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Hire-a-Chauffeur Firm Cuts the Risks of Partying

August 10, 1986|From United Press International

First came the "Strip-a-Gram." Then the "Great American Fan Club" and "Pink Party Limos." Now it's "Home, James."

Unlike traditional chauffeur services--the kind that offer a nattily dressed driver behind the wheel of a long limousine--Gregory Fibble's company supplies the chauffeurs while the customer supplies the wheels and the insurance.

"Isn't that great? There's no inventory," Fibble said of the service, which announced plans recently to begin renting out chauffeurs in Los Angeles.

"We make sure the client has insurance before we take the job," Fibble said. "We won't touch anyone unless they have full coverage. If we cause an accident, then we are liable."

He said that "Home, James" is covered by a corporate insurance policy and he is trying to get corporate liability coverage.

The 31-year-old entrepreneur is banking on the public's concerns over drunk driving to spark interest in hiring his chauffeurs.

"People are partying, getting drunk, driving home and killing themselves. This way they can get home safely and save their lives," Fibble said.

For between $12 and $15 an hour, Fibble will rent a chauffeur for a minimum of 2 1/2 hours.

It works like this:

After a call, a "Home, James" chauffeur, dressed in a black and white uniform, arrives at the client's home, hotel or office.

"I'd park my car in your driveway, get in your car and take you out and about and when we get back my car will be in your driveway," Fibble explained.

Fibble, a New York native, said he got the inspiration for his latest venture after talking to his chauffeur. "I thought everyone would like a chauffeur," he said.

Fibble stresses safety reasons for using a trained chauffeur over reasons of luxury, convenience and style.

His drivers will participate in bimonthly training sessions on spotting drunk drivers. Fibble offers statistics showing the arrest of nearly 350,000 drivers last year in California on drunk-driving charges.

"You're going to see more people use chauffeurs when they go out to party," he said.

Fibble said he tested the chauffeur-for-hire concept in New York, New Jersey and Atlanta before deciding to open the business in Los Angeles.

"We were booked seven days a week with 20 chauffeurs. We couldn't take any more work," he said. "We'll have an even better shot in Los Angeles. There's more awareness of drunk driving here."

More than 300 would-be chauffeurs applied for the 30 positions that Fibble filled earlier this month. The drivers, all required to have clean driving records and to be non-smokers and non-drinkers, have taken an in-house course in the art of chauffeuring.

The company hired both men and women and requests clients to call the drivers "James" and "Jamie."

"Didn't you ever want to say, 'Home, James?' " Fibble said.

Fibble said he learned a lesson with his "Strip-a-Gram" business, which he sold three years ago. He said he moved too slowly with the idea of using models to deliver birthday messages while performing a burlesque routine and watched as competitors sprang up.

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