victor hugo ALWAYS! text benjamin liu talks with michael bullock (for greg)
Benjamin: I came to New York through one friend, Victor Hugo, and I always continually thank him. He signified a whole era. He was a Venezuelan hustler and makeup artist who became a muse to Halston, Andy Warhol and Elsa Peretti. He was Halston’s lover–boyfriend and also a great display person, an artist in his own right and a coke addict. He was famously photographed at Studio 54 in a jock strap, in a celluloid stripped top carrying a women’s purse. At the same time, so manly. He was really like a porn star.
When he did arrive, I was intimidated. I had never met anyone who did coke every hour. I never spoke to anyone with a thick South American accent. I never met anybody who arrived with a full set of Vuitton luggage, wearing mirrored sunglasses, looking ultra chic. I invited him to stay with me and have the real experience of San Francisco. We just really got along, I don’t know how. We were like day and night. He said, “Come to New York. I will put you up for the week.”
No. At that time he was doing all of Halston’s windows, which made him really famous as a display person. But he was crazy, really creative. At the same time, he was inspiring Andy Warhol so when I came to New York that week, he had already told Andy about me and took me to the Factory.
Of course. It was even more exciting because at that time Victor was helping Andy to do this series about big dicks and asses. So Victor did the casting ’cause he knew all the porn stars and the first day I went there, they were all hanging around the studio. That was Andy’s most fun period.
Well, that trip happened to be the opening of Studio 54. I had no idea what that was. Victor knew that the only way to get in to the opening night was through the back door. It was crazy, every famous person was there trying to get in. When I got back to San Francisco, of course, I wanted to move to New York and made a pact to move there in six months. I told Victor and he said, “Great. Works for me.”
He didn’t sustain himself. Part of the problem is he was such a big coke addict and so temperamental. But I remember going to all these gay clubs and literally the red sea parted. I mean, he was THE QUEEN. People knew that he was Halston’s lover, best friends with Liza, Bianca Jagger and Andy.
We tried once. One day he said, “Benjamin, I fucked everybody but you. Let’s give it a shot. So I figured, “Why not?” and we got naked and we started making out but we both started laughing and couldn’t go through with it. We were too close friends.
Well, Halston would go to bed more regularly and Victor stayed up all night. Well, me and him, or we would sneak out and go the gay disco in East Hampton. We would call a cab. We didn’t drive so it cost $50 bucks there and $50 bucks back. In 1981, that was a lot of money just to go dance and look at fags for a couple of hours. Anyway, one long weekend, it was Halston, Victor, Steve Rubell, Ian Schrager, Bianca Jagger, Andy and me.