Vintage Palm Springs Blog

Ol' Blue Eyes and The Palms: Springing to Life


Ol' Blue Eyes and The Palms: Springing to Life

by Diana Castellanos.


Cue, "Fly Me to The Moon" by Frank Sinatra as you coast down the 111 while looking and the lavender and pink desert ambiance.

It almost feels right, with Ol' Blue Eyes playing on the radio. Like it was meant to be there.

Little do we know that Ol' Blue Eyes had a major influence on the social development of Palm Springs.

The world-known Jazz Musician began his life in Palm Springs in 1947, when he was on the search for a home to get away from the busy city life of Hollywood. Sinatra then commissioned for a Georgian-style home, which seemed very off fitting for the ambiance of the lavender desert. His then architect, E. Stewart Williams, convinced him to go into Desert Modern, which brought what we know today as the 'Twin Palms' to life.

Frank Sinatra played a major role in moving and introducing the Palm Springs lifestyle to many celebrities, inclusive of the Rat Pack friends that he spent most of his time and life with. There was even a long-time saying that when Frank wanted to have his friends over for Happy Hour, he would raise a flag between the two palms to notify them of this. Today, one can rent the Twin Palms for a mere $2k a night that is complete with a piano-shaped pool and Sinatra's original recording system where he would invite his Rat Pack friends - Dean, Sammy, Peter, and Joey - to collaborate or just hang out with Sinatra's favorite whiskey, Jack Daniels.

However, this was not the last of the architectures that Sinatra indulged in.

After divorcing his then-wife Ava Gardner, he moved to Rancho Mirage to a place where the guest quarters alone was the size of the Twin Palms. This particular location can be found along the street commemorating the singer, Frank Sinatra Drive, and is known as 'The Compound'. Although this attraction isn't open to visitors, one can view the plaque commemorating Ol' Blue Eyes, and keeping much of Frank's old collections. The Rancho Mirage location was originally called The Tamarisk Country Club, that was founded by the Marx brothers against the Thunderbird (that was claimed to not allow Jewish people into the venue at the time). Sinatra made a bold statement by moving into a Jewish country club; but although the man had a strong personality, this was just the genesis of his humility and generosity of the singer to the people in the city that was endeared as his home.

Soon after, the jazz icon commissioned another home to be built, Villa Maggio, that was solely for the purpose of entertainment and guests. The location contained 9 bathrooms and 8 rooms, as well as another recording studio. It is said that he had well-known stars and politicians stayed at the Villa, including JFK, who was to stay for a second time. Here comes Robert Kennedy, who was made aware of a seemingly Capone lifestyle of Sinatra, who influenced the Kennedy's to decline the stay last minute. It is said that Sinatra flipped the political leaf from that moment forward, voting Republican for the remainder of his life. If it is not already obvious that the singer had a short temper, to balance the mood, he was also known for his philanthropic attitude and willingness to help those in need.

Per the Desert Sun, Sinatra's generosity permeated and was more common in his Palm Springs Oasis, than Los Angeles. In the article, it is said that the singer was a religious reader of the Desert Sun; and if he were to read about a lady's trailer had burned down, he would send an anonymous check to the lady to replace it. Overall, Sinatra was first in line to provide help to those in need with what he had, giving a hedonist view on grace and provision to those that needed it the most. It is important to note that around these times, Palm Springs still had not reached its peak developmental stage; but with Sinatra as the epicenter of initiating the architectural movement that became known as Desert Modernism, Palm Springs concreted the style that we all affiliate with it today.

Desert modernism involved very rectangular and linear edges with seemingly triangular endpoints. A great example of this was that of the Twin Palms, Sinatra's first home in the desert oasis he loved. But if it wasn't for the singer himself, the Rat Pack and other celebrities would not have also initiated commissions to build their homes there as well. If one was to take a tour today, other Rat Pack buddies also had homes built: Dean Martin, with his Via Monte Vista abode, as well Peter Crawford, who lived a couple doors down from Dean, who could, "walk to his house without spilling his martini." Although the Rat Pack didn't follow in Sinatra's design of California Desert Modern, the stars now all had a place to escape their busy lives of Hollywood and the music industry breathing down their neck and to hang out as often as they could away from it all.

In Palm Springs, there was a location more affiliated with Ol' Blue that was more well-known than the Twin Palms itself: Melvyn's. Melvyn's Restaurant was the ceremonial venue for the wedding to Sinatra's fourth wife, Barbara Marx. Melvyn's is today a staple of Old World hotel rooms and great dinner reservations for those in Palm Springs in a getaway or a visit to the desert palms.

Sinatra's fourth (and thankfully final) wife Barbara was a figure in Sinatra's life that really motivated him to continue and fulfill the last years of his life in Palms Springs. Marx took the help of her designer, Bernice Korshak, to vamp 'The Compound' into the bright orange heaven the Sinatras could soak in, as he considered orange to be "the happiest color." That once cherish Compound amounted and inspired the Sinatras to arise to establish what is known today as the Barbara Sinatra Children's Center. The Children's Center was opened with the idea of helping victims of child abuse and focusing on the mental health of children, as well as abuse prevention. Although the center has dwindled down in regards to programs and services offered, the edifice still stands today with a commemoration of the philanthropic nature of the Sinatra's the bled into the Palm Springs community.

Sinatra spent the last years of his life in Palm Springs, having his 70th birthday at Lord Fletchers, where they still serve some of Blue's favorite and commonly ordered dishes. Sinatra eventually passed away in 1998 and was buried in Palm Springs' Desert Memorial Park alongside his parents and the co-producer of "Fly Me to the Moon", Jimmy Van Heusen.

Although we more commonly know Sinatra for his proud Italian personality and belting some of his most listened and enriched jazz tunes in Hollywood, Sinatra's love and true home was that of Palm Springs. Tours are available for most of the hangouts that he would frequent with his buddies and wives, but the more important thing to note is the vibe that Sinatra birthed and established in the town of Palm Springs during his life there.

Sing on Ol' Blue Eyes, while we bask in what you gave birth to in the desert modern oasis that you loved: Palm Springs. ____________________________________________________________________________

References atra-doc-takes-deep-dive-into-his-life-palm-springs-place-he-called-home/331006002/

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