Guests were invited to step into the wonderful world of Bob Mackie at a luncheon at Windsor Beach Club hosted by Stacey Lewis and Cynthia Bardes, to showcase ‘The Art of Bob Mackie’, a book-sized book as fabulous as the creator himself. The book, which features some of Mackie’s most iconic costumes and dresses, was written by Frank Vlastnik and Laura Ross, who individually have ties to Lewis and Bardes.
Lewis said she met Vlastnik in 1996 when they performed in the Broadway musical “Big” and worked again in Broadway’s “Sweet Smell of Success.” In the small world of Windsor, Laura Ross is the editor of Bardes’ delicious mystery series “Pansy the Poodle”.
Vlastnik delighted everyone with inside stories about the incomparable Mackie who, when asked who he designed for, replied, “I design for a woman who dares to stand out.”
“And he did,” said Vlastnik, who reveled in slides and the inside scoop behind some of Mackie’s most famous clientele.
Notables included Bernadette Peters, “his (Mackie’s) dearest friend in the whole world”; Mitzi Gaynor, “who just turned 90 and is still full of P&V as they say”; “the fabulous” Ann Margaret; and “prime-time soap opera rivals” Linda Gray and Joan Collins, “who both wanted to claim Bob as their own designer”.
Hollywood legends included Debbie Reynolds, Angela Lansbury, Cyd Charisse and Julie Andrews, Fred Astaire and his latest dance partner Barrie Chase, “who is still there and still has those legs that go all the way up to the rafters.”
His rock and roll clients included Tina Turner who, after leaving Ike, wanted Mackie to reinvent her image; Elton John, who sometimes wore a suit for a single gig before taking it off; and Pink, who performed live at the Grammys “upside down on a trapeze.”
“Another celebrity client of hers is her smallest, only 11 ½ inches tall, and that’s Barbie.
Bob has designed over 50 Barbies,” Vlastnik said.
Mackie got his start sketching for Edith Head at Paramount Studios and later at 20th Century Fox, sketching for Jean Louis who, with an original rendering by Mackie, designed Marilyn Monroe’s famous semi-sheer rhinestone-laden dress. .
“It was a moment in history when worlds collided, with politics, show business and secrets,” Vlastnik said. Mackie’s nude-illusion dresses would later become popular with other stars, often to the dismay of censors.
In 1967 he designed for Mitzi Gaynor, who wanted to change her image to be a “hip new Mitzi Gaynor”. In the audience at Gaynor’s Las Vegas show was a young Carol Burnett, who was “stunned by the costumes”.
Mackie’s famous spirit often took center stage with Burnett’s iconic characters. When she first saw Mackie’s change to the hysterical “Went with the Wind” dress, Vlastnik said Burnett fell on the floor and said to Mackie, “That’s the brightest gag I’ve ever had. never seen in my life.”
Mackie first met Cher when she was a guest on the Carol Burnett show and discovered, remarkably, that they had the exact same measurements. Her Cher outfits are now so famous they’ve even taken Broadway by storm; Mackie won a Tony Award for the musical “The Cher Show.”
“There was a 10-minute number that was actually just a fashion show called Mackie, which was just one costume after another,” Vlastnik said.
In 1986, Vlastnik said Mackie was surprised to see the cover of a television guide that had an oversized head of Oprah Winfrey posed in a promotional photo of Ann Margaret taken 11 years earlier wearing a dress designed by Mackie. Surprisingly, they didn’t deny it.
Giving credit to Ross for its witty title, Vlastnik said the chapter was titled “Ann Margaret Loses Her Mind”.
The book includes a before from Burnett and an after from Cher, his lifelong friends.
Pictures of Kaila Jones