Elton John gave Bob Mackie free rein to create whatever costumes he wanted when they worked together.
Mackie is one of showbiz’s most iconic designers, after gaining global recognition for his work with Cher. Elton is another one of his famous clients, as well as Judy Garland and daughter Liza Minnelli, Tina Turner and Carol Burnett.
Talking to Interview magazine about the devil costume he made for Elton in 1986, he fondly recalled: “That was so much fun to do. Elton never gave me any hints of what he needed. He would just say, ‘Do me a costume’. And then I’d do 10 sketches and he’d order them all. And he’d always want them in like two or three days.
“He had an angel costume in the same show with big wings – it was an angel and devil kind of situation. I did so many crazy things for him. He loved to get dressed up. The first time I worked for him was on a Cher special – with Bette Midler, Flip Wilson, and Cher. That show is fabulous to this day.”
As well as designing for screen and stage, Mackie’s outlandish looks have also been seen on the red carpet, like when Cher donned a black beaded two-piece complete with plumed headdress to the 1986 Oscars.
He often found his designs ending up on worst dressed lists, but the 79-year-old design legend always shrugged off the criticism.
“The thing is that it was never, ever fashion. It was always costumes, so to me it didn’t matter,” he stated. “In the old days, Mr. (Richard) Blackwell used to have a list of the worst dressed, and then, of course, every newspaper around the world would print it. It always made me laugh, because my mother would call and say, ‘That Blackwell put you on the list again!’ It hurt her feelings, but it didn’t hurt mine.”