Even the Snoopy dolls were wearing brocade jackets from China when Bloomingdale's and Mobil Oil hosted a preview of Peking robes and a 10-course Chinese banquet for nearly 800 on the furniture floor of Bloomie's White Flint store last night.
The occasion gave many of the guests the chance to dust off their colorful Chinese jackets and kimonos for the four-floor extravaganza, which included many Chinese craftsmen as well as local Chinatown performers.
Chinese opera characters posed on top of hosiery counters, vegetable carvers and basket weavers demonstrated their skills in the linen department. Chinese children from the Potomac School sang "My Darling Clementine" in Chinese plus traditional songs to guests as they waited in the receiving line to greet Bloomingdale's board chairman Marvin Traub and Alex Massad, president of Mobil Oil's exploration and producing division.
While the invitation saluted the display of ceremonial robes of the Imperial Court from the Palace Museum in Peking (dated from 1736 to 1908) Washingtonians will not get the chance to see these robes until Oct. 27. After last night's gala they were returned to New York. (This is the first time these robes have been taken from the museum in the Forbidden City.)
But customers will get a chance to see, starting today, the nearly $14 million worth of items largely for home furnishing, either made and bought in China, like baskets, silks, candy, antiques and jewelry, or made elsewhere of Chinese materials. The theme of Bloomie's China promotion, Bau Ming Dai, which means heralding the dawn of a new era (and also sounds a bit like Bloomingdale's) is emblazoned in the store on red banners, written on shopping bags, painted on vases and scrawled on bikini underwear.
Traub led Ambassador Chai Zemin, of the People's Republic of China on a shopper's tour of the store, pointing out the origins of many Chinese items. aOn seeing a young woman weaving baskets, the ambassador told Traub, "This was a good way to make use of waste material." Then he asked, "Will this basket be in fashion very soon?" Traub replied, "We'll do our best to make it so."
Catching a glimpse of NBC television commentator Bernard Kalb in a bright red embroidered floor-length robe, the ambassador said, "I could never wear something like that. I would look like a demon."
Moving on, the ambassador was introduced to Arnold Lee of Gaithersburg, who works for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and who was demonstrating tai chi.The ambassador said he does not practice tai chi. "It takes a patient man," he noted.
Borrowing the tradition of official state banquets in China, the dinner began with the playing of the national anthems of both the U.S. and China followed by lengthy toasts. Said one guest who had seen Bloomingdale's before China, "I wish they could have adopted the western tradition of saving the toast for after the meal."
Massad of Mobil pointed out in his toast that years ago Mobil had delivered oil for the lamps of China in clipper ships. He did not mention that Mobil is now conducting seismic surveys off the coast of China, looking for oil.
Last night's guests included Reps. Pete Stark (D-Calif.) and William Green (R-N.Y.), Ray Cline, former deputy director of the CIA and an old China hand, OAS Ambassador Alejandro Orfila and his wife Helga, seer Jeane Dixon and many more.