Friday, February 17, 2012

Hooray for Hollywood — and Palm Springs, too!

It's Modernism Week in Palm Springs, so we picked up a couple of self-driving maps (one for architecture, one for celebrity homes) at the Visitors Center (a former gas station designed by Albert Frey) and set off on a beautiful and sunny morning to see what we could see. Turns out it was mainly a tour of gates, but we had a terrific time nonetheless. At just $5 a pop the maps are fun little investment. The only lament is that the star map tends to overlook mentioning the architects, many of whom became stars in their own right. Perhaps they'll remedy that in a future printing. But for now, a virtual tour. 

Happy peering!

Elvis and Priscilla Presley's home (um, the owners go above and beyond making that clear) on Chino Canyon was built in 1946 for Richard McDonald, co-founder of the hamburger chain. Elvis purchased the house in 1970 (for $85,000) and he still owned it at the time of his death in 1977. Ronald McDonald *and* The King. Does the National Trust have a Pop Culture award? 

Zsa Zsa Gabor's place (or so it's believed, there seems to be some disagreement) just a few doors down from the Presley house. The curious finials gave us pause...

Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn's hacienda is visible through a couple of gates but this one is the pedestrian entrance (and I think a relatively recent addition). The house meanders back quite a bit, so it really must have felt like a true hideaway. "I never lose sight of the fact that just being is fun," Hepburn once said. We couldn't have agreed more, lazily driving around the old neighborhoods and sipping our coffee.

Nancy and Ronald Reagan called this place home while he was governor of California, but they eventually sold it and stayed with the Annenbergs at Sunnylands on desert trips during his presidency. Can't say that we blame them. Sunnylands was—and still is—the epitome of desert chic.

Built by a Vegas tycoon in 1924, this is also the former home of Elizabeth Taylor. Just driving by the gates you do get a pretty good glimpse of the living room—and it looks like the interiors are just as beautifully maintained as the exterior. It reminded me of La Mirada, the most romantic house in Monterey, where Taylor and Richard Burton stayed while filming The Sandpiper in 1965. Perhaps it reminded her of that historic little adobe, too.

Kirk Douglas' family get-away, which he kept until 1999.

This home, which belonged to Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, may have been my favorite of the day.

The former (and astonishingly accessible) Alexander-designed home of Dean and Jeanne Martin.

Peter Lawford's place, long-rumored to be the site of a Kennedy/Monroe rendezvous. She did live just up the street...

In fact, right here. Marilyn's former home is a quirky little bungalow with beautiful tilework and a patio to the right that looks directly up to the mountains. The house is in slightly sad shape (or maybe it's just the landscaping) but there's still something glamorous about it, especially the black and white awnings.

Debbie Reynolds' former home. “She is one of the most delightful persons you could ever meet," Frank Sinatra once said of his co-star in 1955's The Tender Trap.

Twin Palms, Sinatra's legendary estate was built by E. Stewart Williams in 1946. Don't be fooled by the maps that say it's on Alejo, that's the service entrance. Drive around to the other side of the block, where you'll find this, the main entrance, and the iconic palms that still stretch skyward from the piano-shaped pool.

And no driving tour would be complete without a spin around Ladera Circle for the hugely famous Honeymoon Hideaway, home to local builder (and local legend) Robert Alexander, and later rented by Elvis Presley in 1966. Elvis and Priscilla had intended to marry at the house but celebrity gossip (and neighbor) Rona Barrett blew their cover, and they married in Las Vegas instead, thanks to the loan of Sinatra's jet. The couple lived in the house until 1968.

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