The 007 film series turns 50 this year, with the 23rd Bond flick, Skyfall
starring blonde Bond Daniel Craig, opening this November. A slew of retrospectives are looking back on the most successful film series in cinematic history - and our very own exclusive enclave of Southridge Drive (the former mountainside neighborhood of Steve McQueen and William Holden) served as the setting for one of 007’s more memorable outings.
With Palm Springs’ sophistication, it was only a matter of time before James visited the desert resort, which he finally did in the 7th Bond outing, 1971’s camptastic Diamonds Are Forever
. A coolly-suited Sean Connery (well, the wide pink tie can be forgiven) carefully walks into the winter retreat of reclusive billionaire Willard Whyte (well, perhaps sausage king Jimmy Dean’s goofy casting as Whyte can’t be forgiven). And for the first time on film, Bond finds his backside being expertly kicked by two strong gymnastic women - albeit donning bikinis. But just when it looks like James has finally met his feline match, they all end up in a pool overlooking Palm Springs where 007 gives them his version of the breaststroke. Oh, James!
When 007 visionary set designer Ken Adam (famous for Dr. Strangelove’s iconic war room) first set eyes upon The Elrod House
at 2175 Southridge Drive, “I said ‘This as though I designed it. I don’t have to do anything,’” Adam recounted during location scouting for Diamonds
. “I wanted to look at exotic looking places in Palm Springs…and I was shown [the Elrod House] and it was absolutely right for the film. It was a reinforced concrete structure, very modern and fabulous.”
The setting for the 007-versus-bikini-babes fight scene was not easy to obtain. Ken Adam recalled the gentleman who owned the house, interior designer Arthur Elrod, was not too keen on the filmmakers taking over his abode. So Adam immediately got a hold of 007 producer Cubby Broccoli. “Cubby rang Sidney, and within half an hour we had the house,” Adam divulged. The Sidney in question was Sidney Korshak, the legendary Hollywood lawyer “fixer” with ties to the Chicago mob. And thus, both spy and desert history were made in one famous scene.
A November, 1971 issue of Playboy
called The Elrod House “the ultimate bachelor pad.” It’s been the setting of many a Modernism Week party, as well as hosting big names like Beyonce and Jay Z. Famed desert architect John Lautner built the structure in 1968, and was also responsible for Bob Hope’s futuristic volcano/mushroom home further up the hill at the end of Southridge Drive. (Legend has it that upon seeing Lautner’s model of the house, Hope quipped, “At least the Martians will know where to land.”)
When Lautner first saw the exposed rock on The Elrod House’s 23-acre site, he directed the contractor to dig ten feet deeper. That uncovered massive boulders which Lautner incorporated into the structure of the house – one of them being Thumper’s lounging spot in the Diamonds Are Forever
clip above. (As a protégée of architect Frank Lloyd Wright, Lautner lived by his mentor’s Organic Architecture philosophy of blending buildings into their natural landscapes.) This was only the beginning of Hollywood’s love affair with Lautner, whose futuristic buildings have been featured in movies like Iron Man, Die Hard, Pulp Fiction, The Big Lebowski, Lethal Weapon 2,
and Charlie’s Angels
The Elrod House remains as gorgeous as it did 41 years ago, and the 5-bedroom, 5-1/2-bathroom, roughly 9,000 square-foot home has been on and off the market for years with an asking price around for a cool $14 million. “It’s one of the two best houses in Palm Springs, the other being the Kaufmann House designed by Richard Neutra in 1946,” states desert real estate expert Allen B. Miller of Architectural Properties
. Miller has been selling local properties since the 1980s, and has made friends with Hollywood personalities and filmmakers through the years. “Personally, my pick for number one is The Elrod House by a wide margin. I am a huge fan of both Elrod and Lautner, both very influential in my life and career going back to the 60s.”
The Elrod House remains privately owned and it’s occasionally used for charity events and functions - so if you catch wind of one, book your ticket early since these events usually sell out. You can also book glamorous vacation rentals closeby on Southridge Drive like the Cody House
or other Elrod neighbors
. As close as you will get to that elusive 007, anyway ...