Happening now, EMP's Can't Look Away: The Lure of Horror Film is an exhibit of the genre's cherished remnants, including movie clips, drippy theremin music, and props everywhere. They've got the axe from The Shining, the mask from Friday the 13th, and the clammy-boned, face-smothering monster from Aliens. (Viewed up close, the organ centering its underside so plainly resembles lady parts that the creature might want to think about picking up modeling gigs for Hustler.)
They've also got one of the zombie ensembles from 1983's Michael Jackson's Thriller. It's an ordinary men's suit, though it's all spookily tattered and embedded with vines and leaves, and the gray twill fabric has clear little nuggets stuck to it, suggesting dried boogers. Costumer Kelly Kimball styled this and the other backup dancers' looks from a collection of Salvation Army outfits, which she'd methodically slashed and rumpled and dirtied up, to rouse the dilapidated beauty.
Of course, Thriller's most prominent item is the red structural jacket worn by the very young, very spry, and very wet-haired Jackson. EMP doesn't have it, but it's worth mentioning since it pretty much changed the entire fucking world. Designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis created the garment, with its calf leather and trapunto quilting and famously winged lapel, shaped to "evoke the devil—chevrons are traditionally a fashion signature of evil," she said in a frocktalk.com interview with Kristin Burke. Landis also dyed some jeans so Jackson would match like crazy, and incorporated the only shoes he would ever dance in: beat-up, mall-bought Florsheim loafers. When she first presented these ideas, Jackson kept Landis waiting until 2 a.m., so she passed time sleeping on a couch in his receptionist's office.
In his book The King of Style, Jackson's long-term costume designer Michael Bush describes similar behaviors, with Jackson frequently calling to request Bush's immediate appearance at Neverland Ranch. Bush would drop everything and drive for hours, "sometimes to review specific instructions... other times solely to receive a cryptic rhetorical question." Or Jackson would assign brilliant but impossible tasks. Make a "Beat It" jacket capable of spontaneously bursting into flame, for instance. Often enough, he'd phone at 3 a.m. just for shits, speaking through a cardboard paper towel roll in a fake British accent.
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