Every year Dallas-based department store Neiman-Marcus publishes a Christmas catalog which pushes the boundaries of decadence and crass consumerism. I stumbled across a couple of vintage copies recently, but before I get to my finds, I want to share one of my friend's stories I was reminded of when I saw the catalogs at a garage sale.
My buddy attended SMU law school in the early 1990's. He grew up in New Jersey and wasn't familiar with Dallas' shallow nouveau riche culture. Shortly after he started going to school there, he saw his first Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalog and was shocked to see you could buy a live miniature donkey for your spouse or child for a mere $3,000 - $7,000. He tore out the page and kept it.
After the holiday break, he began the process of on-campus interviews for summer clerkships with the big law firms. This takes place every January and February at almost all of the law schools in the country. Practically speaking, the entire process is a soul-crushing sham. The big firms each send two junior attorneys out to interview students in 20-minute time blocks. Everyone - including all the students and the law firms - knows that only the top 10% of the class will get job offers for the lucrative summer clerkships. However, both the schools' job placement offices and legal community conspire in a charade which encourages all students to interview with several firms. The students are practically forced to participate. The law firms must interview any student who signs up for an open time slot. Wearing a suit to school and sitting in a room while listening to self-important attorneys preen about their firm and asking personal questions - the whole time knowing you will never get the job - is pretty damn depressing.
My friend is quick-witted, has a lot of chutzpah, and was not in the top 10% of his class. His second interview was with Haynes & Boone. My buddy became increasingly frustrated as one interviewing attorney blathered about the magnificence of Haynes & Boone. During the 19th minute they asked my friend his first interview question, "Why do you want to work at Haynes & Boone?" My buddy reached into his pocket, pulled out a piece of paper, unfolded it and said, "Because after working for only four weeks, I will be able to buy this miniature donkey." He then got up and left.
I'd only heard about the Neiman-Marcus Christmas catalog from the annual CNN news features and my friend's story. I was pleasantly surprised to learn from the Neiman-Marcus Christmas Book 1979 that you could buy your own compact satellite dish to watch up to 100 channels of television for only $36,500. (click on images to enlarge).
That year you could also get his and hers Russain lynx belly furs to enhance your vampire fantasies (his - $100,000, hers - $105,000).
But my favorite item illustrated the fun you could have at your Highland Park holiday party when you invited your guests to the patio, drinks in hand, to watch the peasants perform an actual chimney sweeping and musical review on your roof ($3,000). Chim-Chim-Cheree!