Fashion All The Rage

OH, TO RULE RODEO

THE day began like any other in 1961, and for Fred Hayman, right, resident manager of the Beverly Hilton, that meant buttoning into a three-piece suit and pushing a pressed hankie into his pocket. But today if he dressed more carefully, it was because he was going to pay a visit to Giorgio, a tiny clothing store on Dalton Way where he'd become a partner.

Giorgio was founded by the very non-Italian George White, left, an equally natty dresser who wore his hair polished back and took frequent trips to Europe to stock up on ideas of what the local women would want. Nearby, Rodeo Drive was a slightly fancier Main Street, U.S.A., with a gas station, a popular watering hole called the Luau and a few mom-and-pop shops.

On his first day, Hayman and his wife Barbara arrived early. While Hayman went for one of the cigarettes placed on the counter, White stood by, and Barbara jumped in to help a customer. It's tempting to imagine that, just maybe, as he hooked his thumbs into his lapels, he could see the future to a time when he and his third wife, Gale, would develop a scent that would revolutionize the fragrance industry and help turn this sleepy neighborhood into one of the world's toniest shopping areas thanks, in part, to this little nothing of a shop.

It was a steady transformation that began when Hayman bought out his partners, brought in a new buyer and started selling clothes his own way. There was wine and vodka, served gratis, and Hayman on hand to chat up the customers without the hard sell. His Hilton clients — Janet Leigh, Debbie Reynolds, Frank Sinatra — became Giorgio regulars. Lucille Ball would hang out, letting her pet monkey have a Coke while she perused the silk scarves. The 600-square-foot space grew into a 10,000-square-foot destination along Rodeo, declaring its presence with white-and-yellow striped awnings, a bartender and a personal valet who delivered customers' packages in a silver Rolls. It so inspired Judith Krantz that she set her bestseller "Scruples" here.

"I wasn't that interested in hanging out in the store at first," Hayman says, a surprising admission considering his presence became a fixture at Giorgio Beverly Hills and along the shopping district he loved and championed. Hayman shuttered his store in 1998 (no fool, he leases it to Louis Vuitton), and Beverly Hills will honor the dapper shopkeeper on May 28, his 83rd birthday, with a black-tie street gala, right in front of the old front door where it all started.

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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