Halston and Andy Warhol's 'iconic' Studio 54 relationship explored

Bruno Cooke May 14, 2021
Halston and Andy Warhol's 'iconic' Studio 54 relationship explored

New Netflix miniseries Halston premieres today, starring Ewan McGregor as the eponymous fashion designer, Roy Halston Frowick, star of Studio 54. How did Halston and Andy Warhol meet, and what happened to their relationship?

When did Halston meet Andy Warhol?

American fashion designer Halston and Andy Warhol, a leading figure in the pop art movement, got to know each other in the 1960s, in New York.

Their careers gained traction simultaneously, although separately at first. One worked in fashion, the other in visual arts.

But Halston and Warhol understood each other. They were both gay men who had grown up in conservative areas. 

As per Biography.com, they also both “understood the power of personality”, and had spent time working as window dressers.

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Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Theirs was a professional symbiosis

The following two decades were a fecund period for Halston and Warhol; AnOther Magazine describes their relationship as “iconic”. 

Their artistic outputs dovetailed, frequently resulting in successful collaborations, not to mention parties at Studio 54.

During a 2014 exhibition, Silver and Suede, a pillbox hat Halston made for Jackie Kennedy sat alongside a Warhol screen print of her wearing it.

Warhol once photographed mutual friend and collaborator Liza Minnelli wearing a red Halston gown. 

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Photo by Robin Platzer/IMAGES/Getty Images

They were also great friends

Halston and Andy Warhol frequently worked together, but they supported each other in other ways as well.

Halston once gave Warhol a gift of a shoe-shaped cake, and in 1985 arranged for a birthday surprise involving people dressed as pink orangutans.

For his part, Warhol gifted Halston a white fur coat, a pair of roller skates and an I.O.U. for “One Art”. He also regularly organised parties for Halston at Studio 54.

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Studio 54: ‘Always go with Halston or in Halston’

In Andy Warhol’s Exposures, the artist sets out the “rules of the scene”. He created five rules for entry, one of which names Halston explicitly.

Rule #1: Always go with Halston or in Halston.

Photo by Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

The third rule, meanwhile, stipulates that entrants should arrive either “in a limo or a helicopter”. Although, apparently, one night Venezuelan-American artist Victor Hugo arrived in an ambulance and “got right in”.

How did their relationship end?

Warhol died in February 1987 of cardiac arrhythmia, aged 58.

In the years leading up to his death, Warhol had tried to learn from Halston’s fall from grace.

Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images

He wrote in 1984: “Where did Halston go so wrong when he sold his name? What should he have done that he didn’t? That’s what I want to know.”

The publication in 1989 of The Andy Warhol Diaries, one year before Halston’s death from AIDS-related cancer, reportedly “revealed embarrassing details about [Halston’s] life”.

In the words of W Magazine, it’s a “good thing the late designer Halston isn’t around these days to read this”.

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Where to watch Halston online

Miniseries Halston premieres today (14 May) on Netflix. 

The film stars Ewan McGregor as Halston himself.

Rory Culkin, Rebecca Dayan, Sullivan Jones, Mary Beth Peil, Gian Franco Rodriguez and Krysta Rodriguez star alongside McGregor.

The series runs to five episodes.

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Bruno Cooke has been a freelance journalist since 2019, primarily with GRV Media. He was an early contributor to The Focus, and has written for HITC, Groundviews and the Sheffield University newspaper – he earned his MA in Global Journalism there in 2021. He’s the Spoken Word Poetry Editor for The Friday Poem, and self-published his debut novel Reveries in 2019, which his mum called both a “fine read” and “excellent Christmas present”. Bruno has lived in China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines and likes, among other things: bicycle touring, black and white Japanese films, pub quizzes, fermentation and baklava. In 2023, Bruno will set off with his partner on a round-the-world cycle.