There is a shrine in the entrance of Bob Mackie’s West Hollywood home where a cluster of dolls from around the world huddles. It is difficult to imagine how plain they must have looked when Mackie first discovered them: the one from a church altar now dons an earthy tribal headdress shaped like a Mohawk; a miniature wooden mannequin from the 1800s, with its layers of coral and turquoise, looks more like Shakti ready to walk through fire than a Little House On The Prairie character. “They are just tchotchke people,” Mackie shrugs. “Things I’ve had forever, things that are new.” But as one of the most influential designers of the 20th century, the man who has drenched chanteuses like Tina Turner and Cher in elaborately beaded costumes, it’s hard to not experience the display as a microcosmic metaphor. Transforming women into goddesses has become second nature for the designer.
At 77, Mackie is witty, fascinating, and humble all in nearly equal measure. If his own uniform -- a classic black sweater, oxford shirt, jeans -- and easy going demeanor seem at odds with the “Sequin Shiek” moniker bestowed upon him years ago, one need only look at the walls of his guest bathroom to be reminded of his influence. Autographed images from stars like Barbra Streisand and Carol Burnett, who thanked him for his “weekly miracles” on her variety show, hang side by side. His five decades of work with Cher, who will decamp to Las Vegas for her Classic Cher concert series wearing new Mackie looks in February, remains one of the longest-standing partnerships in the history of fashion and music. “Bob changed my entire life!” Cher tells Billboard. “Without Bob I would have been ... a peacock without feathers.” Of the hundreds of looks she has worn, she counts the Mohawk costume he created for the 1986 Academy Awards as her favorite: “It made me feel like a queen.”