Halston (2019) Movie Script

(dog barking)
(crowd cheering)
(bell ringing)
(intriguing music)
- It was
morning again in America.
Millions of men and
women were going to work.
And high up above the
streets, in his Olympic Tower,
one of America's most
celebrated self-made men
- The most successful
single individual
in the history of
American fashion.
Ladies and gentlemen, Halston.
(audio screeching)
- was
nowhere in sight.
(dramatic music)
- The question that
all of New York
was asking last night was,
whatever happened to Halston?
(static hissing)
- It's a story of high
fashion and high finance,
as one of America's
big names in fashion.
(audio screeching)
(audio test beeping)
- It was business
as usual, you could say.
They bought his name.
Sold off his life's work
for pennies on the dollar.
And when that wasn't enough,
well, they forced him
out of his own office.
(audio test beeping)
(audio screeching)
Some will say he had it coming.
(audience applauding)
But what he didn't see
coming were the tapes.
All 215 of them, erased, as
per the corporation's order.
(audio screeching)
- Liza
Minnelli in The Act.
(audience cheering)
- Sportswear, knits,
broadcloth, menswear.
(audio screeching)
This is Andy Warhol's
portrait of me, which was--
- You see, pictures
meant everything to Halston.
- And texture demands texture.
- "Life is like
a picture," he used to say.
- Who's that lucky guy?
- Well, he
got his perfect picture.
Only the price turned
out to be a little high.
(static hissing)
Fame and fortune
How empty they can be
But when I hold
you in my arms
That's heaven to me
Who cares for
fame and fortune
They're only passing things
But the touch of
your lips on mine
Makes me feel like a king
Your kind of love
Is a treasure I hold
It's so much greater
Than silver or gold
- It all started
in September of 1983,
when Carl Epstein joined
Halston Enterprises.
He was Halston's new
corporate manager,
and he would be his last.
(jazz noir music)
Carl wanted to learn
everything about Halston,
so I brought him the tapes.
Who am I?
Just someone working
in the archives.
Nobody important for
our story, really.
Our story is Halston.
Behind the images flickering
on the screen, who was Halston?
- I'd like to
go back in time a little bit,
to just how you started.
I know that you started with
hats and worked your way.
- Oh, I--
- Were we gonna move this?
- That's all right.
- Please
let me know these things.
- Are we rolling?
- Am I--
- I was straightening the tie.
- Okay.
I don't mind it being
a little disheveled.
- No, no, it's just--
- Oh, okay, thanks.
Halston was the custom
milliner at Bergdorf.
And we lived around the
corner from each other.
So he and I would walk
to work every day.
We'd be talking,
gossiping, having fun.
He was so much fun.
And then the minute we would
arrive to the building,
and you'd have to go
through the revolving door,
suddenly Halston had
arrived at Bergdorf.
And the first time,
it quite shocked me.
And then, of course,
I understood.
He now has put on
his Halston mask.
(elegant big band music)
And the voice would change.
Good morning, ladies.
He was dealing with
the creme de la creme
of women in the world.
- Were
you the person
who put the pillbox
on Jackie Kennedy?
- Yes, I was.
(reporter chuckles)
- That hat was genius.
If you look at
the Inauguration,
most of those ladies
wore a mink coat.
Jackie was in a cloth
coat and a cloth hat.
- I'll never forget
the impact that hat had.
Even out in Montana, where
I was sitting at the time.
- It was a very funny story.
Because it was a
rather windy day,
and she put her
hand on the hat,
and it ended up to
have a dent in it.
And so when, during
all the ceremonies,
it had a dent in the hat.
And everybody who copied
it put a dent in it,
which was so funny.
(reporter laughing)
I was quite a young man,
but then I became very,
very famous quickly on that.
It was the first time in
the history of Bergdorf
that they promoted a
designer personality.
(audio screeching)
And I headed a department
of 150 milliners
and 12 sales ladies.
- Bergdorf was a
very rarefied world.
But he was born in
Des Moines, Iowa, as I read,
because he never
told me any of this.
Halston was so busy
moving forward.
I knew very little about
Halston's personal life.
Certainly, I didn't know
much about his background.
In November of 1966,
there was Truman Capote's
Black and White Ball.
- Everybody wanted to be at
that ball, because it was it,
you know, as far as where
you should go, you know?
- You would measure your social
importance by (chuckling)
the invitation, getting
one or not getting one.
- Do you know if
he was invited to the ball?
- I would have thought so,
but now you, I have, I'm,
I have my doubts, I
don't know, was he?
- Halston did not have
an invite to the ball.
(epic music)
- Are you rolling, Harvey?
We have filmed this black
and white ball in color
for your enlightenment.
Good heavens, here comes
John Kenneth Galbraith.
The Maharani of Baroda is here.
And the Baroness de Rothchild,
and Mrs. Loel Guinness.
We only tell you this
because we know that
you were not rich, social,
or beautiful enough
to be invited here tonight.
- The irony is
Halston had made more
than 100 masks that night.
Kay Graham, who owned
The Washington Post.
Candice Bergen.
Of course, D.D. Ryan.
D.D. Ryan was certainly one
of the chicest women going.
- That's me,
dancing with Truman
in the mask that
Halston made for me.
- D.D. Ryan, former
editor and fashion legend.
She had fallen on hard
times since the '60s,
so Halston gave her a job.
- I've known H
from the beginning.
From before the
beginning, really.
Back then, he was
still a milliner.
Milliners didn't go
through the front door.
Different world then.
- I must have said,
are you going?
And he said, "Oh, yes."
That's all I can say.
He didn't tell me everything.
He wasn't invited by Truman,
but he got himself there.
- Was this Halston?
Or this one?
Was he even at the ball?
He was on everybody's
face that night.
And yet, he was invisible.
- He called me
one day and said,
"There's something that
I need to tell you."
I was in Southampton, I was
invited to a very grand dinner.
Our hostess is a client,
and she likes me,
and she invited me.
And we sat down.
And two of the husbands
never sat down.
They stood behind their
chairs, everybody was seated,
and the hostess looked up.
And they said, "If these
two faggots are at table,
"we will not be joining
you for your dinner."
(gentle piano music)
He said, "Tom, I just
need you to understand
"that you and I could not hope
"to be anything more than
trained faggot poodles,
"to jump through the hoops
of these rich people."
- The mental
image most people have
of a male homosexual looks
pretty much like this.
A man with effeminate
The film you are now watching
is purposely being projected
in its negative form
to prevent identification
of the people it shows.
The location is a
public bathing beach
at 21st Street on Miami Beach.
The scenes were photographed
with telescopic lenses
from a hidden vantage point.
Despite the negative image,
the actions themselves
are easily recognized.
(upbeat music)
- I met Halston at Fire Island.
He was just, you know, just
a fabulous human being.
And we became fast friends.
This precious time
just kept me waiting
- The freedom of our sexuality
there, life before AIDS.
Halston and I partied
a great deal together.
In a brand new groove
- We would go dancing
in Harlem. (chuckles)
Don't need your help and
your tight and old rules
- It was always
very, very, very eclectic.
- Now!
- But the
'60s in general
were a political, moral,
social revolution.
- Halston understood
that there was
a whole new social
order coming in.
The war baby boom came of age.
Drugs, sex, and rock and roll.
Even the French
couture changed.
St. Laurent,
Givenchy, and Cardin
opened up ready-to-wear
And so, Halston saw
all of that in Paris,
and there was tension
with the Bergdorf people.
- Halston came to see me,
and he said, "I have backing.
"Would you clean up your act?"
I was deep into
drugs by that time.
But I did stop
intravenous drugs
and went to work with him.
This the house that
Jack built, y'all
Remember this house
This was the land
the he worked by hand
- Well, the salon was on
68th Street and Madison,
in this little, tiny walk-up
kind of derelict building.
Compared to Bergdorf Goodman,
I thought, like, you know,
wow, this is, like,
didn't feel so fancy.
Then you went upstairs, a
plain door, and you'd knock,
and then you'd go in,
it was just magic.
What is the use of crying
- Basically, it was just
a floor-through apartment
that they turned into this
incredible background,
which is all just sort
of magical and exotic,
and you felt like you
were in an Indian palace
or you didn't know
where you were.
You're on safari.
It was very wild.
And I remember the furniture,
because it was
very uncomfortable.
It was horn furniture.
Like you sat in them,
and you just didn't
want to sit in them,
but it looked great.
In the house that Jack built
The house that Jack built
I'm gonn' remember
this house
The house that Jack built
- Halston made the
atmosphere very democratic.
I mean, I'm a poor kid
from Long Island City.
But then there was Marisa
Berenson and Berry,
who grew up in Paris.
- It was a mix of
social circles.
And that's what was so
great about that era,
is that it was a big
mix of interesting,
fascinating people.
Like Elsa.
- I love to be
with homosexuals.
I stay 15 years with
homosexuals, and I loved them.
Because I didn't
have the lover.
(clapperboard snapping)
- Pat Cleveland was
discovered on a subway car.
- I was still in high school.
I went into the room, and
he looked at me and he said,
"Okay, you'll be here
tomorrow for the show."
- He was
totally laser-focused
on this collection
because, in his mind, I'm
sure this was make or break.
- All the ladies of
society were there.
The Vogue ladies were
sitting in the front row.
Oh, my goodness, this is
it, we're doing this show.
And he lined us girls up.
We were all perfectly dressed.
And he would go
to the first girl,
and he'd whisper
something into their ear.
And he'd say, "Now, don't
forget, you're the best."
And what costume shall
the poor girl wear
- His clothes hit
me like, this is it.
This is the fashion that
I would want to wear.
To all tomorrow's parties
- No zippers.
Just get in and
out over your head.
A hand-me-down dress
- Overnight success.
It was a clean look.
The simplicity was really
needed after the '60s.
And it was all-American,
from an all-American boy.
(audience applauding)
- Let's meet our
first challenger.
So, will you enter
and sign in, please?
(playful music)
Mr. X.
(audience applauding)
Panel, this is Mr. X,
and may I tell you that Mr. X
is concerned with a product.
And now let's show our
audience just who our guest is
and what his product is.
(audience applauding)
- Can I rule out that
your name is Valentino?
- You can rule that out.
- All right, no, no, I'm sure
if I hear the name, I'll know.
It's because I don't
recognize you on site.
But would the clothing be
the new sensation hot pants?
- That's it!
- Yes.
- Is that right?
(audience applauding)
(mysterious music)
- Felt like the beginning
because he was so enthusiastic,
and everybody was so charmed
with him, and so young,
and it was enticing.
You just wanted to be
in the room with him.
- I was 18.
I was so innocent.
I knew nothing.
I was from the Midwest.
Everyone was unusual for me.
Like Pat Ast.
She was an Andy Warhol
superstar with frizzy hair.
I'm just wild about Andy
And Andy's wild about me
The heavenly blisses
of his kisses
They fill me with ecstasy
- This was definitely
the in crowd.
Andy kept saying, "Oh,
this is, you know,
"this is so in, Bob.
"This is so in."
He knew Halston from the 1950s,
when Andy was doing ads
and windows for Bergdorf's.
He was comfortable in
the world of fashion.
Wild about me
(vibrant music)
(phone line beeps)
(interviewer laughing)
- Joe was not
only the illustrator,
but a close friend.
You know, Halston was very
cool, and Joe was very hot.
- He was drawn to people
who just displayed
their emotions.
And also, have this
tremendous aesthetic side.
- And he believed so
much on me, Halston.
- Elsa would be there
drawing things all the time.
And Halston said, "You need
to be a jewelry designer."
And somehow she made this
jewelry for us, which is,
I had two of these,
one was stolen.
- Why I did do jewelry?
I just was trapped into it.
I did something for fun,
it became a success.
- Really?
- We were hipsters.
We thought we were.
We probably weren't
at all, but, you know.
My husband, Bill, was
starting to work at Halston's.
They got along
really well together.
In the beginning, he
couldn't wait to go to work.
And that's a great
feeling, isn't it?
- Bill Dugan
was the first disciple.
And 12 years later, he was
still spreading the gospel.
- If you want to understand
Halston's clothes,
you have to understand
the lineage first.
You see, when he
did his first line,
I think he was the
first to be surprised
at how good he really was.
The other who was surprised,
of course, was his mentor.
- Oh, I think perhaps
Charles James,
who was a friend of mine.
(dramatic music)
(audience applauding)
- Charles James is
such an amazing figure.
Difficult, controversial.
But he's one of
these people that,
he was so amazingly talented.
I know what it
is to be young
- Even the
Europeans understood
that Charles James
was a singular genius.
You don't know what it is
To be old
- Halston had this
incredible fascination,
and I would say envy
of Charles James.
You'll be saying
the same thing
- He mimicked Charles.
Charles would say things like,
"You're only as good
as who you dress."
And suddenly
Halston was saying,
"You're only as good
as who you dress."
I've asked so
many questions
- In the late '60s,
Charles James was really out
of his luck, and he owed money.
And he really wasn't designing.
Find all the answers
- It's true that you're
considering going on welfare,
isn't it?
- Yes, it is.
In order to get my
doctor's bills paid.
It's just the most shocking--
- Halston felt for him.
There'll be
days to remember
- So he
hired Charles James
to help him with a collection.
(gentle piano music)
- James's working
methodology was overworking
and overworking the same idea,
and creating things that were
so incredibly complicated
that it simply wasn't viable.
- Charles was furious
throughout the whole thing
'cause it wasn't right.
Charles wanted control,
Halston wanted control.
It was almost like father
and rebellious son.
It was a disaster, by the way.
The collection was a disaster.
- The few pieces that I've seen
look a little
tortured, frankly.
Very typical of James's work,
where he would take fabric
and twist it and torque it.
And in the end result, you had
things that looked amazing,
in a way, but
somehow unwearable.
- Halston said, "Well, I
just want you to know that,
"you know, I'm locking
Charles out of the workroom."
- Halston is a
middle-of-the-road man,
who would be better as a buyer
in a store, or a stylist.
He knows how to select
good things to copy.
But his passion has been
to put his name on it.
For which action, the word
plagiarism is correct.
- Halston didn't copy.
Eventually, I went
to work for Halston,
and I saw that Halston took
concepts of Charles James
and relaxed them.
His clothes were
for a modern time.
For a time where
women's lifestyle
had changed completely.
I mean, he understood that.
(ethereal music)
- Elegance and ease.
A sense of owning power,
without being masculine.
And honoring the
body that you have.
Basically, you were
usually naked underneath.
- You were free
inside your clothes.
- He took away the cage.
And he made things
as though you didn't
really need the structure
as much as you
needed the woman.
He really based most of his
collection on most of us girls.
- I think maybe we just had
a pin there to hold it up,
it might be good, huh?
- Mm-hmm.
- Let's see you turn
in it, Chrissy, huh?
- Fabric to Halston was
like clay to a sculptor.
He knew how to use it.
And everything was cut on
the bias, so it spiraled.
- Basically,
bias is cutting fabric
on an oblique, or
45-degree angle.
Fabric is usually cut
on the straight grain.
If you've ever cut
something on the bias,
it flows over the body.
It opens up, if you will.
- It's very hard to do it.
Nothing is straight.
It's very hard to
sew, everything moves.
Especially on chiffon,
it's very hard to control.
But he made it so easy.
- He just would throw a
piece of fabric on the floor,
and cut through it.
Pick it up, throw it on you,
and then, pfft, it was a dress.
- That's genius.
It's a dress.
Just from the way he cut it.
I don't know anybody
who could do that.
He's the only one.
- That's probably the
largest Halston collection
of all the museums
in the States.
When I started working here,
I started really
looking at the clothes.
And I'm most fascinated with
the single-seam patterns.
Similar to the one
that's up there,
which looks like a painting,
is actually the
pattern for that dress.
It's really hard
to see it, flat.
But, and just spirals.
And this is another one
that is cut from one
piece of fabric, folded.
You cut out the neck, and the
seam goes from here to here,
down the side, and then across.
It's one piece of fabric.
The pattern looks like
a Cuisinart blade.
(ethereal music)
Very much like the art, at
the time, like abstract art.
It was reducing it down to
its least common denominators.
- I think if fashion
history would write it,
I'd like to have a
credit point of saying
maybe we cleaned it up
a bit, where, you know,
I have a theory that less
becomes more, so much.
- Uh-huh.
- I felt more
intimidated by Halston
than by whatever man
I met in my life.
- Because?
- Because everything
he was doing was great.
Every time, every time.
He astonished me.
- How do
you feel when you, say,
walk into a restaurant in
New York, and a lady comes in
looking smashing in
a Halston outfit?
- I'm very proud.
I'm just very proud if somebody
looks good in it, you know?
- What
if she comes in
and doesn't look good in it?
- Then I'm not so
proud. (laughing)
(vibrant music)
- The Halston market
is in the better stores
across the country.
In New York, it's
Bergdorf Goodman,
where he has a boutique
in the same spot he started
selling hats to rich ladies
15 years ago.
This is Halston off the rack.
The favorite item?
An Ultrasuede shirt dress
with a $200 price tag
that has broken all
previous sales records.
- You're late.
My god, are you ever
on time, come on.
- But for
real extravagance,
the ladies come to Halston's
own showroom on Madison Avenue,
where super saleswoman Pat Ast
will give them that
special treatment.
- What
about Pat Ast?
Some people have suggested
that by using her,
you're putting
down fashion a bit.
- Well, if you think
that Patty is a put-down,
but I don't think so.
I take her very seriously.
And I like to make
her glamorous.
- Halston designs things that
are made especially for me,
which is the most incredible
thing, 'cause looking at me,
you know I'm not the
normal size woman.
- I think he appreciated
the woman's body.
I think he appreciated all
the different types of women.
He loved all of the
diversity of his models.
- If you take this down, Iman.
- Yeah.
- And you turn around, that
way so you see a decollete.
This is Iman's first show.
She's never been in a
fashion show before.
How do you feel about your
first fashion show, Iman?
- I'm very nervous.
- He always loved
different personalities.
And he encouraged that.
- Do you think that models
are some of the sexy,
most beautiful
girls in the world?
- Sometimes.
- Do you think they should
all be in the movies?
- No.
- He also loved the
idea of being controversial.
I remember the Coty Award Show,
he decided it was gonna be a
happening, so anything goes.
- Tell me something.
- I'm gonna tell you.
I hope that show goes
better than the rehearsal.
- All the fashion world is
waiting for the Coty Awards.
- The audience
in the Coty Awards
tend to be a
little more formal.
But Halston wanted to
be very irreverent.
- Andy and Halston
came up with this idea
that it was like a talent
show, Halston's Talent Hour.
("When the Saints
Go Marching In")
I played the clarinet.
He said, "What can
you do?" (laughing)
"What else can you do?"
Oh yeah
- The audience, they didn't
know what to make of it.
Halston wanted it to be,
just throw everything in,
including the kitchen sink.
And by the way, have Pat come
out of the birthday cake.
Ah ah ah ah ah
Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday to me
Happy birthday,
happy birthday
(gentle instrumental music)
- He took a chance, a leap
of faith to be something
that maybe a lot of people
think they can't do.
He would say, "You can
have anything you want.
"You're a good person."
You know, that feeling that
somebody believes in you.
You know?
And because of that, you
know, he made me stronger.
Waterproof. (chuckling)
I remember one time we
went out West to do a show,
and Halston said, "I
want you to come with me.
I wanna see something."
He rented a car.
And you never saw him drive
'cause we'd always be in limos.
And we went way out in the
middle of nowhere, out there.
Not a lot to look
at. (chuckles)
Sky and earth.
And he said, "That's
where I grew up.
"This is where I grew up."
And we'd be in the
middle of nowhere.
Just, like, farms, with
the big rolls of hay.
He said, "I just wanted
to come by here."
- I only lived in Iowa for
about five minutes, you know.
I mean, I moved out of
Iowa as a young man.
It was during the
Second World War,
and my father was in a business
that took us from
one place to another,
so I lived in the
Lake of the Ozarks,
and I lived in Kentucky,
and I lived in Missouri,
and then we finally
settled in Indiana.
So I was all over, you know.
It was sort of an
unsettled time.
- When
you do go back home--
- There is no home
in Iowa, you see?
What else do you think
we should go over?
- Just a
little bit of the history.
I think that would be good
for us to have and so forth.
- Oh, let's not go into the
whole history crap, you know.
What about right now?
- But
this is history.
- The past just doesn't
interest me so much.
I think you have pretty much,
I think you have enough.
- And
we need a transcript
as soon as possible.
(jazz noir music)
- His mother would
come and visit,
and she always
called him Hahl-ston.
And he had changed the
pronunciation to Hall-ston,
but she would correct you.
"His name is Hahl-ston,
it's a family name."
She also used to say
Hahl-ston had disappeared,
but Hall-ston was a force
to be reckoned with.
And this is the manager
of the boutique.
Ed was just as
handsome as Halston.
And had just as much charisma.
- Ed Austin.
(phone line beeps)
- Never mentioned his dad,
but he called his mom every
week, every Monday afternoon.
Hallie Mae.
I'm being careful
about what I'm saying.
I don't know how much
you know about me.
- I didn't know it at
the time, but apparently,
Halston and Ed had had
a relationship earlier.
(thunder rumbling)
- I was kept hidden.
I still don't know why.
I would go to his
house at night.
The doorman would
stop me and say,
"The deliveries go in the
back," that sort of thing.
We had a wonderful
He used to call me the crown
prince, and he was the king.
- When did it end?
- One Christmas,
Ed had done this absolutely
beautiful window.
And that was the day that
Victor Hugo took over.
- Victor came down
and started to
rearrange Ed's window.
It was very asymmetrical,
and very haphazard.
But Halston came and
loved the window.
When Ed saw it, he just put
on his coat and went home.
It was the changing
of the guard.
- Are you looking
for his Rosebud?
The one thing that
explains his whole life?
You won't find one.
Not with Halston.
What you see is
what you get, baby.
- Victor was Venezuelan,
and he was a bad boy who
got into a lot of trouble.
- My theory has
always been that
Halston came from
an alcoholic family.
That his father had a problem.
And that Halston recreated
his family life with Victor
as the dysfunctional person
who is constantly going to
keep everything off balance.
(upbeat music)
- He'd do the
pregnancy, Patty Hearst.
I mean, really crazy.
But this was his
personality, extreme.
- Roy, I found
these pictures of us
in my mom's attic.
Darling H, you love
life and I love you.
- Ladies and
gentlemen, Liza Minnelli.
(epic music)
(audience applauding)
- When I met Halston,
I just remember him
talking and me listening.
(camera shutter clicks)
He'd say, "I got it, all
right," and just put it on you.
And it danced with
you, that's it.
His clothes danced with you.
(camera shutter clicks)
We were joined at
the hip from then on.
He was like my dad, in a way,
because when I
was a little girl,
my father would give me
five costumes every year.
And it was a dress from
An American In Paris.
And perfectly made, exactly
like for the ladies.
And I guess I got
into appreciating
how clothes could
change the way you felt.
- She dressed only
in Halston, ever.
I mean, she still does.
- Yes.
(audience applauding)
- Liza Minnelli.
(audience cheering
and applauding)
Say yes
Life keeps
happening every day
- And this is Halston,
who is, I think, today,
wouldn't you say,
the best-known name,
no, you shouldn't
say best and worst
'cause then other
designers get upset.
You're pretty good, Halston.
- Thank you.
(all laughing)
You'll never win
if you never play
- He would always think, how
do I go to that next level?
There's mink and
marigold right outside
And long white Cadillacs
- He was looking for
a perfume company.
Nothing's gained if
there's nothing tried
Say yes
- Every single week,
he was having meetings with
Revlon's Sol Levine, Coty.
- A Mr. Bannon of IFF,
he'd like to meet with
you today if possible.
- And then
finally, Max Factor.
And Max Factor was a
subsidiary of Norton Simon.
Say yes
Yes, I can
- I remember Halston
saying to Andy and me,
"You know, I really like
the Norton Simon people
"because they're all so tall."
David Mahoney was the
chairman of Norton Simon.
And he was tall, good-looking,
and you know, a lot of glamour.
There's lots of chaff,
but there's lots of wheat
Say yes
- It seemed
like a good match.
If he was bought in
total under Norton Simon,
he'd have the freedom to
explore and to develop more
of what Halston wanted.
Yes, I'll dare
Yes, I'll fly
Yes (chuckling)
(audience applauding)
(gentle piano music)
- At the time, it
seemed like a huge coup.
And all his friends, I mean,
including Andy and all of us,
were very happy for him.
- He told me, "Gino,
we're gonna be very busy
"because I'm gonna design
furniture, car interiors.
"I'm gonna design a carpet."
- Well, don't you find that if
you take on that many things,
that one of your projects
is going to suffer?
- It's rather like
growing a tree.
You know, everyone thinks
you're an overnight success.
I've worked very
hard for 20 years.
And, you know, it's just
a further extension of it,
it's another branch.
And they all help each
other, in a curious way.
- Was this
the beginning of the end?
Or was it just the beginning?
(vibrant music)
- In 1973, five
American designers
and five French designers
were showing their collections
at one time, at one place,
the Palace of Versailles.
- American designers
had never been invited
to show in Paris.
And this was a huge, huge deal.
- For Halston,
it was very important.
He'd go as far as he
had to go to get it
to be the best he
thought he could make it.
- He realized that you
need a star in there.
What happened was that
Halston got David Mahoney
to sponsor the trip,
and David loved it.
He fit right in there.
(gentle instrumental music)
- David Mahoney seemed to me
to be fairly
ambitious socially.
And like so many
self-made people,
they wanted to be part of
this kinda cafe society.
- It was a very
competitive evening.
- I think the designers
were having difficulty
with each other.
The French took up all the
time for the rehearsal,
and we were the addendums.
It was rude, actually.
- Their whole presentation
was beyond grand.
They changed orchestras
for each of the different
designer segments.
- We couldn't rehearse.
All of us were
waiting and waiting.
It was cold, damp.
Unfortunately with
Halston, it got to him.
- A terrible fight
seems to break out.
I heard some very
vicious things were said.
- He did have a
blowup, very dramatic.
- It was very difficult.
Halston left, and
Liza said, you know,
"We've got to get
this show done."
- She's the one
who sat down with Halston.
She unified everybody.
- We'd open, and I'd
sing Bonjour Paris.
I wanna step out down
the Champs-Elysee
From the Arch of Triumph
to the Petit Palais
That's for me
Bonjour, Paris
- Bonjour, Paris!
(upbeat music)
Let's get started.
And we were off.
- It was
directed like a musical.
- Liza said, "Look, it
doesn't wanna look rehearsed.
"The more human,
the more goofed up,
"that's gonna
make this happen."
- We were so wild,
in comparison.
We had 12
African-American girls.
They only had one.
- No sets, it was just
straightforward fashion,
in your face, and modern.
- All of that energy and
that joy and that wonder
and that curiosity.
Well, that is America.
(audience applauding)
At the end of Halston's piece,
they threw their
programs up in the air.
They went bananas.
- Versailles put American
fashion on the map.
On the map.
- Halston was at
the top of his game.
He came like a king
of the Americans.
- Versailles was an extension
of what he felt he could
achieve going down the road
because of Norton Simon.
When he came back, the
whole thing changed.
His first real
office by himself
was all lined with
mirrors, all along.
It was like, totally mirrored.
Very modern and very
slick and minimal.
You can see his changing
of his whole almost psyche.
The hair started getting
cut less bohemian,
more crisp and clean,
opened his face.
The white shirt, the tie.
He's very in control.
He's very, he is Halston.
He is Halston, you know?
And it was like, wow!
(slow jazz music)
- I'm Halston, and
this is my home.
The architect was Paul Rudolph.
And the day I saw
it, I bought it.
It's the only real modern house
built in the City of New York
since the Second World War.
It's like living in a
three-dimensional sculpture.
- When I was hired
by Norton Simon,
of course I had
to meet Halston.
So I went to his townhouse.
And he showed me
through the whole thing,
and he was clearly
delighted with his new toy.
And I was terribly impressed.
And I remember saying to him,
I'm gonna enjoy making
money for you, Halston,
'cause you know
how to spend it.
My brief was that,
whatever else you do,
you've got to get the
fragrance underway.
He wanted Elsa to
design the bottle.
- Elsa Peretti would come in.
He wanted it to be sort
of a teardrop shape,
like her iconic necklaces.
And they went through
a number of iterations.
- I design not thinking
about the deadline.
You know how much time it
take me to do this glass?
- - No.
- From '74 up to now.
And they're still not good.
(ethereal music)
- No one had
ever seen a bottle like that.
It had a curved neck.
Max Factor people hated it.
- Production people at Max
Factor called me and said,
"You know what this
nut is doing now?
"He's putting out a bottle
that looks like a glob.
"You can't fill
it from the top.
"It won't work."
- They had
to get a special stopper.
They were talking about
the economics of it.
- I don't think
Halston really cared
what they thought.
(machinery whirring)
- It is my name attached to it,
so I want to live with
this for a long time.
Just the bottle alone is a
revolutionary new concept.
- Then I got
another phone call.
It said, "You also
realize what he's doing?
"He's not even putting
his name on it."
- Because he thought
it was a work of art.
And simplicity was the keynote.
So his name was on the ribbon
with which the bottle
itself was tied.
No one else had done
it that way before.
And then the
fragrance caught on.
It became a seller.
(exciting music)
The largest American
designer fragrance.
The stores couldn't
get it fast enough.
It was ballistic.
- You'd get into a
taxi in New York,
and the taxi driver would say,
"Oh, you smell good,
you're wearing Halston."
Once it started to go,
everything started to go.
- I began a
very large license program.
We were the first
American designer
to really do this heavy.
- I have two fragrances
for men, a tie licensee,
two suede sport jackets.
We have an entire
cosmetic line.
My name is Halston.
I'm Halston.
- You've got
luggage, you've got--
- Rugs, sheets,
perfume, cosmetics.
- Really?
- Shoes, bags,
gloves, sunglasses,
all kinds of things.
- Holy cow, you wouldn't have
20 till payday, would you?
I'm a little short.
(audience laughing)
- The United
States of America.
- He designed the
uniform for the '76 Olympics.
- He designed the new Girl
Scout Uniform for leaders,
so we don't have to wear the
drab-looking things we used to.
Thank you.
- Thank you very much,
you know.
(audience applauding)
- And you
also dressed the Avis--
- Well, the whole Avis Company.
No, I do a lot of
things like that.
- When do you sleep?
- Oh, well, I sleep.
(audience applauding)
- I would call that
the golden years.
What he touched turned to gold.
He set up the deal for
Elsa to go with Tiffany.
- Halston took me there, and
there I was, with Tiffany.
- That's it,
that's it, that's all, please.
- He made
the wedding clothes
for Sly and the Family Stone.
- He designed
all the costumes
for Martha Graham,
and then supported the company.
(dramatic music)
- He had a lot of
things on his plate.
And I have a feeling that
is where some of the tension
started to happen.
- Halston
felt that he, individually,
had to design everything
that was licensed,
and that was a monumental task.
- I must be a part of it.
I never, ever just lent my name
for a commercial
business venture.
- From the first
day I got there,
one of the things that I
did every couple of weeks
was go to the bank and
take out a ton of cash
and bring it back
in an envelope.
He'd say, "I might
be in a meeting,
but if Mr. Fisher comes,
"just give him the envelope."
I never saw him snort
cocaine, but I paid,
I mean, I got a lot of
money every few weeks.
$2,000 to $3,000.
- I want to stop all
the kind of bullshit
that we were drug addicts.
We'd smoke, yeah, but we work.
For that our things were going.
For that Halston thing.
What do you think,
with Halston,
we were
there and smoking?
No, we were thinking,
what you wear, what you do
all night long.
I was working all night long.
Yeah, we took drugs
(snorts) of course.
How you cannot take drugs,
being up all night long?
But it was smoking.
It was not heavy drugs.
A little coke sometimes.
- Halston took me
into his office one day,
and he just said,
"You know,
I want somebody
who is completely
committed to the business."
- I went to work for Halston.
The best thing I ever did.
I was totally, 1,000%
devoted to him.
I remember going in
to set up my office.
It would start to rain.
And when I got off
the elevator,
Halston was standing there.
He looked at me, and he
said, "You're all wet."
He was carrying a red
raincoat, and he said,
"I want you to try this on.
"I made this for Liza, but
I want you to have it."
(jazz noir music)
He was such a hard worker.
I mean, he'd come in
early, go home late,
and always
accomplish something.
Until Studio 54.
Just a feeling
Just a feeling
Just a feeling
- I took Halston to Studio 54.
So I don't know what
other stories you heard,
but I remember that was the
first time, and he says,
"I'm gonna bring friends."
- Halston gave a birthday
party for Bianca Jagger,
and Bianca got on the horse,
and that photograph
went around the world.
And that made 54 like the
place where everybody went.
(camera shutter clicking)
- You're a
devotee of Studio 54.
What do you see there?
- As Truman said, it's
the only democracy.
It's good for everybody
on every level of society.
- This is the scene
outside a New York
disco called Studio 54.
This is the place that's
in with the disco crowd,
except that these
people are still out.
Of course, Liza Minnelli
and her kind of celebrities
sweep right through
the protective ranks
of doorkeepers.
- They are discriminating
at Studio 54.
Recently, a president of a
Wall Street brokerage firm
was ejected, and
he was a member.
So he's suing for a million.
- I'll do a Donna Summer song.
Ah. (laughing)
(disco music)
- I think they lived
out a lot of their fantasies.
As gay boys, Hollywood
was such a big influence
on both Andy and Halston.
- I was born in the Midwest.
And, you know, much of your
life was really probably
involved in going to the movies
on Saturdays and Sundays.
- If you
were at a dinner party
and you could have
one person on the left
and one on the right,
who would that be?
- Halston and Elizabeth Taylor.
- Why?
- Oh, they're both wonderful.
- They weren't society,
but they became a
new kind of society.
Suddenly, you know, gays
were part of society.
Many more Jews were
part of society.
- He wasn't a snob.
Halston wasn't a snob.
He wasn't uppity.
He wasn't anything.
- Both you and Halston
come from Indiana.
You sound like Cary Grant,
you sound like Noel Coward.
(both laughing)
You moved the accent.
Were you unhappy at some point
with where you came from,
and decided, I'm
going to show them?
- Never.
I wasn't, anyway.
- Well, everybody was
free love, and free this,
and poppers and coke
and this and that.
It got very muddy, and
it's like quicksand.
If everybody around
you is going down,
you're gonna go too.
- Victor was a
destructive force.
Andy did Victor's portraits,
I think he did two.
And one day, Victor shows up
with the paintings completely
covered with graffiti,
and just a mess.
And he had painted over them,
thinking this was like taking
Andy's art to another level.
And Andy was really mad.
And Andy was like,
"Don't think I'm doing
new ones, Victor."
(upbeat music)
- Company was booming, so I
went out looking for space.
And I came upon this
thing in Olympic Tower,
and that was the
end of the search,
because Halston, "That's
the one we're gonna get."
The architect came
up with some plans,
and Halston didn't like them.
He wanted something that took
spectacular use of the space.
And he began to
design what he wanted.
Mirrors everywhere.
The walls were mirrors.
Everything was mirrors.
Except my office.
I wouldn't allow them to
put up mirrors in my office.
I didn't wanna look
at myself all day.
- Halston made sure
that his entire workroom
were in a room with
a lot of windows,
so that as they sewed
and fitted every day,
they didn't feel confined.
That really impressed me.
- When the workmen saw
the space, the women wept.
- That was the best
workroom in the world.
Was even too good
to be a workroom.
(upbeat music)
- There wasn't, at the time,
I don't think there is today,
a fashion house ever
as grand as that was.
(camera shutter clicking)
- In that space,
he had reached something
very specific to him.
That's where he
felt he belonged.
I'm in with the in crowd
- The shows there were amazing.
You felt like walking on
a cloud down the runway.
I'm in with the in crowd
- Once he moved into
the Olympic Tower,
his front row was the most
glamorous in New York.
Diana Vreeland, Lee
Radziwill, Liza Minnelli.
(camera shutter clicking)
- He was the first to
really bring in movie stars.
(audience applauding)
- They are the elite
of New York City,
and they've been
invited by Halston,
who's standing here beside me.
- I always
saw him as famous.
- I made it in New York.
- But then, of course,
it became ginormous.
- And what he did was
he surrounded himself
for public appearances
with what became known
as the Halstonettes.
I go where the
in crowd goes
- Brilliant
marketing, brilliant.
- Sometimes there were
20 of us, you know?
- Some of the people I
knew in the fashion business,
I mean, they were
totally dismissive.
I mean, who does
he think he is?
And the answer is, what
picture is gonna run?
Is it gonna be some fashion
designer standing by himself?
Or is it gonna be Halston
with the Halstonettes?
They know the in
crowd is out of sight
- I want to
run the faces of all
the women close-up.
- Right.
- We've done that.
Okay, where are the--
- John
Fairchild is the publisher
of Women's Wear.
As always, he has
the final word
on how last night's party
will look in the next edition.
Women's Wear is the
bible of the industry.
- Halston, if they
stand on the table,
will it hurt the table?
- It would, 'cause I
just had 'em lacquered.
- No, no, no.
Can they stand on the
table with their bare feet?
- Whatever
makes you happy.
- Yes?
- Boy, what
a shot that is, whoa.
- Leave the candles.
- Everybody at the
Olympic Tower called him H.
And they'd say, "H?"
And he'd say, "I
am the emperor."
And he was believing
this stuff.
- Halston, is
it tougher to get on top,
or to stay on top?
- Halston said, "Let me tell
you, we're going to China."
I'm like, wow.
- China
wanted to show the world
that they were opening up.
So they invited the
master of publicity
to visit the silk cities.
- Come on, D.D.,
come on, everybody.
What I want to explain to
you all is what we're doing.
- With the China trip, you
could see the brain working.
Each girl had their own
personal collection designed.
Everything, all laid out.
- We just needed to pack
our lingerie and makeup.
- We will also go
to the Ming tombs,
and we'll go to
the Forbidden City.
And one of the best places
is going to be, of course,
the Great Wall of China.
- Every affair, you know,
dinner here, dinner there.
Everything was choreographed.
It was just incredible.
- If it's a cold day,
she'll wear, you know,
sort of a shawl like this,
but this is a Chinatex silk.
- He just
had total control.
- Hi, Andy.
- Hi, Andy.
- Come on in
and get photographed,
Andy. (chuckling)
- He asked me one day, "Do you
dream of what you're doing?"
And, obviously, I was exhausted
from going to Studio 54
and all those parties,
and I was like,
no, I haven't dreamt of it.
He's like, "You know,
Naeem, it'll be amazing.
"You'll be a great designer
when you start dreaming.
"It should come to
you in the night,
"then you know that you
are thinking about it."
- Naeem, why don't you show
Andy, put the lights on,
and make 'em sparkle
over there, huh?
Those are your things.
- So to him, night
and day, it was there.
- You see, this is
only part of them.
We've got another about
15 people, 'cause all--
- There must have
been about 30 people.
And I was coordinating it.
There was 100 pieces
of Hartmann luggage.
- We were going to China.
Who got invited to China?
(models cheering and laughing)
(upbeat music)
- I said to a
Chinese executive,
we're coming with
a lot of luggage.
Do you have a way
of handling it?
He said, "Oh, yes, yes."
And he came with
a shopping cart.
They had one shopping cart to
move our luggage. (laughing)
- This is the beginning of
the world tour of fashions
by Halston.
- I think
there's a big change.
- Why?
- Well, I think it's
America's time, really.
- Here he is,
sort of an ambassador
of American fashion.
He became somewhat
like a world figure.
(camera shutter clicks)
(speaking in foreign language)
(camera shutter clicking)
- But we were basically there
to go to the silk factories.
- Those people who
had done the fabrics
actually got to see how you
could play with the fabric.
So they were just,
like, in awe.
It was wonderful.
I was in awe of them
being in awe of us.
- That's great.
(woman laughing)
That's great, I
love that on you.
I love that on you.
(crowd applauding)
- It might
be a little tight,
but I consider it
a great compliment
that she wanted to put it on.
- Halston was saying,
"No, they wanna modernize.
"They wanna modernize here."
- Is it that complicated
to change the patterns?
- I think that made
the trip for Halston.
Because I think he thought
he could contribute something
to the people of China.
(camera shutter clicking)
- That was really PR.
And he got tremendous
amount of publicity.
He was all over.
And when you see the
pictures, they were beautiful.
I mean, they looked fantastic.
You know, if you didn't know
the back side of the story,
it looked like a
fantastic trip.
Halston and the group here,
Halston and the group there.
They all looked great.
You know, half of them
are really miserable,
but they all looked
terrific. (laughing)
(audio screeching)
- Oh, I'm staying.
It's exhausting, and
I'm just starting.
- We had a film crew
following us the whole time.
- Every day was
directed by Halston.
- Get out of the camera way.
The cameras are here,
so you can't be here,
you have to be on
the other side.
- He just wanted total control.
And it was too much,
it became too much.
- I want you all stand
up there, on the runway.
Not in twos and twos.
You're doing it
like a fashion show.
It looks so dumb.
Go out again.
No, not please, just do it.
- He was a perfectionist.
He had a very rough
time in giving up.
It was an emotional,
like, lock-in.
- No, nothing's lined up.
Can't you people line it
up like I've lined it up?
I mean, really.
Look at the boards.
It's so dumb.
What do you think
I did all this for?
Well, I hope nobody
has to go tonight
because we've got
to go through this.
- He was a bit of a bully.
You really had to stand up to
him, otherwise, you'd be lost.
And there wasn't a lot of
people who could do that.
Very, very few people
in our company.
- He would snap at you.
And even though we all had
the same amount of abuse,
you took it personally.
I never, ever got used
to being yelled at.
- It just became a
different relationship
and a different company.
- Even with Faye, I mean,
she defended that man.
But he'd just take
it all out on her.
Scream and yell at the
top of his lungs, I mean.
- Come on, come on, D. D.
Come on, everybody.
Don't walk out like
you're a parade.
- But the aura of it all,
and being a part of it,
kept you hooked.
You know, eventually,
he had all of us wear
black at the office.
He wanted us to be a
backdrop to the clothes.
And everything, to
him, was a PR event.
We were all PR events.
It was the stage
set that was us.
- Margaret.
(Margaret laughing)
- What we're looking
for is the illusion of art.
- Can I give you a little
bit of highlight there?
That's very good.
- You see, our mistake,
including Halston,
is to take our
name too seriously.
I mean, for me.
I was a jewelry designer.
I was a good jewelry designer.
I dedicate all my time to it.
- We had fights because he was
so much out of it, you know.
Because I'm vulgar.
Not vulgar, but, you know, I
cannot withstand all the time,
thinking that the pencil has
to be like that, impossible.
(clapperboard snapping)
(ominous music)
- He became a real loner.
- And did you
see the Elizabeth cover?
- Oh, it's so--
- Oh, that's beautiful.
- Isn't that wonderful?
- I love it for her.
- She looks great.
- She looks really great.
- I love the
picture of her inside.
- It's good.
- Oh, it looks great.
- Do you like that?
- Mm-hmm, I love it.
- Yeah, I think
Elizabeth will like that.
- Color is fabulous.
Fabulous, it looks
good, uh-huh.
- With the cover of Harper's
Bazaar, I just love it on her.
- And the truth
of the matter is
that his business
was slowing down.
He peaked, and other
names were showing up.
- Which brings us to Calvins,
and the survival
of the fittest.
- Good morning, Calvin
Klein, I presume.
Is that your name?
- Perry Ellis
is a new name in fashion.
- But Halston was
never one to fall behind.
- I am pleased to
announce an association
between Halston
Enterprises and JCPenney.
Today, we have signed $1
billion retail sales agreement.
- It was a license
over five years.
The largest designer deal
that had ever been made.
Enough money to make
anyone, even Norton Simon,
sit up and take notice.
- I begged him, I begged him
not to do the Penney thing.
This is gonna kill us.
And he kept saying,
"No, no, no, no, no.
"I wanna dress
everybody in America."
- It sounded like
a good deal to me,
to create things for people
who couldn't afford his, yes.
- Well, you know,
strangely enough,
when I was a kid, I always
shopped at Penney's.
My mother always took me to
Penney's to buy all the clothes
that we wore to school
and everything else.
And it's true, I come
from Des Moines, Iowa.
And my mother being a
practical Midwestern lady,
always took us there.
- In one highly-publicized
stroke of the pen,
Halston moved from
class to mass.
The reaction of
the fashion world
ranged from shock to outrage.
- JCPenney?
- Yes, JCPenney,
that nationwide
middle-class retailer
that offers clothes
right off the rack,
has landed a very big designer.
- Would you
expect to find a designer
like Halston in here?
- No, not Halston in JCPenney.
- Obviously, we're
very excited about it.
We think it is a catch.
- JCPenney is
trying to trade up.
But they're not quite
gonna change their name
to JCPeigner or JCPeignoir.
- I believe in our country,
and I like America,
and I like Americans
to look good.
And I'm an American designer,
and I love the
opportunity to do it.
- It's a first
between a department store
chain and a major designer,
with the clothes expected
to be on the racks
in the fall of '83.
- That makes a very good mix
from both catalog and retail.
- This
is called Halston III.
- It's called Halston III.
- Why?
- Well, it's really the
third stage of my career.
The first being in the
millinery business,
and then in fancy clothes
and dressing all the
stars and things.
And now, a larger public,
dressing America, really.
- He said
he would design it,
and he designed it.
And everybody, of course,
wanted a piece of it.
You know, the guy who made
scarves wanted Halston scarves.
The guy who made shoes
wanted Halston shoes.
All that was going on.
- JCPenney is an
organization that is so vast,
it's not like one person
oversees the whole thing.
And so, talk about cultures,
different cultures completely.
- We asked Penney executives
to sum up the Halston III line
in one word.
- Profit.
- Volume.
- It's what America wants.
- Things
became so tense
that Norton Simon
brought in consultants
to fix the relationship.
- When I got
involved in it and everything,
I thought, oh, boy, we're
really in for it, Billie.
I mean, shit, this
is a mother lode.
These people really need help.
Some sketches they
couldn't read.
Fabrics they didn't
know anything about.
Everybody would pat me
on the head and say,
"Oh, listen, just leave it
to us, we'll work it out.
"You just be artistical."
(woman laughing)
Well, no, no way.
The only way it'll work, let
me tell you, listen to daddy.
- Yes, I'm listening.
- The only
way it'll work is
to make the goddamn dress,
which, we're making
the goddamn dress.
And then they go and look
at the goddamn dress,
they'll see the
point of difference.
I'm just trying
to make it work.
- I know that.
I know that, it was--
- Desperately.
- All the plants,
he's got to understand
that we've got to commit,
like, eight months in advance.
We need to get the
approvals and the go-aheads
and the concepts.
But he's so involved
with everything,
that everything take,
on the label, the
label took him months.
(vibrant electronic music)
- America has heard about it.
And we've all dreamt about it.
And now, after months of
anticipation, it's here.
The Halston III
Collection for 1983.
- This is an
experiment, you know?
And it could succeed,
it could not succeed.
(exciting music)
- Quite a show.
500 of the fashionables
sat in a huge room,
dominated by a 60-foot whale
hanging down from the ceiling.
People didn't know where to
cry bravo or thar she blows.
- This has been probably the
most challenging and gratifying
fashion exercise in my career.
- He did really
give a lot to it.
I mean, he was really
taking it seriously.
He did a really
well-conceived line.
- Gosh, we had about
26 models in there.
The clothes looked spectacular.
It was perfect
for that audience.
And everybody looked fabulous,
and very good reviews.
And the show was very
successful, very.
(audience applauding)
- I'm telling him how
great his show was.
And I knew he was behind it.
- I love your
board of directors,
wanting to go out and buy
it right away. (laughing)
That's great.
- Well, we'll have a
lot more great showings.
- You
know, I think so.
- It's the first
of many to come.
- No, I'm very proud of it.
It's wonderful, a
wonderful thing.
(audience applauding)
- They had a big flag
out at the museum
when they had the show.
And Ira Neimark, who was the
President of Bergdorf-Goodman,
and Jackie, his wife, were
coming home from dinner,
and they saw this Halston flag.
He called his
senior merchandising
manager that night
at home, and she
called me at home
and said he wants
everything out of the store.
The fragrance, the
ready-to-wear, everything.
He doesn't want anything
to do with Halston.
(ominous music)
- Didn't you run into some
trouble with Bergdorf,
who was the first place
you had a boutique?
- Oh, not at all.
No, I don't think so.
You know, Bergdorf, you
know, I wish them well.
I started my career at Bergdorf
and helped to make
Bergdorf famous.
But Bergdorf is a
rather small account
compared to all America.
- He was very upset.
He didn't understand it.
Also, shocked
over the fact that
that could happen that quickly.
- Did Bergdorf-Goodman
drop your line
because you went to Penney's?
- They, I think,
felt threatened.
But I think there's
a way out of it.
- Your connection to
Bergdorf is a very important,
in terms of, wasn't that
the first to give you--
- I helped to make Bergdorf.
- He stepped out of the norm.
And people like
their boundaries
that are set between
them and those.
- The fancy-shmancy
guys are saying
that undermines your
elegant, chic hoi polloi.
- Oh, it doesn't.
My business is very good.
You know, if one store more
or less doesn't like it,
I mean, you know, I'm sorry.
- Yeah, but you can't--
- I tried my best.
- And then I started
getting all kinds of calls
from presidents of the stores
all over the United States,
and merchandising managers,
cutting back on orders.
It was pure hell after that.
He realized that he had
done the wrong thing.
- You know, the
press could be mean.
They were not supporting him.
That seemed odd to me.
It just seemed like a gang.
One person misbehaves,
and then everybody's
bullying this one person.
- Clearly, the purpose was to
strengthen Penney's position
as a supplier of
fashionable merchandise.
- Good.
- Okay, fine, that's
a diplomatic answer.
- I guess you got
what you need.
- Oh, absolutely.
- You can cut out and chop away
and do what you need, okay.
- Oh, no--
- The JCPenney thing became
so enormous a problem,
that the distance between
us became too great.
He wanted me to leave,
but he didn't want to say
he wanted me to leave.
He wanted to make things so
unpleasant that I would leave.
I pushed him too hard.
I pushed too many
licenses down on him.
(dramatic music)
- Things got out of control,
and I started not to feel well.
So I went to the
doctor, and he said,
"You have the
beginning of an ulcer."
And it was from the stress.
I just got to the point where
I couldn't deal with it.
And had to leave.
I hated to leave.
I loved Halston, but
I had to get out.
- I saw him
frustrated, and like,
"How can this thing
come into my life?"
And I said, well, maybe you
have to drop the whole thing
and come with me,
and get outta here.
We'll just get a boat,
you'll take a break.
And he'd say, "I
can't go." (sniffles)
- They say that
when it rains, it pours.
Well, a perfect storm
was about to happen
when his good
friend David Mahoney
threw him into the
belly of the whale.
(audio screeching)
- The day
before the JCPenney show,
David made an offer
to buy Norton Simon.
(gentle instrumental music)
He was gonna take it private,
and he could make an awful
lot of money doing that.
- Takeover mania in America.
Huge corporations are
gobbling one another
at a rate unmatched in history.
- But Esmark
came along out of the blue.
(bell ringing)
They made an outside bid
that was better than David's
and won the battle.
- I don't know
how Halston felt,
because after Norton
Simon sold him,
David Mahoney was,
you know, not there.
- You cannot
expect other people
to be interested in your
welfare all the time.
It's unfair, and
it's illogical.
So therefore, you'd better
take care of your own instincts
and your own efforts.
- Dog eat dog, look
out for yourself,
or is that what you mean?
- Well, no, I really
don't mean that,
although that's
part of it, Jane.
- You know how business is.
You know how money is,
you know how that is.
It's the pollution in the air.
- Esmark wasn't
really in the fashion business.
Except for maybe.
- Feeling smashing,
or the height of fashion?
Playtex once and you'll
Playtex for keeps.
For comfort to please you.
- So Halston
was put under Joel Smilow,
one of America's
toughest bosses,
according to Fortune Magazine.
- This is a little
teeny company.
You know, sort of a flyspeck.
And so, think of it,
if supposing you owned
the New York Yankees,
and you also owned a
class D farm's team
in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
How much time would you spend
with your Bethlehem,
Pennsylvania farm team?
(jazz noir music)
- In 1983, my uncle asked
me to come to dinner
while I was here.
I had recently
graduated from college.
I was very green.
And he dropped the bomb on me.
He said, "Well, would
you like to work for me?"
And I just sort of did
a somersault and said,
okay, I would love
to work for you.
When do I start?
I think maybe he wanted to
bring in a family member
who he could trust 100%.
There was a new manager
there from Esmark
who had just come on.
Do I have to say
his name? (chuckles)
- You don't
wanna say his name?
- No.
(jazz noir music)
- My first day at
Halston was interesting.
I never seen anything
quite like it.
Here, I'm the kid
from Brooklyn, right?
Yet got into this
world of Halston's
castle, Olympic Tower.
Look, Ma, I'm on television.
- It's about time.
- There was a kind of a pinkie
throw, everywhere you went.
Halston was a little bit
Hollywood, in my parlance.
But I thought we hit it off.
(guests chattering)
- You'd never think Carl
ever be with Halston.
I mean, physically,
mentally, anything.
But when Carl came in,
in a very strange way,
Halston liked him a lot.
- He kept saying,
"I've never had the
right kind of management.
"And that's part
of our problem."
And he gives me a
kiss on the forehead.
It was wonderful.
And then he says,
"You're now the king."
And he made, with
his own hands,
the crown that he gave me.
(jazz noir music)
- Halston, I think,
honestly believed
that Carl Epstein was going
to mediate with big business.
But I remember
thinking to myself,
well, there are two
men in this room.
But there's only one king
at Halston Enterprises.
(speaking in foreign language)
- Voila. (chuckling)
I thought, hey, this is fun.
Clothes had to be made for
me similar to what he wears.
Oh, my wife, my kids are
getting all these clothes.
And then one day, he
introduces me to Liza Minnelli.
I said, you know, this is,
to hell with the business.
This is great.
You know, this is
the way to live.
- We had budget meetings
and, apparently,
theirs was a disaster.
Carl was not doing
what we agreed to.
I'm at the top,
and I don't care what's
happening in the engine room.
I know the engine
isn't running.
And it wasn't.
Turn this into a brand.
Turn this into
something we can handle,
and stop having it be
this airy-fairy kind of,
I work when I want to, I'm
not inspired, I'm an artist
kind of thing.
- I read all the
personnel files,
and I had my rude awakening.
D. D. Ryan, I have to laugh.
Halston said, "Well, she's
the resident geisha."
Bill Dugan was another one.
He said, "Well, he amuses me."
And then he had Victor Hugo.
I'll never forget once,
he called me, frantic,
Victor Hugo was gonna kill him.
- Victor held the entire office
captive for several hours.
He was kind of like a mad dog.
- Probably shocking to Carl,
because I don't think Carl
was in the habit of
taking drugs, period.
Except, you know, Pepto-Bismol.
- I just decided to duck out
and go to the Top of the Sixes
and have some gin and tonics.
- It was a crazy
never-never land.
Then, I checked all
the expense stuff.
And that blew my mind.
The flowers.
(jazz noir music)
- Carl had me in
to talk to me about
what was being spent
on the flower budget.
And I said,
yes, I know what's being spent
on the flower budget, Carl.
I'm writing up
the bills myself.
- Esmark believed you
could have plastic plants
instead of orchid plants.
They're plants.
- Entertainment,
which was enormous.
The kitchen cost.
Example, they would
prepare a meal for him
while he's in Montauk, and
put it on a private plane,
fly it to Montauk, and
deliver it to Halston's house.
And that was a company expense?
That meal must
have cost $2,000.
- (laughing) It was '80s.
- Martha Graham was
honored in Paris last night.
She was presented with
the Cross of the Chevalier
of the Legion of Honor.
- The honeymoon ended when
he was going to go to Paris
with Martha Graham.
He's gonna take
his staff with him.
We calculated the
cost of doing that.
And just the workroom,
it was 125,000.
So I then told Halston,
you can't do it.
Halston was so incensed.
"How dare you say no to me?"
It was like Jekyll and Hyde.
Suddenly Mr. Hyde came out.
From then on, I was the enemy.
- Carl, every morning, would
put little sticky notes
on Halston's table about
what had to happen today,
or what things were
gonna be taken away.
And he didn't like it.
- We need to do this,
we need to do that.
And it was just like,
you're bossing him around?
Like, no one does that.
- It was a big struggle.
And it got worse and worse,
and he started coming
in later and later
so he wouldn't have to deal
with seeing those people.
- Be careful, it's a
little dark here, hold on.
History is filled with wars.
But you have to
understand the difference
between strategy and tactics.
Strategy is the art of war.
Tactics is the art of battle.
The only real battle you must
never lose is the last one.
(ominous music)
- There was rumor that a
junior designer was coming in
to help with the JCPenney,
and just huge workload.
- In the middle of February,
picked up the phone,
and this very deep voice said,
"John Ridge, this is Halston."
And he said, "Can
you come see me?"
So of course, I did.
And it turned out that it
wasn't really an interview.
It was, "When can you start?"
And I think he just needed
to know there was one head,
two arms, and that I knew
who Charles James was.
- Probably after a month,
I went to Carl and said,
I'm leaving, this is just
an impossible situation.
We were there
until eight, nine.
We never knew when
we were leaving.
I can't be responsible for
what the workroom cost.
And Carl said to me,
"Don't leave, things
are going to change."
(jazz noir music)
- There was something
called the Werner Report.
But it was so hush
hush, I didn't see it
until probably seven or eight
months after I was there.
When I read it,
it dawned on me that
everything was tactical.
They were gonna
solve their problem
by how we train the staff,
how we make the staff
unafraid of Halston.
How they would learn to cope
with Halston and his tirades.
Mahoney's attitude was,
we are not gonna try
to control Halston.
My strategy was going
back to square one.
Sometimes the kindest thing
in the world you can do is
to say no to somebody.
He started coming in at four
o'clock in the afternoon,
and he wants the
workroom to wait for him
to come in at that time.
I told him, it's
not gonna happen.
They're gonna leave at five
o'clock, period, done, over.
In the final analysis,
he is like me and
everybody else in that place,
an employee.
- Carl was answerable.
And, you know, it's all
about the bottom line.
- That's
right, we knew that.
- I suppose he was there to
just slowly push Halston out.
They had the brand.
Halston was the diva designer
that they didn't
necessarily need anymore.
Halston started
taking legal counsel.
- When I first met him,
he was quite distraught.
He was so frustrated
and so angry
he had trouble completing
sentences and thoughts.
Suddenly he was cast adrift.
Well, I guess I can best put
it the way Halston put it,
that the folks from
Planet Tampon landed
on Planet Halston.
(dramatic music)
- I'm going to
pass this back and forth
like this.
- Okay, all right.
- You don't
have to worry about.
- I saw him tired at times.
I thought he was really tired.
- One time I came in,
and I think he might
have had a panic session.
He just seemed very stressed.
And I said, can I do anything?
He said, "No, just sit here.
"Just sit here."
And we sat there for,
like, 30 minutes.
Wow, that's new.
- Halston never asked me what
I thought of his collection.
This time, he asked me what
I thought of his collection.
And, honestly, it was like
someone had punched me
in my stomach, because I
knew that he was feeling
not as strong as he had been.
And it made me sad.
- If you
lived in another epoch
in another time in another
city, could you pick it for me?
- Oh, no way.
I like right now.
And tomorrow's
going to be better,
and next week is
going to be better.
No, no, no, I'm the
all-time optimist.
No, I like right now.
- The problem was simply drugs.
He had gone way too far.
- I don't do tuxedos.
- He was out of control.
Out of control was symmetrical
with Esmark taking over.
So you tell me which is the
chicken and which is the egg.
- Some time in that spring,
Liza went to Betty Ford.
And Halston said, "It's great
that things like this exist
"for those who need them.
"Of course, the rest of us
"have to get on
and earn a living."
- Very hard to do an interview
about your best friend,
especially if what's
popular in that day and age
is digging a little.
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.
(audience applauding)
- In June, he had summer
to do for JCPenney,
Which was way late
at that point.
- Halston cooled off.
He don't want do
JCPenney anymore.
I don't know why,
but that's when everything
went upside-down.
(dramatic music)
- I think he thought
that if he went on strike
and didn't design
the collections
that he had some power over
the situation, you know.
- I'm getting calls
from JCPenney saying,
"Where are our products?
"Where are the designs?
"He hasn't approved them."
And whether he was doing
that to get revenge on Carl,
or whether he was doing it
because he was doped up,
it wasn't happening.
- They were very frustrated
because they couldn't get
sketches from Halston.
So one day, I
drew them a jacket
'cause they had to
have a jacket,
and Halston wasn't there,
and I, well, he
was not too happy
that I'd given them a sketch.
But Penney's was
very happy about it.
And I think that they went
away viewing me as a source
that they could turn
to and get something.
And that was kind
of the beginning
of my personal
relationship with Penney's.
- It
is inappropriate
to have John Ridge
involved in areas
which do not fall under
his responsibilities,
signed Halston.
To John Ridge
from Carl Epstein.
Please keep up the good work.
- Carl was hell-bent
on isolating Halston.
Halston felt that he could
no longer work with Carl.
All he was good
at was destroying.
We decided the best
thing for Halston
would be to go to Montauk
and give everybody a chance
to take a deep breath.
We thought that there would
be a deep breath taken also
on the part of
the Esmark people.
Turned out not to be the case.
(jazz noir music)
- Carl started
cleaning house.
D. D. Ryan, Bill Dugan.
- I was fired.
- May I have your
attention, please?
- They couldn't touch me
because he still
had an office there
and I was still his secretary.
I remember him calling me.
Carl held a meeting in
front of all the employees
at Halston Enterprises.
He said that it would no
longer be a one-man show.
John David Ridge was promoted
and would be in
charge of the design.
He is livid.
"It's my name on the label.
"How dare you?"
- It was his
company, his people,
his workers, everything.
So, we went back
and it unraveled into a
very unpleasant scenario.
- It was like having two
chefs in the kitchen.
Everybody was saying,
well, let's divide
the space up there,
and this half is Halston
and this other half is
Halston III with John Ridge.
- At some point, I said no.
No, you can get someone else
to do it, but I'm not going.
I knew, at this point, I knew
Halston pretty well, the man.
- There was a lot
of angst going on.
And so, I had my first
meeting with Roy.
"Yes, Bregman, what
can I do for you?"
And I'd say, well, Roy, that
was the beginning. (laughing)
He was talking about going
into another business.
That's why I started
calling him Roy.
I said, you don't
own your name, pal.
Read the small print.
We own your name.
(dramatic music)
- This was all blowing up.
They said to me, "I want you
to go in and talk to him."
I was there that morning, too,
we were sitting, he and I,
in his office, till about
one, 1:30 in the morning.
And he said to me,
"We can do this."
I said, we can do what?
He said, "We can take this over
"and get it away
from the corporation
"and run it as an."
I said, Halston, it
would never work.
Where is this money
gonna come from?
I said, do you know how
much money you spend?
And how luxurious.
I said, just take
a look around.
You've had the
biggest and the best.
And this kind of money is
not gonna be found again.
- They requested, and I put
that in quotation marks,
that I not be present
at the meeting.
I'm sitting in my office,
and I felt like
having a cup of tea.
So I thought I'd go
into the kitchen.
I go to the door, put
my key in the lock,
key is not working.
I couldn't understand,
why the key?
So I run around
to the front door.
And there's a guy working on
the door there, a locksmith.
He's changing the locks.
I said, who hired you?
- Mr. Halston.
- I stormed into that meeting,
and I just blew my top.
Even his lawyer was shocked.
- (laughing) No, Halston
didn't change the locks.
He was locked out.
Carl admitted he
changed the locks.
- Job is done, Mr. Epstein.
- You
actually admitted it.
- I admitted it?
- In Women's Wear
Daily, several months later.
When there was a story about
trouble at the Olympic Tower.
- I said, look, that's
it, I've had it.
You know, I don't wanna
have to think about
somebody changing the locks.
Either he goes or I go.
- When Epstein gave 'em
the signal, they said,
"We're done, you're done."
And Halston was out.
- It was weird.
It was surreal that this coup
d'etat happened so quickly.
- I was very
heartbroken for him.
He was like a man
without a country.
The Halston name,
that was the most important
thing in his entire life,
could be used by
that corporation
without his consent.
- Halston Enterprises
and Organization MINE,
a symbolic signing of the
licensing agreement for Mexico.
(speaking in foreign language)
(vibrant music)
- Hola.
(dramatic music)
- Week after
week, month after month,
he realized that he didn't
have much clout anymore
with the company.
- When one comes in
to make a company healthy,
it depends how
you define health.
- People were
suddenly at peace,
had comfortable jobs,
were not being shouted at.
- We had not much to do.
No movie star.
No celebrity.
JCPenney, and that's it.
And not even,
because at one point
they used to do
everything in China.
We just would send the pattern,
and they used to make
everything there.
- Carl told me one day
that he was gonna sell
off all the samples.
- That was his record
that should be in a museum,
and they decided to sell
those important pieces
for 25 bucks, 50 bucks apiece.
- But it was just
stuff sitting there,
year after year, doing nothing.
- Some pieces went here,
some pieces went there.
But the mother lode of it
is gone, eliminated, erased.
It was hostile.
- There was nothing
personal about it.
If you want to call
something personal,
I really didn't give a damn
what Halston's
reaction would be.
We were beyond that.
- Why not
give it to a museum?
- And then there was a bookcase
full of video
tapes of the shows.
Said to Carl, well,
I want these tapes.
He said, "No,
Halston has copies."
(static crackling)
(audio screeching)
(video beeping)
- How do you do?
I'm Halston.
- Carl said he was
gonna erase them
and sell the blanks
to the next tenant.
(models cheering and laughing)
- Everyone thinks you're
an overnight success.
I had worked very
hard for 20 years.
This is.
Happy birthday to me
(video humming)
(static crackling)
(audio screeching)
- There is no home
in Iowa, you see.
(static hissing)
- I really wanted
to show this photo.
So, my grandparents, this is
Hallie Mae and James Edward.
(gentle guitar music)
They were working class.
My grandmother, I'm not sure,
made it past ninth grade.
They had four children.
My father first.
And then Roy Halston
Frowick came along in 1932.
You know, times were tough.
Grew up in the Depression era.
Halston and my father weren't
close with their father.
They loved him, but
he had a temper.
My grandmother took
him under her wing
and was sort of protecting him.
She was a sweet, sweet,
soft-spoken, very mellow woman,
and you just felt
so calm around her.
When she passed away, Halston
was in the middle of JCPenney,
but he didn't tell
them anything.
He just said he had to leave.
He suffered silently.
Halston wasn't estranged
from his family per se,
it's just that the
family's very conservative.
He felt that they wouldn't
understand his lifestyle
with Victor there, and although
he was constantly trying
to get him out of his
life, and I was there.
And eventually he did.
I kept trying to tell him to
reconnect with his siblings,
telling him, they're
not gonna judge you.
The family's there for you.
And at a certain point,
I helped him organize the first
family reunion in Montauk.
He let his hair down
and was the brother that
he was 40 years prior.
But he was who he was,
so he had to plan it,
every moment of it.
They got all white sweat
suits for one event,
and they got all Army
uniforms for the safari.
- He loved life and you
could tell that about him.
You could tell.
- I think he just wanted,
maybe to slow down a little.
Being a regular person.
Here, he was Halston.
But I think inside,
he was, you know, Roy.
- It came to a
point where he said,
"I'm not gonna be able
to go back to designing,
"so you need to kind of
pursue your own life."
You know, he didn't
want to hold me back.
So I decided to
move to California.
(gentle guitar music)
It was a difficult
decision to make.
But I bought a car
and told him I wanted
to take him for a drive
up the Hudson River
to blow off the stink.
It was a beautiful,
sunny Sunday.
And at certain point,
through the chatter, he said,
"Well, I have to
tell you something."
And he revealed to
me at that point
that he was sick with HIV.
And I just shut down and
started freaking out.
And he said, "It's
not a death sentence."
So I did the stiff
upper lip thing,
'cause he didn't
like people to cry,
and just went
along with it like,
no, it's not a
death sentence, no.
But you have to remember,
so many people were
getting sick in those days.
- The fashion industry here
is being devastated by AIDS.
- When Perry
Ellis died in 1986,
his company denied
it was AIDS-related.
- There is no drug,
there is no treatment,
there's no vaccine, there's no
prevention, there is no cure.
- No one was beating it.
I was terrified.
I was scared for him.
- I didn't wanna leave.
I kept asking him
and asking him,
and even the last day I
said, I can stay here.
I can live here, I can be
your nurse, I can take you,
I can get your stuff if
you don't want to go out.
And he was like, "No, I
don't want you to do that."
So I left.
- He handled it the way
he had to handle it.
You know, denial, and then
fighting it and saying,
"No, this is not
gonna take me."
And then finally
realizing it had.
(solemn music)
He decided to sell the house.
(gentle piano music)
- He decided
he was gonna live
his last moments of his life
with his family in California.
He didn't want anybody to know,
so I didn't tell anybody
until I had to tell my dad.
- He left, and he
completely hid away
and didn't want
anybody to see him.
- We would write him letters.
- I did not know
that he was ill.
I wish I could call him now.
- That was a period
of people I knew
that they will never come back.
But I remember them.
I don't regret those times.
I am alone, though.
And you are a voyeur.
- I tried to find out
what was going on,
and then I heard the stories
that he was in California,
driving along the coast in
a convertible Rolls-Royce,
enjoying his life with his
sunglasses and his hands out,
enjoying the breeze.
That's how I see him.
(epic music)
- He passed away the night of
the Academy Awards, actually.
And his name was up on
a television screen.
We had a beautiful ceremony,
and we played Fanfare
for a Common Man.
("Fanfare for the Common Man")
Halston was a common man.
He came from nowhere.
At the end, he said, "I
just wanna fade away."
But as somebody like him,
he couldn't just fade away.
- The death of a great
American designer.
His name was Halston.
He was only 57 when
he died in California.
Yesterday he died as
the result of AIDS.
- With AIDS.
- The cause,
AIDS-related cancer.
- We profoundly hope that
it has a positive impact
on the public in becoming
increasingly aware
of this terrible problem,
and doing something about it.
(upbeat music)
- Five months later,
Halston Enterprises closed its
Olympic Tower headquarters.
(audio screeching)
Today, fashion is fast.
And high up above the streets,
in his beloved Olympic Tower,
a private investment firm.
It's morning again in America.
- Does it look
pretty much the same?
- Oh, sure it's fun
and it's not fun,
and it's upbeat and downbeat
and everything else, you know.
But as my mother says, it's
the price you have to pay.
Thank you.
It's a wrap. (laughing)
I am for a life
around the corner
That takes you by surprise
That comes leaves
all you need
And more besides
I am for a life
and time by numbers
Blast in fast and low
Add 'em up,
account for luck
You never know
I am into friendship
and plain sailing
Through frenzied
ports o'call
O shake the hand
to beat the band
With love is all
Or nothing to the man
who wants tomorrow
There's one in every town
A crazy guy,
he'd rather die
Than be tied down
I am for the man who
drives the hammer
To rock you till the grave
His power drill shocks
a million miles away
I am for the
revolution's coming
I don't know
where she's been
For those who dare...