By and  on November 5, 2007

Who can gather together Terry Lundgren, Burt Tansky, Pete Nordstrom, Bill Dillard 2nd, Stephen I. Sadove and Michael Gould in one room with nary a punch being thrown?

Josie Natori.

From the food to the wines to the 90 guests in the room, the private dinner Thursday at La Grenouille in Manhattan to fete Natori and her 30 years in business was an evening of bonhomie, congratulations and good-natured ribbing rarely seen in the industry. Titans of retail present and past, as well as members of the media, designers, friends and family, were among those who gathered on a night that offered a breadth of emotions, from a 10-minute shtick by Tansky worthy of any stand-up comedian, to an emotional Natori recounting her experiences.

"Tonight is a testimony to Josie's diverse customer base," said Tansky, Neiman Marcus' chairman, who was among the last to toast Natori but didn't waste the opportunity to invoke the "m" word to dig at the Dillard's and Macy's executives in the room. "You've already heard from five or six moderate department stores....The only ones missing are Target and Kohl's....Now you are hearing from the luxury group."

"You mean that little Neiman Marcus," Lundgren yelled from a corner.

Tansky, who recently created an office of the chairman spotlighting two potential successors in Karen Katz and James Skinner, didn't disclose his favorite in the horse race. But he did allude to his own longevity, noting Natori has known him longer than any other retailer.

"When she first started in business, she had trouble understanding what is sexy. She would ask me should the thong be this long, or should the G-string have Swarovski crystals. I used to lecture her to stay focused, to stay in underwear, not handbags. Now she is going to be into apparel again with eveningwear," he said. "Hopefully, Josie, you won't forget lingerie."

Others in the crowd included Bergdorf Goodman's Jim Gold, Richard Baker of NRDC Equity Partners, Rose Marie Bravo, Marvin Traub, Sandy Weill, Steven Kolb, Massimo Ferragamo, Dawn Mello, Ira Neimark, Cathleen Black, Margaret Hayes, Pamela Fiore, Joseph Boitano, Peter Som, Robert Burke and Joseph Cicio.

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