Pictured are Burt and Bobbie Lippman, with Bobbie wearing “The Dress.” (Courtesy photo)
The amazing, magical $700 dress
I just ran across a photo of “the dress.” I’ve shared this story before, but never with a photo – until now. Believe me, every once in awhile, women who read that column ask, “Do you still have that incredible dress?” So here’s the scoop, in case you are new to this column.
Most folks, of a certain age, know about the actress Loni Anderson, formerly married to show biz people including Burt Reynolds. I’ve never met Loni Anderson, but for a long time one of her dresses hung in my closet. Here’s how it happened.
In the late ‘70s, when we lived in Los Angeles and while I was back in Nebraska helping my aging parents, my husband and several friends went to a Hollywood-type celebrity auction in Beverly Hills. Movie and television stars donated things to be auctioned for a worthy cause – things such as tuxedos, jewelry, even sports cars.
Now, if you have ever seen Loni Anderson, you know she is not only blonde and talented, but also has a drop-dead figure. In fact, she could almost give Dolly Parton a run for her money in the upstairs department, if you know what I mean. The auctioneer, with microphone in hand, held up a long dress and told the audience it was donated by Loni Anderson.
“Just look at this beautiful evening dress,” he declared dramatically. “This dress originally cost $700 and was worn only once by Loni Anderson on a television show. Who will start the bidding at $35?”
Silence. Nobody bid, so Karen, a friend of mine, said, “Hey, Burt, why don’t you open the bidding? That dress might (ha ha) fit Bobbie.”
Being the good generous guy he is, my husband bid $35. Nobody raised, and he ended up with Loni Anderson’s dress.
I arrived at LAX the next morning, tired from what had been a stressful trip. All I wanted was to relax and unwind. All Burt wanted was to yammer on and on about a very special dress that was waiting for me at home.
I felt absolutely no enthusiasm, especially after hearing that this was Loni Anderson’s dress. To be truthful, I was furious and certain that any dress belonging to her would look like a joke on me. It was depressing just thinking about it.
When we got home, my husband insisted – I mean, REALLY insisted – that I try it on. He sat down in the living room to wait. (Men can be so clueless). I walked into our bedroom, and there on the bed, encased in see-through plastic, was THE DRESS. I tried to ignore it, but finally my female curiosity got the better of me. After all, it’s not every day you get to see a $700 dress up close.
After circling the bed a few times, I pulled off the plastic, and there it was, a full-length symphony of cascading champagne-colored chiffon. Empire style – or OM-PEER as the French say – with elegant hand beading and semi-precious stones on the bodice. A truly breathtaking dress.
I figured the only way to shut up (stifle?) my husband was to put the darn thing on and prove to Burt that he had made a very big mistake. To my amazement, the dress fit perfectly.
I wore it to five black-tie occasions, always wondering what would happen if I ran into Loni Anderson in the ladies room. What would she say? What would I say? Fortunately – or maybe unfortunately – it never happened.
What did happen was, after wearing the dress several times, I took it to dry cleaners that specialized in fancy dresses. The lady looked it over and said they would have to be extremely careful with all that hand beading. When she told me how much it would cost to clean, I nearly choked. Uh huh, $35! How ironic is that?
I retrieved the dress, mumbled thanks to the lady, and said I needed to confer with my husband, which of course, wasn’t true. What I did was take the dress to our regular cleaners, where they said they would do their best. Well, not one single bead fell off, and the charge for dry cleaning was $10. Remember folks, this was the late 1970s, and things were a whole lot cheaper.
Then we moved to the Oregon coast and started attending fancy parties where the dress was worn twice by me and once by a Newport friend whose body is ALSO a far cry from Loni Anderson’s body. Eventually, I donated the dress to a local charity bash where the auctioneer got the audience so excited that the dress ended up with a lady doctor who practices medicine in central Oregon. She bid an exorbitant amount of money and, as far as I know, she still has that dress.
What I’ve figured out is this: For $700 you get a dress that automatically knows how to adjust itself to ANYBODY’S body.
Thank you, Loni Anderson, wherever you are.
Bobbie Lippman is a professional writer who lives in Seal Rock with her husband, Burt, their dog, Charley, and a shelter cat named Lap Sitter. Bobbie can be contacted at email@example.comFor the complete article see the 03-22-2013 issue.
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