M Celebs - Celeb Secrets Pawn Star
by Elaine Lipworth
It’s hard to imagine Julia Roberts sneaking into a pawn shop to borrow a few thousand bucks in exchange for a diamond necklace. But Beverly Hills pawnbrokers Jean Zimmelman says even A-list stars can have cash flow problems…
“Even stars can have a temporary cash crunch. What can I tell you? We deal with people who shop too much,” says Jean. “Diamonds are definitely a girl’s best friend – until the credit card bill comes. And the guys want a new expensive car and can’t be bothered going to the bank. It’s always been about image in this town – about hosting the biggest party and driving the most expensive car.”
Jean Zimmelman runs a Tinseltown institution – the Beverly Loan Company. Needless to say, it’s not your average pawnbrokers. Located on the third floor of the Bank of America building, near famous Rodeo Drive, the pawned jewelry and paintings (worth over $10 million) can be safely stashed away in vaults.
The showroom’s a far cry from Cash Converters. Plush and luxurious, it also boasts bullet-proof windows and doors, and ultra-tight security. Not surprising, when you see the Picassos hanging on the walls, the sculptures on the shelves and the cases filled with colossal diamonds and pearls.
Jean’s father, Louis Zimmelman, started the business in 1938. In the old days when stars were paid considerably less, Jean’s dad was on personal terms with many of Hollywood’s screen legends. “Are we talking Sinatra and Garland?” I enquire, as I glance up at framed black and white photos of these movie legends, underneath a Picasso lithograph.
“He knew all the stars,” smiles Jean, but she refuses to name any names. “I can’t reveal any of our clients, past or present,” she says. “They’d buy jewelry and cars, and then they’d have to borrow from my dad. My dad once gave me a gold and diamond bangle that belonged to a rock star – the biggest in the world – but I can’t tell you who it is,” she says.
But these days, big stars don’t usually appear at Beverly Loan themselves. Business managers keep them out of serious financial trouble, and if they do get into a hole, it’s often the managers, not them, who call Jean.
Jean doesn’t look like a typical pawnbroker. A glamorous redhead, she wears an elegant black trouser suit and is dripping with expensive jewelry. A qualified gemologist, she lover her job.
“It’s great fun, I love jewelry,” she says. “You get to meet wonderful people, and you’re really very much a therapist because they all want to tell you their stories about the serial ex husbands and the plastic surgery.”
Customers bring in their goods and have four months to pay back the money, or extend the loan. If they’re borrowing more than $2,500, Jean charges 4% interest. “We never want to foreclose,” she says, “because then we’ve lost a customer.”
Most customers come back for their precious things, but leftover items go on sale in the showroom. “There are some amazing bargains,” she tells me. “Here’s a nice bauble,” she says, lifting a necklace from the case. “Eighteen millimeter black Tahitian pearls, a snip at $100,000. Our customers have good taste.” And some of them have great stories to tell.
“We had a lady who’d bumped her Mercedes and didn’t want her husband to know about the $4,000 damage. A couple of months later she comes back – now she’s having a face-lift, again without telling her husband. She just brought in another diamond ring.”
Sometimes women get rid of their jewelry for sadder reasons. “We get women going through divorces. The men have the money, all the women have is jewelry and often it has bad memories. One woman came in with a ring and said, ‘I’m getting divorced and I need $10,000.’ But her husband had given her a fake diamond.”
Luxury cars are popular pawn items. “A customer came who needed money for a movie deal. His wife was going on holiday, so he pawned her Ferrari for few weeks and she never knew.”
Jean will accept almost any valuable object. “A famous actress brought in a bra made of rubies and diamonds. We lent her $10,000 on it.”
Jean’s clients include royalty. “One Saudi Arabian princess takes out loans on her diamonds when she’s waiting for the next $20,000 monthly allowance to arrive from her father.”
And then there’s Hollywood royalty. “We often get kids from Hollywood dynasties,” says Jean. “They’re too embarrassed to tell their parents they’ve run out of cash. I had a producer from a well-known family in who needed money for a movie deal. I said, ‘I’m sure your family would help.’ He said, ‘Absolutley, but I don’t want to turn to them.'”
“They say prostitution is the oldest profession, but the pawnbroker is older,” smiles Jean. “People know they’ll always be able to turn to us.”
This entry was posted on Sunday, October 27th, 2002 at 12:25 am
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