He’s been called the godfather of Rodeo Drive. And it’s not all hyperbole. Before Beverly Hills was the land of designer logos, before it was teeming with tourists and rolling with Rolls-Royces, the city was home to Fred Hayman, the proprietor of the Giorgio Beverly Hills boutique. Hayman was an architect of luxury in Los Angeles, bringing high fashion, a social shopping atmosphere and white glove service to what was still a sleepy main street when he went into retail in 1967 at the age of 38.
During the 31 years he ruled the retail roost from his perch under Giorgio’s signature yellow and gold awnings, he cultured relationships with designers and celebrities and set a new standard for fashion parties, helping to promote Los Angeles as an international style center. Among his most noteworthy creations was the Giorgio Beverly Hills perfume, a bottling of “Dynasty” and “Scruples"-era excess and one of the most successful fragrances in history, with more than $100 million in sales in its first four years.
And now, at age 86, he is getting his due, as the 15th recipient of the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award (an award he created), and the subject of the new book “Fred Hayman The Extraordinary Difference: The Story of Rodeo Drive, Hollywood Glamour and the Showman Who Sold It All” by fashion journalist Rose Apodaca, former Women’s Wear Daily West Coast bureau chief.
FOR THE RECORD:
Fred Hayman: In the June 12 Image section, an article about Giorgio Beverly Hills proprietor Fred Hayman incorrectly said he was 38 when he went into retail in 1967. He was 42. —
The lavish coffee table book chronicles Hayman’s life, including his childhood in Zurich and Paris, and his early career in the hospitality industry. He rose through the ranks at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, “a boot camp of a genteel kind,” Apodaca writes, and eventually moved west to become director of banquets at the Beverly Hilton, where he would help make a home for the Golden Globe Awards.
With hundreds of historical photos and dozens of interviews, Apodaca takes readers from the 1960s, when the fashion retail scene on Rodeo Drive was just beginning to take shape, through the boutique boom of the 1970s and ‘80s, and into the 1990s, when Hayman was on the cutting edge in a different way, selling a line of branded fashion and accessories on what would become the Home Shopping Network.
Throughout, Apodaca puts Hayman in the context of L.A.'s movers and shakers, including shop owners Jerry Magnin, Jack Hansen, Charles Gallay and Herb Fink, hair cutters Gene Shacove and Vidal Sassoon, model Peggy Moffitt, and writers Caroline Graham and Judith Krantz.
“Rodeo Drive would just be another district if not for Fred’s marketing vision,” Beverly Hills Mayor Barry Brucker said last month, during the Walk of Style Award ceremony, referring to Hayman’s creation of the Rodeo Drive Committee in 1977 that helped beautify the street and elevate its retail tenants.
Apodaca, who now, with her husband, runs her own store — A & R on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice — has been working on the book off and on for the last six years, meeting with Hayman at “his canteen” — Spago — or at his Malibu beach house, where he has a memorabilia room stuffed with Giorgio Beverly Hills logo wear, including sweatshirts, scarves, teddy bears and sunglasses. She also accompanied him to the opera, where she met his friends, including such old school Los Angeles personalities as Esther Williams and the late Mr. Blackwell.
When Hayman arrived in the early 1950s, Southern California was still the wild frontier in terms of society, Apodaca says. “There was a new moneyed class learning how to entertain, how to dress and how to live. And that allowed for individuals with a sense of European flair, like Fred Hayman, [restaurateur] Michael Romanoff and [designer] Don Loper, to reinvent themselves here and teach the new society.”
But it was not all smooth sailing for Hayman. In a matter of years, he was fired from the Beverly Hilton, left his job as general manager of the Ambassador Hotel, and oversaw three failed restaurants. By 1967, all Hayman had left was Giorgio, an existing store at Rodeo Drive and Dayton Way, an investment he had taken over from two other partners in 1962. “He didn’t invent Giorgio — or the perfume, that credit goes to his third wife, Gale,” Apodaca says. “Fred’s strength has always been in recognizing an opportunity.”
After leaving the restaurant business, he turned his attention to retail. Neither Fred nor Gale Hayman knew much about selling clothes, but they learned fast; and Fred used his background in the hospitality industry to woo the chic set, sending personal notes to potential customers, and entertaining them when they came in.
Indeed, Giorgio became a hangout, with a mahogany bar, cocktails served in crystal goblets, a newspaper rack, pool table and personal valet to deliver customer purchases by Rolls-Royce. Richard Pryor, Berry Gordy, Diana Ross, Robert Evans and Ali MacGraw became Giorgio regulars in the 1970s. Lucille Ball would bring her pet chimpanzee Candy in to visit.
But people also came to shop, thanks to Gale’s eye for fashion. She brought Halston’s flowing chiffon gowns to the West Coast for the first time, along with pieces by Chloe, Stephen Burrows, Giorgio di Sant’ Angelo, Thea Porter, Zandra Rhodes, Diane von Furstenberg, Kenneth Jay Lane and Brioni.
Hayman produced and sold his own branded merchandise in Giorgio yellow, with the Giorgio crest, so customers who couldn’t afford a $5,000 dress could buy something. “Even though some of the items are kind of tacky, the funny thing is now, luxury brands do their own versions of them,” Apodaca says, referring to entry level logo products from brands such as Gucci and Chanel.
The Haymans’ legacy was in creating “retail-tainment,” she says. “The idea of
creating an environment that’s about more than shopping.”
Hayman also played an important role in forging a relationship between fashion and Hollywood. You could even say he was the original celebrity stylist. In 1989, he was named the first fashion coordinator for the Academy Awards, a position he held for a decade. He hosted annual pre-Oscars fashion shows for the media and persuaded skeptical designers to participate. And he was always on call to help dress nominees. His efforts helped make celebrity dressing an industry of its own.
In addition, he revolutionized the beauty industry with the 1981 launch of the Giorgio Beverly Hills fragrance. “We forget now because everyone and their dog has a perfume,” Apodaca says. “But in the not too distant past, Paris and New York ruled the industry. It was radical that they thought they could come out with a perfume.”
The launch party was one of Rodeo Drive’s most over-the-top events, held under a yellow-and-white-striped tent in the parking lot that was where Via Rodeo is today. More than 70 pounds of caviar were served, and the trunk of a Rolls-Royce was filled with bottles of perfume given to departing guests.
Hayman made millions with the fragrance, which he sold to Avon in 1987 for $165 million, and the continued success of Giorgio and other independently owned fashion boutiques through the 1980s and early 1990s made Rodeo Drive an enticing destination for designer nameplate-driven brands such as Tommy Hilfiger and Prada.
As more designer retail palaces opened, Rodeo Drive began to lose some of its local charm — and rents started climbing. Family-owned businesses moved out. “The designer names became more important than the store names,” says Jerry Magnin, who owned the Jerry Magnin store and the franchise for the Ralph Lauren store on Rodeo Drive in the 1970s and ‘80s.
In 1997, Hayman received an offer he couldn’t refuse from Louis Vuitton to lease the 10,000-square-foot landmark. Giorgio closed its doors the next year.
In the book, Hayman says he would have stayed on longer if the offer had not come along, but Apodaca isn’t so sure. “When he was in business, there was no paparazzi. And having a back door for celebrities to come in like they do today, he shudders at that idea,” she says. “Times were changing in terms of service, and independent boutiques were suffering, and not just on Rodeo Drive. Retail is a fast-moving game.”
Hayman divorced in 1983, and was married for the fourth time in 1995, to Betty Endo, a former celebrity assistant. Since his retirement, he still visits his office on Canon Drive a few times a week, and holds court during lunchtime at Spago — like a godfather should.