‘Jubilee’ closing attracts famed costume designer

Legendary fashion and costume designer Bob Mackie was reunited with a “Jubilee” icon hours before the last bows at Bally’s on Thursday.

Mackie, who turns 76 on March 24, is the subject of a documentary on his career as a designer of the stars. Mackie and 6-foot-1 Janet Ford, a leading dancer and the face of “Jubilee” for many years, were interviewed and took a then-and-now photo.

Now known as Janet Ford Spelman, her mother, Jean Ford, was a political force, serving in the Nevada Assembly and the state Senate.

A film crew accompanied him to Las Vegas last week to shoot footage for the documentary, which is in its early stages and “maybe two years away from airing,” Mackie said by telephone from his home in West Hollywood.

“She was barely in her 20s,” said Mackie, who dressed many other leading ladies, such as Cher, Diana Ross, Judy Garland, Bette Midler and Barbara Eden.

“Jubilee,” he said, “was truly a showgirl show, and nobody did them as well as Donn Arden,” a choreographer who produced famed nightclub productions.

“He always picked the most beautiful women with the longest legs and beautiful bodies. And they could all dance,” Mackie said.

“It was in his blood. He knew how to fill the stage with bodies, and I don’t think a show like this exists anymore.”

Closing night “was odd,” he said. “It was something I never experienced before, seeing all those showgirls back to ‘Hallelujah Hollywood.'” That show opened in 1973 at the MGM Grand, now Bally’s.

“Jubilee” was weeks away from opening when the disastrous fire struck the MGM Grand on Nov. 21, 1980.

“I was suppose to be there that night (before the fire that erupted about 6:30 a.m.) My really good friend and assistant Terry Levitt, who wasn’t supposed to be there died in the fire. She unfortunately went down an elevator instead of going down the stairs,” he said. “She was the only one (of his crew) that died,” he said.

He now has seen two “Jubilee” shows close, putting about 200 people out of work each time. Mackie had spent weeks in Paris designing the new show’s costumes. “All the jewelry, diamond bras and headdresses, I drew every single one of them.”

The show’s budget made it “wildly expensive. If you have a few off nights, that’s not paying the bills,” he said.

The legacy of “Jubilee,” he said, will be: “It’s never been done before, and it’s never been done since.”

The scene and heard

Britney Spears unveiled her new-look “Piece of Me” show Saturday to roaring approval at the Axis Theater at Planet Hollywood Resort. She has added five songs, new costumes, choreography, new background video and laser lights. “I absolutely love the changes I’ve made,” she said, through an intermediary.” You got the impression that Spears has taken the words of Jennifer Lopez very seriously. On opening night Jan. 20, Lopez, who performs “All I Have” on the same stage venue, announced, “Vegas, there’s a new girl in town.” …

Our condolences to KLAS-TV, Channel 8, anchor Paula Francis, who has been missing from the newscasts while dealing with the death last week of her mother.

On this day

Feb. 15, 1978: Underdog Leon Spinks stuns Muhammad Ali in a 15-round split decision at the Las Vegas Hilton to become the world heavyweight boxing champion. Seven months later, Ali wins the rematch and regains his crown.

Feb. 16, 1954: The day after Ronald Reagan starts a two-week engagement at the Frontier hotel-casino, telling jokes and stories in his only appearance as a Las Vegas headliner, management tells him to shorten the show and do no encores. The bosses want customers back in the casino sooner.


Dining at Andrea’s at Wynn Las Vegas on Saturday: Denver Broncos DeMarcus Ware, Malik Jackson, Kenny Anunike, Vernon Davis, Darius Kilgo and Derek Wolfe. They checked out the Encore Players Club and XS nightclub, where DJ Alesso greeted the Super Bowl champs with their team victory song, “Big Rings” by Drake. … Soolin DeMaria, a member of the “Fantasy” topless revue at Luxor, celebrated her being named Miss February 2016 Playboy South Africa by tossing 1,000 pairs of bunny ears into the crowd. … YouTube sensation, tanning addict and former stripper Trisha Paytas, dining Saturday at Strip House at Planet Hollywood Resort and taking in Spears’ show. … Actor Ron Yuan, with actress Sheena Chou at Andiamo Italian Steakhouse at the D.

The punch line

“It’s been reported that infamous drug lord El Chapo will stand trial in Brooklyn. Though I’m not sure it’s a good idea to try him in a place that already has, like, five tunnels.” — Seth Meyers

Norm Clarke’s column appears Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 702-383-0244 or norm@reviewjournal.com. Find more online at www.normclarke.com. On Twitter: @Norm_Clarke

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