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The Perfume Wars: Giorgio Saga Continues

April 01, 1988|MARY ROURKE | Times Staff Writer

It isn't over yet. Not after 10 years of opulence and excess, lawsuits and mudslides, novels, news accounts and TV miniseries. And a painfully public divorce, and the breakup of what was once the most glamorous business in all of Beverly Hills. Giorgio, a true-life page turner, picks up the pace this week.

Fred and Gale Hayman, the couple behind the candy-box clothing boutique on Rodeo Drive and the accompanying "extraordinary fragrance" of Beverly Hills, have both announced plans to introduce new perfumes, this time on their own. Since they divorced, sold their business to Avon Products for $165 million and split the profits last spring in a messy, high-profile exchange, they've gone their separate ways.

Fred instantly bought back the Rodeo Drive boutique, which he says he's about to restore--along with its luxurious past image. Gale moved into a Century City office and set up a quality line of mail-order cosmetics. Even on their own, both Haymans are still banking on the glittery little city that got them where they are today. But it might be too late for all that.

Enter Wednesday night's party for Gale Hayman in a house north of Sunset Drive near the Rodeo Drive business she helped build. Her long, dark hair cascades toward her waist. Her jewelry sparkles, her leopard-print suit hugs her well-maintained figure. "She never looks less than wonderful," purrs Judith Krantz, one of the hundred or more people crowded into the room. Krantz says Giorgio helped inspire the boutique in "Scruples," her first novel.

Linda Evans is a hostess for the event, but the house belongs to her friend Sandra Moss. In the complicated business of Beverly Hills social credentials, Moss is usually described as the ex-wife of Jerry, an A&M Records executive. She's a bit vague on how this evening came about.

"Gee, I don't know whose idea it was," she starts to explain, then drifts away from the subject.

Whoever thought of it, Moss is clear about why. "We wanted to say congratulations to a girlfriend," she offers. And not a moment too soon. Gale, now 45, launched Gale Hayman Beverly Hills, her high-priced mini-size makeup collection five months ago. It is her first solo effort, and that seems very important to her.

"I did this myself," she says, cool and a touch defiant. "I started this in my living room."

Despite the astounding success of Giorgio perfume (at age 7 it ranks among the top three sellers in America), one associate who has known Gale Hayman over the years says she is still trying to prove herself, adding, "The most important thing in Gale's life is to establish her image as having achieved something on her own."

Accessible to the Press

She has her own publicist now, Lee Solters. And she makes a point of being accessible to the press, so that over the past several years, during the breakup of her marriage and business, when Fred refused to answer questions, it was Gale who made the gossip columns and the covers of national magazines.

But at least one observer notes that all this attention is new to her.

"She worked her tail off for years, in the dark shadow behind Fred," says Steve Ginsberg. West Coast bureau chief of Women's Wear Daily, he is writing a book on the Giorgio years.

People call Fred Hayman a master showman who specializes in ideas such as launching a perfume in Paris at the American Embassy, spraying the air outside his shop with the scent, keeping a uniformed driver and a vintage limousine on call for customers, and serving so much caviar and champagne at a party that "you can eat all you want and still not feel like a pig," as one regular on the guest list puts it.

Sparse Comments

But for all his showmanship, the 63-year-old native of Switzerland exercises Old World restraint when it comes to airing his personal life. He makes no comment about his dealings with Gale, except to say: "It was traumatic, painful, expensive. I'm thrilled it's over." Always the gentleman, he adds, "I wish her well."

As for what business heights either of them aspires to now, people who know Fred Hayman find him to be content, with nothing more to prove. Not so for Gale. Ginsberg says: "I'm not sure that Fred intends to come up with another blockbuster. But Gale definitely does. She wants to make her mark in the cosmetics industry."

Her makeup is all wrapped in leopard-print packages. It's got a zippy looking, Cosmo-girl quality about it. But the little "purse-size" lipstick, only half as big as women have come to expect, costs $9.50. Why are people willing to pay so much for so little? Perhaps a certain two words on every package--"Beverly Hills"--are as potent now as they have been in the past.

But at this point, it's questionable whether there is any allure left about the place. In the heat of so many novels and soap operas and retailers' gimmicks hooked into the city's glory days, one whole contingent now argues that the mystique has gone up in smoke.

May Be 'Overexposed'

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