When Sophia Loren struts up New York's Fifth Avenue as a grand marshal in Monday's Columbus Day Parade, she'll be wearing a bright red dress created for her by American fashion designer Nolan Miller.
Exclusive designer for Loren and couturier to a generation of glamorous screen stars, Miller is scheduled to visit Tampa Bay later this month. But first he'll be the subject of a retrospective opening Wednesday at the Museum of Television & Radio in New York City. He is the first fashion designer to be featured there; the event will be shown on NBC's Entertainment Tonight.
"We are honoring him because he has had an exceptional career in fashion design in the television industry," said Bob Batscha, museum president.
For 30 years Miller has been making the world's most famous stars glitter in his creations. Many of the women he has gowned for television and movies _ Elizabeth Taylor, Linda Evans, Joan Collins and Loren _ are expected to turn out for the tribute to the man who has made it his life's work "to see that everyone is beautiful."
The rangy, 6-foot-5 Texas-born Miller probably is best known for the thousands of drop-dead outfits he created for the dueling darlings Krystle Carrington and Alexis Carrington Colby of the TV series Dynasty. Miller-made costumes also have appeared in at least a dozen other television shows and movies since the early 1960s.
On Oct. 22 Miller will present his latest 65-piece couture collection at a benefit at the Stouffer Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg. The clothes are fall and winter fashions; they range in price from $1,500 to $12,000.
"Even when he is on a killer schedule, you can count on Miller to give his time and talents to a worthy cause. He is truly a dedicated person," said Tampa Bay fashion consultant Art Lowe. It was Lowe who asked his longtime friend to participate in the fund raiser for Boley Inc., a private, non-profit psychosocial rehabilitation agency in Pinellas County.
During his three-day stay here, Miller also will appear at informal showings of his collection at three Boulevard stores.
Miller, 57, was responsible for the wardrobe on all of Aaron Spelling's TV shows: Hotel, The Love Boat, T. J. Hooker, Dynasty II, The Colbys, Charlie's Angels, Hart to Hart and Green Acres. At his peak, he worked 14-hour days on seven series at once, turning out some 25 to 30 dresses a week.
Before television brought his creations into American living rooms, Miller started his career working with Academy Award-winning actresses Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. When the late Stanwyck received a special award at the 1982 Oscars, she wore a red beaded gown with a matching red silk floor-length coat. Miller was Stanwyck's escort that night. Her ensemble will be among those shown at the retrospective.
He also was well represented at this year's Oscars. For Sally Field, Miller crafted a purple chiffon gown with silk violets. Rebecca De Mornay wore a white strapless Miller gown with feather boa. Elizabeth Taylor appeared in a pink satin gown; the next day, viewers called Miller's Beverly Hills salon to see if they could buy it.
Miller even has made a quasi-fashion convert out of Whoopi Goldberg. The two became friends on the set of the movie Soapdish and she asked him to design her a gown for the Academy Awards. As an Oscar presenter, Goldberg wore a simple black chiffon dress with a long slit up the side.
Aaron Spelling's daughter Tori, a star of the hit Fox network show Beverly Hills 90210, is another Miller fan. A dress she wore in a recent Seventeen magazine layout generated 20 to 25 phone inquiries.
During a recent phone interview from his Beverly Hills office, Miller was having a typically wild morning. His secretary and staff assistant were out for the day. Client after client breezed in for fittings. The phone rang incessantly.
As he answered the phone with a simple "Nolan Miller," the designer also was saying goodbye to socialite/interior designer Rose Tarlow for whom he is creating "the most wondrous green velvet ballgown since Scarlett O'Hara pulled the draperies down at Tara."
Miller credits the success of his business to the vast media exposure he has enjoyed. But he also insists that his days of juggling so many TV shows at once are over. He now focuses his energy on the two collections he does each year and on his individual clients.
Among the highlights of the museum retrospective will be many of Miller's designs for Dynasty. He said he stopped counting the number of outfits he had made for Joan Collins after 3,000.
Time was always short on the Dynasty set, he recalled. "We would get a script two days before the concept meeting. I would have only four or five days to design and make the clothes. Sometimes Evans' and Collins' outfits were all but pinned on them."
Miller decided he wanted to design clothes for movie stars when he was in the sixth grade. "I loved the way movie stars were dressed in the '30s and '40s," he said. Miller's father was not thrilled with his son's choice.
"That was a touchy business for a kid whose dad worked in the oil fields of Burkburnett, Tex. and Lake Charles, La.," he said.
Miller apprenticed in a fashionable women's wear shop in Lake Charles before moving to the West Coast. In California he took a job in a florist shop to earn money to attend the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles.
It was while he was working for the florist that he met an aspiring writer/actor named Aaron Spelling. "Aaron always understood from day one the importance of wardrobe," Miller said.
When Spelling did a pilot called Burke's Law with 10 stars, Miller designed all the clothes, including a cowboy costume for an actor named Ronald Reagan. "He played a cowboy movie star who wore a white outfit."
It was also while Miller was working in the florist shop that one of his wealthy customers asked him to design her a dress for a party she was giving. She invited him to the party and there he met a young woman who also grew up in Lake Charles, Sandra Gray Stream. Stream, heiress to the Union Oil fortune, married Miller 12 years ago. The couple has homes in Beverly Hills, New York and Lake Charles.
This past year the Millers have stayed fairly close to home because she was recovering from cancer surgery. But Mrs. Miller will be in New York with her husband Wednesday for the museum gala. And she will be wearing a simple black Nolan Miller.
Nolan Miller will have trunk showings of his collection at the three Tampa Bay area Boulevard stores: Oct. 21 at Northwood Plaza, McMullen-Booth Road at Enterprise Road, Clearwater; Oct. 23 at the Plaza, 100 Indian Rocks Road N, Belleair Bluffs, and Oct. 24 at 1534 South Dale Mabry, Tampa. Hours for each show are 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
The Boley benefit gala is at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 22 at the Stouffer Vinoy Resort in St. Petersburg. The black-tie event includes dinner, dancing and the fashion show. Tickets are $75 a person. For reservations call Bobby Gilgosch at 864-2684.