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"Halston": Gay Fashion Designer Thinks He's Better than Jesus

I alternate between the same three shirts and two pairs of jeans every day (long sleeve in winter, short sleeve in summer). My favorite sweater is over 20 years old.  I can't remember the last time I wore dress shoes.  So maybe I'm not exactly the intended audience for Halston, a 2021 mini-series on Netflix. starring Ewan McGregor.

Halston (1932-1990) was a fashion designer who dressed celebrities like Elizabeth Taylor, Lauren Bacall, and Betty Ford,  as well as ordinary women.  He designed the uniforms for the Girl Scouts, Braniff Airlines, and Avis Rent-a-Car, and started a line of Halston clothes especially for  theJ. P. Penney department stores.  In the 1970s he traveled in the circles of the gliteratti, doing disco and drugs with Liza Minelli, Andy Warhol, Bianca Jagger, Burt Reynolds, and Bella Abzug, throwing money around like he was Richie Rich.  His career came crashing down during the 1980s due to bad business decisions, excessive partying, and not doing any work.  He died of AIDS in 1990.

I learned all of this from wikipedia and the mini-series.  Previously, I had only heard the name, and I got it mixed up with the gay porn director who gave us the 1980s classic A Night at Halston's.  

So I went into the tv series fresh.  

I was surprised by the lack of recognizeable 1970s faces.  Basically just Liza Minelli.  Betty Ford in one episode.  Where were Burt Reynolds, Joe Namath, Bella Abzug, Andy Warhol? 

I was surprised by the lack of 1970s glitz.  Two very brief scenes set at the infamous Studio 54 nightclub.  90% of the scenes are set in Halston's workroom, where he's either screaming at his workers or coming up with a stroke of genius which I didn't understand: "You can't make a trench coat out of suede, but what about ultra suede?  Darling, bring me the chinois silk...."

I was surprised by the lack of beefcake.  Halston has a boyfriend in the first episode, and an on-off relationship with a rent boy/aspiring artist named Victor Hugo (Gian Franco Rodriguez, top photo), who ends up blackmailing him ("I have tapes of what we did.").  Halston vastly preferred to hang out with women, reserving men for behind-the-scenes sex.  

By the way, Victor Hugo was a real person, but his relationship with Halston was somewhat exaggerated.  He spent most of his career at Andy Warhol's Factory, posing for erotic photos and licking people and things.

There are a few cute guys scattered around the cast, like Jack Mikesell as John David Ridge, hired to take over the designing when Halston's partying keeps him from meeting deadlines, and Eli Perdew as Mark Benecke, a young designer with a drug problem soon eclipsed by Halston's. (Both real people.)

But none of them interact with Halston in any significant way.

I was surprised by the constant smoking.  Sure, people in the 1970s smoked, but was it necessary for Halston to take a drag on a cigarette before every single sentence?  It really slows down the story.

Finally, I was surprised that Halston is such an unsympathetic character.  He treats his staff like dirt.  He treats his business associates like dirt.  He treats his boyfriends like dirt.  He's egotistical, monomaniacal, narcissistic, rude, and...well, he has no redeeming qualities at all, except for his genius.

About that genius: Halston pulls out a dress and says "let's put this strap up here, and move this over there," and everyone gasps "Magnificent!  Incredible!  The greatest work of art since Michelangelo's David.  This will make revolutionize the fashion industry!"   Two scenes later, he pulls out another dress, makes some minor changes, and everyone falls to their knees to worship him again.  (To be fair, they know they have to say he's better than Jesus, or he'll shriek at them.)  To me, one dress looks like another, so I can't see how this one is so much better than everything else on the rack.  It's not enough to redeem the pompous jerk.

I did like Krysta Rodriguez as Liza Minelli, performing snippets of "Liza with a Z" and  "Bonjour Paris,"  But we never get to hear the whole song.  I'd rather watch Rodriguez doing a full-length Liza Minelli homage. Or better yet, stream Cabaret.

source http://everydayheterosexism.blogspot.com/2021/06/halston-gay-fashion-designer-thinks-hes.html

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