It’s easy to listen to the stories about Palm Springs’ glamorous past -- showbiz idols frolicking in luxurious play pads. But you seldom get to see where it all went down. Now you can! The Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway house (www.elvishoneymoon.com) – one of Palm Springs most legendary homes – has regularly scheduled tours. A unique opportunity for Elvis and mid-century modern architecture fans (like me).
Zigzagging up the round, pebbly stepping stones on a recent tour – I’m quickly transported to the martini heydays of the 1960s.
Many of the furnishings and the kitchen and garden are the same as when Elvis and Priscilla lived here from 1966 to 1967, explains our guide, Darlene Perez, a.k.a. “Darling Presley,” an award-winning Priscilla Presley look-alike. Period perfect in a flowery-patterned sheathe, boots and long, dark heavily-teased hair, she channels Elvis and the home’s legends with showbiz flair. “Sit here and take a picture,” she invites, pointing to the spot on the 64-foot built-in sofa, where Elvis and Priscilla once cuddled. Upstairs, she encourages us to climb into the circular sunken tub for a photo op where Elvis presumably soaked. On tip-toe, we follow her down the “secret hallway” – where Elvis used to sneak into Priscilla’s room before they were married and her parents were visiting, she whispers.
Built in four circles on three levels in 1962 by Palm Springs mid-century modern construction guru Robert Alexander – the architecture is as impressive as the tales. Look magazine called it “The House of Tomorrow.” Perez shows us the article. “There are no straight walls,” she says. I’m fascinated by the built-in bullet-shaped grill in the kitchen. Glass walls and doors made it perfect for the Alexander’s lavish parties, she continues, pointing out the raised dining room, which doubled as a stage for Chubby Checker and other stars. “Guests watched from the sunken living room; and often formed conga lines out the doors and round the pool.” Sadly in 1965 the Alexanders died in a plane crash.
Enter Elvis. “Elvis loves flashy things with style, and he’s digging it. I’ve got Hawaii in my back yard,” she says he says. We ooh and ahh at the pool, which mimics the boomerang-like shape of the roof; and look at the rose bush from which the King plucked a flower for his beloved – “we have the rose scene on a home movie,” she gushes. Best of all, we follow Elvis’ footsteps through the garden’s legendary “secret passage” to the empty back lot, where on May 1, 1967, Elvis and Priscilla eluded the paparazzi and flew to Vegas for their wedding. Wow. I’m impressed with the tour. And so it turns out is Pricilla herself. “Pricilla Presley returned for the first time a few years ago, and told us the house was as special now as it was then,” Perez tells me.