Making The Stars Of Broadway Shine

There's nothing very glitzy about Cranford, N.J. - except maybe for the woman who lives here, CBS News correspondent Richard Schlesinger reports.

"Anything that has glitter, I probably have my hands in it," said 77-year-old Bessie Nelson.

Nelson's hands have touched countless bugles and beads and sequins.

"There are thousands and thousands on a garment," she said. "Thousands! Thousands!!"

And each one plays a role in making Broadway's costumes sensational.

You've seen her work in shows like "A Chorus Line" - and too many others to name.

Costumers line up to get on her schedule.

"You don't get the glitz and glamour of Broadway without the beaders," said Rory Powers, the wardrobe supervisor for "A Chorus Line." "I mean, how else do you get the sparkle? And people pay for sparkle!"

And sparkle doesn't come easy. It is painstaking work.

"Individual stitching, with one pushing up, one bugle at a time, one sequin at a time," Nelson said.

But Broadway isn't the only address where Nelson does business. She's also done a little work for the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Her work could be seen on the then-newly minted first lady, Hillary Clinton. Her inaugural gown was beaded by Nelson.

"My eyes were glued! That's my gown she's dancing in!" Nelson said.

And she also beaded possibly the most famous single glove in America … the one on Michael Jackson's hand.

"This was a reject and they were going to throw it out and I said, 'Oh, no! That was on his hand, I want it!'" Nelson said.

She's made a little history while making all those clothes, and she's surely made a name for herself.

"To see that glitter come to life with the stars and they sing in it and they act in it, there's nothing like it," Nelson said.

And that's why Nelson will keep beading … and keep being the pride of Cranford and the toast of Broadway.

And Broadway will honor Nelson Friday with a lifetime achievement award.

  • Richard Schlesinger

    Correspondent, "48 Hours," "CBS Evening News"