Designer Dishes on Fashionable Life in New Doc

For greater than 60 years, Bob Mackie has reigned because the over-the-top couturier for Hollywood’s elite. After gaining consideration because the costumer for The Carol Burnett Present, The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and Cher’s solo selection present, the designer turned the go-to alternative for divas like Judy Garland, Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Madonna and Elton John, and created garments for 60 Barbies. Within the course of he received a powerful 9 Emmys, a Tony and a CFDA lifetime achievement award, plus three Oscar nominations.

Now with a long-awaited documentary dedicated to his life in showbiz, Bob Mackie: Bare Phantasm, arriving this summer time (a distribution deal has not but been finalized), the so-called Sultan of Sequins, Rajah of Rhinestones and Guru of Glitter appears to be having yet one more main second, together with his archival items worn at the moment by the likes of Anya Taylor-Pleasure and Zendaya.

“It’s sort of bizarre,” the 85-year-old designer tells THR. “Miley Cyrus borrowed one in every of my costumes for this yr’s Grammys. Subsequent day, the telephone by no means stopped. It was wild. I don’t know what folks will consider the movie; it’s in regards to the Seventies, Eighties — I’m an outdated man now. I’m simply amused individuals are amused by me.”

Miley Cyrus carried out in a 2002 piece by the designer on the 2024 Grammys.

John Shearer/Getty Pictures

Bare Phantasm ­— by documentarian Matthew Miele (Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s) — is so jam-packed with plaudits from the likes of Cher, Carol Burnett, Cyrus, Mitzi Gaynor, Pink, RuPaul, Tom Ford, Legislation Roach and Zac Posen, it’s a marvel a Mackie doc wasn’t made years in the past.

“However no one requested me!” the octogenarian says with a chuckle. “They by no means did. Matthew pursued me, he funded the entire movie himself.”

Why that title? “Oh, I don’t know!” he scoffs. “You see numerous bare clothes in it. I didn’t notice I’d executed so many.” Cher’s well-known bare gown that she wore to the 1974 Met Gala and in a while the quilt of Time is simply one of many standouts. “However I didn’t invent that. Marlene Dietrich began doing that in Vegas within the 1950’s. Seeing her films at age eight, I assumed, ‘She doesn’t even have, as they known as them in these days, a brassiere on. Everyone was shocked — nevertheless it was Dietrich. She wasn’t actually human anyway.”

However when Cher slithered throughout TV units within the ’70s in her (to say the least) sheer Bob Mackie robes, CBS censors blushed. “The censor got here by and snapped, ‘I may see her underboob!’ It wasn’t even a phrase then. I mentioned, ‘Why don’t you simply have her stand on her head and name it cleavage?’ They shut up and left the room. No person actually wished Cher to put on the rest — as a result of the rankings have been superb! That physique of hers!”

However with bare clothes now ubiquitous on pink carpets, Mackie says, “You watch awards exhibits and say, ‘Oh, cowl up! Put it away! Honey, I don’t must see all of that!’ It will get to be so vulgar, you don’t even need to take a look at it anymore. I used to be so bored watching The Met Ball — everybody exposing every part, the identical lookalike gown — I shut it off. When you’ve seen one Kardashian, you’ve seen all of them. And we now have seen all of them.”

“I’m simply amused individuals are amused by me,” says Mackie of being the topic of a feature-length documentary on the age of 85.


However Mackie was by no means drawn to what he calls “regular, on a regular basis garments” — all the time to fantasy and flourish. “As a baby rising up in Inglewood, the one factor I favored was going to the flicks — technicolor musical from the 1940’s,” he says. “By age 5, I knew each film star’s title. I used to be so busy drawing them, my grandmother tried to lock me on the entrance porch, so I’d get some air! I used to be obsessed with Carmen Miranda and Betty Grable.” His early jobs have been as a sketch artist for costume designer Edith Head and for dressmaker Jean Louis. (Mackie sketched the famed gown that Louis designed for Marilyn Monroe when she sang “Joyful Birthday” to John F. Kennedy at Madison Sq. Backyard in 1962. Two years in the past it was worn by Kim Kardashian on the Met Gala.)

Together with profession excessive factors, Bare Phantasm captures a fancy life shielded by a level of shyness. It’s full of non-public moments, each tragic and triumphant: Mackie was married to showgirl Lulu Porter from 1960 till 1963; their son, make-up artist Robert Gordon Mackie Jr., died from AIDS at age 35 — a topic so painful that the designer nonetheless has no phrases. Later, Mackie and Porter, who’re nonetheless shut, found they’d an unknown granddaughter, and two great-granddaughters, who’re key gamers within the movie. The movie refers briefly to his popping out and longtime accomplice, costume designer Ray Aghayan, who died in 2011. “There are some actually private issues in there that make me a little nervous — however not likely,” says Mackie. “I don’t know . . . I’ll be pleased if anybody sees and likes it.”

Carol Burnett, in 1976, as Starlett O’Hara.

Courtesy Everett Assortment

Bare Phantasm additionally seems to be again on the creation of one in every of TV historical past’s largest sight gags. Burnett remembers enjoying “Starlett O’Hara” within the famed 1976 sketch “Went With the Wind!” on The Carol Burnett Present. The preliminary concept was that she simply toss on some inexperienced velvet curtains earlier than assembly Harvey Korman’s Ratt Butler. However, remembers Mackie, “It simply wasn’t humorous.” So he went one higher: A complete curtain rod held up the makeshift material “gown” as she clumsily descends stairs. That outfit is now within the Smithsonian.

Mackie stays the uncommon costume designer who created his personal namesake line of garments in 1980. (Offered most just lately on QVC, it’s principally inactive at the moment, save for objects like watches, fragrance and sun shades.) “Nobody designer can do each trend and costumes. However Bob did — he does all of it,” declares Burnett within the movie. She ought to know: over the course of her 11-season selection present, Mackie created a whopping 17,000 costumes.

Zendaya in a gown from Bob Mackie’s Fall 1998 assortment on the Time 100 Gala in 2022.

Cindy Ord/WireImage

Mackie’s inventory in commerce was all the time extremes: excessive comedy to increased glam. Even his Barbies have been showgirls. “I made a Woman Dracula Cher Barbie doll, with little child fangs. The field she’s in is sort of a coffin — however she’s nonetheless dressed to the nines. I didn’t assume Mattel would make it nevertheless it bought large time! I did Barbie Goddess of Africa, Goddess of the North, Goddess of the Americas — filled with the tradition from faraway locations — however they nonetheless may get a great job in Vegas in the event that they wished! I all the time tried to make Barbie totally different. She wasn’t a secretary, a waitress, not someone’s mommy. It was all the time one thing most younger ladies may by no means be. Who desires to have a look at the norm at 11 inches excessive? Or any top. Regular doesn’t work for me.”

Regular doesn’t work for lots of the stars he clothes both. As Cyrus places it within the documentary: “Bob Mackie’s legendary listing of who he has dressed undoubtedly provides a reassuring confidence that historical past can be made while you’re sporting one in every of his designs.”

Lots of the stars who seem within the doc stress how Mackie predicted the zeitgeist. How? “I don’t know,” is his blasé reply. “I simply made issues I wished to see. I’d assume, ‘That’ll be totally different for a change.’ Now I’m beginning to see my life’s work in every single place. They preserve copying all that stuff. It’s so humorous.” Witness the heavy-handed dose of sequins, beading and feathers in night­put on proper now. “Designers see stuff from 40 years in the past, considering it’s soooo cool,” he says. “The place’s the originality?

“However,” Mackie provides with a sigh, “I by no means actually cared about trend. I cared about present enterprise.”

Bob Mackie, winner of the Geoffrey Beene Lifetime Achievement Award, poses with Bernadette Peters poses throughout Winners Stroll throughout the CFDA Trend Awards on the Brooklyn Museum of Artwork on June 3, 2019 in New York Metropolis.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Pictures

A model of this story first appeared within the Might 22 difficulty of The Hollywood Reporter journal. Click on right here to subscribe.