“Sylvia’s best friends are her boyfriends. They’re always handsome, young, and unemployed. They follow her. Sylvia doesn’t follow anybody.
“The most famous thing Sylvia ever did was throw a plate of spaghetti, brie cheese, and salad on John Simon’s head. She was furious at him for calling her ‘a party girl and gate crasher’ in one of his reviews. She said, ‘Take that! Now you can call me a plate crasher too!’
“Sylvia never crashes parties, but she is a party girl. During the 1977 Democratic primary in New York a reporter asked Sylvia how she could go to a Bella Abzug fundraiser one night and a Mario Cuomo fundraiser the next. Sylvia replied, ‘I’m not for any candidate. I’m for the party.’
“Sylvia goes to at least three parties a night. One for cocktails, one for dinner, and one for dessert. One night she arrived at her dessert party and a big black waiter asked her if she’d like a cup of coffee. Sylvia said yes and the waiter asked, ‘How do you take your coffee, Miss Miles?’
” ‘I like my coffee the way I like my men,’ said Sylvia, eyeing the waiter up and down.
” ‘I’m sorry, Miss Miles,’ the waiter said, ‘But we don’t have any gay coffee.’ ” — Andy Warhol*
Sylvia Miles, who died on June 12, costarred with Joe Dallesandro in Andy Warhol’s Heat, and was nominated for Best Supporting Actress twice: for seven minutes of work in MidnightCowboy (1969), and five minutes of work in Farewell, My Lovely (1975).
*Andy Warhol’s Exposures, edited by Bob Colacello (New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1979), 176.
From top: Sylvia Miles and Joe Dallesandro, publicity still for Andy Warhol’s Heat; Miles and Tennessee Williams; Vieux Carré poster for London production; Miles and Dallesandro on set, Heat; Warhol (left), Miles, Geneviève Waïte, and Bob Colacello, 1974, photograph by William E.Sauro; Miles and Dallesandro in Heat.
Nearly thirty years after his death, Halston—the master of American minimalism and fashion’s greatest cautionary tale—has finally received a documentary worthy of his contributions. Unlike the designs of its subject, the film is somewhat padded with yards of unnecessary material. But this should not deter its intended audience from enjoying the ensemble.
Directed by Frédéric Tcheng—the filmmaker behind documentaries about Raf Simons (Diorand I) and Diana Vreeland (The Eye Has to Travel)—HALSTON hits an early peak when, one after another, his core house models—dismissively labeled “Halstonettes” by Loulou de la Falaise—testify to the talent of the man who could throw a bolt of fabric onto the showroom floor and, within minutes, create the basis of a couture gown:
“[Wearing a Halston dress imparted] elegance and ease. A sense of owning power without being masculine. And honoring the body you have.” — Alva Chinn
“You were free inside his clothes.” — Karen Bjornson
“He took away the cage. You didn’t really need the structure as much as you needed the woman. He really based most of his collections on us girls.” — Pat Cleveland
So where did it all go wrong? Cocaine and Studio 54 may have started the slide—and in the film, jewelry designer and Halston confidante Else Peretti gives a hilarious digression on mind-altering substances and their use:
“We worked all night… we didn’t get high… yes, we smoked, but no hard drugs… well, maybe a little coke…”
Because when you’re working all night…
But the man who introduced Halston to Studio 54, illustrator Joe Eula, traces the designer’s fall to the delusions of grandeur that set in after the move to the Olympic Tower studio, with its lofty, across-the-street view of St. Patrick’s spires.
The irascible, amphetamine-dependent fashion genius Charles James, who briefly worked with Halston Limited, was—typically—incendiary:
“Halston is a middle-of-the-road man who’d be better as a buyer in a store, or a stylist. He knows how to select good things to copy. But his passion is to put his name on it, for which action the word ‘plagiarism’ is correct.”
In the film, Fred Rottman, a workroom supervisor at Halston, is quick to deflect:
“Halston didn’t copy. He took concepts of Charles James’ and relaxed them.”
Halston’s era—the 1970s and early ’80s—was the time of out-of-control franchising. A designer sold his name to and sometimes designed for an array of manufacturers, slapping the cachet of his or her moniker on, yes, perfume and handbags, but also bedsheets, luggage, rugs, car interiors, and—in Halston’s case—uniforms for Braniff Airlines and the Girl Scouts of America.
This obsession to design everything for everyone, trading “class” for “mass,” led to the sale of his company to a conglomerate—a subject the film spends far too much time on. Suffice to say, Halston lost his judgment: How could he imagine that Bergdorf Goodman would want to carry a brand that was also hanging on the racks at J.C. Penney?
The film includes interviews with the designer’s friends Liza Minnelli, Bob Colacello, MarisaBerenson, Iman, Joel Schumacher, Naeem Khan, and his niece Lesley Frowick.
“Warhol didn’t make a mark on American culture. He became the instrument with which American culture designated itself.” — Peter Schjeldahl
In conjunction with the Whitney show ANDY WARHOL—FROM A TO B AND BACK AGAIN, Irving Blum—whose Ferus Gallery in Los Angeles was the first to exhibit Warhol’s post-advertising artwork, the Campbell’s soup-can paintings—will talk about working with the artist.
Drawing from over 130,000 photographic images taken by Andy Warhol and his entourage over the last decade of the artist’s life, CONTACT WARHOL—PHOTOGRAPHY WITHOUT END, at Stanford University, presents a backstage view of Warhol’s working and social life from 1976 to 1987.*
“Antonio didn’t record—he rendered.” — Joan Juliet Buck
ANTONIO LOPEZ 1970—SEX, FASHION & DISCO—an exquisite time capsule directed by James Crump—takes viewers back to the would-be golden age of the early 1970s for an exploration into the lives of artist Antonio Lopez (1943-1987) and his personal and creative partner Juan Ramos (1942-1995) as they navigated the art and fashion worlds of Manhattan and Paris.
With the flashy exuberance that characterized Antonio’s life as well as his drawings, the documentary features extensive on-screen interviews with Antonio discoveries Pat Cleveland, Donna Jordan, Jane Forth, Patti D’Arbanville, Jessica Lange, and CoreyTippin.
Editors Grace Coddington, Joan Juliet Buck, and Bob Colacello explain Antonio’s various entanglements within the distinct yet overlapping Yves Saint Laurent and Karl Lagerfeld “families,” and the late photographer and Lopez-Ramos confidante Bill Cunningham walks away with the film, giving the last word on Lagerfeld’s final betrayal and Oscar de la Renta’s heroism.*