Shh! Secrets of Hollywood’s Hideaway
What you may or may not know about Hollywood's Playground and the stars that played here...
-During Hollywood’s Golden Age from the late l920s to the late 1950s, the strict studio contracts forbade actors to travel more than 120 miles from Los Angeles during film production which helped develop Palm Springs as a celebrity getaway.
LIGHTS, CAMERA, DESERT!
-In the 1938 film Her Jungle Love (the first jungle film in Technicolor), a scantily-clad “native” Dorothy Lamarr is perved-upon by shipwrecked outsider Ray Millan. Hollywood felt it was necessary to decorate the 15 mile-long Palm Canyon Drive with $330,000 worth of transported vines and foliage to create an authentic “tropical rainforest.” It remains unspoiled to this day as it is carefully looked after as part of the tribal lands of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. This year-round oasis is named for its 3,000-plus California fan palms that thrive here - the only native palm to the Western U.S. and a life-giving tree that features prominently in Cahuilla legends and spirituality.
-In the gloriously tawdry 1950 film noir The Damned Don’t Cry, Joan Crawford plays a gangster’s moll who hides out at her boyfriend’s estate in “Desert Springs.” Palm Springs’ Modernist architect E. Stewart Williams designed the masterpiece Midcentury property featured in the film, owned by Frank Sinatra, rumored to have hosted many of his own mafia friends as houseguests there. Sinatra reluctantly allowed filming of The Damned Don’t Cry at his Twin Palms Estate in Palm Springs’ Movie Colony neighborhood.
-In Sean Connery’s last official outing as 007 and the only Bond film to be shot in Palm Springs, 1971’s Diamonds Are Forever, James discovers two bikini-clad female gymnasts inside the 2,400 square-foot Elrod House (a stunning circular house built into a mountainside, a structure Playboy magazine called “the ultimate bachelor pad.”). They introduce themselves as Bambi and Thumper, of course. The trio waste no time in laying waste to the home’s cathedral-like doomed living room with retractable outer wall, before they all end up in the adjoining cliffside pool where Bond proceeds to teach the vixens his version of the breaststroke. Oh, James! The exclusive Southridge Drive retreat was created in 1968 by architect John Lautner for the celebrated Palm Springs interior designer Arthur Elrod.
HOLLYWOOD SLEPT HERE
-Palm Springs’ family-owned Alexander Construction Company built over 2,000 desert homes from 1955 to 1965, creating an influential “Midcentury Modern Mecca” in the process. But the personal home that company co-founder Robert Alexander built for his wife is better known as the honeymoon hideaway for legendary couple, Elvis and Priscilla Presley. They rented “The House of Tomorrow” on Ladera Circle for a number of months after marrying in 1967. Elvis adored the architecture of the 5,000 square-foot UFO-like structure, and today Priscilla lookalike Darling Presley has been known to host public tours of the restored home.
-Long before the $27 million Jonathan Adler transformation of the Parker Palm Springs into a hip and happening Brangelina hangout in 2004, the Parker Palm Springs resort opened as California’s very first Holiday Inn in 1959. Yet, in between, a Hollywood’s singing cowboy and a TV talk show host/media mogul each separately owned the 13-acre property at one time or another. Gene Autry bought the Holiday Inn property in 1961 and ran it as his namesake hotel - guests can still overnight in Autry’s former two-bedroom two-bathroom on-site residence.
-In 1994, French fashion designer Hubert de Givenchy revamped the place into a mini Versailles in the desert. It was 1998 when billionaire and longtime local resident Merv Griffin (creator of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune) picked up the property, keeping Givenchy’s name and marble-column-and-trellis aesthetics.
-The Palm Springs residence of Clark Gable and Carole Lombard - a pink-hued four-bedroom bungalow built in 1925 - was put on the market in late 2014 for $2.2 million. The seller is from a celebrity family who are decades-long Palm Springs residents, and both his father and brother are Academy Award winners. Gable’s bungalow was owned for years by desert resident Joel Douglas - brother of Michael and son of Kirk.
-Serving from 1988 to 1992, Sonny Bono remains Palm Springs’ most famous mayor (and its congressman up until his death in 1998). But two other legendary mayors of Palm Springs also hailed from Hollywood. The duo were BFFs and a driving force behind the most star-studded retreat Palm Springs has ever known: The Palm Springs Racquet Club. Frank Bogert (mayor from 1958 to 1966, and from 1982 to 1988) appeared in bit parts in Westerns as both an actor and a stuntman, and became lifelong friends with Lucille Ball after meeting her in acting class. Bogert’s good pal Charles Farrell (mayor from 1948 to 1953) costarred with Janet Gaynor in over a dozen films of the ‘20s and ‘30s, and had a starring role in two 1950s TV shows.
-“Well, at least when they come down from Mars, they’ll know where to go," is what Bob Hope allegedly said to master architect John Lautner in 1973 after the comedian first set eyes upon the donut-shaped spaceship-like scale model of his future 10-bedroom, 23,000-plus square-foot hillside home high above Palm Springs on exclusive Southridge Drive.