May 03, 2013

Halston and Steve Rubell

Halston and Steve Rubell

Which is the most infamous bite in history? Surely Adam’s, but the one Steve Rubell took off Halston’s leg was far more expensive.

Let me explain for you whippersnappers who’ve probably never heard of these men. Both died of AIDS in the early 1990s.

I was reminded the time Rubell bit Halston by the story of Luis Suárez, no stranger to controversy in Britain but a hero in his homeland of Uruguay, where biting is the equivalent to our kissing, or so the volatile Liverpool footballer wants us to believe. Suárez bit a Chelsea rival during a match and got a ten-match ban as a result.

Mike Tyson, way behind in points against Evander Holyfield years and years ago, bit part of Evander’s ear right off and spat it out on the deck. He got disqualified, hence depriving Holyfield of an out-and-out victory. Rubell’s bite was less violent but almost as expensive.

“Which is the most infamous bite in history? Surely Adam’s, but the one Steve Rubell took off Halston’s leg was far more expensive.”

I broke the Halston-Rubell-Bowes-Lyon-Princess Margaret story more than 30 years ago in The Spectator. I recently saw a documentary on Halston, a milliner who became famous because he designed the pink pillbox hat Jackie Kennedy wore the day her husband was assassinated. Halston was a talented designer, but I wouldn’t know about such matters so I will stick to his constant partying in Studio 54 and his profuse cocaine usage.

Halston partied exclusively with gays, which made up the Andy Warhol group. The owner of Studio 54, Steve Rubell, partied with everybody, even unknowns, something Halston and Warhol did not. When Halston’s fame went international, as silly matters like fashion tend to do, he asked his friend John Bowes-Lyon, known as Bosie to the rest of us, to front a party for him in London and to produce Princess Margaret. Bosie did both but also asked yours truly, who dutifully reported the ensuing shenanigans to The Spectator, which back then sold around ten thousand copies if that. 

We were having dinner at the Savoy. Bosie stood in front of the dining room with Halston a few feet behind. Bosie did the greetings and introductions until Rupert Galliers-Pratt sauntered in with his faithful wife walking a few paces behind him. (In the original story I called him Rupert-Pilkington-Boreham-Wood upon his request.) “Hi Bosie,” said Rupert cheerfully and then quickly headed for the bar and free hors d’oeuvres. “I’m Halston,” said the milliner in his very stiff manner, sticking out his hand. “Thank you, Halston,” boomed Rupert, throwing his Anderson & Sheppard coat on poor Halston’s extended arm while rushing to the bar. (Rupert later said that only Ancient Greeks and butlers had one name, hence the gaffe. Poor Taki.)

End of story, but not quite.


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