Thursday, July 23, 2009

Nudie (The Rodeo Tailor) Cohn

Born Nuta Kotlyarenko, a Russian born immigrant from Kiev, the 11 year old landed in Brooklyn in 1913, when after a time, his name was changed to Nudie Cohn. After a few years of cris-crossing the country a few times with his elder brother in tow, this particular jaunt included a 9 month stopover at Leavenworth Penitentiary for delivering (unbeknownst to him) a package of cocaine while running an errand for quick cash. They then made another fateful stop on their journey, this time during a stay at a boardinghouse in Mankato Minnesota where Nudie first laid eyes on his future wife Helen Barbara Kruger, who he nicknamed Bobbie.
With stints in New York during the 30's, utilyzing his training and knowledge from employmentat his brother's bra and girdle business, Nudie and now wife Bobbie honed their craft and eventually opened Nudie's for Ladies. Specializing in rhinestone studded garments made popular by Burlesque Queens, dancers and "specialty acts".
After a move back to the west coast and a few failed- illness plagued- business opportunities out of their garage, the couple managed to open the now famous Nudie's Rodeo Tailors in North Hollywood. Big enough to hold his team of tailors, embroiderers and machinery, it also served as a western themed retail store as well.
With his past and current Hollywood connections to musicians and actors, Nudie made fast friends with a couple who did a bit of both in Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. They forged a longtime
bond in friendship and as a business opportunity that led Mr. Cohn to create all their outfits for every appearance through-out the 50's. In 1957 Nudie cemented his status in the world of fashion after sewing a $10,000 gold lame suit for a young Elvis Presley.
During the 50's, 60's and 70's his compelling clientele and associations included; Gene Autry, Hank Williams Sr.,Johnny Cash, Steve McQueen, Glen Campbell (for who's recording of Rhinestone Cowboy was named), John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, George Jones, Porter Wagoner, Elton John, Cher, John Lennon, Graham Parsons, Robert Redford(for the movie The Electric Horseman), Suzie Quatro(Happy Days) and ZZ Top to name a few.
The Rodeo Tailor also spawned western designer great, Manuel Cuevas, Nudie's head designer thru the 60's and early 70's who went on to create his namesake label Manuel.

Adapted from the book, Nudie: The Rodeo Tailor
Photos from someone at Myspace.

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