August 06, 2007

Emmy Nominated Designer Jerry Skeels Passes

Widely known for the hand-beaded "Hollywood Graffiti" gown and some
of entertainment's most notable creations

Jerry Skeels

Lake Arrowhead, CA – Jerry Skeels, a costume designer who received two Primetime Emmy nominations for his work, died of a heart attack on July 24 at his home in Lake Arrowhead, California. He was 68.

Skeels and his partner of twenty-nine years, Randy McLaughlin, created numerous hand-beaded gowns and costumes for many television series and films—most notably the one-of-a-kind “Hollywood Graffiti” gown.

The two also wrote television scripts, and had recently finished work on the musical theater production Lost Spirit.

Designer Began Creative Career Onstage

Jerry Skeels was born on August 31, 1938, in Evansville, Indiana. He began his career as a theatrical performer, and danced in over fifty musicals during his career on the stage.

Jerry Skeels, Katelyn De Estes—wearing the designers' "Hollywood Graffiti" gown—and Randy McLaughlin at the TV Cares Ribbon of Hope Celebration in 2004

He eventually turned his talents to costume design, and earned his first Emmy nomination in 1992 for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Costume Design for the series P.S. I Luv U, starring Connie Sellecca.

His second, in the same category, came three years later for the series One Waikiki West, starring Cheryl Ladd.

22 Years with Price is Right, 27 Years Embellishing the Cherished "Graffiti" Gown

In addition, Skeels and McLaughlin’s hand-beaded gowns were featured as prizes on the popular game show The Price is Right for twenty-two years,

Skeels and McLaughlin’s most cherished project was the world-famous “Hollywood Graffiti” gown, an effort twenty-seven years in the making.

The gown is embellished with the hand-beaded platinum signatures of over 500 of the world’s most influential women, including many major film and television stars.

Names appearing on the gown include Cate Blanchett, Carol Burnett, Joan Collins, Bette Davis, Fran Drescher, Sharon Gless, Whoopi Goldberg, Tippi Hedren, Florence Henderson, Katherine Hepburn, Angela Lansbury, Lucy Liu, Mother Teresa, Stefanie Powers, Doris Roberts, Jaclyn Smith and Elizabeth Taylor.

United Nations Bestows Humanitarian
Honor on Skeels, McLaughlin

The gown was unveiled on March 13, 2004, at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences’ Ribbon of Hope event, presented by TV Cares, the Academy’s HIV/AIDS fundraising and awareness arm, and has continued to be an important fundraising tool in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The United Nations presented Skeels and McLaughlin with the International Spirit Award in honor of their humanitarian work of art.

The duo’s other creations of note include the much-publicized red gown worn by Joan Collins on the cover of in the 1983 Christmas edition of Playboy magazine, and the wedding gown worn by popular The Young and the Restless character "Nikki," played by Melody Scott Thomas, when she married "Victor" (Eric Braeden) in 1984.

For two weeks, Skeels and McLaughlin portrayed themselves on the show making preparations for the wedding.

Always devoted to charitable work, Skeels helped to organize numerous events and raised millions of dollars for various causes. His commitment to doing good works was so evident that he and McLaughlin were elected Lake Arrowhead Ambassadors less than two months after they moved to the community.

For the past eleven years, Skeels and McLaughlin devoted the majority of their time to Lost Spirit. Set in the late 1890s, the romantic musical ghost story stars Dale Kristien and Bill Hutton. In addition to creating costumes and set, Skeels and McLaughlin wrote the music, lyrics and original script.

October Lost Spirit Premiere to Celebrate Skeels' Life

The gala world premiere of Lost Spirit is set for October 5, 2007, at the Grove Theatre in Upland, California. It is a benefit performance for the Jeran Foundation for HIV/AIDS and the Cordelia Knott Center for Wellness, Breast Care Center. It will also be a celebration of the life of Jerry Skeels. The production is scheduled to run through October 20, 2007.

In addition to McLaughlin, Skeels is survived by his sister, Sheila Stevenson, and two nieces, Audra and Heather, of Hayden, Idaho.

In honor of Skeels, donations may be made to the Jeran Foundation, P.O. 2168, Lake Arrowhead, CA 92352.

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