He turned and said “Hello young fella”

It was a just a few years after I had started my second company, BCY Inc, and my travels to the Orient became regular every three to four months. In doing so I became a regular at each hotel I stayed at in each of the 5 countries I had offices. I usually would start the trip by flying into Hong Kong first, and stay at the Peninsula Hotel, where as in all the hotels I stayed at, all the help knew me as a regular. It was, and still is, the premier hotel in Hong Kong and built in the Mid-1800’s, so it was where all the influential and well known people from around the world would stay. One time in 1977, after I arrived in the Peninsula hotel limo from the airport, I proceeded to the front desk to check in as my luggage and samples were taken directly to the same room they always held for me each time I arrived. It did help that the manager was a good friend and my Racquetball partner.

bianco family 1990s (194)

Notice the scarf? There will be another story about why I’m wearing it, and had been wearing it at that time daily for over 15 years, and still do, even now nearly 46 years later! No! Not that same scarf… but that particular one does bring up another story I’ve just thought of, involving my experience helping the CIA, and a missing secret agent working with them. It’ll be called “The Jim Thompson Story”

As I was approaching the front desk, looking like the picture above, I noticed a giant of a man was at the front desk checking in. Not being able to notice who he was from behind, and as I approached behind him to check in next, all the hotel staff that were in the area called out to me, welcoming me back. They did it, not like the normal politeness hotel staff was supposed to, but truly friendly, with laughter and amusement, one saying “Hey Mr Bianco, your Manhattan is waiting for you”. Well, this giant looked up from what he was doing, and turning around expecting to see someone special, like himself. He looked at me with a little hesitation, and confusion, then smiled, and said “HELLO YOUNG FELLA”, with that great smile he had. When I saw who he was, I too was now shocked. “Holy Mackerel “… It’s John Wayne!!!

Image result for a picture of John Wayne

Naturally, it was hard for him to believe that no-one recognized him, but here was some nobody that was welcomed the way he normally was. He had come to Hong Kong to make what became one of his best movies…Called “The World Of Suzy Wong”. He had come there to work with the most famous Chinese actress of the time… Nancy Kwan. Before he had turned to me, I noticed that the man in front of me had on a wig, and it was slightly as-cue. However, when he turned and I recognized him, his personality took over, and I was at first socked, then overjoyed, amazed, and completely in awe. Smiling brightly, I shook his hand saying “WOW”. Now that made him very happy, and then he smiled his famous smile, and then turned back to check in. Not bad Bianco! John Wayne died a few years later of cancer, but he still lives in everybody’s mind, whether they be young, or old, but more especially in mine, as how he looked that day when he turned to me with a slight look of confusion, that only he could make.

My J. C. Penney Story… With the man not the store!

My J C PENNEY Story, the man not the store!

One of my first attempts to develop my business was to have a friend and future partner, called Gene Shaffer, to introduce me to his contact at J.C. Penney Inc. It was the lamp and gift Department buyer, a young man called Harvey Markovitz, who he and I became good friends afterwards. It was while I was developing a new product called Ceralon in that Department. Because of the success their, I was asked to set up this same department in their new stores, as they opened, and I was asked to travel to each new Penney store opening. with Mr. J. C. Penney and usually a different young beautiful women who they would call “Miss Penney” for the opening.
I traveled with J.C. Penney and a different Miss Penney for 3 years as they were opening new J. C. Penney stores all over the United States. He was a gentle old man who loved to laugh and look at what he had ACCOMPLISHED. He was at each opening as a way of introducing each new store to the location. We would be invited to appear on each local TV show to have Mr Penney say a few words by inviting the audience to come to the opening and that he would love to greet everyone who would come. As old as he was, he stayed there the whole day shaking hands with all the  new customers. Miss Penney was there as a pretty young women who bring youth to the opening. It was my job to introduce to the people in the gift department how to make displays of the different products we offered, so while in the TV studio, I demonstrated to the audience the affect our new ideas could be used in there homes.
At the end of each session, I was always approached by different local women, some who worked at Penney’s, but mostly customers who wanted to meet me later. Never once did I  ever even consider it, not to mention how often the “Miss Penney” asking me to go for a drink after Mr Penney would retire to the local hotel where we three stayed and usually two nights. At the time, I had strong Catholic values that always guided me in the right direction, not that I would be any different today? There is another similar story coming, only about The F W Woolworth new store openings and making flower arrangement on TV and how I was copied by none other than “Merrill Live”!

Someone I’ll never forget when I was young and 20!

When I was young and 20+!
It was 1955, and I was in Macy’s Jewelry department looking for a ring. I was  waiting for the salesman to bring me a black velvet covered board with 6 beautiful engagement rings that were fitted into slots to hold them firmly in place.. As I waited, from the corner of my eye a noticed that a women came and stood alongside of me also waiting for the salesman to help her with something she was holding in her hand. When he came back, he told that he would be with her shortly and began telling me about each ring pointing to it saying what each cost and the size of it in carats. As he did so, I picked each one up and looked at it like I knew what I was doing, but actually I didn’t have a clue. The woman along side me saw my indecision and said to me… “Don’t look at the ring because of price or carat size, but look at each and decide which one you like best, and the one you would be proud to give.” I turned and looked at her and realized she was someone I recognized as special. She was Angela Lansbury and as pleasant as could be, so I smiled a big smile and thanked her and I did as she suggested, and bought a one carat perfect gem. It was much more than I could afford, but it was the one I really liked, and handed it back to the salesman. He then said he now needed the size that would fit my girlfriend. I again looked shocked as I had no idea of what it was. Again, Angela Lansbury smiled at me and “Just buy the ring, and give it to her, then afterwards you both can come down here and get it sized properly”. Wow, she was so smart and very beautiful, even more than in the Movies. I thanked her with a big smile and she smiled and turned her attention to the salesman. It was 20 years later that I visited that Department  to buy a 3 carat ring to placate my wife who was now a very different person than the one I loved, but that’s another story for another time. What triggered this story was for a mili-second, I saw Angela Lansbury on TV as she is today, and it brought back my first meeting of her.