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Thursday April 13, 2006

Helen Cohn, who clothed celebrities like Elvis Presley and Roy Rogers, dies at 92


LOS ANGELES (AP) - Helen Cohn, who along with her husband helped clothe Elvis Presley, Roy Rogers and a host of stars in rhinestone creations during the height of cowboy chic, has died. She was 92. 

Helen Cohn died Friday at a hospital near her home in Valencia, her granddaughter, Jamie Nudie Mendoza, said Wednesday. 

From the 1940s through the 1960s, the now-closed Nudie's in North Hollywood was where singing cowboys, country singers such as Hank Williams and other celebrities went for their sparkly duds. 

A gold lame suit for Presley and an outfit embroidered with pills and marijuana leaves for singer Gram Parsons weren't even the gaudiest of Cohn's creations. 

Cohn and her husband, Nudie Cohn, were an inseparable business team until his death in 1984. She ran the business for another decade before retiring. 

She helped her husband sew outfits on a garage pingpong table in the early days and went on to handle the business end of Nudie's for 50 years, her granddaughter said. 

"She was the backbone to my grandfather,'' she said. "She ran the store.'' 

She also was the inspiration for the Nudie's logo, her granddaughter said: a naked cowgirl leaning against a fence, twirling a lasso whose coils spelled out the company name. 

According to family legend, the logo dates to one evening in the 1940s when she appeared before her husband wearing only a cowboy hat, boots and a holster. 

The cowgirl on the logo got clothes in the early 1960s, when Nudie Cohn converted to Christianity from Judaism. 

Helen Barbara Kruger met her future husband, a Ukrainian immigrant, at her mother's boarding house in Mankato, Minnesota. 

They married and moved to New York City, where they opened Nudie's for the Ladies, selling G-strings and other outfits to showgirls and burlesque dancers in the 1930s. They later returned to Minnesota and ran a tailoring and dry-cleaning shop. 

In the 1940s, after hitchhiking across the country several times, they settled in North Hollywood and began creating what would become the famous Nudie's suits. 

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