It was my first night at Studio 54 with my uncle but certainly not my last. Co-founders Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager had opened 54 the previous year — on April 26, 1977, to be precise, three days after Halston¹s forty-fifth birthday. It was the beginning of what Bob Colacello described as ³their delirious reign as the absolute monarchs of Manhattan nightlife. And Halston was very much a part of the Studio 54 aristocracy. He had an open invitation to what was the most exclusive club in the city, presided over by the master of the velvet rope, Rubell, who allowed in only the most glamorous, rich, beautiful, and interesting people, with a mix of straight and gay to maintain a balanced level of excitement. Rubell used to joke that the only reason he himself got in was that he was the owner. In his book Exposures, Andy Warhol wrote that his tip for getting into 54 was to always go with Halston or in Halston.
Studio 54 became a fantasy island in the middle of the chaotic metropolis. Especially extravagant were the lavish theme parties, like the one Halston threw for Bianca Jagger’s birthday soon after the club opened, in which she rode out from behind the stage curtain on a white horse escorted by a staff member wearing nothing but a head-to-toe tuxedo ensemble made of glitter. There was a circus party for Valentino, complete with circus ring, sand, and mermaids on trapezes. Studio 54 turned into an English garden for one fête and, for another staged by Alana Hamilton, a band of Hells Angels roared through the lobby and onto the dance floor. But nothing topped Elizabeth Taylor’s birthday festivities celebrated on March 6, 1978. The Rockettes performed and then presented the movie star, who was standing on a float between Halston and her then-husband, Senator John Warner of Virginia, with a cake that was a full-sized portrait of her. To quote Andy Warhol, in his book Exposures, “She blew out the candles and cut off her right tit and gave it to Halston. The TV cameras zoomed in as Halston ate it. Then they waltzed.”
As Liza recently told me, “There were times when we walked into 54 with flashing photographers, we would whirl around a little, and then we sat down, hobnobbed photographs, photographs — and then I’d look over at him and say, ‘Now?’ and he would say, ‘Now.’ We would get up and go out the back door and get in the same car and go home. But 54 was important. It was exactly with the times — nothing he did was not with the times. His house was, in the end, the hottest disco in town. His friends were free to let their hair down in the privacy of 101, where the only intrusion was Andy and his omnipresent Olympus camera.
Excerpt from “Halston: Inventing American Fashion.” Copyright © 2014 and reprinted by permission of Rizzoli New York.