Today is the 80th birthday of the fashion designer Bob Mackie. You know his designs, they are the glamorous to-get-noticed sparkling gowns that Cher has worn for the last 50 years. The world is a better place because he is in it.
NAME: Bob Mackie
DATE OF BIRTH: 24-Mar-1940
PLACE OF BIRTH: Monterey Park, CA
EMMY 1976 for Mitzi… Roarin’ in the 20’s (costumes, with Ret Turner)
EMMY 1978 for Mitzi… Zings Into Spring (costumes, with Ret Turner)
EMMY 1984 for Mama’s Family (costumes, with Ret Turner)
EMMY 1991 for Carol & Company (costumes, with Ret Turner)
EMMY 1995 for Men, Movies & Carol (costumes)
EMMY 2000 for Cher: Live in Concert from Las Vegas (costumes, shared)
EMMY 2003 for Cher: The Farewell Tour (costumes, with Hugh Durrant)
BEST KNOWN FOR: American fashion designer and costumer, best known for his dressing of entertainment icons such as Barbie, Joan Rivers, Cher, RuPaul, Barbara Eden, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich, Liza Minnelli, Tina Turner, Elton John, Ann-Margret, Carol Burnett, Marie Osmond, Diahann Carroll, Lola Falana, Carol Channing and Mitzi Gaynor.
Mackie was born March 24, 1939, in Monterey Park, California, to Charles Robert Mackie and Mildred Agnes Mackie (née Smith). His father worked at Bank of America. He was raised in early childhood by his maternal grandparents in Alhambra, California because his parents divorced. By high school he moved to Rosemead, California and lived with his father. He attended Rosemead High School, class of 1957.
Mackie continued his education at Pasadena City College and one year study at Chouinard Art Institute but left without earning a degree from either school. At Chouinard, Mackie studied under Eva Roberts, the head of the fashion design department. He left Chouinard early because he got his first job sketching for Frank Thompson at Paramount Studios. Between 1960 until 1963, Mackie worked as a novice designer and assistant under designer Ray Aghayan at Paramount Studios. Aghayan would later become Mackie’s long term life partner.
In 1961, while he was working at Paramount Studios, costumer Edith Head found Mackie.
In Mackie’s early career he worked as a sketch artist for French haute couturier Jean Louis, who is noted for crafting stage gowns worn by screen Marlene Dietrich during her career as a cabaret singer.
In 1966, Mackie was hired by Mitzi Gaynor to design her new stage show at the Riviera in Las Vegas. Mitzi was the first star client for which Mackie designed an entire show. He would continue to design for Mitzi’s television specials and live stage shows for the next 50 years. He won two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Achievement in Costume Design for Music-Variety for Mitzi’s TV specials “Mitzi…Roarin’ in the Twenties” (1976) and “Mitzi…Zings Into Spring” (1977).
In 1969, Mackie was hired to design costumes for Diana Ross, The Supremes, and The Temptations in the television special GIT: On Broadway. In 1972, he and Aghayan were nominated for Best Costume Design for Lady Sings The Blues, starring Diana Ross. Mackie and Diana Ross continued their collaborative efforts well into the 21st century, with Mackie designing stage costumes for Ross’ 2010 More Today Than Yesterday: The Greatest Hits Tour.
Mackie designed costumes for the Las Vegas Strip-based burlesque shows, Hallelujah Hollywood, which was inspired by the Ziegfeld Follies and ran at the MGM Grand (now Bally’s Las Vegas) from 1974 to 1980, and Jubilee!, which ran from 1981 to 2016. Both productions involve intricate, elaborate costumes and grandiose sets.
Images of many of Mackie’s design drawings for these productions are available in the “Showgirls” collection from UNLV Libraries Digital Collections. He created the costumes for Cher’s 2008–11 Las Vegas Cher at the Colosseum residency at Caesars Palace, as well as for her 2017 “Classic Cher” shows in Las Vegas and Washington D.C.
Two of Mackie’s best-remembered creations had a humorous aspect. While working on The Carol Burnett Show, he designed a “curtain dress” (complete with a curtain rod across the shoulders) that Carol Burnett wore in Went with the Wind!, a parody of Gone with the Wind. He designed the exotic ensemble worn by Cher at the March 1986 Academy Awards: black stretch pants, a bejeweled loincloth, knee-high boots, a black chainlink top, and a huge feathered Mohawk headdress that was one and a half times taller than her head. Introduced by Jane Fonda with the words, “Wait’ll you see what’s gonna come out here”. “As you can see,” said Cher, “I did receive my Academy booklet on how to dress like a serious actress.”
Mackie designed costumes for Whitney Houston, especially splashy evening gowns which she wore for many years during concert tours and award shows. He was often referred to as “the sultan of sequins” or “the rajah of rhinestones”, known for his sparkling and imaginative costume designs. He has won nine Emmy Awards for his designs, and has been nominated three times for an Academy Award. Mackie has said, “A woman who wears my clothes is not afraid to be noticed.”
In 1981, Mackie guest starred as himself on two episodes of the television series The Love Boat. In 2002, Mackie was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame. In more recent years, Mackie has been mainly known as the costume designer for Cher’s elaborate outfit during her latest tours, including her latest Here We Go Again Tour. In 2019, Mackie won the Tony Award for Best Costume Design in a Musical for his work on The Cher Show (musical).
On March 14, 1960, Mackie married LuLu Porter (née Marianne Wolford), a singer, actress, and later an acting teacher. The couple had a son, Robert Gordon Mackie Jr. (known as “Robin”), the previous year. The couple divorced in 1963. Robin Mackie, a makeup artist, died in 1993 at the age of 33 of an AIDS-related illness, predeceasing his parents.
Mackie’s life partner, however, would be costume designer Ray Aghayan, whom Mackie had started working with as an assistant. The two worked together through the 1970s, as well as having separate clients. They remained together until Aghayan’s death in 2011.
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Carol Channing: Larger Than Life (20-Jan-2012) · Himself
Moon Over Broadway (7-Sep-1997) · Himself
Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City (8-May-1993)