Manhattan slows down for Clinton

December 14, 1993|By New York Times News Service

NEW YORK -- President Clinton came to New York yesterday to attend a fund-raising dinner for Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, but even before he checked into his room at the Waldorf or polished his dancing shoes, he did what all good tourists are doing in Manhattan these days: He went shopping.

The impromptu shopping sojourn stopped traffic, flustered shopkeepers and ruffled the feathers of not a few New Yorkers who complained that the presidential fuss was making them late. After all, they had work to do, errands to run, trains to hop -- sales to catch.

"What is this all about?" asked one irritated woman.

"The president," answered another.

"Swell," said the first. "As though other people don't have to go to work."

But many of the thousands of New Yorkers crowding the streets of midtown squealed with delight when they caught their first glimpse of Mr. Clinton, whose motorcade breezed past the Waldorf-Astoria and headed straight to Rockefeller Center, where he stopped in at the Metropolitan Museum Gift Shop and bought more than $150 worth of gifts.

The president browsed for nearly an hour, according to the store manager, Maureen McGrath.

Store management wanted Mr. Clinton to be treated like any other customer, free to shop without being bothered by over-eager clerks or constituents, Ms. McGrath said.

But it didn't work. First, one of the store's employees asked him to sign the guest book. Then Lucy Goodwin of Laredo, Texas, ignored Secret Service orders to stay away, shook the president's hand and professed her love.

Several people, including two little boys, asked for autographs. And in a final display of special treatment, Mr. Clinton paid for his purchases with an American Express credit card and nobody bothered to verify it.

Mr. Clinton then left the store with gifts wrapped in white and blue paper and ribbons. "I shopped a little bit," he told reporters. "I just started. I'm behind where I normally am."

While in Rockefeller Center, the president stopped to watch ice skaters circling the rink, glanced in the bookstore Librairie de France, then crossed the street, entourage in tow, to pay a visit to Saks Fifth Avenue.

He only stayed about 20 minutes, spending much of that time shaking the hands of customers and sales clerks who lined the main aisle and even stood on glass counters to catch a glimpse. He paid a short visit to the sixth-floor men's department, looking at ties, before leaving the store and heading across the street to St. Patrick's Cathedral.

There the president, a Southern Baptist, took a seat alone in the front pew and bowed his head for a few minutes. As he stood to leave and return to the Waldorf, about 150 people in the cathedral applauded.


* A gold electroplate necklace with garnets.

* A silk scarf, adapted from Matisse's "The Red Room."

* A shawl patterned after a 19th century garment.

* A puzzle reproduction of a Seurat painting "Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte."

* A bronze statuette.

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