Mom and Dad have been wintering in Palm Springs again, so we decided to check out the week celebrating Mid Century Modern architecture. What I didn’t bargain for was the traffic during what turned out to be a
record breaking number of visitors in the Cochella Valley. Over 45,000 people had the same idea about spending Valentines Day weekend in the dessert along with President Obama who flew in for a Presidents Day break.
It was a grueling bumper to bumper 3 1/2 hour trip (normally only a 2 hour journey) from LA, but it was quite a site to see Air Force One parked on the runway at the tiny Palm Springs Airport. Lucky for us all, the president spent most of his time playing golf at Sunnylands in Rancho Mirage.
Whether it is commercial real estate or residential, I am a huge fan of Modernism’s clean lines against the rugged backdrop of the mountains. The walls of glass create that indoor/outdoor flow that celebrates the glorious winter climate (sunny with temps in the 70’s-80’s) so well.
It isn’t hard to understand why Hollywood’s Golden Era flocked here in droves – the latest among them being Leonardo DiCaprio who just purchased Dinah Shore’s old home. Part of the reason Palm Springs became so popular was it was the furthest distance the stars under studio contracts could travel for the weekend in case they were needed back in Los Angeles for reshoots.
Architects of note include Quincy Jones, Donald Wexler, Charles DuBois, John Lautner, Palmer & Krisel, Neutra, and E. Stewart Williams whose first ever home was commissioned by none other than Frank Sinatra. Can you imagine getting that call at the beginning of your career?
Of course we squeezed in a little time for a spot of shopping on El Paseo and taking in the art at the Palm Springs Museum in Palm Dessert. The sculpture garden there is quite divine. I could have quite happily spent the afternoon sitting in the shade by the fountain reading all day long…
… but we had Martinis on top of the mountain to get to. At Ojo del Desierto to be exact. The “Eye of the Desert” was the winter home of oilman Thomas O’Donnell and his wife. Built in 1925, it was the only home to sit high up in the San Jacinto mountains with breathtaking views until the 1960’s.
After taking in the city lights, cocktails, finger food, and music – we beelined it for a night cap at the the Seguro Hotel (formerly the Palm Springs Holiday Inn). I’m told the boutique hotel’s angular pool is quite the pool party hotspot in the summertime, and the bar was quite lively with a much younger crowd too.
Of course the highlight of the whole week was the tour of Twin Palms. I should preface this with the story about when Nick and I took Mom to see Frank Sinatra at Carnegie Hall. Suffice it to say, I never knew quite how big a fan she was until we watched mom transform into a giddy 14 year old teeny-bopper before our very eyes that evening! Going to see Frank’s first home in the desert, where he lived with his first two wives, was bound to be memorable.
The second Mrs. Sinatra, actress Ava Gardner called Twin Palms “the only house we ever really could call our own” in her memoirs. “… 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.” She was referring to the bathroom sink Frank chipped when he threw a bottle of Champagne in anger – the crack is still there today.
The 3500 square foot home built in 1947 is far from pretentious, but it does ooze style. One can’t help but feel a certain reverence when standing in the very room where many of his albums had been recorded, and the Rat Pack played.
According to local lore, planes would aim for the twin palms to find their way into Palm Springs, and there was a huge flagpole by the famous piano shape pool that would let people know when they were welcome. If the flag was up, the party was on!
While we’re enjoying the divine weather and indoor/outdoor lifestyle of Palm Springs – why not enjoy some yummy grilled finger food by the pool too? I wonder of Frank Sinatra would have enjoyed my…
Cilantro-Cumin Beef Wraps
Flank steak is an inexpensive cut of beef that will stretch a long way with this recipe. If you’d rather not know “where’s the beef?” Try the same marinade with chicken for an equally delicious white meat version.