Frank Sinatra Palm Springs Hangouts: Self-Guided Tour - Visit Palm Springs tag-img

Frank Sinatra Palm Springs Hangouts: Self-Guided Tour

Frank Sinatra Twin Palms

Following in Frank’s Footsteps

Step back in time and immerse yourself in the glamorous world of the legendary Frank Sinatra as you embark on a self-guided tour of enchanting Palm Springs. Get ready to walk in the footsteps of Ol’ Blue Eyes himself as we take you on a captivating journey through the iconic places where Sinatra spent his days and nights, leaving an indelible mark on this desert oasis. From swanky cocktail lounges to stylish resorts, let this serve as your guide to experiencing the magic and allure of Sinatra’s Palm Springs hangouts.

Get ready to delve into the golden era of Hollywood and discover the hidden gems that once played host to the man himself.

Purple Room – 1900 E Palm Canyon

 The Purple Room hosted many performers. It opened on September 29, 1960, and was known as a piano bar and fine food restaurant. There were only a few hotels in this part of Palm Springs, including the Ocotillo Lodge, The Tropics, and the Holiday Inn (now Parker). It was considered elegant and expensive compared to many other restaurants in the area. This was one of Frank’s favorite bars in town.

Not only did Frank Sinatra dine at the Purple Room, but so did President Eisenhower and Richard Nixon (before he was president). Once, Bing Crosby telephoned for a party of 10, and they had to turn him down. Red Skelton and Bob Hope were two frequent customers.

purple room stage

Canyon Country Club Clubhouse – 1100 E Murray Canyon Drive

 Directions: You can continue to E Palm Canyon and turn left on the corner of Sunrise Way. The Saguaro Hotel will be on your left. Then turn left on S. Toledo Avenue and follow to the end of the road, which will be E. Murray Canyon Drive. Turn right, and the clubhouse will be on your right. 1.7 miles

Indian Canyons Golf Resort originally opened its doors as the Canyon Country Club on New Year’s Eve in 1961.  Developers had long coveted the 550-acre tract of land in the wind-free south end of Palm Springs that multiple members of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians owned.

William Bell, a noted golf course architect, was hired to design two golf courses, one on the north side of Murray Canyon Drive and one on the south.  The North Course was built first in conjunction with a $1.5 million stunning mid-century modern clubhouse designed by Donald Wexler.  The clubhouse housed dressing rooms for members, a dining room and bar, a golf cart barn, and a pro shop featuring the latest in golf clothing and equipment.

To make the opening of Canyon Country Club spectacular, Walt Disney, who had invested in several luxury homes built along the second fairway, donated a fountain that shot water into the sky from a floating lily pad, adding to the spectacular view from the clubhouse.

This was the location for the First Annual Frank Sinatra Golf Invitation in the fall of 1963. Some of his friends who joined him included Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Sammy Davis Jr., and James Garner. The banquet after the tournament was held at the Riviera Hotel. Proceeds went to the Frank Sinatra Foundation, which helps young people.

Canyon Country Club 1961

Frank Sinatra Golfing 1969

 Melvyn’s – 200 W Ramon Road

 Directions: Continue on W Murray Canyon Drive to S Palm Canyon Drive and turn right. Follow until Baristo and turn Left. It will be on the corner of Baristo and Ramon. 3.3 miles.

 Melvyn’s is part of the Ingleside Estate, previously known as Ingleside Inn. It’s named after owner Mel Haber, who came from New York and purchased the property in 1975.

Frank initially came to Melvyn’s just for drinks with some friends. He sat at the front of the bar but didn’t want to be disturbed by other guests. His girlfriend at the time, Barbara Marx, was always included. One day, a Sinatra employee confided to Mel that Barbara and Frank planned to marry in four weeks at the Annenberg Estate on a Sunday afternoon on July 11, 1976.

The following week, Frank and his entourage visited Melvyn’s and, during the course of the evening, asked to see Mel. Frank decided to throw a dinner party at Melvyn’s. Mel immediately realized it was the Saturday night before the wedding. Frank met with Mel to make all the arrangements.

June Allison got married at Ingleside Inn, and Rita Hayward came out of a sanitarium and stayed there. Melvyn’s would later attract such luminaries as Lucille Ball, Dinah Shore, Cher, Bob Hope, Debbie Reynolds, Liberace, Liza Minnelli, Gerald Ford, and Goldie Hawn. The list goes on.

melvyn's

The Plaza Theatre – 128 South Palm Canyon

Directions: Follow Belardo to W Tahquitz Canyon Way right at the Kimpton Rowan Hotel. Turn left to Palm Canyon (one block) and left again. The Theater will be on your left. .6 miles.

In June of 1944, Frank performed on Bob Hope’s show that was being aired from the Plaza Theater (original spelling). Lana Turner, Joan Blondell, Groucho Marx, and Claudette Colbert were in town.

In September of that same year, Frank would perform at the Plaza Theater every Wednesday night for his weekly broadcast, often with a full band, to a crowded audience. However, Sinatra’s show was announced over the CBS network as coming from the 21st Ferrying Group, Palm Springs Army Airbase.

As a benefit for the Palm Springs Wars Memorial fund, a gala premiere for station KCMJ (1340 on your dial), with the Frank Sinatra show originating from the theater stage during the evening’s performance, was presented at the Plaza Theater on Wednesday, February 20, 1946. He was joined by Jack Benny, who made a special appearance.

It had the double purpose of inaugurating Palm Springs’ first radio broadcasting station, KCMJ.

Frank Sinatra Plaza Theater1946

plaza theatre
Credit: Palm Springs Historical Society

Don the Beachcomber – 1101 N Palm Canyon

 Directions: Head south on Palm Canyon, turn left at E. Arenas, and left again at S. Indian Canyon. Follow straight to E. Tachevah Drive and turn left to N. Palm Canyon (one block). It will be on your left. 1.4 miles.

Now known as Bootlegger Tiki, it opened in 1951.

Frank Sinatra hosted a dinner party in April 1954 at Don the Beachcomber. At his party were Susan Zanuck (daughter of famous film producer and studio executive Darryl Zanuck), Jule Stine (American Songwriter), Judy Garland, and her husband Sid Luft. Darryl passed away in Palm Springs in 1979. Jule would go on to write Broadway musical scores for Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Peter Pan, Gypsy, and Funny Girl.

In November of that same year, he hosted another dinner party for Elizabeth Tayler and her husband at the time, Michael Wilding. Other attendees included Elizabeth’s good friend Montgomery Clift and composer Jimmy Van Heusen. It was a much larger space than it is today.

Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen wrote many famous hits, including “Love and Marriage” (1955), “To Love and Be Loved,” “Come Fly with Me,” “Only the Lonely,” and “Come Dance with Me.”  Many of their compositions became the title songs for Frank Sinatra’s albums of the late 1950s.

You would find Frank at one of the last dinners before the Beachcomber would close for the summer in June of 1955, hanging out with Bing Crosby, singer and actor Tony Martin (highest paid Las Vegas performer in 1958), and dancer Cyc Charisse.

Frank Sinatra Don The Beachcomber

Bootlegger Tiki

Riviera Resort & Spa – 1600 N Indian Canyon

 Directions: Continue north on Palm Canyon, then turn right on Vista Chino, where you will see a 7-Eleven. Margaritaville is across the street on the corner. 1.4 miles

 The Riviera Hotel, now known as Margaritaville, is an iconic property with a rich history for travelers since its opening in 1959.

The hotel underwent a significant transformation in recent years and was rebranded as Margaritaville Palm Springs. The new design still pays homage to the mid-century modern architecture that made the Riviera famous while infusing it with a relaxed and tropical atmosphere inspired by Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville lifestyle.

Frank Sinatra performed to 700 people at the Riviera Hotel’s Palm Springs Golf Classic Ball in February 1962 to raise money for the Desert Hospital building fund. Others on stage included Bob Hope and Dean Martin.

Frank Sinatra At Riviera

The Annual Palm Springs Police Association Ball moved to the Riviera Ballroom in 1964. Entertainment included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Bob Hope, Dinah Shore, Danny Thomas, Andy Williams, Red Skelton, and Gene Autry.

Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. singing at the Riviera.
Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr.

In the 1970s, Frank supported the Bob Hope Classic Ball at the  Riviera Hotel.

Riviera Hotel

Twin Palms Frank Sinatra Estate – 1145 E Via Colusa

Directions: Head east on Vista Chino to N. Avenida Caballeros and turn left. Then left again at Via Colusa. The destination will be on your right. You can also see the home from the back on Alejo Road. 1.6 miles

It was first reported in the Desert Sun that Frank Sinatra was planning to build a home in Palm Springs in February of 1946.

As architect E. Stewart Williams recalls, it all started during the summer of 1947 when “Frank came in with a white sailor hat and an ice cream cone and said, ‘I want that house.’” For Williams, it was his first residential commission.

Sinatra initially requested designs for a Georgian-style mansion with a brick façade and columns. He had just made his first million and wanted to celebrate in grand style. However, with renderings of a house composed of long horizontal tines and non-traditional building materials, Williams was able to lure Sinatra away from the idea of a Georgian house towards something more “desert appropriate.” Later, Roger Williams, Stewart’s architectural partner and brother, reflected “We’d have been ruined if we’d been forced to build Georgian in the desert.”

Williams’ renderings convinced Sinatra, and he handled over $150,000 for the air-conditioned Desert Modem house. The commission proved problematic from day one. Sinatra demanded that the house be ready for a Christmas party, which left only a few months to design and build the house. Construction proceeded around the clock and at an exorbitant cost, but the house was completed just in time for Sinatra to ring in the New Year.

Following Completion

The house set the standard for postwar Hollywood glamour and embodied the pinnacle of casual living. It became home to Sinatra and his family and served as a sensational backdrop for celebrity gatherings, passionate romance, violent heartbreak, and the ever-important cocktail hour.

Sinatra’s personal valet recalls the early days at Twin Palms when the three Sinatra children bounced around the house, adding life and excitement. However, Sinatra’s family life began to crumble as his public infidelities proved too difficult for his marriage; his tumultuous relationship with his wife, Nancy, ended in 1948 while the couple was living at Twin Palms. Sinatra’s long-time lover and second wife, Ava Gardner, soon replaced Nancy’s presence around the house.

Following his romantic scandals, Frank viewed Twin Palms as a place of respite from Hollywood gossip and a safe haven to unwind. His master bedroom, which inhabits its own wing of the house, provided him with much sought-after privacy.

The 1951 marriage of Gardner and Sinatra was one of the most fiery and turbulent in Hollywood history, and Twin Palms was the stage for their romantic drama. Gardner wrote in her autobiography, “It was the site of probably the most spectacular fight of our young married life, and honey, don‘t think I don’t know that’s really saying something… Frank’s establishment in Palm Springs, the only house we really could ever call our own, has seen some pretty amazing occurrences.”

Sinatra’s Temper was often Unrestrained

One of the original bathroom sinks in Twin Palms has a crack in the basin from a champagne bottle that Sinatra hurled at Gardner. During that same episode, Sinatra threw all of Gardner’s possessions out onto the driveway and kicked Gardner and Lana Turner out of the house.

Though the house was only accessible to Hollywood’s elite, the rest of the world caught a glimpse of Twin Palms in Joan Crawford’s 1950 film The Damned Don’t Cry. Sinatra apparently repaid a favor he owed by permitting his house to be used in the movie, though he was insistent that only shots of the exterior could be taken. The house received additional exposure when renowned architectural photographer Julius Shulman photographed it. Shulman’s stunning Twin Palms images capture the allure and simplistic grace of Harry Williams, a long-time villager design.

However, that same year, Sinatra played a supporting role in the film From Here to Eternity, a role that won him an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Following the movie, his career was on the upswing.

It is available to rent for various events, including private vacations, corporate events, retreats and functions, private events, and dinner parties. Commercial uses include photo, film, television, magazine, and movie opportunities.

frank sinatra palm springs home

sinatra house inside

Palm Springs High School – 2401 E Baristo Road

Directions: Head east on E. Via Colusa toward N. Hermosa Drive and turn right. Go to E. Alejo and turn left. Follow until you come to N. Farrell Drive, turn right, and then turn right again at E. Baristo. You will see the High School and baseball field. 1.6 miles.

The Palm Springs High School was often the location for the annual Policeman’s Ball. In February 1950, the musical entertainers included Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Al Jolson, Jack Benny, and Jane Russel.

Palm Springs Polo Grounds

This is the current location of the Palm Springs Baseball field next to the High school.  By 1951, there was such a large number of people wanting to attend the Policeman’s Ball they moved it outdoors to the Polo Grounds. Frank continued to be the entertainment with Bob Hope in 1951, and Dinah Shore joined the chorus.

Frank Sinatra 1958 PoliceShow

While this ends the Frank Sinatra Palm Springs Tour, learn about other places he hung out at that are no longer standing. This helps provide additional understanding how important Palm Springs was to Frank Sinatra.

Locations Frank Sinatra Frequented Now Demolished

Doll House – 1032 N Palm Canyon Drive

 The Doll House restaurant was a beloved establishment known for its unique charm and delicious cuisine. This quaint restaurant was housed in a charming dollhouse-like building, capturing the attention of locals and tourists alike.

Frank was frequently seen there with friends and his future wife Ava Gardner. Other guests would include Cary Grant, Joan Crawford, Marlene Deitrich, Jimmy Van Heusen, and Edgar Bergen.

After Christmas in 1951, Frank and his wife dined with Lana Turner and her husband, Fernando Lamas, who was filming The Merry Widow with Lana.

Its original location remains a vacant lot.

Frank Sinatra At Doll House

Doll House

 El Mirador Hotel – 1150 N Indian Canyon

 The El Mirador Hotel was located at what is now Desert Regional Hospital. The tower that currently exists was part of the original design but is not original due to a fire.

He was pictured at the Sweetheart Ball at El Mirador in February of 1956 as a featured singer.

Frank Sinatra At El MiradorHotel

 Saddle & Sirloin – 394 N Palm Canyon Drive

Dave Lyons’ new Saddle and Sirloin opened formally in November of 1948 with scores of friends and visitors congratulating him on his idea of the “new look.” The western atmosphere prevails throughout the restaurant, giving a feeling of comfort and friendliness from the saddle bar stools to the attractive hide-upholstered booths and the entertainment featuring Frank Sinatra with Jimmie Van Heusen.

Important guests included Ginger Rogers, Elizabeth Taylor, and Danny Thomas.

Chi Chi Club – 217 N Palm Canyon Drive.

The Chi Chi Club was located next to the Dunes. It opened in 1936 as the Desert Grill, a trendy café owned by Jack Freeman. Frank sang there during WWII to help raise money for war bonds.  He also spent time there with his good friend Jimmy Van Heusen.

The Starlight Room at the Chi Chi Club.

Chi Chi Club

The Racquet Club – 2743 N Indian Canyon

Frank often enjoyed dinner and cocktails at The Racquet Club. Remnants of it remain on Indian Canyon. He was also a big fundraiser for many organizations. In 1947, he sang at the Racquet Club for the Welfare and Friendly Aid Dinner to raise money for the Youth Center. Bob Hope and Rudy Vallee would join him.

He stared with Donna Reed in “From Here to Eternity” and was captured together at the Racquet Club in 1954.

Frank Sinatra Donna Reed

Other friends he would meet at the Racquet Club included Judy Holliday and Joan Collins.

Ruby’s Dunes – 238 N Palm Canyon Drive

Many Palm Springs restaurants have a history that spans decades. Ruby’s Dunes became one of the most famous celebrity hangouts. The restaurant started out as Harry’s Pool Hall and Café in 1929, owned by Harry and Josephine Mutascio. In 1942, Irwin “Ruby” Rubinstein and Al Wertheimer purchased a sizable interest in the restaurant, which later became Ruby’s Dunes.

Prior to his partnership with Wertheimer, “Ruby” conducted the orchestra and his wife Connie sang at the Wertheimer’s Dunes Casino until it burned down. After Wertheimer’s conviction for tax evasion in 1942, Ruby and Connie took over the ownership of Ruby’s Dunes.

Rubinstein credited Frank Sinatra for the success of his restaurant, saying Ol’ Blue Eyes always encouraged his celebrity friends to join him for dinner and drinks.

Joining Frank Sinatra on his holiday trip to Palm Springs were an unidentified man (from left), Jimmy Van Heusen, and Ruby Rubenstein at the opening of Ruby’s Dunes.

frank-sinatra-1961RubysDunes

The Stables

In 1929, Trav Rogers arrived in Palm Springs with a string of 15 horses. He built the 20-acre Rogers Ranch located on Chia Road in 1938, now a condo neighborhood by Sunrise and Vista Chino (1445 N. Sunrise Way). Known as Rogers Ranch, it served great steak dinners and had a large bar. Almost any evening, you would find villagers mingling with wranglers. A trio of country-style musicians provided the music. They had spare ribs, steaks, and a famous hot bean salad. Western wear was the order of the day.

Charlie Morrison purchased The Stables in 1947. He was a noted Southern California restaurateur of Macombo fame from Hollywood. He changed the name, and Frank Sinatra, Rudy Vallee, and Jimmy Durante performed at the popular village spot.

In 1948, Frank entertained at The Stables for one of the largest charity balls ever given in the area to benefit the Jewish Community Center House.

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