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Bob Mackie shows off a custom design.

​Contact: Malcolm Hornsby

For immediate release — Nov. 18, 2019

(DALLAS) — There was Cher and Bette Midler, Diana Ross and Tina Turner, even RuPaul and Whitney Houston. The focus now for fashion great Bob Mackie? Inspiring the next generation of superstars at El Centro College. The 80-year-old American fashion design powerhouse visited the students, on their own turf, inside the college’s One Main Place location in downtown Dallas.

Affectionately and cleverly titled, “Mackie On Main,” the visit began with a tour of the program’s 11th floor suite. Instructors and students were among the entourage surrounding Mackie as he admired the walls, which were “dressed” to reflect the work of students both past and present.

“How much time does it take to design a piece? I can’t imagine,” asked Brenda Carlson, an instructor with the program, as the group moved about. “That’s the easy part!” Mackie replied. Another instructor questioned Mackie on his time as a judge on “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a televised competition on the Logo network. “Oh, I was terrible!” said Mackie.

The group soon entered a large room with a backdrop comprised of downtown skyscrapers in the distance. Inside were 50 to 60 faces staring in amazement. There he was. The “Marvelous Mr. Mackie.” The group erupted in applause.

Jan Strimple, a fashion model superstar whom Mackie discovered several decades earlier, served as moderator.

“You’re all in the presence of someone who has the most prolific design experience of anyone, really,” Strimple said. “He’s designed for movies, television ...” “And furniture,” Mackie interrupted. The crowd laughed.

Bob Mackie takes questions from El Centro students.

But beyond the mannequins and sewing machines, there was a different type of masterpiece being crafted inside the walls of 1201 Main Street. The kind only an expert with over five decades of knowledge could bring to life. For Mackie was one-on-one, in a sense, with the design students, each of them grasping for his every word, hoping he’d spill the secret to his success.

“You have to tell yourself what you want to do and how you want to do it,” said Mackie. “Don’t say, ‘They’ll come to me eventually.’ You have to kind of push through.”

The California native known for his work on “The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour” was sure to keep the focus of his El Centro visit on the students, seeming to be genuinely interested in their questions. The students, in turn, were ready, with one wanting to know when Mackie was bitten by the fashion bug.

“As a kid, when I was about 8, my uncle asked what I wanted to be. I said I want to be a costume designer on Broadway, to which he rolled his eyes and walked away,” Mackie recalled. “That’s when I knew I’d have to do this on my own because nobody understood.”

And make his own way he did. For many of his designs were ahead of their time, never before done in the fashion industry. Mackie was sure to add that it didn’t take long before knockoffs began popping up inside fashion’s inner circle. The risk was likely worth the reward. Mackie has nine Emmy awards to his name.

Over the years, he has worked with many of the greats in Hollywood and beyond. The most joyful memories include work on “The Carol Burnett Show.” “That was the happiest time of my life,” Mackie said. And probably one of the funniest too, thanks to the comedy spawned by his creation of a spoof of the clothing worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind.” The now-famous re-creation worn by Burnett will go down in television history.

Mackie’s Dallas visit served a dual purpose. Friday night he received a Fashion Group International award, to which he remarked, “Now they’re throwing lifetime achievement awards at me because they’re wondering, ‘How long is he going to be around?’”

With a trove of trophies and accolades, and with fashion’s place embedded deep in his heart, Mackie has his sights set on a new future.

“I’m really loosey-goosey now,” he said with glee. “I just finished [a] show and got my Tony [award], and now I’m moving to Palm Springs, and I’m very happy.”

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