The Ritz Thrift Shop by Jim Kalafus with research by Joe Vuolo “Oh, Thank You!”
The Ritz Thrift Shop Commercial. 1974-1988.
If you are a New Yorker “of a certain age,” chances are good that you remember this cultural landmark well. A pensive seeming Katherine Ross/Barbara Parkins look-alike emerges from a city bus wearing a short, white, tailored jacket as a refined sounding male narrator intones “Some women lunch at The Plaza, ski in St. Moritz, and buy expensive furs every year. Some women just look that way…” The narration continues over images of the chic woman selecting, and being fitted for, her own gently used fur. She flips up the collar, obviously pleased by her step up in the world. As she emerges from the store, now wearing something far too delicate to ever survive a peak hour city bus, the narration concludes with “You don’t need a million to look like a million!” as she looks directly into the camera and in a voice both seductive and dreamy, says “Oh, thank you!” Of the thousands of Metropolitan area commercials from the dying days of network-dominated television, this one alone has achieved the status of beloved classic and, as we learned from the source himself, still manages to pull in customers nineteen years after it left the airwaves.
But, why the enduring fond memories of this particular ad? What set it apart from the flock, and ingrained it so thoroughly into the minds of a generation that if one remarks “You don’t need a million to look like a million!” to anyone over the age of 35 who lived in NYC during the Beame and early Koch years, chances are good that he or she will reflexively respond with “Oh, thank you!” and then laugh?