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  • Trish Kennedy-Howe

More Bloomingdale's Celebrity Sightings

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

As I’ve mentioned previously, as a wallcovering designer I logged in a lot of time visiting Bloomingdale’s department store in New York City. I was sent by my company to the Big Apple, a wonderful source for new and evolving trends in design and fashion, to research ideas for wallcovering and fabric designs, and Bloomingdale’s was a favorite place to do that. It was just the right amount of trendiness without being too upscale to make it a great source for finding products that were on the same level as the wallcoverings produced by the company for which I worked. The big store was always teeming with sensory delights - visual, auditory, and olfactory. There was always a theme involved - it could be ancient Greece or Egypt, treasures from the Russian Empire, or the music and food of Ireland. It was always a cornucopia of style and beauty. I loved soaking it all up and I always came away with new ideas. I never directly copied any patterns or products; that wasn’t the point. Instead, I was inspired by what I saw. And that led to new product development.

I often observed celebrities on my visits to Bloomingdale’s. Except for Diane Keaton (see my previous post about her), most of them spoke loudly and seemed to want bystanders to notice them. I remember seeing Diana Ross descending the first-floor escalator, carrying two full Bloomie’s shopping bags, wearing a black mink coat and declaring loudly to her companion, “I’m having the baby in March!” Okay. Thanks for letting us know. Sophisticated New Yorkers usually ignored ostentatious displays by celebrities, but tourists often stared with rapture.

One April day in 1983, I found myself in the first-floor lingerie department of Bloomingdale’s. Okay, there weren’t a lot of ideas in the lingerie department for repeating surface patterns, but on occasion I took a break and did a little shopping for myself. I was poring over some lacy pink items at the peignoir (as we used to call them) counter when I slowly realized there was a low murmuring around me. I glanced around, saw nothing peculiar and went back to my browsing. The murmuring got louder and I sensed the presence of a very tall man standing next to me. The man suddenly called out loudly and quite startlingly, “Nic! Nic! Over here! Look at this!” I walked away from him thinking "Who does he think HE is?” I looked back and saw a beautiful blond woman walking over to him. She was stunning - tall with lemon colored hair elegantly styled in a perfect French braid. My impression was, she’s so Nordic looking. She must be a Swedish model.

The two of them – the beautiful blond goddess and the handsome tall black man – seemed to delight in the attention they were getting. I was curious so I asked one of the clerks, “Who IS that?” She looked at me like I was an alien from another planet and gasped, “It’s O.J. Simpson!” O.J. ? I wasn’t sure who that was (unlike everyone else in the world, obviously) but I thought he was maybe someone in sports. “O.J.! The football player. The Heisman trophy winner! And his girlfriend!” hissed the clerk. There was a real buzz of excitement in the lingerie department. Everyone there was watching Nic (who we now know as Nicole) and O.J. Everyone seemed to be breathlessly waiting to see what items they would purchase. I didn’t stick around to find out. I left the lingerie department and headed upstairs to home furnishings, thinking I had just seen two famous people but didn’t really know who they were.

I went back to the design department in Ohio and bragged to my colleagues that I had seen O.J. Simpson in Bloomingdale’s lingerie department. Pretty much everyone knew who he was, even those who had zero interest in sports or knew what the Heisman trophy was. Of all the celebrities anyone in my office had ever seen in New York or anywhere else, O.J. Simpson seemed to be The Big Kahuna.

Later of course, I did realize who O.J. and Nic were. And that was long before they became infamous. The doubters of my tale questioned why the great and wealthy O.J. would be shopping at Bloomingdale’s instead of Barney’s or Saks Fifth Avenue. But remember, (if you’re old enough) during O.J.’s trial, it was testified that Nicole was the one who had actually purchased the infamous gloves at Bloomingdale’s as a Christmas present for O.J. Those gloves were the ones he was wearing the night he murdered two people and then left one of the gloves behind. But the glove found in the dark alley at the side of O.J.’s house didn’t seem to fit his hand in court when it was presented as evidence. It didn’t fit because he was scrunching his hand up inside the glove - everyone knew that. Even the jurors probably knew that. And sadly, it didn’t matter. He was destined to go free, despite the gigantic mountain of evidence that piled up against him.

Every so often, over the years, a thought has often occurred to me. It’s a silly and unreasonable thought but something I think about anyway. I think, irrationally of course, that I really wish I could have warned Nicole of her impending doom. But then I picture how she would have reacted to an eccentric would-be psychic approaching her in a crowded department store with a scary prediction about her demise. I’m afraid it just wouldn’t have worked.



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