DONNA SUMMER SANG IT, but Halston lived it. The fella who still looms as a poster man for the Studio 54 era – who, “more than any designer … reinvented himself through the nightclub,” as Stephen Gundle wrote in Glamour: A History – is getting the Netflix treatment this month, courtesy of the insatiable U.S. television producer Ryan Murphy.
The rise and the fall: that is the spine of the series starring Ewan McGregor in the titular role. In the process, we get the excesses and the muddle, a snapshot of New York City in the late ’70s and early ’80s, his band of “Halstonettes” (the diverse troupe of models who personified his aesthetic), hobnobbing with one-named wonders like Liza and Bianca. Plus, we get the ascent of American fashion on the global stage (Halston being a harbinger of greats like Tom Ford).
Behind the velvet rope, there is a dark side, of course: a business that eventually dragged because of over-licensing and spurious management (not to mention a fashion industry already making the move from personalities to brands). Plus the demons of the designer himself and a life cut much too short by AIDS.
Having traced the tragedy of Gianni Versace in a 2018 American Crime Story series, Murphy has long been fascinated by Halston, who first grabbed the spotlight as the maker of the pillbox hat Jackie Kennedy wore to the 1961 inauguration of her husband, President John F. Kennedy. Like Roy Halston Frowick, Murphy is from conservative Indiana and, as he was growing up, Halston’s glamorous success was the strongest of siren calls, he said in a Vogue interview. “You create a world, and people are invited to that world,” is how Murphy summed up the legend’s allure.