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The Source for Broadway's Beads & Bling

Yesterday's New York Times featured an interesting story about Bessie Nelson, the 77-year-old woman responsible for most of the beaded costumes seen on Broadway. The "go-to-beader of Broadway" has been practicing her craft for the past 68 years, living and working "in a small upstairs bedroom in a modest brick house on an unremarkable residential street" in Cranford, NJ.

From the Times:

She has done the beadwork on Liberace’s capes, Neil Diamond's jackets, Michael Jackson's glove and Cher's famously revealing, uh, thingies. ("It was only covered in spots that had to be covered, you know," Ms. Nelson recalled in a Jersey accent you could pour on pancakes.) She did beading for the Broadway productions of "Dreamgirls," "Sunset Boulevard," "Miss Saigon," "Wicked" and "The Boy From Oz"; she did inaugural-ball gowns for Nancy Reagan ( for the second inauguration) and Hillary Clinton (the first). She’s currently working on 31 costumes for the national tour of "A Chorus Line."

"They haven’t found a way yet for a machine to do it," Ms. Nelson said. Beading still has to be done by hand,  bead by bead.


Nelson will receive an Irene Sharaff Award from the Theater Development Fund on March 28 at the Hudson Theater  on Broadway. For the full story, click here.

-- Daniel Lehman

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