HALSTON. (2021) THE NETFLIX MINISERIES REVIEWED BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

HALSTON. (2021) DIRECTED BY DANIEL MINAHAN. BASED ON THE BOOK, SIMPLY HALSTON, BY STEVEN GAINES. EXECUTIVE CO-PRODUCED BY RYAN MURPHY.
STARRING EWAN MCGREGOR, REBECCA DAYAN, KRYSTA RODRIGUEZ, GIAN FRANCO RODRIGUEZ, VERA FARMIGA AND BILL PULLMAN.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

‘Reviews don’t matter.’

Wow. Ewan McGregor repeatedly has gay sex with big butch black men in this excellent biopic drama series from Netflix, and he seems to mainly be the passive receptacle partner each time, if you get my meaning. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s just that it’s Ewan McGregor, you know? He was Obi-Wan Kenobi.

He’s just kind of the last person you’d expect to see being rogered senseless (from behind) by a big black dude in a carpark wearing assless leather chaps, or admiring a big black guy’s wang before, ahem, chowing down, one imagines. I genuinely don’t mean that to be offensive. It’s just that it’s Ewan McGregor, if you see what I mean!

Anyway, the fifty-one-year-old does a superb job in this five-part Limited Series as the gay fashion designer who became famous in the ‘Sixties for designing the dinky little pillbox hat worn by style icon Jackie Onassis to her husband John F. Kennedy’s inauguration in 1961.

He went on from there to design dresses and create perfume, and he became one of the biggest, most talented designers of his day, up there with Calvin Klein (his enemy, lol!), Ralph Lauren, Givenchy and Bill Blass.

He came from troubled beginnings in small-town America, with the kind of angry, unhappy father who battered his mother and became outraged at the least sign of ‘sissy-ness’ in his young son, such as when he’d come across the fashion drawings penned by the little boy. A young Halston first began designing hats to cheer up his mother, who absolutely loved his creations.

He shook the dust of his home-town off his feet in search of fame and fortune and instead surrounded himself with the gay man’s alternative ‘family’ of close friends, lovers and, sometimes, sycophants and hangers-on.

Jewellery designer Elsa Peretti was his first and favourite model. Liza Minnelli was his muse, model and best gal-pal. He designed her outfit for her wedding to producer and director, Jack Haley Jr.

Joe Eula was his illustrator and confidante and David J. Mahoney, played by Bill Pullman from INDEPENDENCE DAY and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE, was the CEO of Norton Simon, to which company Halston signed a lucrative deal which gave him the space and protection to create his fabulous designs.

He was gay, as I believe I may have already mentioned, and often cruised the kind of places where you could get anonymous, no string attached sex, either paid for or for free. His long-time live-in lover was a Venezuelan-born wanna-be artist and window dresser called Victor Rojas, whose escort name was Victor Huge-O (Victor Hugo) on account of his massive, ahem, appendage.

Victor was desperately jealous of Halston’s success. He craved the recognition Halston had achieved for himself and his jealousy and bitterness caused many fights with the already stressed designer.

As you’ll see towards the end of this five-parter, Victor wasn’t exactly the best thing ever to happen to Halston. The gay community in America in the ‘Seventies and ‘Eighties all had a common enemy, and that enemy was called AIDS…

Halston was addicted to cocaine and booze as well as to cigarettes, rough trade and dangerous sex. It’s so funny when Liza Minnelli is packing to go away to rehab for her own addiction problems and Halston stares at her in bemusement before saying: ‘But where are you going, darling? Is it some kind of a tour, or something…?’ Someone clearly doesn’t understand the concept of rehab any more than he does that of abstinence…

Probably due to all the drugs and booze and excessive partying at Studio 54, Halston allowed his designing and business to suffer and go into a decline. He even ended up losing the use of his own name for design purposes, something for which I imagine he never forgave himself. He lost a lot of his friends as well, due to his bitchy, selfish and inconsiderate nature, which seemed to become more pronounced while he was high on drugs and alcohol.

Vera Farmiga, an actress you might be familiar with from her roles in the CONJURING movies, steals the whole show by at one point willingly placing Halston’s lover Victor Huge-O’s jockstrap over her face and breathing in the earthy aroma, but I’m not going to tell you why, lol. It’s just so gross.

Anyway, I just binge-watched the whole thing in more or less one sitting, give or take a few tea breaks. It’s compelling watching. I think it’s sad the way the kids of today don’t seem to know the name of ‘Halston’ the way they recognise Calvin Klein’s, for example.

Would they know the name of his favourite model’s any better, I wonder, as Elsa Peretti went on to become one of the hottest female jewellery designers of all time, with a collection of her pieces on permanent display at the British Museum. So many talented people, who should never be forgotten. This mini-series will go a long way, I feel, towards taking care of that.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her new book, THIRTEEN STOPS EARLIER, is out now from Poolbeg Books:

A STAR IS BORN. (2018) REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©


A STAR IS BORN. (2018) BASED ON THE ORIGINAL SCRIPT (1937) BY WILLIAM A. WELLMAN, DOROTHY PARKER, ROBERT CARSON AND ALAN CAMPBELL. ALSO BASED ON THE 1954 AND 1976 SCREENPLAYS OF THE SAME NAME.
DIRECTED BY BRADLEY COOPER.
STARRING LADY GAGA, BRADLEY COOPER, SAM ELLIOTT, RAFI GAVRON AND DAVE CHAPELLE.
REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

This romantic musical drama is a fuckin’ brilliant and gripping film, despite the fact that every second fuckin’ word in it is the fuckin’ ‘F’ word. Still, who am I to fuckin’ complain? I’m not a fuckin’ rock star. The music is out of this word, the love story is all too believable and the acting is top-notch.

I’ve previously watched and enjoyed the 1954 version of the film starring Judy Garland and James Mason, but I actually think this modern re-make is better, and I hardly ever say that about any film, ever. That’s how impressive this modern adaptation is.

It’s the story of a young, ballsy American woman called Ally, beautifully played by Lady Gaga, who works as a waitress to make her living, but she also has a phenomenal talent as a singer-songwriter.

Despite this fact, she’s still a nobody as far as the world at large is concerned. Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air, and all that. Thomas Gray wrote that, by the way. It’s a line from his poem, Elegy in a Country Churchyard.

Ally does have one outlet for her amazing creativity, however. One night a week, she gets to sing in a local drag club. On this one night in particular, guess who just happens to stagger in with the intention of getting loaded, as he does every night? It’s none other than Jackson Maine, who’s just about the biggest country/rock star on the whole frickin’ planet…

He falls in love with both Ally and her fabulous voice and stage presence when she does an absolutely riveting performance of Edith Piaf’s La Vie en Rose. Yep, the girl can sing in fluent French, too, and while lying flat on her back on the bar-top! Jackson is besotted with Ally from the moment he sets eyes on her.

The pair spend one of those once-in-a-lifetime special nights together, the night- before the sex happens- where you talk non-stop about your hopes and dreams and, in their case, the music they love and their songs and song-writing processes. The sex comes later, lol. And you only ever have this kind of night with someone you want to sleep with. Without the physical attraction, this kind of ‘you’re my soulmate’ connection simply wouldn’t happen. Trust me. I know what I’m talking about here.

Ally’s feet hardly touch the ground after this wonderful night. Before she knows what’s hit her, really, she finds herself being swept off her feet by the whole Jackson Maine circus. They quickly become a couple, and he’s so encouraging of her music that he even pulls her up on stage with him one night to sing the now-famous song, Shallow. It’s a stunning performance that quickly sees Ally becoming a star in her own right.

What she doesn’t know at the outset- even though Jackson is drunk when they meet- is that Jackson is a motherless alcoholic and drug-addict with Daddy issues. He also has a rapidly worsening hearing problem that has grave ramifications for his music career. In short, he’s a mess.

Without even noticing it at first, Ally slips automatically into the role of his mother/problem-solver/caretaker/cleaner-upper-after/excuses-maker and enabler, on the occasions when his lovely, endlessly patient older brother Bobby isn’t around to do these things for him and fill these roles.

Ally’s star is on the rise while Jackson’s is on the wane. Jackson’s behaviour when he’s drinking and snorting cocaine is out of control. Things come to a drastic head at an awards ceremony, where a pissed-as-a-newt Jackson commits an act of social inappropriateness that would make James Mason’s character in the 1954 film blush like a tomato.

Rehab rears its head, but is it too late for a depressed and downhearted Jackson? And what about his marriage to Ally? (Yep, they get hitched!) How can it survive Jackson’s extreme jealousy of his wife’s stardom and the insecurities that make him lash out cruelly at Ally’s weak points?

Her producer and manager Rez thinks that Ally would be better off without Jackson. He’s bringing her down, he’s like a millstone round her neck that threatens to de-rail her astronomic rise to fame if she’s not careful. Even Jackson’s greatest support, his big brother Bobby, is forced to take a back seat from Jackson’s addictions and dangerous behaviour when it becomes too much to bear.

What will become of the newly-weds? Is theirs a whirlwind romance doomed to bitter failure, or can things sink even lower than that…? It will take all of Ally’s courage and determination, which she has in spades, to get through these dark days. Lady Gaga is an excellent actress as well as one hell of a chanteuse, and she carries all before her as the troubled Ally.

The film accurately depicts the relationship where one of the parties is an addict and the other slips unwittingly into the role of enabler, before they finally wake up to what they’re doing and they either give the addict an ultimatum- clean up your act or I walk- or they leave, with the sad realisation that they are not responsible for the happiness of another. Great fuckin’ story, great fuckin’ acting, great fuckin’ music. That’s about it, really.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Vampirology. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page:

http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books:

The sequel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS LATER,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books: https://www.amazon.com/dp/1781994234

BLESS THE CHILD. (1993) BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

BLESS THE CHILD BY CATHY CASH SPELLMAN. (1993)

BOOK REVIEW BY SANDRA HARRIS. ©

The child everybody wants… even the DEVIL…

This book had the potential to be absolutely phenomenal, given its premise- a battle to the death between Good and Evil- but, like the film from 2000 based on this book, it turned out to be a really damp squib, a major disappointment.

Mrs. Margaret Cavan O’Connor is an American widow who owns an antiques business. God has sent her one of the worst of all human trials, a daughter who is addicted to heroin. The daughter, Jenna, missing for a good while, presumably off doing drug addict stuff, turns up out of the blue one day with a baby, her baby, in tow.

Mind her for me, she begs Maggie, then she legs it again to God-knows-where. Maggie, shell-shocked at first, grows to worship her little grand-daughter, Cody, which is why it’s so hard to give her up when Jenna turns up again, three years later, demanding the child back.

Things have changed a lot for Jenna in three years. She now has a husband, a handsome, charismatic billionaire businessman called Eric Vannier, who pulls all Jenna’s strings and keeps her provided with the drugs she craves, so long as she goes along with his twisted plans for world domination…

When an anonymous phone call reveals Eric’s link to a sinister and deadly Satanic cult called Maa Kheru, Maggie becomes convinced that Cody’s life, not to mention her immortal soul, are in terrible danger from this evil, sadistic cult.

It turns out that Cody is a very special child known as the Messenger, and Maggie is the Messenger’s protector, by virtue of her past life as a handmaiden dedicated to the goddess Isis. Maggie accesses this past life with the help of her witch friend, Ellie, who’s into Tarot card readings and the cosmic alignment of planets and all that jazz.

Anyone who can capture Cody, control her and correctly harness the power she possesses can rule the world. You can imagine, therefore, that such a child will be popular with people like Eric Vannier, for whom world domination has always been his primary goal. It’s time to unearth that old cliché, stop at nothing; as in, Eric and Maa Kheru will stop at nothing to get their hands on that little girl and her magical powers.

Maggie enlists the help of a New York detective, Lieutenant Malachy Devlin, a man with tragedy in his past, and Father Peter Messenguer, a questioning cleric who’s sailing pretty damn close to the wind as far as his superiors are concerned, to get Cody back from the Vanniers and Maa Kheru.

She has endless and, it has to be said, endlessly boring conversations with these two men about religion, spirituality, past lives and their beliefs and hers, in which the author shows off the prodigious amount of research she’s done into things like the history of magic, ancient Egyptian gods and goddesses, the left-hand path versus the right-hand one, astrology and mysticism.

It’s to her credit that she’s done all this painstakingly detailed research, but you can’t read for too long in the book without tripping over one of the many enormous information dumps she’s left scattered throughout the narrative. Quite honestly, I thought I’d never finish reading this particular book, and I normally love reading about all things supernatural.

There is one really cool chapter in which Eric Vannier authorises for Maggie to be the victim of something truly dreadful called a ‘Sending.’ Maggie barricades herself inside a pentagram chalked on the floor of one of the rooms of her house, while Maa Kheru flex their black magic muscles by ‘sending’ her various demons and nightmarish entities to mess with her head and terrify her into submission.

It’s very similar to the scene in the Hammer horror film THE DEVIL RIDES OUT, based on the book by Dennis Wheatley, in which Christopher Lee as Nicholas, Duc de Richleau, and his friends, are forced to defend themselves against a night of black magic attacks sent their way by Mocata, the charismatic leader of the evil cult trying to lure the Duc’s friend’s son, Simon Aron, over to the dark side.

Anyway, there are lots of extremely cool and interesting references to the various aspects of black magic in the book, but the book as a whole could have done with being a lot less long-winded.

Instead, the writer’s gone and heaved the entire bloomin’ kitchen sink at us, which is why it’s genuinely hard to see the wood for the trees here. Less is more, as the fella says, and, in this case, he might just be right…

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY OF SANDRA HARRIS.

Sandra Harris is a Dublin-based novelist, poet, short story writer and film and book blogger. She has studied Creative Writing and Film-Making. She has published a number of e-books on the following topics: horror film reviews, multi-genre film reviews, women’s fiction, erotic fiction, erotic horror fiction and erotic poetry. Several new books are currently in the pipeline. You can browse or buy any of Sandra’s books by following the link below straight to her Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B015GDE5RO

Her debut romantic fiction novel, ‘THIRTEEN STOPS,’ is out now from Poolbeg Books.