He drenches them in flowers, offers a sympathetic ear in times of crisis, takes them only to the finest bistros and A-list parties, makes no sexual demands before their time and, when the inevitable breakup occurs, never hurts their feelings. Small wonder that when he rings up Elizabeth Taylor or any number of the world's other rich and famous (but mostly rich) women, not one of them says, "No thanks, I have to do my nails tonight."

At 46, actor George Hamilton, the man with the permanent tan (and permanent press face) is positively irresistible.

Even Imelda Marcos, 58, his sometime Malacañang Palace dancing partner, is not immune to his toothy charm. The wife of the exiled former Philippine leader, Ferdinand Marcos, met Hamilton at a Manila film festival in 1982. "Purely platonic," said Imelda, but the two have since partied and shopped together countless times. Hamilton often entertained Imelda and her guests at his palatial, Spanish-style estate in Beverly Hills. In 1983 he used that house as collateral to secure a $4 million loan from a corporation reported to have had ties with Imelda's husband. Hamilton's attorney denies any Marcos connection in the transaction. "Of course he knows Imelda," says Hamilton's good pal, producer Bob (Love at First Bite) Kaufman. "But he also knows Rainier, the Aga Khan and other royalty and heads of state. He travels in international circles."

Ever since he squired First Daughter Lynda Bird Johnson in the mid-'60s, Hamilton has become steadily more celebrated as a top Hollywood escort than as a major actor. Sorry, George, but films such as Angel Baby, By Love Possessed and Zorro, the Gay Blade are hardly the stuff of legend. But if they gave Oscars for dates, well.... Most recently, Mr. Tan has been seen dangling a radiant Liz, 54, from his tuxedoed arm at such events as Swifty Lazar's Oscar-night bash at Spago last month. "They're very close friends, but they don't want to get married," says Kaufman. "Elizabeth and I laugh at the same things. We're just having fun," George has said. That is about all he seems interested in these days. "I don't just thirst for sex anymore," he has said. "I thirst for complicity, for the sense of enjoyment together."

Boy, has he been doing some enjoying over the years. There was his four-year marriage to Alana Stewart (they have a son, Ashley, 10), which broke up in 1976. There were major flings with such loves as actress Britt Ekland and model Liz Treadwell, and dalliances with the likes of Phyllis (Vegas) Davis, Sylvia (Emmanuelle) Kristel, Vanessa Redgrave, Charlotte Ford, Wendy Vanderbilt and Jeanne Moreau. Then there was British model Felicity Waters. And then there was also his Dynasty co-star, Catherine Oxenberg. George left the show last November, possibly, as the joke goes, because he had a scheduling conflict with his date book.

Right now there is only one big question around Hollywood: "How does George do it?"

Those who know Hamilton—which is to say everybody—insist that beneath his healthy bronze exterior lie healthy bronze corpuscles. Besides that, they see a man without peer in his treatment of the ladies. "George is a rare combination of impeccable taste and earthy humor," marvels longtime friend Angie Dickinson. He gets high marks in attentiveness, as well. "When he is with a woman, he is 100 percent with her," notes Kaufman. "If the most gorgeous woman in the world walks by, he will not be distracted."

Recalls Lynda Johnson Robb, "He told me I was an attractive person, and everybody likes to hear that. It's very flattering for such a handsome person as George to think you're attractive."

Phyllis Davis, who dated George for less than a year, says, "He's always left his relationships as friends. That doesn't happen much in this town." Today, says Davis, "I go to him when I break up with someone else. He's a supportive, sensitive friend."

Dr. Ruth Westheimer got an ego-building taste of the Hamilton flair at a celebrity ski event in Sun Valley, Idaho two months ago. After exchanging polite hellos ("He was surrounded by all these gorgeous women, and I couldn't compete with that"), she received a note from George inviting her to join him on a sleigh ride and a candlelight dinner. She declined but saw him later. "I can see why the women go crazy over him," says Dr. Ruth. "He has a very sincere manner. I thought it was terrific that he made a lady of my age [57] feel so special to him."

But then, that has always been one of George's rules. Be unpredictable, be romantic, be chivalrous and always reach for the check. "They like considerate manners, civility and politeness," George says. "That's my stock-in-trade." He postpones sexual advances until he gets a signal from the woman. "I don't know where men got the false notion that they are a bunch of conquerers putting notches on their belts," he carps.

If there is such a thing as a self-taught bon vivant, it would have to be the Memphis-born Hamilton. At a 1982 party, Phyllis Davis dined with Hamilton and his ever-present mother, Anne Spalding, 75. "George was going on and on about horse breeding," recalls Davis. "His mother just sat there and finally leaned over and whispered to me, 'Don't listen to him. He learned about raising horses in some book.' " Adds Kaufman, the Christian Scientist Hamilton "went so far as to learn Yiddish for self-protection. He said that in Hollywood so many key words in deals and conversations are in Yiddish that he had to be prepared."

Despite the abundance of luscious companions—or perhaps because of it—Hamilton sees his future as a solo journey. That's another rule: "The minute you get terribly involved with women, you have a lot of troubles." He's just sold his mansion (built in 1923 by Charlie Chaplin) to pal Adnan Khashoggi for more than $5 million; George paid $1.2 million for it in 1982. And though he's preparing to film Love at Second Bite in July, George seems content to work only occasionally and spend the rest of his time squiring around the town's loveliest women. "I'm not lonely," Hamilton claims. There isn't a reason in the world to doubt him.

  • Contributors:
  • James Grant,
  • Eleanor Hoover.