I first met Miss Nadine at the grande
old Bullocks Wilshire Department Store in 1977. Bullocks Wilshire
was an Art Deco masterpiece built just before the Crash of '29.
No expense was spared to make this THE department store in Los Angeles.
Cartier did the clocks on each floor. There was a magnificent mural
of the evolution of transportation on the ceiling of the elegant porte
cochere. Lalique did the glass doors. I mean, this store told New
York's 5th Avenue shops to Shut Up. My first job in Los Angeles was
as Matre' D in the 5th floor Tea Room and Miss Nadine was a wise old manicurist
who did the nails of the widowed wealth of Los Angeles. All the grande
old dames would come to Bullocks Wilshire to shop, get beauty treatments,
and have lunch in the Tea Room while watching gorgeous older models walk
the table-high catwalk modeling the latest Bullocks fashions which they
could handily purchase after they had one last glass of white wine and
finished their Tuna Nicoise. Miss Nadine would come upstairs for
lunch to clock the clientele and tell me stories from her fifty (yes, that's
50) years as an employee of this legendary establishment. Nadine
filled in the blanks and gave me quite a Los Angeles history lesson.
Bullocks Wishire was much more than a department store to the wives of
the men who built Los Angeles and Hollwood - it was the social centerpiece
of these old girls' lives. Every Hollywood Star of the era had graced
the place and many were regulars, from Mary Pickford to Marlene Deitrich
to Marilyn Monroe. Nadine knew them all and kept secrets. Heaven
knows the tales she could have told had she not been the very soul
of discretion. All the ladies dressed to the nines and met and shopped
and talked and ate at Bullocks Wilshire. I was fresh from New York
having arrived in Los Angeles by plane July 17, 1977, with $200 dollars
and head full of dreams but ... no car. I checked into The Bryson
Hotel a block away from Bullocks and fast talked my way into the restaurant
job because I had to walk to work (I put a down payment on a bicycle with
my first paycheck) Nadine gave me The Bryson Hotel history as well.
Fred McMurray owned it and in the 1930's it had been a fashionable spot
with a wonderful penthouse restaurant. It still had the twelve Corinthian
columns pedestaling rearing lions at the garden entrance and had held on
to a warm, if faded elegance. (It is, in 2000, currently being restored
to it's old glory.)
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Years after I moved
to Hollywood and into Ten Bungalows I rediscovered the now retired Miss
Nadine living next door. We often had afternoon tea and talked of
the Bullocks days and tales of old Hollywood. In the early '90s Nadine
moved in with her daughter where she died shortly afterwards in her mid
90's. When this Clock photo was taken April 29th, 1990, Nadine was
listening to Harry Connick Jr.'s version of the classic "It Had To Be You".
I had a chance to return
to work at Bullocks Wilshire for three months in 1995 when I costarred
with Faye Dunaway, Jason Alexander, Rupert Everett and Paul Ruebens in
"DUNSTON CHECKS IN" which was filmed entirely at the then closed Los Angeles
landmark (It's now a Law Library and has been beautifully restored).
The stately old building was transformed into The Majestic Hotel in Manhattan.
We watched dailies upstairs in what had been the Tea Room and "Hair and
Makeup" was located in what had been the old Beauty Salon. I could
close my eyes and see Miss Nadine doing Gloria Swanson's nails and listening
to the secrets she would never tell....