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Photos by Julie Pavlowski

Momma Does Mackie

Tucked away behind a 7-Eleven in an unassuming part of the Valley is a nondescript building that houses the archives and studio of the Sultan of Sequins, the Boss of Beads, Mr. Bob Mackie, who still designs a couture line and custom pieces for a celebrity clientele. EC2 Costumes, as it’s known, also serves as a rental house: For $225 a week and the proper credit you can tool around town in the evening gown Sharon Stone wore in Casino (but sit carefully — the simplest stain can cost $1,000 to fix). Stylists, celebs and folks just wanting to wear a bit of TV history can search through Mackie’s thousands and thousands of colorful creations from TV shows such as The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour and, most famously, The Carol Burnett Show as well as stage and Las Vegas revues.

Clothes are stored in sections: There’s a showgirls area, where you might see blouses from the dance sequence in Pennies From Heaven; there’s the fantasy aisle if you were in the mood to dress up as, say, the scarecrow from The Wiz; or perhaps a trip to the aquatic section if you have a yen to appear as the Little Mermaid. Metallic headpieces hang down from the ceilings, beaded dresses are stored in boxes (because they’re so heavy they would stretch if hung up), Mackie sketches adorn the walls.

Dress covered in bugle beads
and lochrosen crystal, from Bob
Mackie’s couture line; chiffon dress
with bugle beads, lochrosen
crystal and ostrich-feather tuffs,
made for Mary Ann Mobley

This whimsical fashion wonderland is managed by one of L.A.’s most popular drag personalities, Momma, who is known for her own elaborate ensembles — although she usually puts on the ritz just for her night jobs in shows such as The Plush Life or at Dragstrip 66. With that annual fashion frock walk otherwise known as the Academy Awards coming to town this weekend — although, sadly, the razzle-dazzle red-carpet days of a Cher sporting head-to-toe sequins and matching headdress seem to be over (just think back to Björk’s dreary dying swan a few years ago) — it was time to get a dose of that in-your-face glamour that only Bob Mackie still serves up. And since no one gets glitz like a drag queen, we asked Momma to give us a tour.

MOMMA: Here we are at the wonderful world of EC2 costumes, the home and archives of Mr. Bob Mackie. Oh, it’s so glamorous! In our lovely foyer, we have lovely pictures of some of the celebrities we work with — here’s Miss Ann-Margret who was here yesterday, in fact. And we have Miss Diahann Carroll coming in this afternoon. Here’s one of Miss Carol Burnett, who was one of the owners of EC2 before we bought her out about two years ago.

And here’s Mr. Bob Mackie himself! I’m giving a tour of your costume house. Isn’t that exciting?

MR. MACKIE: [with a cheery wave, as he gives Momma’s outfit the once-over twice] Oh, that’s just lovely.

MOMMA: There is so much to see in this magical place! Mr. Mackie’s out of his office, so we’ll just take a little peek. [There are sketches on the walls, drawing supplies, assorted swatches, books, paperwork, and a white beaded gown hanging from a rack.] Mr. Mackie does every design himself, which these days is not the case for many designers. He draws out these designs on paper, and then gives drawings to people to transfer onto fabric, and then it goes to the beaders. Most beaded gowns are made by a minimum of four people and could easily take four weeks to complete — thousands and thousands of beads are used. The great thing about beaded gowns is that you can just roll ’em up in a towel and stuff ’em in your suitcase. Yes, Bob Mackie travels well!

Silk chiffon chevron-striped
halter dress with bugle beads;
worn by Sharon Stone in Casino

What’s special about coming to a place like EC2 is that this is the home of real Hollywood costumes. It’s a library for the golden age of variety show television, from 1967 when this company was started to the present. We’ve done over 14 different variety shows including, of course, The Carol Burnett Show, the show that really anchored this company. We have over 4,000 pieces here. Some of them are complete outfits, and some of them are just tops and individual pieces.

The most famous piece that Mr. Mackie created was probably the dress which was made for the parody of Gone With the Wind on The Carol Burnett Show — the original is at Planet Hollywood, but we have a re-creation that’s now in the front office. They used to film the show twice. The skit didn’t work very well the first time, so during the break Mr. Mackie went upstairs and took a brass curtain rod and took velvet fabric and wrapped it around the rod. When Carol Burnett comes out and Harvey Korman sees her, he wasn’t expecting it, so his reaction was real shock, and it just made the skit. It’s just one of those amazing television moments.

The Carol Burnett Show and The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour were filmed right next to each other at the same time Friday night at CBS. There was a hallway that divides the two sound stages, and so Mr. Mackie would be running back and forth. One season when Carol Burnett did a takeoff on Queen Elizabeth she used this dress, then the next season they would turn the dress around, add different sleeves on the bodice, and Cher would wear it.

These gowns are cut so well. Mr. Mackie and the women here know how to make clothes that fit a woman’s body — not an anorexic body, but a woman’s with hips and tits. One reason why older actresses always look great is that they use something called a foundation garment — it pushes everything, like the stomach, in and it pushes your tits up. An older woman would look great in this dress [pointing to a slinky black beaded number]. It’s got a foundation which just makes everything even out, and the silhouette is so beautiful. I think the most important thing about any fashion is the silhouette. Once a woman puts this on, if she has a little stomach, it goes away, and her boobs get pushed up and she looks 15 years younger than she is. That’s the secret to a lot of women’s figures.

I think what I love most, more than just the glitz, is when a woman puts on a gown and she becomes a glamorous lady. She might be going to her high school reunion or her daughter’s wedding or a very special event, and she gets to walk in and everyone’s breath is taken away. That’s the magic of what we do here.

EC2 Costumes, 4019 Tujunga Ave., Studio City; (818) 506-7695.


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