Palm Springs

by Wendy VanHatten

According to anthropologists, Native Americans have lived beside the sparkling waters of Palm Springs’ tree-lined canyons and all around the bubbling hot springs for over a thousand years. Many years later the desert welcomed Mary Pickford, Lucille Ball, Cary Grant, Bob Hope, Clark Gable, Steve McQueen, Doris Day, Marlene Dietrich, Frank Sinatra, Greta Garbo, Marilyn Monroe, Spencer Tracy, Kathryn Hepburn, the Gabor sisters, Elvis…you get the idea.

Hollywood studios used to require their actors travel no more than two hours away. So, the desert became their escape from the Hollywood goldfish bowl.

Presidents starting with Herbert Hoover in 1936, FDR, Eisenhower, Truman, JKF, LBJ, and more joined the group at one time or another. During World War II, the desert became the training ground for General Patton’s troops as they prepared to invade North Africa. Italian prisoners of war were housed here.

Walt Disney first came to the desert in 1936 to ride horses, play Polo, and camp out like the cowboys he admired. Mickey came to life and Walt sold his first home here to finance an amusement park. Disneyland’s success brought him back here to purchase an even larger home.

Bob Hope was appointed honorary Mayor. So was his wife Delores. And, then there was Sony Bono.

Elvis Presley’s home, now called Graceland West, is only one of two homes ever owned by Elvis. Marilyn Monroe’s 50’s style bungalow is classic old Hollywood. Abundant wildflowers, evergreens and palms line the front walkway leading up to the black and white canopied entry way. Spanish tiles accent the entire look.

That was then. Today on Forbes 400 list of the country’s most wealthy people, 28 have homes in the Palm Springs area. Resorts boast first class manicured golf courses and cabanas tucked behind high vine covered walls. Spas offer Botox and breast implants on their treatment menus.

If You Go: There’s something about getting a glimpse of those stars’ homes, even though by today’s standards they may surprise you with their deceptively low key looks and less than opulent exteriors. Buy a map and take a walking tour for the best way to see them up close. Or as close as you can, that is.