4.09.2008

Classic New York: Henri Bendel

After leaving the King Cole Bar at the St. Regis, making my way back through the lobby and into the sunshine of 55th Street, sunglasses back on, I couldn't recollect if I had spent twenty minutes in the bar or over an hour, most likely a magic time distortion brought on by the merry old soul in Parrish's mural. Whatever time it was, it was no time to go home and walk the dogs. Flushed from a merry bar conversation, I decided it was time to shop.

Mame Dennis, for one of her short stints in the real world, modeled tea dresses for Henri Bendel's store. After "an ugly contretemps" in which a rich old man pinched her in the rear and she said something back, M. Bendel let her go, offering her the advice that the best career for her would be marriage. Walking along Fifth Avenue, I saw the Henri Bendel storefront, so I wandered in to get a look.

After the indeterminate number of minutes or hours at the St. Regis bar, I proved a likely candidate to buy the first thing any one of the seemingly thousands of makeup specialists at Henri Bendel would try to sell me. I had barely gotten in the front door when a nice man held out a lipstick sample for me to try. Thinking I probably needed lipstick after quaffing the "Red Snapper," but certainly not rouge, as my cheeks, nose, and eyes were already aflame, I sat in a chair and let the makeup specialist paint my lips with an appropriately subdued cinnamon color and then a touch of lip glacé. When speaking to me, the expert, like all the good ones in makeup land, balanced restrained flattery with the ever-so-slight suggestion that I would look much better if I continued to sit there and try on more things before I pulled out my wallet.

Carrying my little brown and white striped Henry Bendel bag with the lipstick and gloss wrapped inside, I made my way through the onslaught of the ensuing makeup expert gauntlet, ambushed by perfumes and a special bottled water meant to cleanse my face. It was not at all unpleasant, but upon eyeing the fabulously colorful Chanel display on the second floor, I rushed up the stairs to higher and safer ground.

The visual culture of Henri Bendel is splendid - the famous Lalique windows overlooking Fifth Ave, the colorful handbags and cashmere sweaters in bright seasonal colors, and alcoves of even more perfume bottles. Close to my heart, a branch of the Chocolate Bar occupies an atrium on the third floor. After buying a caramel and a brownie to take home, I decided the proverbial clock was ticking on this day in old New York, and I needed to get back to the Village before the enchanted fairy dust dissolved in the perfumed air.

Website for Henri Bendel.

Image: Window, with Whitney Biennial 2008 promo and pink handbag, Henri Bendel, 712 Fifth Avenue. New York.

See related posts:
Classic New York: A Walk, and a Map
The Classic New York of Mame Dennis: A Coda, on Bank Street
Classic New York: 59th and Fifth: A Slideshow
Classic New York: The Algonquin
Classic New York: Times Square
Classic New York: A Visit to Macy's, in April
Classic New York: The King Cole Bar at the St. Regis
The Classic New York of Mame Dennis
A Walk in Turtle Bay: Beekman Place, the U.N., Tudor City, and E. 42nd St.
The Liberation Theology of Mame Dennis
Grand Central Theatre, and A New Walk Begins

2 comments:

Patsy Whitman said...

Hi Teri ... Just read about Bendel's . The Bendel of Mame's day was at west 57th st across from Bergdorf's , a favorite store of mine. It was the first store which had a "street of shops" created by Geraldine Stutz who became the president and had an open call for new designers once a month ... She used to say "all you need for NYC is a navy coat and dress and a string of pearls and navy opera pumps. I saw her one day crossing the street dressed as she said.She came out of retirement to create the new Gumps in SanFrancisco. PMW

Teri Tynes said...

Yes, thanks! I forgot to make a mention of the original store location, and another reader commented the same thing at a different Mame-related post. Wonderful additional info you've added here.