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Say the name Bob Mackie and most people think of Cher. But Tina Turner also has a 30-plus-year relationship with the bedazzler to the stars. “No one does stage dressing the way Bob does. No one,” says Turner, who enlisted Mackie to whip up looks for her 2008 world tour, which opens in Kansas City on Wednesday.
“The first time I saw her,” recalls Mackie of meeting Turner in the mid-Seventies, “she had on a beautiful man-tailored silk blouse, gabardine pants and alligator loafers. So opposite to anything that we thought of as Tina Turner at the time.” Nor did it really scream Bob Mackie. Thankfully, designer and singer saw eye to eye — or perhaps sequin to sequin — when Mackie was enlisted to outfit the star for her appearances on “The Sonny and Cher Show.”
Now, more than three decades later, Turner, 68, says she’s “leaning a bit more towards a rock-influenced look.” To that end, Mackie has been looking back at the thigh-grazing dresses, beaded tops and shiny stretch pants he created for Turner’s solo club act in the late Seventies. His new designs include the requisite “Proud Mary” minidresses, as well as a postapocalyptic look inspired by Turner’s role in 1985’s “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome” and a vixen getup à la “GoldenEye,” the 1995 James Bond film for which she wrote the theme song. And, though he’s working in a mostly neutral palette (“Because there’s so much there, you wouldn’t want to [use a lot of color],” he notes), Mackie’s going full throttle with the details, including plenty of lacing, fringe, studs and jewels.
“The only restriction I’ve given him is that I must be able to move easily,” Turner says. “If I have to concern myself with a dress sleeve or a sequin or things coming out that shouldn’t — that’s a problem.”
Factor in the wear and tear each piece endures in a single show — let alone a seven-month tour — and Mackie’s challenge becomes clear. “They may look like something that she could wear to a party,” the designer says of the eight looks he’s creating, “but these are work clothes. You have to make them like iron, but look like they’re made out of butterfly wings.”
Despite having just wrapped work on Cher’s Caesars Palace extravaganza, Mackie, 68, had no reservations about taking on another high-profile project. In fact, the designer says he couldn’t wait to reunite with the ever-energetic Turner, who credits her physique to a daily swimming and hiking regimen and “at least eight hours of sleep” each night.
But as far as Mackie is concerned, there’s just something about Tina. “When I walked into her beautiful home in Zurich,” says the designer, remembering his recent trip to the singer’s Switzerland estate, “she had on a pair of Indonesian pants and a sarong tied around a strapless top — and there she was out in this huge, beautiful yard of grass and trees, and she’s telling the gardener what to do and where to do it and she’s running up and down the hills. She has such enthusiasm about life.”