on.’
Schumacher worked with Halston as a junior designer in the early days of his brand. The first episode of Halston shows Schumacher (played by Rory Caulkin) being reprimanded for his drug use. This reflected real life, with Schumacher speaking openly over the years about how he started drinking aged nine and ‘doing drugs in his early teens’.
The pair parted company and Schumacher moved to Los Angeles in the early 1970s to pursue his dreams of a Hollywood career.
He built a name in costume design before moving on to directing, but he and Halston always remained in touch.
‘I was doing costumes for $200 a week and dreaming of being a director,’ Schumacher recalled in a 2000 interview. ‘Halston was enormously helpful.
‘My first movie was Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays. There were affluent people in it who needed expensive clothes.
‘Halston sent me samples and did that for three of the movies I did costumes on… he was a very generous person to his friends and very loyal… He was one of the most loving, kindest friends I’ve ever had.’
Schumacher found success with films including The Lost Boys and Falling Down.
His last directorial work before his death in 2020, aged 80, was two episodes of the TV drama House of Cards.
Played by: David Pittu
Celebrity insider: Barbra Streisand and Joe Eula at a Valentino party in New York in 1970
Fashion powerhouse: Illustrator and Halston creative director Joe Elua (pictured) played by David Pittu
Although not a household name, Joe Eula was an important figure on the international fashion scene and became creative director of Halston.
Eula, who died in 2004 aged 79, started his career as a fashion illustrator, producing live sketches of the latest looks from the catwalk.
Over the decades he worked for American Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and the New York Times, as well as working as house artist for, among others, Chanel, Givenchy, Versace and Karl Lagerfeld.
In around 1960, when Halston was still a milliner, it was Eula who introduced the designer to a nerdy shoe-sketcher by the name of Andy Warhol.
A decade later Eula joined his friend as his creative director.
Joe Eula was an important figure on the international fashion scene and became creative director of Halston. Pictured played by David Pittu left and right with Ewan McGregor at Halston
‘I’ve always maintained that, thanks to Joe Eula and Elsa Peretti, Halston became what he was in terms of style,’ said the designer Fernando Sanchez, a friend of Eula’s since the early 60’s.
‘They really defined Halston’s style and the idea that chic doesn’t necessarily imply money.’
When Halston showed at an international fashion benefit in Versailles in 1973, Eula did the set. And, as with everyone in Halston’s clique, he was also a regular at Studio 54.
Eula’s work as a fashion illustrator, costume designer and poster designer led to engagements with artists including Miles Davis, Lauren Bacall, Candice Bergen, Liza Minelli and the Supremes.
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