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Summer Outside, Winter in the Mailbox

July 31, 1998|BEVERLY BEYETTE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Forget the reindeer, the stockings hung by roaring fires, the Santas and wreaths and teddy bears and festively trimmed trees. That Neiman Marcus catalog that showed up this week is not--not--the fabled Christmas catalog.

Sweltering Southlanders might have been amused, or horrified, to find in their mailboxes a 70-page booklet featuring on its color cover a chair perched in a field of snow and, on the chair, a pair of hand-stitched needlework pillows depicting jolly old St. Nick.

Turning to Page 2, they could read: "Though there may not be a chill in the air just yet, we're full of Christmas spirit at NM. . . ."

But this is not a Christmas catalog, emphasizes NM Direct spokeswoman Kellie Patrick in Dallas, where it has been over 100 degrees for three weeks. Rather, she says, it is a "holiday planner. The long-awaited and much-anticipated Christmas catalog is not coming out until September."

Missing from the "holiday planner," for example, are NM's outrageous six-figure his-and-hers gifts for the obscenely rich (think jets, Jaguars). This year's ostentatious offerings won't be revealed until the real Christmas catalog comes out.

The most outrageous items to be found in the "holiday planner"--in the toy section, no less--are authentic light-up fiberglass "Star Wars" figures, limited-edition items of 300 each. C-3PO goes for $7,500, R2D2 for $7,200.

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Regardless of what the NM folks want to call this publication of theirs, with only 146 shopping days until Christmas, can the Christmas catalog crush be far behind?

Nordstrom spokeswoman Leslie Harris says the store's catalog will be out Oct. 15, as has been customary in recent years. But, Harris adds, Nordstrom is still a bit of a traditionalist.

"We don't decorate Nordstrom stores until the day after Thanksgiving," she said.

Delray Beach, Fla.-based Levenger, the company specializing in "tools for serious readers," will mail its Christmas catalog Aug. 31, as always, says spokeswoman Karen Fortner, "so people have plenty of time to order."

This year, the piece de resistance of the Levenger catalog will be a limited-edition reproduction of Charles Dickens' desk and chair, the very ones he used while writing "A Tale of Two Cities" and "Great Expectations." The pieces are signed by Dickens' great-great-grandson Christopher Charles Dickens, and, says Fortner, the desk "even has nicks where Dickens' signet ring used to rub."

As for that Neiman Marcus "holiday planner," you might want to check out the Cowboy Santa (Page 37). With his bolo tie, genuine fur chaps and tooled leather saddle, he's ready for the reindeer roundup. He's also $650.

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