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Lucky plaza patrons get VIP treatment

At 10 a.m. on "Fabulous Friday" — so named by South Coast Plaza representatives — Georgiann Mastrangelo sat in a VIP holiday lounge in the shopping center's penthouse, sipping champagne.

As shoppers awoke from their post-turkey slumber, the crowds began to thicken on the floors below, though early morning rain surely delayed the inevitable crush of shoppers. But here on the third-floor luxury wing, lined with stores like Oscar de la Renta and Christian Louboutin, all remained calm.

Nearly all of her Christmas shopping was already done, Mastrangelo said, but she had joined her friend Warren Coy to experience the festive day nonetheless, beginning with a stop at the holiday lounge, which for the day was open to the media and frequent customers as determined by individual retailers.

"I shop a lot — a lot, a lot, a lot — at Canali," said Coy, dressed nearly head to toe in clothes made by the Italian designer. "I shop 12 months out of the year."

"But it's also kind of fun just to watch everyone else go crazy," Mastrangelo said, relaxing in an arm chair.

Coy noted that it had been too warm to wear a turtleneck, yet a festive spirit hung in the air nonetheless. Christmas music played in the lounge, and a decorative tree sat on display in the room's center.

Make-up touch-ups and massages would be offered in the room as the day progressed. A range of breakfast foods available — from pastries to yogurt parfaits — would be replaced with lunch items.

"This is a holiday tradition," said Debra Gunn Downing, the executive director or marketing, later greeting those who entered with the shopping center's general manager, David Grant.

In other parts of the mall, lines formed outside of Apple and Tory Burch. A woman in Henri Bendel loaded a shopping tray — the store's version of a basket — with scarves, earrings and a necklace. Outside, a girl tottered along laden with bags from Victoria's Secret.

Meeting Santa for the first time, a 4-month-old girl began to cry on his lap.

Mastrangelo and Coy, who had also celebrated Thanksgiving together, planned to visit Harry Winston and Canali — of course — where a bottle of Coy's favorite French white wine would be waiting, as usual.

Coy suggested they might also pop into the other VIP suite, which is open year-round for select customers to unwind.

The pair anticipated that the crowds would grow larger later in the day, even if the stereotypical pandemonium had yet to dominate the scene.

"There was plenty of parking. There was no chaos in the parking lot," noted Mastrangelo, who had already braved Home Depot with her husband and friends to buy a dozen discounted poinsettas, getting there at 4 a.m. and waiting until the store opened at 5 a.m., per tradition. "I was ready for a fight!"

By midday, however, the rain let up, and the parking lots filled, as motorists jockeyed for hard-to-find spaces. The fight for deals, albeit outside the holiday lounge, was on.

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