An Evening of Wit, Wisdom and a Whisper of Gossip

Susan Claassen is remarkable as “Edith Head” in her one woman theatrical production “A Conversation with Edith Head” presented by Modernism Week, Palm Springs. The show was SOLD OUT and received a well deserved standing ovation.

Susan Claassen‘s uncanny resemblance to Edith Head, with friend Bob Mackie.

EDITH HEAD – Trailblazer

Edith Head was a legend.  Pardon the pun, but she was a Head of her time. One of the most prolific costume designers of the twentieth century, she received an unprecedented 35 Academy Award nominations and won a record-breaking eight Oscars at a time when the industry and world in general was dominated by men.  Her career spanned 58 years of movie making. She liked to call herself a “Magician.”  The word is suitable considering the magic she created with her design skills.  She raised rear ends, made waists look smaller, legs longer and hid imperfections like no other. 

There’s nothing like a row of Oscars for putting the fear of God into an actress who thinks she knows everything about dress designing.” – Edith Head

Edith Head became as famous as the stars she dressed.  With her signature glasses, straight bangs and tailored suits, her distinctive style made her a recognizable personality in her own right.

Looking exactly like Edith Head with trademark glasses and all, Susan Claassen brings us back to the time when Head dressed glamorous movie stars such as Grace Kelly, Cary Grant, Lana Turner, Paul Newman, John Wayne, Bette Davis, Steve McQueen, Elizabeth Taylor, Marlene Dietrich and many more.  Some of the original costumes and photographs were on stage. However, preferring never to upstage whoever she was dressing, Head only liked to wear four colors herself: black, white, beige and brown.

Design for Grace Kelly in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954).

With wit and intellect, Claassen relives and re tells stories when Head worked with actors like Mae West, Debbie Reynolds, Barbara Stanwyck and a young Elizabeth Taylor.  Not gonna lie; it was fun finding out who was naughty and who was nice! A few tidbits: Taylor was fascinated by a signature necklace worn by Head to the point where it was left for her in Head’s will.  Funnily enough there were no diamonds in the necklace but it was an eye-catching, original, vintage piece.  Head formed special relationships with the famous she dressed and recounted those stories.  For instance, when Grace Kelly became princess Grace and moved to Monaco, she would always visit Head when returning to Los Angeles.  Kelly always wore white gloves so on one visit Head made little white gloves for her young daughters, Princesses Caroline and Stephanie.

In 1961 Edith Head hired Bob Mackie to be her sketch artist at Paramount Studios. Mackie would later become another famous designer (he designed all of the costumes for the Carole Burnett Show, all of Cher’s costumes and many more including sketching the famous sequined dress worn my Marilyn Monroe when she sang “Happy Birthday Mr. President” to JFK).  As luck would have it, I met and spoke with him for several minutes before the show began.  He said that the actress (Susan Claassen) was a good friend of his and that he also knew Edith Head and that she helped start his career.  I had met him last year at the book store Just Fabulous when I bought his beautiful book “The Art of Bob Mackie” and told him how much I love the book and it brought back so many good memories.  Also, he looked just fabulous.

The real Edith Head with a young Bob Mackie. Photo: WWD

Edith Head died in 1981 of a progressive and rare blood disease, myeloid metaplasia, two weeks after completing work on her last film “Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid.” She left her estate to the Motion Picture and Television Fund and to other charitable organizations aiding Native American children and her beloved animals.  Her funeral was attended by hundreds, including not only Hollywood’s stars but also the backlot people.  A Paramount security guard dressed in a uniform designed by Edith Head mused, “I remember her real well.  At Christmas she took care of every one on the lot.  She was the greatest designer in the world.  Edith Head was quite a girl.”  And that she was.

Head’s no nonsense straightforward personality inspired the character of Edna Mode in The Incredibles.

Outside the Annenberg Theatre before the show with Bob Mackie.

Oscars Won:

The Heiress, 1949

Samson and Delilah, 1950

All About Eve, 1950

A Place in the Sun, 1951

Roman Holiday, 1953

Sabrina, 1954

The Facts of Life, 1960

The Sting, 1973

wearing the necklace Elizabeth Taylor loved.

The show must go on:

Booking Now Through 2025:

MODERNISM week has ended as of February 26th, but please join us next year for another unbelievable lineup of fabulous events.

Header Photo of set – d. king


The Art of Bob Mackie 

What does Marilyn Monroe’s iconic “Happy Birthday Mr. President” gown, Carol Burnett’s “Went with the Wind” curtain-rod dress and Cher’s show stopping 1986 Oscars look have in common?  They’ve all been designed by the one and only Bob Mackie.

Mackie, the true fashion visionary and icon himself was in Palm Springs (actually he lives here) in person for his latest book signing…a first-ever comprehensive and authorized showcase of the legendary designer’s life and work featuring more than 1,500 photos and sketches – many from Mackie’s personal collection.

Duh; of course I was there!  I was one of the first to buy his latest book appropriately titled “The Art of Bob Mackie” as soon as I was alerted about it via bookstore email.  It’s a fashion lover’s dream book.

It’s just Fabulous!  The book signing was at “Just Fabulous” – a suitably named store here in Palm Springs (link below) specializing in extraordinary books, cards for all occasions and other fun items you won’t see anywhere else.  I dare you to walk in and come out empty handed – won’t happen!

I also bought a Christmas tree ornament and I don’t even have a tree.  You’ll see!  Maybe I’ll get a tree just to buy more ornaments.  Post to come…for me it’s still too early to be shopping and/or posting stuff to do with Christmas.

But getting back to Bob. Guess I’m not exactly on a first name basis with him after meeting him only once. But I feel like I know him. What I mean by that is I remember watching almost every episode of the Carol Burnett Show in my grandparents’ living room on almost every Saturday night for years.  And I remember watching the Sonny and Cher show with my parents. What does this have to do with Bob Mackie? Everything!  He was responsible for every costume for the entire production of the Carol Burnett Show and made all of the costumes for Cher after meeting both Sonny and Cher on the Carol Burnett Show.  And of course it doesn’t end there. From Broadway to Burlesque, his  wide ranging repertoire includes dressing every famous glamour girl and some of the guys for stage, TV, movies and concerts with unique, incomparably stunning and sometimes hilarious creations.

I missed meeting Bob Mackie at the vintage market even though he was there on his own and it wasn’t announced.  He was there and I was there but I really wasn’t there because it was after a pride party the night before so don’t ask so I missed meeting him then.  But I got to tell him at the book signing that I unexpectedly and surprisingly came across a few of his designs at the market (which has expanded since the last time I was here) which I had never seen before.  And to my disbelief, he was completely unaware of that fact.  So I felt like we had a “moment.” A Mackie moment that I’ll remember for the obvious, but also for the fun outside the shop while waiting.









On the Outside looking Instyle