Since the 1920s, when it was little more than a dusty outpost, Palm Springs has had a close and storied history with the entertainment industry.
Due to it’s proximity to Hollywood (being just over 100 miles out of Los Angeles, it adhered to the Two-Hour Rule that studios placed on contract players, who had to be available for last-minute photo/film shoots), Golden Age stars flocked in droves to the low-desert community for quick and convenient getaways. Many — Liberace, Dean Martin, Loretta Young and Walt Disney among them — bought hideaway homes, and nowadays, real estate agents, property managers and homeowners in the once-again-swinging, resort-oriented community frequently tout a property’s celebrity pedigree when it’s put up for sale or made available as a vacation rental.
Bob Hope’s spectacularly wacky, flying-torus-shaped architectural extravaganza in the gated Southridge enclave first popped up for sale in early
2013, with an international-publicity-generating $50 million price tag that has since been dramatically hacked to $25 million. Several real estate-obsessed desert dwellers we conferred with think that still-astronomical figure is probably still overly quixotic.
Just east of downtown, in the heart of the Movie Colony — so dubbed due to the density of silver screen stars who owned homes in the ’hood, a sprawling five-bedroom hacienda-style estate, originally owned by silent film star Harold Lloyd and renovated about 10 years ago under the direction of a Feng Shui expert, recently popped up at just under $3 million. A few blocks away, in the slightly less coveted El Mirador neighborhood, another 1930s hacienda, said to have been the desert bolt-hole of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz in the 1940s and ’50s, is available at $1.8 million, or can alternatively be leased for about $7,000 a week during high season.
Elvis took his young bride Priscilla to Palm Springs for their 1967 honeymoon, and holed up in wedded bliss in a quirky, mid-century modern nestled up against the rugged mountains west of downtown in the upscale Vista Las Palmas neighborhood. The William Krisel-designed residence, a veritable time capsule the current owner has filled with memorabilia that includes the couple’s original lease, first came up for sale about a year and a half ago, with an in-hindsight ludicrously optimistic asking price of $9.5 million, and remains up for grabs at a sliver more than $6.9 million.
|TONY CURTIS ESTATE: 19k per month, 3,200 sq. ft, 5 bedrooms, 5 baths
Courtesy of Vacation Palm Springs
If a big mortgage and ongoing upkeep costs aren’t what’s desired, but rubbing up against the residue of Golden Age stardom is, there are handfuls of short-term vacation rentals all across Palm Springs giddily marketed as previously owned or occupied by a slew of showbiz icons. Twin Palms, the renowned escape of Frank Sinatra, was custom-designed for the blue-eyed crooner in the late 1940s by architect E. Stewart Williams, who fashioned a low-slung, 4,500-square-foot modernist residence with vast walls of glass sliders that open to a swimming pool in the shape of a grand piano. When in residence, the Rat Pack leader would hoist a Jack Daniels banner up his flagpole to let his famous neighbors like Bing Crosby and Jack Benny know that the evening’s cocktail hour had commenced. The four-bedroom and seven-bathroom spread, with Sinatra’s now non-functional recording studio intact, is available for private events and/or three-night minimum stays at $2,600 per night.
Starting at about $700 per night, a far less costly option that’s just around the corner from Sinatra’s place on a discreet cul-de-sac is Camp Curtis, a five-bedroom and five-bathroom mid-century modern, designed in 1960 by celebrated desert modernist architect Donald Wexler, and formerly owned by Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh.
On a three acres in the craggy foothills above the northern end of downtown, in the pricey and sometimes wind-tossed Little Tuscany neighborhood, a 5,000-square-foot glass-walled mid-century residence with 360-degree mountain and valley views was once owned by “My Fair Lady” and “Camelot” composer Frederick Loewe and can be had, temporarily at least, by those with deep pockets, at about $8,000 per week during the prime winter season.
At the southern, less windy end of town, in the secluded Araby Cove neighborhood, a recently overhauled mid-century modern once owned by eccentric recluse Howard Hughes can be more affordably rented with a three-night minimum starting at about $350 per night. Later owners of the elevated, city view mini-estate are said to include comedy writer Paul Keyes (“The Dean Martin Show,” “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In”) and Eva Gabor. And, so the stories go, uber-producer Robert Evans honeymooned here with one or another of his half-dozen ex-wives.
Arguably the mac daddy of Palm Springs vacation rentals is located in the historic estate section of Old Las Palmas, a downtown-adjacent, Beverly Hills-style neighborhood where most homes hide behind high walls and even higher, perfectly manicured privet hedges. A tennis court estate with a sprawling, Wexler-designed residence that was originally built for desert-loving entertainer Dinah Shore was sold two years ago for just over $5.2 million, and the new owner, much rumored by locals and celebrity real estate tongue-waggers to be Leo DiCaprio, makes the property available starting at a stratospheric $4,500 per night, with a three-night minimum stay.