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


Monday MOD Mood

A few pics from this past weekend here in Palm Springs. It was the last weekend of Modernism.

Friday was the famous Mccormick Car Auction preview day. I went, I walked, I wished!

Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king
photo: d. king

Saturday; the Curated Vintage Event at Temple Isaiah (same location for Studio 54 fashion show I attended the week prior).  Vendors from all over.  It’s always good.

Photo: Palm Springs Life

Saturday & Sunday a vintage trailer show for collectors from all over the USA, or just gawkers like me.

Sunday there was a huge Modernism yard sale outside h3k home and design.

Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king
Photo: d. king
well…what can I say – I bought a few.

As for Monday…

Palm Springs was one of the most restrictive jurisdictions in the United States regarding mask wearing but as of today; NO MORE MASKS in California.  Let’s give it up for lifting this restriction finally.


Photo; d. king     PS – I did not buy this.

AWay with Words – Quotes about Modernism.

By Modernism, I mean the positive rejection of the past and the blind belief in the process of change; in novelty for its own sake; in the idea that progress through time equates with cultural progress; in the cult of individuality, originality and self-expression.                          – Dan Cruickshank

Parker Palm Springs Hotel Lobby
Parker Palm Springs Hotel Lobby

Don’t bother about being modern. Unfortunately it is the one thing that, whatever you do, you cannot avoid.               – Salvador Dali

Modernity is the transient, the fleeting, the contingent; it is one half of art, the other being the eternal and the immovable. – Charles Baudelaire

Post-Modernism was a  reaction against modernism.  It came quite early to music and literature and a little later to architecture.  And I think it’s still coming to computer science. – Larry Wall

“The modern artist is working with space and time and expressing his feelings rather than illustrating.” – Jackson Pollock

Parker Palm Springs Lobby
Parker Palm Springs Hotel Lobby

“The pure modernist is merely a snob; he cannot bear to be a month behind the fashion.”- G.K. Chesterton,  All Things Considered

“In his own way the modernist becomes as irrelevant as the fundamentalist. The fundamentalist has something to say to his world, but he has lost the ability to say it. The modernist knows how to speak to his age, but he has nothing to say.” ―  William E. Hordern

Great Mailbox
Great Modern Mailbox