Daily photographs by HANS VON RITTERN, with humorous, artistic and social commentary on life in the big city.

Mondays on Memory Lane – Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip ‘shop’ Bloomingdale’s 1976

QUEEN ELIZABETH collageQueen Elizabeth II                                                        Prince Philip and Marvin Traub

Mondays on Memory Lane – Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip ‘shop’ Bloomingdale’s 1976: It wasn’t your average advertisement in the local papers ‘Come Meet the Queen at Bloomingdales’! This being 1976, the height of the disco era it could have been any one of dozens of queens. Divine, Sylvester, Craig Russell, Holly Woodlawn, Rollerena, Charles Pierce, Danny LaRue, Jim Bailey?
No, this was THE Queen to beat out all other queens, The one that always carries her handbag wherever she goes. Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Phillip. (As Bette Midler once famously asked: “What has she got in that handbag?! A card that says ‘I am the Queen?!’) Bloomingdale’s then CEO and president Marvin Traub had pulled off the media stunt of all stunts and convinced the Queen to visit his store. This was quite a coup for him. She wasn’t visiting Macy’s, SAKS, or Bonwitts, Tiffany or Bergdorf’s, she was visiting the store that was so hotly in vogue at the time. The Queen “didn’t choose Saks, and she didn’t choose Bergdorf — she chose Bloomingdale’s,” Traub once boasted in an interview with The Post.
As part of the city’s 1976 bi-centennial celebrations, on Friday, July 9th, 1976, the Queen first decided to participate in a little historical reenactment herself. Most famously, the Queen graced the steps of Trinity Church to receive back rent owed the crown — 279 peppercorns. A bronze plaque presently marks the spot at Trinity where she accepted the peppercorns.
After a luncheon at the Waldorf, the royals fit in a couple unusual stops. The first was a spot of afternoon tea at the Morris-Jumel Mansion in Harlem, accompanied by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Afterwards, they sped downtown for a tour of Bloomingdale’s, not only stopping traffic, but reversing it on Lexington Avenue, to allow the Queen to exit her vehicle from the right side.
queen
She quietly moved from floor to floor, admiring the many displays of products of British make, particularly the pottery and furniture. She was also greeted to a private fashion show, as Her Majesty was led through a room of mannequins garbed in the latest stylish trends from 1976. Along the way, a few American designers made appearances to greet Queen Elizabeth, including Calvin Klein.
I recall it was in the mid afternoon and many office workers made it a long lunch to see the famous couple. I got there several hours early to get a good viewing spot on one of the upper floors where a museum exhibit had been set up. The aisles were narrow here so therefore the best spot to snap a picture with my little instamatic camera with the square flashcubes. The buzz on the floor was heightened but polite, no shoving or pushing – after all, it was the Queen! She graciously perused the exhibit but her eyes and his swept across the crowd as they truly tried to connect to the people of New York, it was quite remarkable. (Remember, this is before John Lennon’s 1980 assassination and security was still very lax in those days.) A representative of Bloomingdale’s remarked, “we thought — and the Queen agreed — that it would be a very American experience for her to go amidst all the crowds and just pretend she might be shopping.”
It was a surreal ‘pretend shopping excursion’ but it was a thrill for me, but alas…no…she didn’t do the royal hand wave 🙂
QUEEN CROWD
Story told in honor of her 87th birthday yesterday April 21.

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