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Glitter and be great.

Sublimely over-the-top costumer Bob Mackie gets his due with an exhibition a book, and, above all, a launch party

"I've never seen so many gay men together in one place in my life ... except at your birthday parties," my agent said. She just been to the opening of the Bob Mackie retrospective at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, a "star-spangled, feathered-and-beaded blockbuster," according to The New York Times.

The party on September 23 was like that--packed with gay men and gay icons and one pregnant woman with a big eye painted on her bared, bulging stomach. In fact, more than 1,500 fashionistas showed up that night to gasp over Cher's spider-woman Oscar dress, Elton John's "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" costume, and a really zingy beaded jumpsuit with a flower at the neck that Mitzi Gaynor wore on her 1978 TV special "Mitzi Zings Into Spring." That show earned Mackie one of his seven Emmys.

Carol Burnett--Mackie's employer for 11 years and friend for life--screamed when she saw a reproduction of the green Southern belle costume, made from the drapes with the curtain rod still in them, that she wore in the "Went With The Wind" parody on her eponymous variety show. Appropriately, it's hanging in the window at the Fashion Institute. Liza Minnelli, a Mackie girl since she was a teenager, kept calling her friend "Bobby" all night and said he must design the costumes for her next show. Teri Hatcher wore fringe. No one noticed Geoffrey Holder.

Sadly, Cher was touring with "Believe" and didn't show. But in spirit this exhibit is as much about her as it is about Mackie. No one--not even Barbie, for whom Mackie has designed miniature couture costumes for nearly a decade--has worn his designs any better. Her costumes from The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and her solo show, Cher, eclipse everything else on display. The best is the tiger-striped unitard with the bra strap showing that Cher wore as Laverne, her wisecracking launderette lady. That tacky outfit, I have always believed, is the basis for the entire Dolce & Gabbana ethos. When I was writing Unmistakably Mackie (Universe, $45), a coffee-table companion to the exhibit, I told that to Cher. Her howling laughter alone made writing the book worthwhile.

The book, featuring the photography of Gideon Lewin, is proof that Mackie's TV work shaped '70s style with a genius as formidable as Halston's. As RuPaul says in the book, "Anyone who has ever done glamour has had to pay homage to Bob Mackie."

More poignantly, Unmistakably Mackie tells of the designer's repressive childhood in suburban Los Angeles--falling off Carmen Miranda-style platform shoes at age 5; being told by a grade school teacher to leave the costume sketching to his sister--and his ultimate triumph. And it gives a glimpse into his partnership with costume designer Ray Aghayan, who hired him as an assistant on The Judy Garland Show in the '60s. They've been together ever since. "He's a perfectionist to the point of insanity," Aghayan says in the book.

Asked earlier this year where all his creativity comes from, Mackie said, "How do I think of all those things? It's like a really demented mind." The often zany, always glamorous product of that lunacy is on view until New Year's Eve.

DeCaro, a contributor to The New York Times and TV Guide, appears on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.
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Article Details
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Author:DeCaro, Frank
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 9, 1999
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