Hidden Meeting Gems
Palm Springs has been the desert playground of the stars since the 1950s when Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, Dinah Shore, and Elvis Presley adopted it as their glam L.A. getaway for pool parties, honeymoons, affairs, golf, tennis and year-round sunshine. Those celebrities are gone, but dedication to historic architectural preservation has ensured plenty of these fun bygone-era event spaces in Palm Springs. They can be viewed by groups through entertaining 90-150 minute drive-by tours given by Kurt Cyr of Palm Springs Mod Squad and author Mike Stern of The Modern Tour. To really experience how swinging Hollywood played, select celebrity properties are available as rentals for private retreats and events.
Dinah Shore’s Oasis
One of SoCal’s finest examples of Mid-Century architecture, the iconic Dinah Shore Estate, now known as 432 Hermosa, is a Mid-Century classic as famous for its owner’s parties as its architect: the renowned Donald Wexler. The 6-bedroom, 1.3-acre compound is exceptionally private, fully-furnished, and event-ready for cocktail and dinner soirees, pool parties, tennis matches, and corporate retreats. At the Retro Martini Party for Palm Spring’s Modernism Week guests were serenaded around the property’s grand piano, while a black-and-white video of Miss Shore singing her hits played in on the huge screen in the media room. Adding to the prestige, Leonardo DiCaprio recently bought the house expressly to rent for $4,500 a night.
Kirk Douglas’ House
Adjacent to Shore’s home is Oscar-winning actor Kirk Douglas’ retro-chic 1955 residence. The colorful, four-bedroom estate features indoor-outdoor living, an open floor plan, mod décor, and an resort-style yard complete with a pool, al fresco dining, an outdoor living room with fireplace, two-person outdoor shower, tanning deck and a barbecue. Located in the Movie Colony East neighborhood, the home rents for $2,020 a night via Acme House Co.
Frank Sinatra’s Party Pad
When Ol’ Blue Eyes got his first big Hollywood check, he commissioned architect E. Stewart Williams to design his 1947 Twin Palms estate. The four-bedroom dream house was built for crooning and carousing and still boasts classic Hollywood charm. Many of Sinatra’s original touches are here, like the grand piano, piano-shaped pool, and vintage audio system, plus newer furnishings hand-picked with respect to vintage style. The outdoor terrace is a party paradise with an outdoor terrace and a pool house with changing cabanas, a wet bar and kitchenette. Event planners can doo-be-doo-be-doo as Sinatra did, and hoist a Jack Daniels flag to signal that the party has started. The house rents for $2,450 a night via HomeAway.
The Rat Pack’s Hot Spot
The 398-guestroom Riviera Palm Springs Resort opened in 1959 and immediately became the go-to spot for Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin, who especially loved the poolside Presidential Suite. Elvis Presley frequently sought both refuge and rehearsal space in the events spaces which include seven Summit Rooms and three ballrooms, such as the oval 19,670-square-foot Grand Ballroom which has held concerts by Sinatra, Desi Arnaz, Count Basie, Tommy Dorsey, and even Beyonce. After a just-completed restoration, the Riviera is much as it was in its prime, once again featuring tiki parties, chic pool and bar scenes, and vintage car conventions as Starwood’s latest Tribute Portfolio Resort.
Gerald Ford’s Boardroom
Set high on a desert bluff overlooking Palm Springs, the 244-room Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage and its 12 function rooms are the unofficial headquarters for Palm Springs society. For the ultimate power meeting, VIPs and CEOs book the 20-seat Boardroom which originally served as the meeting space for former president Gerald Ford when he retired to the desert in 1978. It’s a unique time-capsule, paneled in dark wood, decorated with framed historical photos, and featuring a secret door where Ford and his secret service team would enter from the underground garage.