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Fred Hayman recaptures some of the Giorgio essence in Beverly Hills

May 1, 2009 |  8:49 am


Nearly half a century ago, a ritzy boutique opened at the corner of Rodeo Drive and Dayton Way in Beverly Hills and quickly changed the rules of the retailing game.

The store was Giorgio Beverly Hills, and it featured a yellow-and-white-striped awning outside and a reading room, pool table and oak bar indoors -- along with, of course, a jaw-dropping array of designer duds sought after by Beverly Hills mavens and Hollywood A-listers.

In a nod to his erstwhile boutique’s glory days, Fred Hayman (a.k.a. Mr. Beverly Hills) this week dedicated a re-creation of the storefront through which walked the likes of Natalie Wood, Princess Grace, Ronald and Nancy Reagan, Diana Ross, Charlton Heston, Elizabeth Taylor and the Rat Pack.

The door, topped by a balcony with a white wrought iron railing draped in metal flowers, is a few blocks from where the original resided. Hayman, 83, years ago moved his offices to a building on Canon Drive just north of Wilshire Boulevard and painted it bright yellow, his signature color, also featured on his Mercedes-Benz two-seater and his Lamborghini. The faux entry is on a wall around the corner on Clifton Way.

In front stands a sculpture by J. Seward Johnson Jr. of a young family enjoying an outing on Rodeo with their pet dachshund (for which Hayman’s dog Giorgio posed). Hayman had commissioned the work for his shop, and it remained there from 1989 until May 1998, when Fred Hayman Beverly Hills, as the store was then called, closed. During the interim, Hayman has kept it at his Malibu beach house.

Hayman took over Giorgio Beverly Hills from his partners in 1962. The Swiss-born former hotelier dreamed of turning Rodeo into a world-class shopping district -- like New York’s Fifth Avenue, London’s Bond Street or Paris’ Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.

In these recessionary times, it might be tough to recall what Rodeo Drive was like in the 1970s and 1980s. So influential was Hayman that designers such as Halston granted him the exclusive right to sell their designs. Patrons arrived with an extra limousine for their purchases. As recounted in a 1998 Los Angeles Times Magazine story, Hayman once had to close the shop temporarily to regroup after an Arab and his harem bought every evening dress in the joint.

In 1981, Giorgio the scent was introduced. It became a global sensation, despite the fact that many people found it cloying. In 1987, Hayman sold the fragrance to Avon Products for $165 million and changed his store’s name to Fred Hayman Beverly Hills.

At the dedication Wednesday evening, Hayman looked dapper in a dark pin-striped suit, striped shirt, red tie and yellow cashmere scarf draped jauntily over his shoulders. “I’m deeply, deeply moved,” he said of the reminiscences from guests who included Beverly Hills Mayor Nancy Krasne and author Judith Krantz.

Krantz, whose blockbuster 1978 novel “Scruples” was inspired by Giorgio Beverly Hills, spoke of finding in the boutique a club where people could meet and chat for hours. “It was high-spirited and frolicsome,” she said.

“At Fred’s, you could go in in tennis clothes and dirty sneakers and spend $4,000 if you wanted,” she said, adding: “I owe my career to my darling Fred Hayman. Had Giorgio not existed, my career might not have existed.”

-- Martha Groves

Photo: Fred Hayman in Giorgio Beverly Hills in 1981. Credit: Los Angeles Times