Nardis of Dallas: The Fashion Connection Between “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and the Kennedy Assassination
by Paula Bosse
by Paula Bosse
I started watching reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show on Channel 11 when I was a kid. I still love the show, and I’ve seen every episode countless times. Which is kind of an odd jumping-off point for a post on a Dallas clothing manufacturer, but there you are. The company was Nardis of Dallas, a successful manufacturer of women’s apparel, owned by the Russian-born Bernard “Ben” Gold who arrived here in 1938 from New York City where he had operated a taxi company for many years.
Gold moved to Dallas at the request of his brother who, along with a man named Joe Sidran (“Sidran” spelled backwards is “Nardis”) was an owner in a near-bankrupt dress company. Ben Gold became a part-owner (and later the sole owner) and quickly turned the business around. When he brought in the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union, other Dallas garment manufacturers were shocked (Time magazine used the word “horrified”). He also shook things up by employing African-American workers, the first such company in town to do so. The company eventually grew to become the largest clothing manufacturer in Dallas, with clients around the country and around the world. Nardis was one of the first Dallas clothing companies to have an apparel collection made in a foreign country: his upscale “House of Gold” boutique line specialized in silk, beaded, and sequined dresses and gowns, hand-made in Hong Kong.
Nardis of Dallas was originally located at 409 Browder, with factories at 211 North Austin the 400 block of S. Poydras (at Wood Street), and finally at 1300 Corinth (at Gould St.) where they built their 75,000-square-foot “million-dollar plant” in 1964 (a quick check of Google Maps shows the building still there, but it appears to be vacant). Below are two photos of their S. Poydras location.
Above, Wood Street at the left (Andrew’s Cafe is listed at 1008 Wood St. in the 1960 Dallas directory); below, Nardis garment workers.
So how does this all connect to The Dick Van Dyke Show? If you’re a fan of the show and a faithful reader of closing credits like I am, you’ve probably seen the “Fashions by Nardis of Dallas” credit at the end of some episodes, right under the Botany 500 credit. And, like me, you might have wondered, “How did THAT happen?” How does an apparel-maker from Dallas network itself into a primo gig supplying fashions to a top Hollywood television show? I have no idea how the initial contact was made, but I DO know that Dick Van Dyke Show star Rose Marie and Nardis owner Ben Gold became very good friends while she was appearing in a production of Bye, Bye Birdie at the Dallas Summer Musicals in 1965. She mentions Gold several times in her autobiography.
Excerpt from Hold the Roses by Rose Marie
She spent much of her off-stage time in Dallas with Gold and his wife, and, in fact, when Gold was fatally injured in a traffic accident that summer, Rose Marie (then recently widowed herself) stayed with his wife Tina for several days at Tina’s request.
So, no big Dick Van Dyke Show story, but, as is no doubt known to the hyper-vigilant members of the JFK assassination community, Nardis of Dallas DOES have an interesting connection to that. In 1941 Abraham Zapruder, who had worked in the garment industry in New York, moved to Dallas and began working for Ben Gold as a Nardis pattern-cutter. His name even appears in a couple of classified ads in The Dallas Morning News.
While at Nardis — before he left to start his own clothing company — Zapruder worked with a woman named Jeanne LeGon (later Jeanne De Mohrenschildt) who, with her husband George (suspected by some of being a CIA operative), was friends with Lee Harvey Oswald in the early ’60s. Yep. That’s an interesting, head-spinning coincidence.
And I owe all this trivial Nardis-related knowledge to wondering for years about a single card seen in the closing credits of the unquestionably stylish and fashion-forward Dick Van Dyke Show.
Sources & Notes
Fashion photographs from MyVintageVogue.com (1952, 1955, and 1956, respectively). Other Nardis fashion photos from My Vintage Vogue can be found here. (If you’re interested in vintage fashion, fashion photography, and vintage advertising, this is a great website.)
Photos of the Nardis plant at S. Poydras and Wood are by Squire Haskins, from the Squire Haskins Photography Inc. Collection, University of Texas at Arlington Libraries, Special Collections — more info on the exterior shot is here; more on the interior shot here.
Passage about Gold from Rose Marie’s autobiography, Hold the Roses (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2002), p. 192.
Dick Van Dyke Show closing credits card from a 1965 episode.
Nardis of Dallas logo from a clothing tag, found on eBay.
Additional background information on Gold from Time magazine, June 12, 1950.
See another Flashback Dallas post on Nardis — “Nardis Sign-Painters: ‘Everything in Sportswear’ — 1948” — here.
Click pictures for larger images.
Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved