Michael Travis, Liberace's Costume Designer, Dies at 86

Michael Travis, the costume designer who created the outlandish and flamboyant outfits for Liberace's stage extravaganzas, died Thursday at his home in Studio City. He was 86.

Travis recently had been hospitalized with heart problems and other ailments, his nephew, George Lavdas, told the Los Angeles Times.

Travis, who was awarded a Costume Designers Guild Career Achievement Award in 2010, was responsible for the costumes on the 1960s loopy NBC comedy show "Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In," where he created up to 400 costumes per week. He also served as the costume designer for the Academy Awards for six years, starting in 1960 when he worked alongside Edith Head.

Travis also designed costumes for Dionne Warwick, The Supremes, Connie Stevens, Tony Orlando, Wayne Newton and The Temptations and worked on the 1976 Redd Foxx comedy film "Norman... Is That You?"

Travis told the Hollywood Reporter last year that he believed he was shut out of HBO's Liberace biopic "Behind the Candelabra" by the film's producer, Jerry Weintraub, over a 1976 flap regarding a John Denver costume for a TV special.

Travis' 16-year stint with Liberace began in 1969 when he was asked to create a chauffeur’s costume that the performer planned to wear on stage. It was made of blue patches, each embroidered with bugle beads, rhinestones, jewels and sequins and further embellished with mink on the cuffs, collar and tops of the boots.

Liberace's outfits often would take months to manufacture and complete. Some weighed more than 100 pounds; one, a 1979 "flame" costume, was embedded with small mirrors and 1,600 lights.

In 1982, Liberace wore a $300,000 costume for a performance at the Lloyd Noble Center in Norman, Okla., that was made of 137-pound fox fur with a 16-foot train worn over a jeweled tuxedo.

A native of Detroit, Travis at the start of his career worked at the Eaves Costume Co. in New York, building costumes for Broadway productions. He then shifted to television, designing costumes for such series as "The Voice of Firestone" and "The Bell Telephone Hour."

In 1967, he received a Primetime Emmy nomination for outstanding achievement in costume design for his work on "Laugh-In."

  • This article was originally published on THR.com.


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