Why Marilyn Monroe Endures in Palm Springs

Nov 03

For over 50 years, Palm Springs has enjoyed close ties to Hollywood and remains a favorite spot for celebrities today. The biggest names in movies, television, stage and music have been drawn to the tranquility of our fair desert. Perhaps the biggest Hollywood icon who frequented Palm Springs was the legendary Marilyn Monroe, whose presence is felt here more than ever before, thanks to the ‘Forever Marilyn” statue in downtown Palm Springs. The painted bronze statue was created by artist Seward Johnson, capturing the iconic visual of Marilyn Monroe from the 1955 comedy “The Seven Year Itch” where her dress blows upward.

The backdrop of the beautiful San Jacinto mountains against the azure blue sky provides the ideal setting for Marilyn Monroe. After all, she was somewhat of a fixture here in Palm Springs. She was known to spend time here early in her career at the direction of her agent and manager, and later at the specific direction of the movie studio bosses. Palm Springs was a mecca for directors, producers, writers and other actors who escaped the hectic pace of Los Angeles to frolic in the sun and relax.

As a young Hollywood starlet, Miss Monroe knew how to mix and mingle with elite crowd who frequented hot spots like the Palm Springs Racquet Club. Here in this photo, Marilyn is perched on the end of a diving board at the pool. She certainly knew how to make the camera work for her. The influential studio bosses from Hollywood were also known to spend time in the desert, many owned homes here as seasonal residents. The combination of a relaxed resort community with idyllic weather, with plenty of “power players” spending time here afforded ample opportunity for many starlets to be seen by the people who wrote, directer and produced film projects.

Photo is from an article featured on SF Gate.com about Susan Bernard, daughter of Bruno Bernard, the photographer who “discovered” Monroe in July 1946, is the author behind “Marilyn: Intimate Exposures.

Hollywood works a bit differently today, but it is safe to say that Palm Springs has enjoyed a resurgence of Hollywood attention, in part due to the incredible Palm Springs International Film Festival which has attracted mega-watt stars back to the desert. Palm Springs caught the attention of a new generation of Hollywood filmmakers, from studio execs to Independent filmmakers as well.

Legends like Marilyn Monroe are part of the fabric of Palm Springs history in more ways than one. Visitors often ask to see the homes Marilyn Monroe lived in or visited. They want to walk Palm Canyon Drive and see her star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars. And now, of course people come to see the famous ‘Forever Marilyn’ statue that has its temporary home here in Palm Springs. Marilyn Monroe endures in Palm Springs because she brought the type of glamor and star power to this community that people never forget. Celebrities of every generation are still drawn to Palm Springs and enjoy doing exactly what Marilyn loved to do most while she was here, enjoy life and live in the moment.

Marilyn Monroe star has its home on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars

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Elvis & Priscilla Presley Homes in Palm Springs

Oct 27

Palm Springs is famous around the world for many things. Our desert paradise has nearly perfect weather year round, winter temps around 70, Spring and Fall in the 80’s, and Summer in the 100’s. With activities like golf, tennis, swimming, hiking, and horseback riding, there is plenty to do here. It is a short driving distance from Los Angeles, which during the Golden Age of Hollywood attracted famous singers, movie stars, directors, movie studio moguls and various members of the Hollywood elite.

To this day, Palm Springs continues to see its share of Presidents, Royalty, and titans of the business industry vacation here in our lovely desert. It has been said “there are more stars in Palm Springs than stars in the sky” which is ridiculous of course, but it makes the point. Celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Lucille Ball, Elvis and Priscilla Presley to name a few are part of the celebrity lore that people still associate with Palm Springs. There are a few Celebrity tour groups that drive around the desert showing visitors the vacation get-away homes of the stars. Speaking of Elvis and Priscilla Presley, I thought I’d mention that there has been more excitement regarding their residences here in the past few years. There are two homes whose owners now promote as places Elvis and Priscilla spent time in Palm Springs. Both are accurate. It just depends on what type of experience you are seeking.

One is the Elvis and Priscilla Presley Honeymoon Hideaway home, where they spent time after they were married. The other is a home Elvis actually owned and lived in, called the Palm Springs Elvis Estate. Neither home is a grand palatial estate.

They look nothing like Elvis’ Graceland home; but nevertheless they are places where Elvis and Priscilla spent time here in Palm Springs. There are plenty of Elvis fans who want the chance to spend a vacation living in the very place where Elvis walked. Luckily for those folks, these two homes offer that experience. Let’s face it, you can’t do that at Graceland.

So Palm Springs is the next best option if you are a crazy Elvis fan.

The celebrities of today are very low-key when then visit Palm Springs. Some stay at private home of a friend, others stay at a spa resort and enjoy the healing hot mineral waters of our desert. But many rent homes here, seeking a secluded, casual experience of being in a home where they won’t be bothered by hotel staff or peering tourists.

A new generation of celebrities are coming to the desert more frequently- perhaps some day those homes they rented or stayed in will be promoted as destinations to rent. Perhaps one day people can stay in the place where George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Zac Efron or Matt Damon stayed. You never know.

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Gene Autry, America’s Favorite Singing Cowboy

Oct 26

Back in 2009, one of Palm Springs famous former residents, the late Gene Autry was honored with a beautiful bronze statue in Palm Springs in his honor. Gene Autry was known as “The Singing Cowboy” from a thirty year career in radio, television and movies in the heyday of Hollywood. In addition to being an entertainer, Autry had a number of major hobbies, including owning the MLB team the Anaheim Angels (of Los Angeles). In fact the Anaheim Angels held their Spring training right here in Palm Springs for the entire time he owned the team. He invested wisely and owned a television station, multiple radio stations and a few hotel properties as well.

 

Gene Autry bought his first home in Palm Springs in 1940 and was an active member of our community. He was first discovered by another famous Hollywood cowboy, Roy Rogers who also spent time here in Palm Springs. If you’re like me, you probably remember Gene Autry for his signature song “Back in the Saddle” or his legendary Christmas album with his classic versions of “Here Comes Santa Claus”, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman”. (Those are among my favorites, with Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song”).

Gene Autry was also known for creating the Cowboy Code, which according to Autry a cowboy must:

1. Never shoot first, hit a smaller man, or take unfair advantage.

2. Never go back on his word, or a trust confided in him.

3. Always tell the truth.

4. Be gentle with children, the elderly and animals.

5. Not advocate or possess racially or religiously intolerant ideas.

6. Help people in distress.

7. Be a good worker.

8. Keep himself clean in thought, speech, action and personal habits.

9. Respect women, parents and his nation’s laws.

10. Be a patriot.

His “Cowboy Code” still seems to make sense to me, even all these years later, don’t you agree? When Gene Autry died in 1998, he was one of the 400 richest Americans, with a net worth of over $320 million. Today, his widow maintains the nonprofit Gene Autry Foundation, which has donated over $280 million to all sorts of charities here in the Coachella Valley and beyond. Gene Autry Trail is a major street here in Palm Springs, upon which I travel frequently. It is fitting that there is a beautiful bronze statue in his honor right on the street that also bears his name.

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