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- May 07, 1990
- Vol. 33
- No. 18
Fred Hayman, Late of Giorgio, Hopes America's Got His Number
But Hayman, a Swiss-born former room-service waiter, lost the Giorgio name in 1987 as the result of an ugly showdown with his ex-wife Gale. The Haymans, who had separated in 1978, continued to run the company as partners for several years. But after they divorced in 1983, the arrangement deteriorated into a battle so acrimonious that the company ultimately had to be sold to settle it. Started in 1961 with less than $100,000, Giorgio Inc. was bought by Avon Cosmetics in 1987 for $165 million.
Gale and Fred split the take, but Fred, now 64, never considered calling it quits. "I never felt I'd made it. Not even when I cashed out," he says in an accent bearing traces of German and French. "I just never feel I've made it." So Hayman set out to duplicate the Giorgio success story without the Giorgio name. The store once called Giorgio, at 273 North Rodeo Drive, was renamed Fred Hayman Beverly Hills in 1989. (The Avon store, called Giorgio, is at 327 North Rodeo.) And the new fragrances he is launching this year—for both men and women—are called simply 273. Hayman is banking on the notion that, after more than 20 years of dressing the stars, he and his number have a certain cachet. "I want to establish a house of fragrance and fashion similar to what Chanel had. only in a small American way," says Hayman. "Oh. dear. Does that sound too grand?"
Well, yes, but no matter—there's always been a larger-than-life element to Fred Hayman's style. In 1976 Giorgio, that symbol of pampered indulgence and conspicuous consumption, inspired Judith Krantz's novel Scruples. For decades the man to see for an Oscar gown, Hayman this year and last was fashion coordinator for the Academy Awards telecast.
All his life, he's been drawn to opulence and glamour. Fred Hayman left Switzerland in 1941 when his stepfather sold his silk-tie factory and moved his family to New York City to escape the war. Two years later, at 18, young Fred talked his way into a job as an apprentice cook at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. "I had seen the cooks look out the window and I thought, 'My God, I'd give anything to work there,' " he recalls. "The Waldorf was the ultimate, like Beverly Hills [later became] for me." After a stint in the Navy, Hayman returned to the Waldorf, became assistant to the banquet manager and started arranging elegant fetes for the ultrarich. He moved to Beverly Hills in 1954, when Conrad Hilton opened the Beverly Hilton. Under Hayman's vigorous management, the Hilton hosted post-Oscar parties, bashes for the youthful Liz Taylor and the wedding of Sammy Davis Jr. to Mai Britt.
In 1966, having gathered a following, Hayman opened his own restaurant in downtown Los Angeles. It foundered. " 'We got it for virtually nothing," he says. " 'But it was nothing for a reason. The Watts riots had just broken out, and it was not the time for a restaurant downtown."
Twice divorced and the father of three children, now grown, Hayman married his third wife, Gale, a cocktail waitress he had hired for the Hilton's Rendezvous Room, in 1966. When the restaurant folded, they went to work in a little Beverly Hills dress store; Hayman had invested in it earlier and in 1962 bought out his partners, including part-time actor George Grant, who had named the store. In only a few years Giorgio was selling Halstons to the likes of Natalie Wood, Janet Leigh and Norma Shearer. Shrewdly, the Haymans gave their business a personal touch. A thank-you note followed every sale, and Fred's yellow Rolls-Royce conspicuously prowled Beverly Hills delivering packages. To keep men happy while their women spent money, Hayman installed a fireplace, a pool table and a handsome oak bar. "Contrary to what a lot of people think," says Gale, "we served mostly coffee and Cokes." Fred remembers it differently. "At that time," he says, "it was mostly hard liquor because not too many people drank white wine." Tour buses stopped at Giorgio so out-of-towners could gawk at the extravagant fashions and sip a free vodka Collins.
Giorgio was always worth a stop. "Gale was an exotic, she wasn't your girl from Kansas," says Judith Krantz, "and Fred had a European attitude towards service." Recalls Fred: "We were the host and hostess. It was like an inn." Says Gale: "It was like the living theater. You never knew who would come in next. One day Imelda Marcos came in and bought a Nehru jacket in every color we had."
It was an era when nothing seemed too showy if you could afford it, and the Hay-mans' customers invariably could. "We had chiffon gypsy gowns, Eskimo clothes, tie-dyes in psychedelic colors," says Fred. "Sex came out of the closet, and the Beverly Hills women embraced it." Says Gale: "Fred was the best salesperson I've ever seen. You never knew you were being sold.' " To which Fred responds. "I am not a salesman. I am an impresario."
When the Haymans went into the perfume business, Fred also proved to be a marketing genius. The scent, an aggressive one. had been rejected by Revlon. Helena Rubenstein and Yves St. Laurent. Bottled by Giorgio, it quickly became the top-selling perfume in America. "Giorgio was a fragrance that made cab drivers ask, 'What are you wearing, ma'am?' " remembers former White House counsel John Dean, who often shopped at Giorgio with his wife. Maureen.
Hayman's strategy was to make everyone aware of his perfume—he was the first to effectively use Scentstrips in magazines—and then let hardly anyone sell it, creating instant demand. (One Midwestern store that was denied a Giorgio franchise dispatched pickets to Rodeo Drive with placards reading GIORGIO IS UNFAIR!) But some people resented the olfactory invasion. One New York City restaurateur reportedly banned Giorgio, saying he didn't want his restaurant to smell like his mailbox. Still. Giorgio sold to high heaven.
By then, though, the Haymans' partnership was coming apart. According to Women's Wear Daily reporter Steven Ginsberg in his 1989 book Reeking Havoc, The Unauthorized Story of Giorgio, the Haymans' civilized estrangement went downhill quickly after their 1983 divorce, which gave Fred 51 percent of the company and Gale 49 percent. Gale, who had chosen the perfume formula and modified it slightly to create Giorgio, wanted more of the lucrative perfume business. The battle over the bottle grew so lively that at one point Fred changed the locks and barred Gale from the company. She sued: he counter-sued. In the end the company itself was sacrificed.
Which meant that I layman, who shares a beachfront house in Malibu with his girlfriend. Betty Endo. a former assistant to Steve McQueen and Clint Eastwood, has been forced to start all over again. Not that he minds. He is determined, in fact, to build a company that is bigger and better. "It's like being an athlete in the Olympics," lie says, "I've been training my whole life for what I'm doing today."
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