OKC clothing store gets ``royal'' treatment

Saturday, March 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ It was a special day in more than one way for an upscale north Oklahoma City clothing store.

On Tuesday, two wives of the Sultan of Brunei, one of the richest men in the world, bought shoes by Ferragamo and knits by St. John at Balliet's at 50 Penn Place.

How much they spent remains a secret, but owner Bob Benham called Tuesday's shopping spree ``a historic day for Balliet's.''

The women's outing was part of a weeklong visit to Oklahoma City by the sultan, his family and entourage.

Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah arrived Sunday on his private 747 jet at Will Rogers World Airport and departed Friday night.

There had been speculation that the sultan came for possible medical treatment. Sources told The Daily Oklahoman that the sultan came to Oklahoma City to get medical help for his teen-age son, the newspaper reported for Saturday's editions.

The sultan sought the services of Dr. Warren Jackman, a heart specialist at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, the Oklahoman reported. Jackman pioneered a procedure called radio-frequency catheter ablation.

The treatment is used to correct potentially lethal irregular heartbeats. The procedure requires a one- or two-day hospital stay. Jackman's success rate nears 99 percent, the newspaper reported.

University Hospital spokeswoman Gay Conner would not confirm the report.

``The hospital will not release information, at the request of the royal family of Brunei,'' Conner said.

While here, the sultan was guarded by his personal security force, as well as agents with the U.S. Secret Service.

``He (Sultan Bolkiah) is the head of a government and therefore entitled to Secret Service protection,'' said Paul Schultz, assistant special agent-in-charge.

Benham saw the protection firsthand. Before the women arrived, a security detail examined his store for potential threats.

Then came the wives.

``It was the first time we've had members of a royal family here,'' Benham said.

The first woman was introduced as Her Majesty Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Hajjah Saleha, the second as Her Royal Highness Pengiran Isteri Hajjah Mariam.

Benham was told by one of their helpers to address them only as ``Her Majesty'' and ``Her Royal Highness.''

``They were absolutely lovely people,'' Benham said. ``They were not at all pretentious, and they were very pleasant to be around.''