NEIMAN MARCUS AT 90
DYNASTY IN DALLAS
Byline: David Moin / With contributions from Holly Haber
DALLAS — Waylon, the longhorn steer, widened his eyes when Burt Tansky mounted his back to pose for a snapshot.
It wasn’t necessarily Tansky’s weight that got Waylon’s attention. It was more likely the cheering for the Neiman’s chief executive officer, from the likes of Leonard and Evelyn Lauder, Syd and Gerald Shaw and a few dozen other suppliers and friends at the Circle R Ranch here last Thursday, where Neiman Marcus began its 90th anniversary celebration — Texas rodeo-style.
With City Slicker Tansky atop Waylon and strobe lights flashing, the ranch hand gripping Waylon’s ropes cautioned the crowd, “Please hold it down, or you’ll aggravate the steer.”
“You know if Waylon gets aggravated,” Tansky announced, “I’ll be aggravated, too.” Later, Tansky safely was borne into the ranch arena on a horse-drawn buckboard, officially welcoming the crowd of 400, and whipping up a huge cloud of dust in the procession.
“We call it Texas fog,” Tansky proclaimed. “And you’ll be getting it for a while.
“For all you Northerners and Easterners, there will be no baseball tonight.”
Just a lot of Texas beans, barbecue, two-stepping, dusty air and horsing around. The rodeo featured 16 palominos galloping in formation plus bull riding, bronco busting, barrel racing and calf roping. The biggest applause was reserved for the calves that escaped unroped.
“God, I love this place!” Tansky bellowed from the buckboard. “I’m having more fun than I did at my bar mitzvah.”
“You know what’s nice about this night? All these people from the market getting together,” said Ron Frasch, president and ceo of GFT USA. “Some are wearing cowboy boots for the first time and walking around with sore feet.”
“It’s nice to see everyone so down-home and casual. It’s a great party,” said designer Pamela Dennis.
“I’m just trying to live through this 90th anniversary,” noted 92-year-old Stanley Marcus, Neiman’s chairman emeritus. “Since I am the only living person who was there the day the store opened, they’ve been using me as a point man for stories and I’m so damned tired of seeing my picture in the paper. This whole month I haven’t had a lunch or dinner free to myself.”
The bash continued Friday evening, with a black-tie gala for 1,600 at the downtown flagship here, and again Saturday with a party at Neiman’s Houston Galleria store for 800 people. Both events benefited the Texas Cultural Trust.
The gala here was reminiscent of the old Neiman’s fortnights, when the downtown flagship would be covered with merchandise and exhibits from a foreign country. The last one, in 1986, featured Australia. This time, Texas was the theme.
“When I told Stanley about using Texas as a fortnight,” Tansky related, “he said, ‘Great. That’s one country we never did.’ “
Scattered on all floors of the flagship are historic and cultural exhibits that stay up through Oct. 12. Among them are an animatronic model of President Lyndon B. Johnson in his pickup truck; artifacts from the 17th-century LaSalle shipwreck in the Gulf of Mexico; a display of 90 cowboy boots worn by Cowboy Bill, who promoted his gallery by strutting around the city in his cowboy outfits, and simulated oil derricks erected around the main floor columns that spouted black confetti and feathers in the climax of the opening ceremony.
In the front window, there’s also a giant sculpture of a beehive hairdo with a model train running through it, as well as place settings depicting the style of each decade of this century, sculpture renditions of Texas ghost stories, dresses worn by Neiman’s co-founder Carrie Marcus Neiman and an espresso bar that was transformed into a chili counter.
On Friday, a big brown Hereford bull greeted everyone inside, and the store was filled with music; there was a Western swing band in a tent, a cowboy marching band paraded through each level and a mariachi band serenaded guests as they left. Cash registers remained operating, ringing up — among other things — two sables for a total of $135,000.
“I’m so proud Neiman Marcus is from Texas,” said Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R., Tex). “They even have one in Washington, D.C., now, so it’s civilized.”
Through Oct. 11, the Houston store has several displays, including 90 Texas flags on the main floor, cow sculptures, simulated oil derricks, a Sam Houston retrospective and yet another bull.
“I think they did a very great thing by making this a promotion for the state instead of being selfish and just promoting Neiman Marcus,” said Marcus.
When he passed the bull in the store here, Marcus said he wondered whether having the animal present had any significance. Then he recalled that when his father, a co-founder of the store, resigned from Sanger’s and told his boss he planned to start a new business, “Mr. Sanger repeatedly said one word to him: Bull.”