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Bloomie's Has It All, Even the Stars

November 11, 1996|BETTY GOODWIN | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

New York's behemoth shrine to shopping, Bloomingdale's, landed in Southern California on Thursday night, filling the former Broadway Century City department store with, besides cosmetics, clothes, shoes, jewelry and housewares galore, such Bloomies exclusives as a Calvin Klein-clad Barbie doll, Elton John's Lalique Christmas ornament, deep blue Fiestaware, quilts from India and bargain-priced cashmere sweaters. Oh yes, and lots and lots of Christmas decorations. (Remember, even if it is 85 degrees outside and Thanksgiving is eons away, this is retailing.)

The store was launched with a party appropriately dubbed "The Ultimate Premiere," since it seemed a lot like the Hollywood variety, with Barry Diller, Penny Marshall, Michael Keaton, Billy Crystal, Quincy Jones and Magic Johnson among the swells squeezed into first-floor cosmetics balancing flutes of Moet & Chandon and brown bags--Bloomingdale's soon-to-be-ubiquitous plain-wrap shopping bags. And that character in the business suit and silver sneakers? That's Bloomingdale's fashion director Kal Ruttenstein, whose trademark sneakers, by Chippies, are available you know where.

Then there was the Ovitz factor. The evening was a one-night-only merger between Bloomingdale's Chairman and CEO Michael Gould and Walt Disney Co. President Michael Ovitz, also chairman of the benefit side of the evening, a fund-raiser for the UCLA School of Medicine's Aesculapians.

Are there similarities between movie making and retailing? "I am in retailing," quipped Ovitz, adding: "Everybody has to market and sell. It's all the same business." And as Bloomingdale's Gould said, "Bloomingdale's is theater."

The event, underwritten by the department store, reaped blockbuster-size grosses--$4 million, according to Dr. Gerald Levey, provost for medical sciences and dean of the medical school. Tickets started at $500 a plate, but many of the 1,500 in attendance donated larger amounts for tables.

*

The evening began with a store inspection, with cash registers open if not exactly humming. (Many planned to return for serious shopping Friday--credit card day. The store opened to the public on Saturday.)

But Diane Lander Simon, wife of Neil, wasn't wasting any time. She bought the Elton John ornament, a Tiffany clock ("my first Christmas present"), pantyhose and makeup. "They're the only ones who carry Norma Kamali lip gloss. It's the best," she said.

"If I was going to shop," said director Sydney Pollack--who characterized himself as a "lazy catalog shopper"--"I'd do it at Bloomingdale's, so I'm excited it's here."

"I don't spend a lot of time in department stores, so I don't know if I can make comparisons," said UCLA Chancellor Charles E. Young, "but it's a very nice store."

Ambling past Gelson's supermarket and over to a circus big top erected in a parking lot across the street for dinner, the crowd was met with protesters' chants about sweatshops in the clothing industry.

Inside, it was another story, where emcee Jerry Seinfeld opened himself to questions, like when he was planning to get married, but answered none.

Only a fashion company would dare to cover tables and seat cushions with crushed velvet, in magenta, no less. The music of John Mellencamp and Phil Collins reverberated through the empty boulevards of Century City, and guests went home with gifts of black patent Bloomingdale's tote bags. Among the goodies inside: a T-shirt imprinted with the store mantra, "Been there. Done it. Seen that. Bought everything."

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