Thank you to everyone who braved the harrowing traffic and blazing heat this weekend to visit us on the USC campus for The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Soft launch as it was for The Extraordinary Difference, the book and the booth filled with yellow and white details struck a chord with passersby, who had their own memories to retell about Giorgio Beverly Hills and Fred Hayman. Even attendees barely out of diapers when the first perfume debuted in 1981 recalled how much their mothers loved it and how much they themselves remembered the curvaceous flask and the yellow and white stripes.
The tales ran the gamut.
More than one man joked how his wife kept the Rodeo Drive landmark store in milk and honey with all the shopping done there. There was a former secretary to Merv Griffin, who recalled her bosses many gifts bought from the store. One after another woman talked of how much they loved the scents when they came out—Giorgio Beverly Hills, 273, "…With Love," etal.—and how sad they were that subsequent owners didn't keep up the formulas' potency. There was even the gentleman, quite down on his luck now, standing at the booth with two enormous bags bulging with the empty cans and bottles he intended on recycling for survival, who talked nostaligically of the few months he worked at the Santa Monica Giorgio HQ and how kind everyone at the company was, from the receptionist to Mr. Hayman.
My favorite, however, had to be the Beverly Hills couple who stopped by late Sunday. The woman was so suspicious that we had put out this seven-pound tome without Mr. Hayman's authorization! She stepped away from the booth a few feet to phone an insider. I once again reiterated that I'd spent the last five years collaborating with Mr. Hayman on this book, and continued to chat with her charming husband who looked visibily awkward at the situation. Having learned that, inded, this was legit, she returned declaring she was going to buy a copy for this person with the proof, her ex-husband, a friend of Mr.Hayman's whom I've lunched with before. She nearly freaked when I was about to sign the book. She hadn't quite figured out that I was the author. But once her husband schooled her, she turned ever more charming and walked away happily with a signed copy.
I love how protective perfect strangers can be about someone they consider a hero and institution of their world!
The book's intrepid designer David Blankenship and me. From the layout to the experience, it couldn't have turned out as wonderful without him.
The change in festival venues from UCLA to USC didn't sit well with most vendors and attendees at the festival, who observed attendence appeared lower than the ususal 140,000-plus the festival usually attracts (though there could've been that many children alone in the Target-sponsored kiddie section). They also griped these were not the same shoppers as on the westside. The drone of monotone poets from the stage in our Arts+Culture section also proved testing.
Still, it was great sharing the few advance copies of the book that we had with those who did stop by as we gear up for the official, grand roll out in June. All of the upcoming events will be posted at Mr. Hayman's new Facebook and Twitter pages, so sign on up.
And apparently, we would've won the prize for best booth if such prizes were being handed out. So many folks said so, and given all the drab booths throughout the campus, we could only smile happily that we did what we could with what we had for the weekend. We dressed the booth with yellow and white table cloths and chairs, foam core posters that seemed to warp by the second under the heat, and a couple of pots stuffed with extraordinarily fragrant yellow roses and sprigs of mint created by the talented Neal Guthrie at Gilly Flowers in Silver Lake. The crowds couldn't get enough of those roses.
Big thank you to my truly lovely assistants this weekend, Brandee and Laura, for all your bright smiles and hard work.