Wednesday 24/07/2019 - 11:32 am


Bob Mackie: The "Sultan of Sequins" who dresses the world"s divas


2019.06.15 05:55

 Bob Mackies client list reads like a whos-who of 20th-century legends. Cher, Tina Turner, Bette Midler, Judy Garland, Madonna, Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton, Liza Minnelli, Marlene Dietrich... No one could pass up a bit of his magic.

Elton John biopic Rocketman takes off with whole new wardrobe
Variously dubbed the Sultan of Sequins, the Rajah of Rhinestones and the Guru of Glitter, Mackies work for stage and screen has earned him myriad accolades, among them nine Emmys, three Academy Award nominations and an induction into the Television Academy Hall of Fame. He also forayed onto the New York catwalks in the 1980s and enjoyed a retrospective at the Museum at FIT in 1999, celebrating his talents for creating the most twinkly, feathery and often cheeky outfits imaginable.
 
The year, the showman is in the limelight once again. Mackie has just won his first Tony Award for Best Costume Design in a Musical for his work on "The Cher Show" on Broadway. He has a look in the Metropolitan Museum of Arts exhibition "Camp: Notes on Fashion." Hes seen his 1970s looks for Elton John reimagined for the biopic "Rocketman." And to top it off, he has been honored by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) with the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award.
"When (former CFDA chairman) Diane von Furstenberg called me to tell me Id be receiving this award, I thought, Really? because in my minds eye Im still 35. But then I realized Id just turned 80, so I figure its okay," Mackie said over the phone from his New York hotel. "Its interesting. Ive never been the darling of the fashion world. Im a costume designer, thats what Ive spent my life doing. So the CFDA was a surprise. But you know, everybody likes to be loved."
 
And Mackie is indeed beloved. Fern Mallis, former executive director of CFDA and founder of New York Fashion Week, remembers getting to know him in the early 1990s.
"When he did fashion shows, they were so spectacular and theatrical," she said in a phone interview. "He invented the naked dresses with the strategically placed beads. Now everyone who walks the red carpet, or designs for the red carpet, owes him a debt of gratitude, whether they know it or not. Hes a treasure; hes one of a kind."
Mackie was born in Los Angeles County. He spent his boyhood at the movies where he fell in love with the Technicolor glamour of Carmen Miranda, Gene Kelly and Betty Grable.
 
And Mackie is indeed beloved. Fern Mallis, former executive director of CFDA and founder of New York Fashion Week, remembers getting to know him in the early 1990s.
"When he did fashion shows, they were so spectacular and theatrical," she said in a phone interview. "He invented the naked dresses with the strategically placed beads. Now everyone who walks the red carpet, or designs for the red carpet, owes him a debt of gratitude, whether they know it or not. Hes a treasure; hes one of a kind."
Mackie was born in Los Angeles County. He spent his boyhood at the movies where he fell in love with the Technicolor glamour of Carmen Miranda, Gene Kelly and Betty Grable.
 
"She had the most beautiful little body. She loved to get dressed up and if she didnt understand a look, Id show her a history book: Today were doing Samson and Delilah," Mackie says. "She became known for her clothes -- or her lack of clothes! And shes still out there doing it at 73. Its amazing."
 
Mackie has had an equally long friendship with Diana Ross, who he initially dressed in 1969: "I certainly have a soft spot in my heart for that little girl from Detroit who could wear clothes like nobody else. She must have been a royal goddess in another life," he says.
 
As for Elton John, their combined imaginations resulted in the musician dressed on stage as everyone from Minnie Mouse to Donald Duck. "He had a horrible time sitting at the piano with the Donald Duck backside sticking out, but he got a kick of it all."
With the awards season over, Mackie is looking forward to checking out of New York and heading home to California. "I have no intention of retiring, but a holiday would be good," he quips.
Next, hes the subject of an upcoming Matthew Miele-directed documentary. Due for release in December 2020, the film will examine Mackies entire career, reveal the craftsmanship that went into his most famous piece, and feature interviews with his inner circle.
 
"Bob Mackie is an American original, and to be given a chance to showcase how he accomplished his lifes work and made each design worthy of amplified spectacle is something that will leave audiences inspired," Miele said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter.
This ongoing fascination with Mackies work comes as no surprise to his close friend Jan Strimple, the show producer and former model who whose international career he helped to propel in the 1980s.
"Bob is a prolific creator. His designs exude confidence, sensuality, unapologetic glamour and wit," she wrote in an email.
"I think that in our angst filled world, we all want to lighten up. Bob has never left that mindset. He gives us the same thing that early Hollywood gave him: reasons to laugh and moments of beauty that take our breath away."
 
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