Michael Bush hand-sewed thousands of crystal rhinestones onto the Billie Jean gloves.

Michael Bush hand-sewed thousands of crystal rhinestones onto the Billie Jean gloves.

He wired a version of the infamous red leather Thriller jacket to be lighted up for the “Bad” tour.

The milky-white military jacket adorned in pearls that Michael Jackson wore when he received a Grammy in 1993? Also a Bush creation.

“What I’ve done, so many people have noticed and remembered — and it’s a great memory in their life,” said the Los Angeles resident, 55.

Reflecting on the 25 years he spent as a personal stylist and clothing designer to the King of Pop, Bush struggles to explain how a boy from Portsmouth who was interested in agriculture became responsible for some of the most iconic costumes in the entertainment industry.

Fans become giddy — “like little kids,” he said — when he shows off black leather jackets or shoes in which Jackson danced. He usually takes such pieces to the tour stops he is making for T he King of Style: Dressing Michael Jackson, published last year.

On Saturday, Bush returned to his hometown in southern Ohio as the community honored him with a star on its “Walk of Fame.” He joined Roy Rogers and other notable natives so honored at the downtown attraction.

Tonight, Bush will stop in Columbus to tout the fashion memoir at a book signing in German Village.

The fashion designer said he traveled with Jackson on international tours to tweak wardrobe malfunctions; and along with his partner, Dennis Tompkins, dressed the entertainer for the most exclusive Hollywood events. He also designed the outfit in which Jackson was buried.

Bush learned to sew from a grandmother and his mother, who together ran an alterations business in Portsmouth.

“At 8 or 9, I became another pair of helping hands,” he recalled.

Also from a young age, he developed sophisticated fashion tastes. Still, he tried to fight his fate.

Bush studied agriculture for three years at Ohio State University before dropping out and moving to Las Vegas in 1979 to work at resorts.

Four years later, he relocated to Los Angeles — a move that forever changed his life.

“Michael allowed me to turn my hobby into an obsession,” Bush said. “I found someone who would pay me to do what I loved, and I never felt like I was going to work.”

Q: When did you meet Jackson?

A: I met Michael Jackson on the set of Captain EO in 1985. I was working in the wardrobe department.

He had just ended the “Victory Tour” with his brothers. Thriller had just come out. He had done the “moonwalk” onstage. He had just started becoming a superstar on his own without his brothers.

Q: What were your first impressions of him?

A: We were the same age (27), and I had the ability to make him laugh. He was a practical joker.

I wasn’t star-struck. I thought: “God, he’s just like me. What does he have that he has this influence on the world?” What was fascinating is he was so concerned with learning about me. He was always so concerned about everyone else — that everyone else was happy.

Q: What was the first piece of clothing you made for Jackson after Captain EO?

A: He’d been complaining about the clothes, pulling at the clothing, saying: “They hurt. I can’t move in them.” We (he and Tompkins) made him a pair of pants he could move in, and he asked us, “ Why don’t you design my clothes?”

Q: How did you approach dressing the King of Pop?

A: We spent a lot of time to make it look effortless yet perfect. Michael would always say: “I need to dance. The clothes need to show the beat. The clothes are as important as the music.”

Q: Did you work together on the designs?

A: We would each have a piece of paper and a pencil. It was like two kids fighting over crayons. I would draw something, and then he would say, “I’m not going to wear that.” Then he would draw something, and I would tell him, “I’m not going to make that.”

Something that should have taken a few hours took us eight or nine hours.

Q: What was your favorite piece you designed for him?

A: The jacket on the cover of the book. It was one of the first major pieces I made. Every city we went to worldwide for three years, it was plastered on every piece of media — from newspapers to the 5 o’clock news to park benches. It’s from the “Bad” tour in 1988 and has 12 chrome police badges on it.

Q: How did you decide on the design for his memorial service?

A: La Toya Jackson called me and said, “Michael, you know what he’d want to wear the best.” But I thought, “What would Michael want?”

I remembered the jacket he wore with Janet to the Grammys (in 1993). It was his all-time favorite. He told me, “When I put that on, I feel like Michael Jackson.”

We reproduced that and updated the beading pattern from 1993 to 2009. (Bush coupled the white jacket with black beaded leather pants, a gold belt and dancing shoes.)

I dressed my best friend’s corpse and put him in the coffin. It was my last job with Michael.

Q: How did the book come about?

A: The book was Michael’s idea in the beginning. He told me, “You need to tell them how these clothes were made.”

We started it 20 years ago, but then a new album would come out, and it would get shelved. Honestly, if he was here still, there would be no book. I would be so busy doing stuff for him. Hopefully, it can inspire someone in Ohio who doesn’t want to be in agriculture but wants to be in arts.

Q: What is it like sharing these stories?

A: Michael became my best friend. He was this iconic figure and music genius, but, to me, he was just little, shy Michael Jackson. It was all moving so fast, you didn’t have time to look back.

Now, when I look at the book, I can remember what he said when we pulled a jacket out of the bag. He was so appreciative. He would hand you the Grammy and say, “Look what we’ve done.” It’s brought a lot of closure to me.



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