Old Hollywood Glamour in Palm Springs
Palm Springs has always been a favorite of mine.
Although much has changed since I was a kid, especially recently with major developments downtown, the Old Hollywood glamour, small town charm and friendliness, and dramatic desert scenery are ever-present. Located 107 miles from Los Angeles, the desert hideaway became a favorite to movie stars as early as the 1920s. The movie studios at the time implemented a two-hour rule that mandated their stars keep within an arm’s reach. Every corner has its own history; Whether it be a house on Hermosa Place that hosted a cocktail party where Frank Sinatra punched a bartender for screwing up his extra dry martini, The Monkey Tree Hotel where it is believed that in 1962 Marilyn Monroe and JFK met for a secret rendezvous in room 15, or the fact that Copley’s Restaurant is actually the former home of Clark Gable, the town’s Hollywood pedigree is inarguable.
The Desert’s Most Exciting Events
The population in Palm Springs varies greatly depending on local events and the weather. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Pride Weekend, and The Palm Springs Film Festival are just a few of the desert’s most exciting events. Modernism Week, celebrated every February, shines a spotlight on Palm Springs’ vast array and large concentration of midcentury modern architecture. And if you’ve never heard of Dinah Shore Weekend (known to the cool kids as “The Dinah”), I suggest you Google it. As far as the weather, peak tourist season is January through April when the weather is undeniably perfect. Winter is also a great time to visit and I love the way the town is decorated for the holidays. Danny and I learned the hard way that summers are sweltering and to be avoided. The average temperature in July is 108° — but the hottest temperature on record is an oppressive 123.°
Every Thursday, the main drag, Palm Canyon Drive, is pedestrian-only for VillageFest featuring over 180 vendors (6-10p October-May; 7-10p June-November). We enjoyed shopping for art and jewelry and listening to live music. A good mix of locals and tourists, you get a sense of the amazing community here. Danny and I love to hang around on this street any given day. There’s a couple of cool record shops and many great restaurants. And we always stop to pose with the Sonny Bono and Lucille Ball statues. Our favorite place to eat around here is Sherman’s Deli. We’re fans of the patio seating and house-made bagels. See if you can spot a familiar face on the wall near the ladies’ room.
My midcentury husband loves checking out the midcentury moderns, one of which is Bob Hope’s hillside Lautner-designed dwelling last sold in 2016 for a mere $13 million. It’s a 23,000 square foot mushroom-shaped affair located in a now gated community. To catch a peak, hike the nearby Araby Trail. You’ll be able to walk right past the house as well as enjoy views of the Coachella Valley.
The King Visits the Desert
You can book a tour of the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway for $35. On May 1,1967 The King and his bride spent their honeymoon here and precisely nine months later, Lisa Marie was born. The home is really dated, but not in a bad way. With retro rock walls and groovy decor and furnishings, it looks like Elvis has just left the building. The artifacts around the house may not be authentic and you absolutely cannot compare this place to Graceland, but I thought it was fun.
Celebrity Homes tours are available, but they can be an underwhelming experience, as you don’t necessarily get to go into the homes and through a bus window you often can’t see more than hedges or walls. A friend and longtime resident of Palm Springs, who shall remain nameless (Uncle Steve), was able to hook us up with a private tour of Frank’s Sinatra’s legendary Twin Palms estate. Located in the Movie Colony, this property is a celebrity in its own right. Built in 1947, Twin Palms set the standard for desert modernism. The pool, shaped like the body of a piano, is a carefully planned design feature. Cleverly placed beams on a canopy walkway make piano keys from shadows during the right time of day. But what makes it so fascinating to me are the little details. Like the bathroom sink which remains cracked since Old Blue Eyes threw a champagne bottle at Ava Gardener during one of their legendary fights. Or the child-height shower head in Frank Jr’s bedroom. It has all been maintained to perfection.
Also present are the former homes of Liberace, Dean Martin, Howard Hughes, Bing Crosby, Marion Davies, and more. We always make sure to grab a copy of the current Palm Springs Homes magazine for the plane. Fun fact: Greater Palm Springs has more swimming pools per capita than anywhere else in the US, topping over 50,000.
In my next post, I’ll tell you all about what’s just outside of Palm Springs. And let’s just say, things can get weird in the desert.