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Meet Frank Sinatra through Mel Habor

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Mel Haber was a notable figure in Palm Springs known for being the owner and proprietor of the Ingleside Inn (now Ingleside Estate) and Melvyn’s, the on-site restaurant, from 1975 until his death on October 25, 2016. He moved to California in 1974 and purchased the Ingleside Inn a year later after falling in love with it during a vacation from Los Angeles. Melvyn’s Restaurant became a hotspot for celebrities and notable figures.

Beyond his business ventures, Haber was also recognized for his charitable work. He served on the board of the Angel View Crippled Children’s Foundation for over 25 years. He was also involved with the SafeHouse of the Desert, an organization dedicated to the well-being of homeless, abandoned, and abused children.

An elderly man with white hair and glasses smiling at the camera, wearing a dark suit and tie, at an event with tables set in the background.

Waiting For The Sinatra Visit

Mel Haber was pretty bummed at first because Frank Sinatra had not come to his place after three months of being opened. He felt he hadn’t made it unless Sinatra came for dinner. He noted, “In those days, Palm Springswas a small village and everybody knew where Sinatra was all the time. You would hear he’s having dinner here, he went over to this lounge or ver there.” Then, one night, he got word that he was on his way. After that faitful night, he made Melvy’s one of his regular places to dine.

Frank always arrived with a party of about severn or eight. This group always included Barbara Marx and the people he viewed as his inside colleagues. “There was Jimmy VanHeusen, the songwriter. Leo Derousher, the baseball guy. There was a guy named Ruby who owned Ruby’s Dunes.” Sinatra was very loyal to the people who had been there for him through the years, and he included them in his inner circle wherever he went. Ruby fed Frank when he was down until his comebak in “From Here To Eternity.”

Melvyns Restaurant

Haber called over the maitre and said, “Brian, what do you remember about Sinatra?”  Brian said, “Well, there is one thing that sticks out in my mind. We have had four Presidents in this establishment. Interestingly, none of them carried the aura that Frank Sinatra did.”

Mel added, “He would come into Melvy’s and stand in front of the bar. I’m not sure why, maybe to make his presence known, but in any case, that wouldn’t have been necessary. If Sinatra was here, everyone knew it. He made it clear that he didn’t want pictures taken of him. So even though I desperately wanted a picture of myself with him, I knew that was out of the question.”

One night, a photographer friend knew Mel wanted a picture with Frank, so he told Mel to position himself near Frank and the man he was talking to. He said, “I’m going to get that picture for you.” So, the picture was timed to include Mel Haber.

Black and white photograph displayed in a frame on a wall, capturing a moment where two older men in formal attire with bow ties are having a conversation. The man on the right appears to be gesturing with his hand while talking to the man on the left.

The stories about Frank Sinatra’s generosity is true. When he arrived at Melvyn’s he would ask how many people were involved in accommodating his very early dinner reservation.  Then, at a certain point, he asked the maitre to bring in the staff, and he would ceremoniously hand each of them a $100 bill.

When asked about what Sinatra liked to eat, Mel said, “He was a veal man. He was very meticulous. He was meticulous right down to how the vegetables should be placed and how they should be cooked. He really knew his food. He was really into it.”

Melvyns Restaurant

A Special Sinatra Dinner Party

With Palm Springs being a much smaller village at the time, Mr. Haber’s connections were extensive. In 1976, he was informed by a confidante that Frank was on his way to Melvyn’s to plan a special dinner party. He was also told dinner party was the rehearsal dinner party for his wedding to Barbara Marx.

As Mel tells the story, “Frank Sinatra came in, started planning the dinner, and asked me if we had black or gray caviar. I knew I was over my head, so I took a guess and said balck caviar, which turned out to be the right answer.” Once the dinner was planned, Mel never let on he knew the real reason for the dinner. He recalls, “Mr. S gave me the highest compliment.” He said, “Mishpachan, which is the Hebrew word for you are family.”

A smiling man and woman dressed in formal wear holding champagne glasses, with a background of balloons and flowers.

Mel through his pre-wedding dinner would make national news. However, the pre-wedding dinner was on a Saturday in the summer. He got married on Sunday at the Annenberg Estate (Sunnylands), so by the time the papers came out on Monday the wedding got all the press not the pre-wedding dinner.

Nevertheless, Frank Sinatra’s rehearsal dinner party at Melvyn’s for his wedding to Barbara was a significant event in Palm Springs’ social history. This event was one of many that solidified Melvyn’s reputation as a gathering place for celebrities and notable figures.

ELVYN’S RESTAURANT AND LOUNGE    
200 W Ramon Road | 760-325-2323

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