This morning the Dallas Contemporary was closed to the public, but a bunch of reporters were inside taking first looks at the most exorbitantly priced, publicity-getting items, otherwise known as the Fantasy Gifts from Neiman Marcus's 2011 Christmas Book. Eight of the nine items on display will give some portions of their ticket price to charity, which definitely made us put the words "double-dip recession" right out of our heads and feel a lot better about a world where someone, somewhere, will pay $75,000 for a custom-designed yurt. For ladies. It's called the Dream Folly, and it is, per the NM catalog, meant to evoke I Dream of Jeannie, "with an ideal simulation of a genie's posh bottle."
"It's the ultimate girly cave," a representative from the manufacturer, Rainier Yurts, told us. Inside the yurt, a model with a complicated hairdo waved for some photographers.
Next door to the yurt, two equally photogenic people were sitting in a very large speed boat. The Hacker-Craft Speedboat, to be precise, which can be yours for just $250,000 ($3,000 of which benefits the Double H Ranch, a program for children with life-threatening illnesses and no speedboats).
How does one become a speedboat model, exactly?
"I guess we just have the nautical look," one of the models, Lisa Bowl, said cheerily. Her male counterpart, Trey Singleton, said that sitting in a boat all day looking jaunty wasn't as boring as it appeared.
Across the way, a display for a custom-built library ($125,000) sat next to the exhibit for a day trip to Stone Barns Farm ($9,500.00) Jack Algiere, a farmer at Stone Barns who will host an "edible garden lesson" to whoever buys the package, held a black chicken under one arm. It gazed across the hall at the pingpong players at a sleek black table, who were wearing a tuxedo and a sequined ballgown (only $450.00!), and began squawking agitatedly. Algiere stowed it away in a crate and brought out another, calmer chicken.
A representative from the designer who made the ping-pong table (Tom Burr, $45,000.00) was explaining proudly that the table is "completely functional" when she was interrupted by squealing bagpipes from the Johnnie Walker booth (private scotch tasting for you and 20 of your booziest friends, $5,000.00). The pingpong table rep smiled brilliantly, closed her eyes for a moment, and waited patiently for it to end before she kept talking.
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Down at the farthest end of the hall was the really pricey stuff -- dancing "His and Hers" fountains from WET were priced at just a million bucks. The fountains weren't there, just their representative, a man with a black turtleneck and a totally straight face. $10,000 of the proceeds go to Water.org, a non-profit that helps provide safe drinking water in developing countries. (But not fountains. That would just be kind of cruel.)
Past the International Flower Show Tour of Europe ($420,000) was a cluster of slim, Italian-speaking men in impressive suits, clustered around the featured car for the year, a 2012 bespoke Ferrari FF. ($395,000.00, with the proceeds going to a tiny, struggling Italian car company called Ferrari.) A very patient-looking model in a leather coat opened the door over and over again for a Santa with wide, sequin-studded sleeves.
Ginger Reeder, the vice president of corporate communications for Neiman Marcus, said that, yes, people really do buy these things. Most of them, anyway. "The cars tend to sell out every year," she told us. "Otherwise, though, I've given up on guessing," exactly what will sell, and to whom. A suit of armor, for example, sold last year to a couple in Connecticut, who wanted it for their son, who traveled around to medieval fairs. "I thought it would be a captain of industry," Reeder said.
The recession, she said, hasn't impacted sales at all the last couple of years. "It's a completely different type of person," she told us.