The Designer Who Put Tina Turner in Those Hemlines
“You can’t cover anything up,” designer and costumer Bob Mackey said Wednesday night of Tina Turner’s dressing rule.
Her legs were just “so beautiful.”
Mr. Mackie, 84 and working on costumes for Punk’s upcoming tour, met Ms. Turner in the 1970s when she was a guest on the “Sonny and Cher Show.”
He was a college dropout who worked for famous costume designer Edith Head early in his career. From there, Mr. Mackie went out on his own, designing costumes for stars like Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett and then Cher.
He and Ms. Turner got to know each other at the end of her marriage to Ike Turner, the man she had been abusive to for nearly 20 years, before he left her in a white, bloodstained Yves Saint Laurent pantsuit, two Jaguar left with others. His last name (even Mr. Turner tried to take it away from him in court).
She was spending time in Europe (where she later moved) and, because the budget wasn’t huge there, Mr. Mackey said, “she would go to the Left Bank and buy cheap cocktail dresses, bring them in and say That ‘will you help me with them?’ I didn’t know what that meant, but then she’d step in them and I’d get the scissors.
The Turner/Mickey meaning of “more” soon became clear: less cloth.
Mr. Mackie also began designing glittery dresses for her in red and gold, with flames covering her nipples. He knew the idea had taken off when other celebrities began requesting dresses he was designing for Ms. Turner.
“I got a call from Raquel Welch. She said, ‘I want a dress like Tina Turner.’ I had never really designed for Raquel Welch. I said, ‘I’d love to do that.’ A couple of weeks later, Tina calls me, and she says, ‘I just saw Raquel Welch wearing a dress that I would love.’ And I had to laugh,” he said by phone from his home in Palm Springs. “So I told her the whole thing. Tina thought it was great. She loved that the women were paying attention to her and what she was wearing.
The women’s group included Cher, who performed on the “Sonny & Cher Show” in 1977 with Ms. Turner, performing “Makin’ Music Is My Business” in red and gold costumes.
“It just worked,” he said, describing how Cher and Ms. Turner “vibrated off each other.”
But the seven years between the breakup of Ms. Turner’s marriage and the release of her breakthrough album “Private Dancer” in 1984 were not easy. “She was going from show to show, trying to get away from Ike, really hiding. It was a terrible time,” Mr Mackey said.
It was also the era of Studio 54 and Paradise Garage, and Ms. Turner covered the Tramp’s “Disco Inferno.” So, for her performances — many in glitzy hotels with gambling dens — Mr. Mackie created a shimmering silver gown with glittering, Targaryen dragons on the bodice.
Another Macy confection was a zebra print dress with a tail on the back.
Initially, the idea of tail docking made Ms. Turner “a little nervous,” she said. (And indeed, it’s hard to imagine such a thing being approved by anyone now). But the tail was “terrific,” she said, the way she swayed from side to side when she moved her hips.
When Ms. Turner focused on rock ‘n’ roll in the early ’80s, Mr. Mackie was dressed in black leather.
Between the video for “What’s Love Got To Do With It” and a slot opening for The Rolling Stones on tour, she became a global superstar.
Although Mr. Mackey helped shape Tina Turner, she was not exclusive to him.
In 1985, she performed on Live Aid with Mick Jagger, wearing a leather bustier and miniskirt designed by Ms. Turner’s dear friend Azdeen Alia, known in fashion circles as the King of Killing. . (Mr. Jagger eventually ripped off the skirt. Which Ms. Turner went on to say was all part of her sense of play.)
In 1989, Ms. Turner shot the cover for the album “Foreign Affair” wearing a plunging, fitted Aaliyah dress that barely reached above her thighs. In one shot, she can be seen hanging from the Eiffel Tower, holding on to its iron structure, as if pulling it up. And as Ms. Turner, as well as photographer Peter Lindbergh, later explained, it was her idea.
Never mind the absence of a safety net or Ms. Turner’s refusal to remove her heels. As Mr. Mackey noted, a defining characteristic of his personality was fearlessness.
In the following years, she continued to tour and appear in Mr. Alaia’s fashion shows. (One of the reasons Ms. Turner moved to Europe, she later said, was where she was “as big as Madonna.”) And when Mr. Mackie was in the same city, they would have dinner.
Sometimes, Ms. Turner and Mr. Mackie were together because they were working on costumes for one of their tours. He was also a clothes horse in his own right. She said she often arrived at work “dressed to the nines in plain loafers and gabardine trousers”. Afterward, she would rehearse in full dress, only to show up to dinner wearing another dress, becoming “a whole ‘nother woman.”
In 2005, Mr. Mackie provided Beyoncé with a red dress to pay tribute to Ms. Turner at the Kennedy Center Honors. Ms Turner sat on the balcony and smiled as Beyoncé performed “Proud Mary”. (Ms. Turner wore a beaded floral gown that was more daring than her stage costumes.)
Mr. Mackie also worked with Ms. Turner on her 2008 tour, which was billed as both a 50th anniversary of her career and a farewell tour.
After it ended, he began to experience health complications and spent more time in Europe.
Mr Mackey said he had not seen her for years.
One of his last memories was back in rehearsal for the 2008-9 tour. Tony Basile was hired as the choreographer, but there was Ms. Turner, who was training all the dancers how to do the moves just like her. She said there was nothing like watching Tina Turner give a class to girls on how to be Tina Turner.