Friday, September 14, 2012

Bergdorf Goodman, 111 Years of Fashion

Bergdorf Goodman!  I've enjoyed shopping there for years- and I have wonderful stories to share with you as BG celebrates its 111th year of business.  Founded in 1899 by Herman Bergdorf, it began as a small tailor shop in Union Square, and in 1928 opened on Fifth Avenue.  BG is now part of the Neiman Marcus Group, and the Mens Store opened in 1990, and what a beautiful place it is.  Powerful women of fashion, such as Dawn Mello, and Ellin Saltzman, have promoted the BG image, as well as the careers of world famous designers for many years, and I do recall being able to peek into Ms Mello's personal office, a minimal statement done in Dior grey, and her desk was entirely devoid of anything- well, maybe a telephone, but that's it!
Dawn Mello with Giorgio Armani

I once was on the jitney to east hampton and spied Ms. Saltzman jumping on, I should have said something to her, I think I did, maybe a "hello" LOL!  Anyway, I'm getting to my BG story, a real shocker, but not so unusual for New York.  But first, I do recall the buzz when Mrs John Grisham phoned in a $32,000 order for (16) Royal Copenhagen Flora Danica dinner plates...My friend Bob Page in Greensboro, owns a business called Replacements Limited, and he currently has these for around $999 each, get 'em while they last!  And it was always fun to bump into Frederic' Fekkai on the elevator...he arrived in 1989 - with a beautiful salon on the seventh floor.

I would sometimes wander downstairs, (we also would sneak upstairs, into the old top floor apartment where the Goodman family once lived) and admire the beautiful clothes of Bill Blass.  I always loved his sense of colour and feeling for fabrics. He had been the speaker at our graduation from FIT, and it was a very powerful, encouraging message he sent out to us.  We also had lots of other boutiques, at BG, including Howard Slatkin, foreshadowing Kelly Wearstler ( a fellow southerner btw) and Gregory, the subject of my story I'm getting to, worked there.  I recall always walking by the east 70th street house of Bunny Mellon, which was across from another Slatkin shop. It was always one of my favorite houses, painted in a light ivory stucco, with beautiful lacquered doors.  I read that it recently sold for around 15 million.

My co-worker, Gregory- he was always dressed to the nines, in beautiful double breasted suits, and he wore his hair slicked straight back.  He was a native New Yorker, and because he commuted between NYC and Florida, always deeply tanned.  He wore Charvet ties, and Cartier tortoise shell and gold glasses, which were Phillip Johnson or Carrie Donovan.  He would shop in the store (BG) on his "day off" - so that we could all see him walking his Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a beautiful puppy, whose name was - Cartier.  And, Gregory smoked. Cartier cigarettes.  Who knew?

So, anyway, I did find him an interesting character, and I remember he invited me over to his apartment for drinks.  When I got there, he seemed a bit surprised to see me- I don't think he thought I would actually show up. It was funny, because the manager of the BG seventh floor was there- and I saw that Gregory had a pretty nice apartment- on a high floor in a mediocre modern building near midtown.  He had a LOT of expensive looking accessories on every surface, including many silver framed photographs, showing him posed in front of his "Uncle Norman's" Rolls.  I called G's boyfriend his uncle, since he was always introduced as such, or even a grandfather, but he was really the partner, and I have a feeling he was financing  some of Gregory's lavish lifestyle.  Sadly, after I had re-located to Naples, I decided to call up dear Norman, over in Fort Lauderdale.  I must have looked him up in information.  It was so sad, and so shocking.  He told me that, after I had left, poor Gregory was caught shoplifting from BG, and the police were called, and he was escorted out by them- for all to see.  This saddened me.  Then, Norman tells me, (it gets worse)  dear Gregory got more and more into cocaine, and he checked into the Four Seasons (a penthouse suite) and hung himself from a chandelier with some knotted up Charvet ties.  This shocked me so badly, it took me weeks to get over it.  I had no idea.  Poor Cartier, the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel was taken away- I think one of the police officers took him.  A tale of old New York- one that is not so uncommon.  Sad, but true.  RIP dear Gregory.  I hope that you are now in the Palm Beach and Park Avenue of Heaven.  DF XXOO



  1. My goodness! What a sad and shocking tale. And so New York! There is but a very thin line between keeping it all together and having it spin out of control... Reggie

    1. Dear RD,

      Since you inspired this post, it means a lot to me that you took the time to write a comment. I so enjoy reading your stuff! This is a creepy tale, and it reminded me of your old housekeeper. I worked at Woodie's for a while too, so your whole story resonated for me. T-Y


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