Tailor to the stars marks 93rd birthday with DVD release
The legendary Beverly Hills tailor -- who has made suits for a mind-boggling array of high-profile men from the Duke of Windsor to Luke Walton -- is spending his birthday the way he's spent the better part of the last 70 years: in the door of his shop by 7 a.m. and out at 5 p.m. In between he fusses over fabrics, coordinates colors and oversees every step of a handmade on-site process that turns bolts of worsted wool into exquisite suits for the well-heeled.
"We're going out to dinner with some friends," Taylor told me, sitting behind his large wooden desk, clad in a black tone-on-tone stripe suit, white pique button-down dress shirt, a gray check necktie and matching pocket square, eyeglasses the size of saucers. "Used to be going out to dinner meant being able to hustle some business, but now you don't need a tie or a jacket or even long pants to eat in a restaurant."
Taylor's been hustling business since the Great Depression when he met a New York tailor he calls Mr. Restivo (and whose weathered picture, with a twentysomething Taylor sits on his desk), who made him a suit in exchange for helping drum up clientele (band leader Glenn Miller was among the first whom Taylor persuaded to get a custom-made suit).
Since that time, he's made suits, shirts and jackets for the likes of Danny Thomas, Frank Sinatra, Elvis Presley, Jack Lemmon, Cary Grant, Jackie Gleason ("We had to make each suit in three sizes because he gained and lost weight"), and more recently David Arquette, Jason Schwartzman and All the Rage's favorite retailer/clotheshorse/bon vivant Cameron Silver.
Silver and Schwartzman are actually two of the people who talk about Taylor and his style in the documentary "Jack Taylor of Beverly Hills," by Cecile Leroy Beaulieu, which first aired on the Sundance Channel last September and was released on DVD Tuesday.
"Who is going to buy that on DVD?" Bonnie Taylor, Jack's wife of six decades, wondered aloud this morning -- and I have to admit, in the age of "Project Runway," an old-fashioned documentary about an old-school tailor sounds as scintillating as watching pinking shears go dull.
But it's actually a fantastic, breezy biography, a tailored-clothing primer and a celebration of the best of the sartorial set all at once. At the same time it's a reminder of why a suit can cost between $3,500 and $4,000 and still be a bargain.
And the fact that Frank Sinatra was buried in a Jack Taylor suit? That speaks for itself.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JACK!
Jack Taylor of Beverly Hills (the movie) is available for $24.95 at IndiePix Films' website. Jack Taylor of Beverly Hills (the legend) is available six days a week at 499 Canon Drive (across from the old Beverly Hills Post Office).
-- Adam Tschorn
Photo: Jack Taylor in a January 2008 file photo. Credit: Larry K. Ho / Los Angeles Times.