Archive for the ‘Carol Burnett’ Category

Jessica James at Jose Luis Salon, Austin, Texas.

Jessica James at Jose Luis Salon, Austin, Texas.

Everyone talks to her hairdresser and I am no different. Jessica James is an awesome hair stylist and a terrific conversationalist. We talk about everything. I don’t know what it is about sitting in a hair salon that makes it so easy to talk about the most personal of things while someone is standing behind you, messing with your hair, but there it is. Jessica is marvelous company. We start talking the moment I get there and carry the conversation on through to the end.

Anyway, the other day I was at my regular six-weeks appointment at Jose Luis Salon, getting a cut and some color. I was in the chair wearing the snap-up gown. Jessica was sectioning off pieces of my hair, brushing on highlights, and wrapping the pieces in foil while we did some catching up. It’s kind of awkward because you can’t turn and look each other in the face while you talk; you have to look at each other in the mirror. Plus, she’s standing up and I’m sitting down.

As I was saying, we were talking. We talked about the book, Unbroken, which we have both read, and whether or not we will see the movie, “Unbroken,” directed by Angelina Jolie. I volunteered that I wouldn’t see it because I didn’t want to see the scenes at the Japanese prisoner of war camps. (I had to skim those parts in the book. Unbelievably brutal) Jessica had heard that a good chunk of the movie is devoted to that part of Louis Zampirini‘s life and wasn’t sure what her plans were regarding seeing the movie.

Next we compared notes about what each of us had been writing. We like to encourage each other in our writing because writing is a lonely business and writers are so hard on themselves. Jessica is writing a picture book inspired by her 3-year old son’s delight with the night sky. It is her first book. I told her that I had been blogging (on this site) about Bob Mackie.

“Bob Mackie?” she asked. “You mean the clothing designer, Bob Mackie? The guy who is sometimes  the judge on ‘Project Runway?”’

“Yes,” I said. “That’s the one. I’ve been blogging on the clothes he made for Cher and Carol Burnett. He’s really a funny guy. You can see his interviews on…” I started to say but was interrupted.

“You’re kidding!” said Jessica, laying the paint brush down in the bowl. “You aren’t going to believe this! The girl who cuts hair over there,” she said, pointing at a 45 degree angle to an empty hair cutting station, “Her name is Mandy – she’s wearing a Bob Mackie original today!”

“Get outta here!” I said, copying Elaine Benis from “Seinfeld” but without shoving her as Elaine does Jerry.

At that very moment, a petite and shapely woman came into view, taking her place at the work station Jessica had just pointed out.

“There she is,” said Jessica. “That’s Mandy.”

At first I could see only the back of her.

Mandy Denson

Mandy Denson poses in her Bob Mackie original blouse.

Fringes of her dark, asymmetrical bob peeked out from under her felt matador hat. Then she moved to the side and I caught her reflection in the long mirror.IMG_2655

The Bob Mackie shirt had a Spanish look, with embroidered neckline and sleeves, with sunny gold and orange paisleys cast against a blue background.

Mandy had some time between clients so she came over to Jessica’s station to talk to us. She told me all about the Bob Mackie blouse she was wearing. Mandy Denson is one-of-a-kind, a lovely girl. She has bewitching beauty. She is an accomplished hairdresser, fashion model, style maven, and vintage clothes hound – and a genuinely nice person.

IMG_2657 Here’s what Mandy has to say about shopping for vintage clothes here in Austin:

“The places where I shop most for vintage around town are Charm School Vintage, Frock On Vintage, and Prototype Vintage. The fabulous Bob Mackie shirt was scored at Frock On for a very reasonable price. The hat is from Charm School.

The tag from Mandy Denson's vintage Bob Mackie shirt.

The tag from Mandy Denson’s vintage Bob Mackie shirt.

“I’ve been hunting vintage for about ten years now, and what I love about the culture in Austin is that most of the shops support and admire one another. My favorites around town are owned by women who really take the time to get to know their customers. I visit them almost weekly just to catch up, look around, and talk about the beauty of our common interest.

“Vintage clothing has helped me shape my personal style into something that feels unique and interesting and a true reflection of myself.”

Mandy Denson in her vintage Bob Mackie.

Mandy Denson in her vintage Bob Mackie.

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Excerpt from interview by Jamie Lee Curtis Taete with American fashion designer, Bob Mackie.
“Bob Mackie Has Dressed Almost Everyone,” March 7, 2013. VICE online.

The television shows you designed wardrobe for back then were classic big productions like The Carol Burnett Show. It all seemed so cohesive. Were you responsible for designing every costume and look?
Well, not everything was designed. I would rent a lot of stuff like uniforms and period pieces, but we were doing 50 to 70 costumes per episode, and we had a show every week.

Carol Burnett and Bob Mackie at Carol's home, 1967

Carol Burnett and Bob Mackie at Carol’s home, 1967

I watched an interview with you during which you said that to get inspiration for sketch-comedy wardrobes, you’d walk around the mall and people-watch. You also said that you couldn’t believe what people thought they looked good in. Is strolling around malls or other public places something you still do? 
I don’t do sketch comedy anymore, but I definitely still walk around malls and airports—especially airports—and I think, Oh my God, look at her, or, Look at those ugly shoes! Today, a lot of women are wearing very unflattering clothes.

Yes, I think the worst-dressed people can be found at the airport because somewhere along the line everyone decided that unabashed comfort trumps any sort of decorum whatsoever. It’s crazy. You have people going on two-hour flights in pajamas with neck pillows and their bare feet stinking up the cabin. 
I know! But the thing is, you can be comfortable without looking like a pig. When I fly, I sit there and I watch people board the plane and I think, Where are they going when they arrive? Where can you go when you look that ridiculous?

Are there any specific current trends that you just can’t stand? 
Leggings worn on their own. It stops me cold some days; I just can’t believe my eyes! Just because it’s stretchy, it doesn’t mean it fits or looks good.

And what about from the past?
Well, sometimes, when they’re happening you think, Oh my God, what’s going on here? And then after a while you start liking it. Like when mini-dresses came in, they were just above the knee and everyone was so shocked. Then all of a sudden they were barely covering the crotch. And now everybody’s got it all hanging out and we’re used to it.

Does that happen with things you’ve designed in the past? Do you ever look back and go, “What was I thinking?”
Well, I look back and I say to myself, “That was 30 or 40 years ago and that was the trend at the time.”

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In 1990, American fashion guru Bob Mackie began to design Barbie dolls for toymaker Mattel. A peek at that collection demonstrates Mackie’s incomparable creative imagination:

This one is exotic.

Brazilian Banana Bonanza Barbie is sultry.

Sterling Silver Rose is alluring and soft.

Sterling Silver Rose Barbie is elegant.

The Charleston Barbie is sassy

The Charleston Barbie is sassy.

Cher 1980 Barbie is provocative and skimpy.

Cher 1980 Barbie is outrageously sexy.


Fantasy Goddess of Africa is exotic.

Couture Confection Bride Barbie is classy.

Couture Confection Bride Barbie is classy.

Sultry. Elegant. Sassy. Outrageously Sexy. Exotic. Classy. While these Bob Mackie costumes are fantastically diverse, they have one trait in common. They are glamorous. They are designed to flatter the woman – and to make her stand out. Whether designing for the stars or for Barbie, the Bob Mackie name has become synonymous with over-the-top, splashy, flashy glamour.

Then isn’t it ironic that the costume for which Mackie may be most remembered is not glamorous at all but wildly funny and enormously unflattering?

Not really. Because Bob Mackie got his start in designing costumes for TV, most memorably for “The Carol Burnett Show” (1967-1978), a variety/sketch comedy show for which he designed costumes for all 287 episodes for the entire crew – from the dancers to the secondary actors to the stars – for all the skits, every week, comic and elegant clothing.

We made a lot of costumes!” said Bob Mackie. ‘Nobody had more fun than I did, doing that kind of a show, a weekly show like that…. We could be glamorous one moment, horrible the next. It was just crazy, It was crazy, and I loved it.'”  (1)

Carol Burnett’s costar Vicky Lawrence said of Bob Mackie:

I just thought he was a genius….I just remember always feeling either very funny or very beautiful.”

The Dress in the Window

The eighth episode of the tenth season of “The Carol Burnett Show” (Nov. 13, 1976) opened with Carol Burnett introducing the comedy sketch, “Went With the Wind,” a parody spoof on the 1939 epic film, “Gone With the Wind.” Carol said:

Recently, nearly the entire nation spent a total of 5 hours watching ‘Gone with the Wind’ make its TV debut. So for those of you who ran out of Kleenex and were unable to watch it, we put together our own mini-version to let you know what you’ve missed. Uh-huh.” (2)

Bob Mackie was responsible for the costume design for “Went With the Wind.” As usual, he had read the script for creative inspiration. When the script called for Carol Burnett, as Starlet O’Hara, to tear the curtains down and turn them into a dress that just hung off her, Mackie did not find it funny, as that is the same thing Scarlett O’Hara had done in the actual film. He had to think of something original. He was stymied for ideas.

In "Gone With the Wind," Scarlett O'Hara prepares to tear down the curtains to make a dress.

In “Gone With the Wind,” Scarlett O’Hara prepares to tear down the curtains to make a dress.

Finally, the morning of the Thursday filming, he thought of what to do. He ordered a real curtain rod to be fitted into the velvet drapes. The rod was enormously heavy. He carried it up the narrow back steps behind the stage staircase and helped Carol’s dresser – a tiny woman –  put it on Carol.

In the next scene, Carol makes her dramatic entrance. She descends the stairwell to greet Captain Ratt Butler, played by Harvey Korman, trying to entice him into giving her money. Carol is wearing not just the curtains and sash but also the curtain rod like a long shoulder pad. When the audience saw the curtain rod jutting out from Carol’s shoulders, they shrieked with laughter.

Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman as "Starlet and Ratt" in comic sketch, "Went With the Wind." (1976)

Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman as “Starlet and Ratt” in comic sketch, “Went With the Wind.” (1976)

Ratt tells Starlet,

Starlet, I love you. That – that – gown is gorgeous.”

Starlet replies,

Thank you. I saw it in the window, and I just couldn’t resist it.”

Bob Mackie's sketch of Carol Burnett wearing the curtain rod dress for "Went With the Wind."

Bob Mackie’s sketch of Carol Burnett wearing the curtain rod dress for “Went With the Wind.”

Remembers Mackie:

I’ve never heard laughter like that in my life. It just hit….It just made people laugh, and it still does. Every time I talk to anybody, they bring up this silly curtain rod outfit, with the velvet drapes attached to it. I had an exhibit in New York of my whole career and what was in the front window, that outfit! ….It will be on my tombstone one day.” (3)

At left, the green curtain rod dress designed by Walter Plunkett and worn by actress Vivien Leigh in the 1939 film, Gone With the Wind. At right, is the Bob Mackie spoof of this dress for the Nov. 1976 "Went With the Wind" parody shown on The Carol Burnett Show and worn by Ms. Burnett.

At left, the green curtain rod dress designed by Walter Plunkett and worn by actress Vivien Leigh in the 1939 film, “Gone With the Wind.” At right, is the Bob Mackie spoof of this dress for the Nov. 1976 “Went With the Wind” TV parody shown on The Carol Burnett Show and worn by Ms. Burnett.

This dress scene was number 2 in TV Guide’s January 23-29, 1999, list of “The 50 Funniest Moments in Television” (the funniest moment was the chocolate wrapping scene from “I Love Lucy”).

Now Mackie’s curtain rod dress is enshrined in the Smithsonian Museum as part of the American History Museum’s Kennedy Center Honors Collection.

Click here to watch the youtube clip of “Went With the Wind.” The curtain rod dress appears at 13:13. Enjoy!


(1) Youtube clip: “Gags and Gowns: The Genius of Bob Mackie on The Carol Burnett Show.”

(2) wiki: “Went With the Wind”

(3) Youtube clip: Bob Mackie interview: “’The Carol Burnett Show’: TV legends”

(4) “Went With the Wind” script

READERS: For more Bob Mackie posts, click here

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