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Fred Hayman: The man behind Rodeo Drive

Rodeo Drive used to be a regular street. Then Fred Hayman arrived.

June 11, 2011|By Booth Moore | Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic
  • Fred Hayman used his experience in hospitality to charm clients at Giorgio Beverly Hills, installing an oak bar and serving cocktails.
Fred Hayman used his experience in hospitality to charm clients at Giorgio… (Fred Hayman Archives )

He's been called the godfather of Rodeo Drive. And it's not all hyperbole. Before Beverly Hills was the land of designer logos, before it was teeming with tourists and rolling with Rolls-Royces, the city was home to Fred Hayman, the proprietor of the Giorgio Beverly Hills boutique. Hayman was an architect of luxury in Los Angeles, bringing high fashion, a social shopping atmosphere and white glove service to what was still a sleepy main street when he went into retail in 1967 at the age of 38.
During the 31 years he ruled the retail roost from his perch under Giorgio's signature yellow and gold awnings, he cultured relationships with designers and celebrities and set a new standard for fashion parties, helping to promote Los Angeles as an international style center. Among his most noteworthy creations was the Giorgio Beverly Hills perfume, a bottling of "Dynasty" and "Scruples"-era excess and one of the most successful fragrances in history, with more than $100 million in sales in its first four years.

And now, at age 86, he is getting his due, as the 15th recipient of the Rodeo Drive Walk of Style Award (an award he created), and the subject of the new book "Fred Hayman The Extraordinary Difference: The Story of Rodeo Drive, Hollywood Glamour and the Showman Who Sold It All" by fashion journalist Rose Apodaca, former Women's Wear Daily West Coast bureau chief.

Fred Hayman: In the June 12 Image section, an article about Giorgio Beverly Hills proprietor Fred Hayman incorrectly said he was 38 when he went into retail in 1967. He was 42. —

The lavish coffee table book chronicles Hayman's life, including his childhood in Zurich and Paris, and his early career in the hospitality industry. He rose through the ranks at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, "a boot camp of a genteel kind," Apodaca writes, and eventually moved west to become director of banquets at the Beverly Hilton, where he would help make a home for the Golden Globe Awards.

With hundreds of historical photos and dozens of interviews, Apodaca takes readers from the 1960s, when the fashion retail scene on Rodeo Drive was just beginning to take shape, through the boutique boom of the 1970s and '80s, and into the 1990s, when Hayman was on the cutting edge in a different way, selling a line of branded fashion and accessories on what would become the Home Shopping Network.

Throughout, Apodaca puts Hayman in the context of L.A.'s movers and shakers, including shop owners Jerry Magnin, Jack Hansen, Charles Gallay and Herb Fink, hair cutters Gene Shacove and Vidal Sassoon, model Peggy Moffitt, and writers Caroline Graham and Judith Krantz.

"Rodeo Drive would just be another district if not for Fred's marketing vision," Beverly Hills Mayor Barry Brucker said last month, during the Walk of Style Award ceremony, referring to Hayman's creation of the Rodeo Drive Committee in 1977 that helped beautify the street and elevate its retail tenants.

Apodaca, who now, with her husband, runs her own store — A & R on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice — has been working on the book off and on for the last six years, meeting with Hayman at "his canteen" — Spago — or at his Malibu beach house, where he has a memorabilia room stuffed with Giorgio Beverly Hills logo wear, including sweatshirts, scarves, teddy bears and sunglasses. She also accompanied him to the opera, where she met his friends, including such old school Los Angeles personalities as Esther Williams and the late Mr. Blackwell.

When Hayman arrived in the early 1950s, Southern California was still the wild frontier in terms of society, Apodaca says. "There was a new moneyed class learning how to entertain, how to dress and how to live. And that allowed for individuals with a sense of European flair, like Fred Hayman, [restaurateur] Michael Romanoff and [designer] Don Loper, to reinvent themselves here and teach the new society."

But it was not all smooth sailing for Hayman. In a matter of years, he was fired from the Beverly Hilton, left his job as general manager of the Ambassador Hotel, and oversaw three failed restaurants. By 1967, all Hayman had left was Giorgio, an existing store at Rodeo Drive and Dayton Way, an investment he had taken over from two other partners in 1962. "He didn't invent Giorgio — or the perfume, that credit goes to his third wife, Gale," Apodaca says. "Fred's strength has always been in recognizing an opportunity."

After leaving the restaurant business, he turned his attention to retail. Neither Fred nor Gale Hayman knew much about selling clothes, but they learned fast; and Fred used his background in the hospitality industry to woo the chic set, sending personal notes to potential customers, and entertaining them when they came in.

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