The Many Secrets and Sequins of William Ivey Long, Broadway’s Costume

August 17, 2016 - accent chair

Long draws each one of his designs himself “with whatever we can get my
hands on,” he says, and taps out memos on a 50s Royal manual
typewriter. He has 3 some-more such obsolescent contraptions—about
one for each dual houses a peripatetic engineer owns. There are five
residences in his hometown of Seaboard, North Carolina; dual in Manteo,
North Carolina, where his family spent summers; another in north-central
Pennsylvania; and a devalue in Chester, Massachusetts.

Beside one of a studio’s basement-level worktables are Long’s
astonishingly smooth renderings of a car-mechanic coveralls for the
“Greased Lightning” method from Fox’s Jan promote of Grease
, for that Long has perceived his initial Emmy nomination. Thomas
Kail, executive of both it and Hamilton, says, “Fox had never seen
anything like William. He could possess L.A. in about 5 minutes. He is a
wizard and an artist.” A monolithic mood residence for Grease Live! (a
re-purposed froth insulation panel) is incongruously collaged with
reproductions of Basquiat paintings. “I used Basquiat’s palette for the
prom scene,” he explains. (Still station circuitously is a residence for
2013’s Cinderella—Tony series six.)

The mood residence many sparkling him now, however, is a one he has
assembled for Fox television’s reconstitute of The Rocky Horror Picture Show,
starring Laverne Cox, to be promote in October. Director Kenny
Ortega’s instructions to a engineer “were to make Laverne 60 percent
Grace Jones, 30 percent Tina Turner, and 10 percent Beyoncé,” Long
explains. “I go where a feverishness is. Today it’s from television.”

Several nights later, Long is during a Nederlander Theatre, examination a
preview of Disaster: “Just to infer we am not too full of my large self I
take on a small show,” he says. Jerry Zaks, who worked with Long on La
Cage aux Folles
and Guys and Dolls, says, “William’s operation is
limitless. Whatever he does, removing it right is a matter of life and
death.” Afterward, over a spaghetti cooking during Orso, Long explains,
“Tonight when we get home we will play behind a whole uncover in my conduct and
figure out what needs to be fixed.” Caroline Kennedy and Edwin
Schlossberg, during Orso too, for a post-Hamilton cooking with their
daughter, stop by to compensate reverence to a master. “I did her bridesmaids’
dresses and was an chaperon during their wedding,” Long says after they
depart. “When we was carrying a tough time removing determined in New
York, Caroline took me for cooking during 1040 Fifth. we told Mrs. Onassis how
I was perplexing to get absolved of my southern accent and turn sophisticated.
And Mrs. Onassis pronounced to me, ‘William, we have to remember Fred Astaire
was from Nebraska.’ ”

Long, however, was not so many of a hayseed that he couldn’t reason his
own that night with “the Queen of a World,” as he puts it. Direct
descendants of one of a Virginia Colony’s 17th-century stately land
grantees, Long’s family was so inherent “my father was innate with an extra
thumb,” he says. His mom taught high-school drama, and his father, a
playwright, founded a dialect of thespian humanities during Winthrop
University, in Rock Hill, South Carolina, where Long lived from a age
of six.

While Long was attending art-history connoisseur propagandize during a University
of North Carolina during Chapel Hill, Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in
and a playwriting associate during U.N.C., suggested him to pursue
theatrical pattern instead. “I finally found my place,” he says, among
the students during Yale School of Drama, where, during his initial year, he
roomed in a yellow Victorian residence with classmates Sigourney Weaver and
Meryl Streep. In time, he befriended Wendy Wasserstein, one category below
him, and Paul Rudnick, an undergraduate. An surprising steer in 1972 in
blazers, ties, shirts from a New Haven Hadassah preservation shop, and
shoulder-length blond curls, he “looked like a full-sized Victorian
child-doll,” Rudnick recalls.

A blueprint and costumes for a musical
Hairspray, with Marissa Jaret Winokur and Harvey Fierstein, 2002.

In 1975, Long changed into a $400-a-month unit during a decrepit Chelsea
Hotel, dual floors next his idol, a individualist couturier Charles James.
Without pay, Long walked a aging dressmaker’s dog, Sputnik, and
watched a engineer work. In 1980, labelled out of a Chelsea, he
relocated into a 6-by-12-foot room on West 75th Street. “Luckily, a few
things came along,” he says—most notably, in 1982, when Tommy Tune’s
team hired him to
design a wardrobes of all 9 heading ladies of

On Jun 6, 1982, Long’s younger hermit Robert watched a Tonys on
television with Caroline Kennedy. When a impulse came to benefaction the
outstanding-costume-design award, Hal Linden looked during his records and
said, “Theoni Aldredge”—designer of Nine’s box-office rival, Dream
. “And afterwards Linden announced, ‘Excuse me—William Ivey Long,’ ”
Robert recalls. “The whole universe had spun around in those few

Long’s debate de force for Nine brought him a solid tide not usually of
theatrical work though also of cocktail acts. Kenny Ortega tapped him to create
looks for a Pointer Sisters’ 1988 Caesars Palace appearance, and Mick
Jagger consecrated him to do a Stones’ 1989 Steel Wheels tour. But
Long did not collect another Tony for 10 years—not until 1992’s Crazy
for You
, a all-Gershwin spectacular that The New York Times
apotheosized as “a second coming” of a American musical. Susan
Stroman, a show’s choreographer, remembers, “We had a whole great
decade after that.” Together, Stroman and Long did The Music Man,
, and, many memorably, The Producers.

While Long’s open collaborations were compounding his celebrity and
fortune, one private partnership was chipping divided during his time, his
money, and, ultimately, an aged friendship. In 1992, Wendy Wasserstein
approached Long about fathering a child with her. For scarcely a decade
the span visited flood specialists, and after one alloy questioned
the reserve of regulating a happy man’s semen, Long, who was profitable for half of
the sharpening medical bills, motionless to turn innocent for the
duration of their undertaking. “It substantially saved my life,” he notes.
(Long says Wasserstein’s daughter, innate in 1999, is not his.)

As a retrogression approached, a festive universe Long had built around
him began to spin out of orbit. In annoy of the vicious accolades, Grey
(Tony series five) sealed reduction than a year after the 2006
opening. The Producers, that had been a primary source of income,
“would have kept going though 2008 hit,” Long laments. Resourcefully,
Long replenished his finances by offered his superb 1864 Chelsea
brownstone to his next-door neighbor, artist Louise Bourgeois, and
downsized to his stream Tribeca studio. “William creates infinite
luxury,” Rudnick observes, “but doesn’t need it.”

The Rocky Horror Picture Show mood board.

From Tonys to Television

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