Spoilers are ahead. Halston, Ryan Murphy's latest historical drama now on Netflix, takes a lot of liberties with the life and times of fashion designer and icon Roy Halston. But one thing that doesn't seem made up is the friendship between Roy Halston and Liza Minnelli. Halston does not exaggerate Liza and Halston's love for one another one bit.
Played by Broadway and Trial & Error actress Krysta Rodriguez, Liza meets Halston just before starring in Cabaret. In the Netflix series, he gets to talking with her after watching her perform "Say Liza (Liza With A Z)" and they become fast friends. They bond over the artistic shadows they're both living under. Halston is unable to escape Jackie Kennedy's pillbox hat, which he designed. Liza is unable to escape her mother, Judy Garland. By rebranding Liza, Halston is able to rebrand himself.
However. Their meet-cute in Halston was absolutely an exaggeration for dramatic effect. Though that song is the perfect introduction to who Minnelli was at the time (and Rodriguez should sing as often as possible), in real life, according to an interview with Harper's Bazaar, Minnelli's godmother Kay Thompson introduced the pair by setting her up with an appointment at his studio. "He had a great sense of humour about himself," Minnelli says in the interview, "and he pushed the envelope. He put us on the map."
In various interviews, according to Vanity Fair, Minnelli described Halston as like a brother or a father to her. He really did do uncredited costume work behind the scenes to make Liza feel more comfortable in Cabaret. He designed the dress she wore to accept her Oscar for playing Sally Bowles. He designed her wedding dress, and her concert looks. She really did go to the Battle of Versailles designer showdown to support him. They interviewed each other for Interview magazine.
You can watch the real Liza speak about Halston just after his death at a Lincoln Center tribute. In her short speech, she remembers her "pal" and talks about the last time she ever saw him — at a fake Thanksgiving they had together before he left to enjoy the holiday with his family. A friendsgiving, if you will. "He had that kind of a spirit," she says. "It's not Thanksgiving? We'll make it Thanksgiving. Kinda like today, for me." She praised his optimism, tenderness, courage, and boldness.
She is also interviewed in the 2019 documentary Halston, which is streaming on Amazon Prime. Minnelli staunchly defends him to this day. She is asked about the times in his life when he was too into drugs and their relationship may or may not have been rocky — but if there is anything to be dished, we're not going to hear it. "It's very hard to do an interview about your best friend," Liza says. "Especially if what's popular in that day and age time 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."
Honestly, Netflix's Halston should have included more of the designer's famous friends and colleagues. He also associated with so many icons of the era including Barbra Streisand, Anjelica Huston, Greta Garbo, Elizabeth Taylor, Andy Warhol, and Lauren Bacall. But it's clear there would be no show, and no Halston, without his best friend Liza.