102-year-old wardrobe mistress recalls working with Kamahl
‘I’m so looking forward to hearing Kamahl sing after all these years,’ says 102-year-old wardrobe mistress Hazel Orson.
It’s been more than 50 years since Hazel Orson made Kamahl’s stage costumes. But while her copy of the sheet music for ‘All I Have To offer You (Is Me)’ is showing signs of wear and tear, the handwritten message at the bottom can still be clearly read: “Two thousand sighs for your work – who can ask for more? Thanks Hazel. Kamahl.”
The 102-year-old seamstress wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to request the golden-voiced singer perform her favourite song at OPAN’s Christmas in July concert next Tuesday (July 12). But she’s secretly hoping it will make the cut of his greatest hits in the one-hour event that will be streamed live from Sydney. (With 30 gold and platinum albums’ worth of material to choose from, there’s no guarantee.)
Hazel, who now lives in a residential aged care home in north eastern Victoria, was the ABC’s wardrobe mistress for five years, during which time she also made costumes for soapies such as Bellbird, children’s shows such as Adventure Island and even the Sydney Opera. For oversized productions, her team was relocated to an airport hangar where there was more room for cutting tables and machines.
Kamahl was one of her favourite artists. She remembers him as a “perfect gentleman.”
“Some of the artists, particularly the young ballet crew, well, they weren’t gentlemen let me tell you that!”
Kamahl did, however, occasionally rely on his wardrobe mistress for “protection”.
Hazel and another costume designer worked as a team. “We used to say I was tops and she was bottoms. I made all his shirts and she made all his trousers.
“But Kamahl was a little bit frightened to be (alone) with her because she liked to regularly measure his inside leg,” she laughs.
After Kamahl left the ABC – and commercial television producers reimagined his image with kaftans – Hazel continued to make clothes for him privately.
“I got to know him quite well. I’m so looking forward to hearing him sing after all these years.”
Sign up for OPAN’s free Christmas in July event on our event page. The concert will kick off at 2 pm (AEST) on Tuesday 12 July.