April 7, 2007

Rhinestones Are This Girl's Best Friend

You don't know you know who Manuel is, but you do. He has left his stamp on our popular culture for over fifty years. Johnny Cash's black? That was him. Those flashy jackets worn by Dwight Yoakam and Marty Stuart? Manuel again. He is even responsible for a lot of the work that went into one of the most famous suits Nudie made, the one covered in marijuana leaves and pills that Gram Parsons wore on the cover of The Gilded Palace of Sin by The Flying Burrito Brothers in 1969. Manuel worked for the influential Nudie Cohn for fourteen years, beginning by doing embroidery work, and soon collaborating with celebrities to design and construct the suits of their dreams, as head tailor. He also became Nudie's son-in-law. When he and Barbara Cohn divorced in the mid 1970's, he opened his own shop in North Hollywood. He later opened Manuel's Exclusive Clothier's in Nashville, and continues the tradition of western couture today, with custom suits ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 dollars. Manuel:Star-Spangled Thank You Tour is this immigrant's way of thanking the U.S. for his successful career. It's currently being exhibited at Gilcrease Museum, and is well worth the seven bucks. Manuel supervised the design and construction of fifty red, white and blue jackets to represent every state, each one a work of art depicting elements from that state's history and culture. Covered in beautiful embroidery and plastered with rhinestones, these jackets are a sight to behold, several of them rotating on mechanized stands. It doesn't get more over the top than this, and I love it. Also on display, and the highlight, for me, was Linda Ronstadt's skirt, blouse and boots and Emmy Lou Harris' jacket made by Manuel for the cover of Trio, one of my favorite albums of all time.
On top of the great stuff we saw inside, the gardens surrounding the museum were in full bloom with azaleas that sucked the breath right out of you, they were so damn beautiful.

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