Memories of Mr. Rodeo Drive

Posted on April 14, 2017 by Robert Ringer Comments (29)

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Today there’s a tinge of sadness in the air for me. It marks the one-year anniversary of the passing of Fred Hayman, a dear friend from my past life.

The chances are pretty good that you’ve never heard of Fred Hayman, which is amazing considering his remarkable accomplishments. Some people are among the quiet rich; others are rich and flamboyant; Fred was unique in that he was both, depending upon the situation at any given time and the people involved.

In fact, he was a true enigma in more ways than one. Fred was born in Switzerland, then moved to the United States during World War II and got a job as an apprentice chef at the Waldorf Astoria in New York. After a stint in the Navy, he made his way to California, where he landed a position as manager of the prestigious Beverly Hilton Hotel.

You can read his lengthy and fascinating story in more detail on Wikipedia and elsewhere on the Internet, but for our purposes here I’ll cut to the chase and say that Fred ultimately left his job at the Beverly Hilton and, in 1961, cofounded a high-fashion women’s boutique on Rodeo Drive. He named the store Giorgio Beverly Hills, and a year later bought out his two partners.

It’s hard to imagine now, but at that time, Rodeo Drive was just a humdrum street in the heart of Beverly Hills, with little traffic or shopping. But within a decade, Giorgio’s success changed all that as it became the place for Hollywood’s elite shoppers.

With its unique features (such as a pool table and free-drinks bar for customers), Fred’s store lit up Rodeo Drive with its signature yellow-and-white-striped awnings. Giorgio’s spectacular success soon caught the attention of other big-name, high-fashion retailers, who started clamoring for retail space on Rodeo Drive.

Today, Rodeo Drive is arguably the most famous high-end shopping street in the world, but, make no mistake about it, Fred Hayman was the pioneer who started it all.

How I came to meet Fred is an interesting story that is a reminder that you never know what strange happenings lie just around the next corner. It was the early seventies, and I had just gone through a period of my life where I was determined to prove that I could (to borrow the words of Dave Ramsey) “out earn my stupidity.” I was, of course, wrong. My stupidity had no problem overwhelming my entrepreneurial skills and ultimately brought me face to face with reality.

During my wild spending spree, I can’t deny that I had a hell of a time living beyond my means, and I managed to run up charges at Giorgio to the tune of about $5,000 (about $20,000 in today’s dollars). It was a very embarrassing situation, because I had a reputation as a real-life Daddy Warbucks in Beverly Hills.

Fortunately, early in life I had developed an approach to handling creditors, small and large, that I found to be not only honorable, but beneficial: Contact them them before they contact you! It’s that simple, and it almost always pays dividends. And that’s just what I decided to do with Giorgio.

It seems like only yesterday that I walked into Giorgio’s business office and talked to Fred’s secretary/bookkeeper/assistant. (He only had one office employee at the time.) I explained my tale of woe to her and said, “I know it’s a ridiculously low figure, but, just to show good faith, I’d like to start paying off my bill at the rate of $5 a week. Then, when I start making money again, I’ll pay off the whole balance.”

Years later, long after Fred and I had become friends, he told me that the reason he had gone along with my proposal was because his assistant had told him “what a nice young man (I) was” and urged him to accept my offer. He told me that he looked her in the eye and asked, “Do you really trust him to do what he says he’ll do,” and without hesitation she answered, “Yes, I do.”

I don’t recall how much time went by, but every Friday, like clockwork, I came to Giorgio’s business office and handed Fred’s assistant my $5 payment. And within a couple of years, when I became a bestselling author, I walked into Giorgio’s office, asked what my balance was, and wrote out a check to pay off my bill in full.

Fred’s assistant was so excited that she took me into his office and showed him the check. He was delighted, and the first thing he said to me was, “Well, now that you’re in the chips again, why don’t we open a new account for you?” I was shocked by his offer, but I took him up on it. And, as you would guess, from that point on I always paid my bill in full as soon as it arrived.

After I had reached mini-fame status, Fred even hung my autographed picture in Giorgio, amidst scores of A-listers. Above all, he never tired of telling the story of how we met. He’d often introduce me to friends by saying, “I want you to meet the most honest person I’ve ever known,” followed by his slightly embellished version of “the story.”

Through the years, Fred and I jogged together a few times at the Beverly Hills High School track, and I was always amazed to see him light up a cigarette after we finished. One time I asked him how in the world he could be both a smoker and a runner, and he just shrugged it off with, “I have plenty of time to do both.” It must have worked for him, because he made it to 90.

Fred liked to throw small, exclusive dinner parties, and my wife and I were often invited. But I was never comfortable with the celebrity chatter in those settings, and, as the years passed, I drifted away from the whole celebrity scene. Even so, from time to time I’d call Fred to say hello and check on the progress of his amazing career.

Not only did he invent Rodeo Drive, in 1981 he started a perfume line under the Giorgio name, which he sold to Avon in 1987 for a cool $165 million. Then, he turned right around and started another line of perfume, Fred Hayman Beverly Hills, which he later sold as well. I’m not sure what price his second perfume company brought, but I’ve always had a hunch it was for quite a bit more than his Giorgio sale to Avon.

Fred lived out the rest of his life in luxury in a 50,000 square foot mansion in Malibu. In the meantime, I moved away from Los Angeles in 1990, and only saw him one more time, when my wife and I were visiting Tinseltown for a couple of days and had lunch at his office. (Yes, he had his own personal chef.)

We talked by phone a few times over the years, and he said he never tired of telling the story of how we met. That always brought back pleasant memories and made me feel good that it had made such a lasting impression on him.

Even so, I wish I would have been able to get together with Fred a few more times while he was alive. He was an amazing enigma — part cowboy entrepreneur, part Hollywood celebrity — and was loved by everyone. (I think in his later years, Merv Griffin, whom I greatly admired after being a guest on his show on two occasions, was his closest friend.)

Some people are just plain nice, and that was Fred. Even though he liked the good life and enjoyed hobnobbing with the rich and famous, his down-to-earth personality never changed.

Thanks, Fred, for passing through my life on your extraordinary journey. I wish we could have had lunch together one more time, but I guess Fate had other plans for us. Just know that I’m thinking about you today. Without question, Mr. Rodeo Drive, you were the best.

Robert Ringer

+Robert Ringer is an American icon whose unique insights into life have helped millions of readers worldwide. He is also the author of two New York Times #1 bestselling books, both of which have been listed by The New York Times among the 15 best-selling motivational books of all time.

29 responses to “Memories of Mr. Rodeo Drive”

  1. Robert, I would like to have lunch with you. My treat!

  2. Lana says:

    What a nice tribute to someone who was very special. Never visited the store, but knew who he was…..as did many people. The world could use a few more people like that.

  3. Barry Goodrich says:

    Robert…I'm sure you have a ton of these stories…time to write that memoir.

  4. Scott theczech says:

    I've read where you've mentioned Joe Karbo ("The Lazy Man's Way to Riches") a few times as well. You are so right; one never knows what strange happenings lie right around the corner. I read Mr. Karbo's book when I was 18 years old, picked up the phone and asked to meet with him. To my surprise he accepted and we spent the better part of a couple of hours together a few days later. I remember most of the conversation to this day, but one thing in particular sticks in my mind – he told me that fear is what keeps most people from succeeding. He encouraged me and reminded me to not be afraid to try.

    • Robert Ringer RJR says:

      Joe was a great guy – always easy to meet with and talk to. I patterned my full-page advertising for my early books after his ads for The Lazy Man's Way to Riches, which were classics.

  5. Rick G says:

    Robert, I wish you lived here in Kentucky. You are my all-time favorite author and I read and collect all of your books and publications. Your books and philosophy got me through some of the toughest tight spots imaginable in my life. I don't know where I would have ended up without them. I really don't. I cannot say which of your masterpiece books is my favorite. Because they all are. Looking Out For Number One was the first I read, and all the others followed. I remember when I first saw it (#1) at B. Dalton back in the mid seventies as a paperback and I read it over and over! You even got me interested in Libertarian politics in the late seventies, eighties, and nineties and had hoped you would have run on the Libertarian ticket for president. I always think about you when I am in a given life situation. I think, "What would Robert Ringer say?", or "What would Robert Ringer do?", or "How would Robert Ringer deal with that?" I can always recall one or more quotes from your books to help me in a given life situation.

    I would love to meet The Tortoise in person. You would probably do most of the talking, because I would be in speechless awe. Lols!

    Thank you, Robert, for what you have given to me and how you always add to my life. Thanks!

  6. Rick G says:

    Furthermore, I had even thought about starting a Robert Ringer fan club. Looking back on that, I wished I had followed through on that. Trouble is I learned that there are too many unrealists and irrational people in this world that would disrupt it. They want to repudiate and try to prove false your philosophical teachings. Especially your explanation of the differences between reality and perception of reality. But there were other philosophical beliefs too. They would at times just wear me down with irrational arguments. Hence, sadly, I never ventured to begin such a club.

  7. Bob Diamond says:

    Great story – reflects so well on you, Robert. Appreciative of those who have touched . your life. Thanks for being in mine. I enjoy learning from you.

  8. Marte says:

    Thanks for a wonderful story. I'd never heard of your friend, but it's fun to know the story of how Rodeo Drive got its start. The world is made better by folks like him – and you!

  9. Adrian Adrian_Citroni says:

    Great Story. You are a good friend. I have a great family story about Rodeo Drive.If you ever want to hear it , please let me know.

  10. larajf says:

    What a delightful memorial to an amazing man. I feel like Paul Harvey should be saying "And now you know….the rest of the story."

  11. Amy says:

    Very nice. Thanks for sharing that story with us. I had some of that wonderful Giorgio perfume a long, long time ago, too.

  12. patg2 says:

    I enjoyed this account so very much. What a remarkable man he was. But one piece of advice, contact your creditor before they contact you, didn't work for me, not for VISA. And I doubt if it ever would. They have such horrendous penalties that in a six year period, we paid them $5200 and our balance only went down $12.

    • Robert Ringer RJR says:

      Unfortunately, when it comes to credit cards, you're nothing more than a number and writing off a balance is just an ordinary business expense to them.

      • patg2 says:

        That balance had already been paid for at 16% interest, with what we paid. But to us it wasn't just a business expense. They wrecked our credit with their extortionate policies. Obviously, this is wrong, immoral. The credit system badly needs reform. Unfortunately, I don't see a way libertarian principles can fix this one. Do you have any ideas?

  13. Gary Waltrip says:

    Rick's comments could be my own. You are my favorite philosopher and author, Robert, and have been an inspiration to me for years. I hope that someday I might meet you and shake your hand. Thank you for all you have done for so many people. I love your personal stories, both of your successes and tragedies. I will never forget the Ryder truck episode — it has inspired me over many rough spots. I will always read every book you write.

    • Robert Ringer RJR says:

      Thanks, Rick. Glad the Ryder truck story inspired you, because it sure was painful at the time.

      • Rick G says:

        Oh how well I remember reading that. I've had my share of different Ryder Truck episodes, i.e., points in my life where I hit the bottom so fast and hard to where it became a living Hell on earth. But I always managed to rebound, thanks, in large part to Robert Ringer's books.

    • Rick G says:

      Gary, you are the type of guy whom I would love having in a Robert Ringer Fan Club.

  14. cara.nome says:

    I LOST MY SON 9 MONTHS AGO YESTERDAY. I HAVE BEEN SUNK IN A SORROW WHICH IS ONLY GETTING WORSE AND I DO NOT KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT. SOME TIME AGO I READ ABOUT YOUR SON, ROBERT, AND WHAT I REMEMBER IS THAT HE WAS FOUND AFTER HE WAS ALREADY GONE – I SHED TEARS FOR YOU AS I READ YOUR ACCOUNT OF THAT. OF COURSE THIS HASN'T MUCH TO DO WITH WHAT YOU WROTE ABOUT FRED AND RODEO DRIVE. I JUST WANTED TO TELL YOU AND ASK YOU IF YOU HAVE ANY WORDS THAT MIGHT HELP ME I AM FINDING LIFE DIFFICULT.
    THANK YOU FOR ANYTHING….

    • Robert Ringer RJR says:

      I'm really to sorry to hear about your son, Cara. Too many of us have endured this kind of tragedy, and I don't have a magic answer as to how to deal with it. I know it sounds simplistic, but I believe that keeping busy is the best medicine for all kinds of problems. Death is the saddest part of life, but it's inevitable. The one thing it does for sure is raise the question of what the purpose of life is. Maybe the answer lies on the other side? We'll all know soon enough.

      • cara.nome says:

        THANK YOU, ROBERT, FOR YOUR ANSWER. THEY SAY TIME HEELS (FREUDIAN SLIP) ALL WOUNDS BUT I WONDER IF I WILL LIVE LONG ENOUGH FOR THAT. THE PRIEST DID TELL ME THAT I STILL HAVE A SONG (ANOTHER ONE FREUDIAN) WHETHER OR NOT HE IS HERE BESIDE ME IN THE FLESH. HE MEANT WELL..

        I TOTALLY AGREE THE ANSWER, IF THERE IS ONE, LIES OUT OF MY SIGHT. RIGHT NOW I AM LIKE THE DUMB BEAST WHO STUMBLES FORWARD, WOUNDED AND BLEEDING, THE ONE WITH NO SPEECH, WHO CONTINUES TO LIVE BECAUSE WE DON'T KNOW WHAT ELSE TO DO BECAUSE THERE IS NOTHING ELSE TO DO. THANK YOU FOR YOUR KIND WORDS.

  15. Paul Herring says:

    Nice tribute, Robert. Fred sounds like a most interesting person and certainly he was an entrepreneur. Some people just seem to have the gift for seeing opportunities in life. Good for Fred. Thanks for sharing your story.

  16. Jim Hallett says:

    What a great story! I never met Fred Hayman (or at least, not by name), but I did shop at this wonderful Giorgio store in BH in 1984-85, when I lived in greater LA, and the service was beyond excellent and one sport coat and pants combo was the BEST I ever owned, and I very reluctantly gave it to a friend, as it no longer fit my somewhat expanded body (but would fit now, so I wish I still owned it!). When visitors from the Midwest came to visit me in LA, I would often take them to Giorgio so they could experience what great service and great quality was all about (not surprising to find out that Fred was born in Switzerland where excellence is hard-wired into the DNA). Glad he had a full life and that you got to experience his friendship. Fortunately, I always paid cash for my items there, as I had learned the over-extended credit lesson a few years earlier. Thanks for sharing!

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