Someone who spends as much of his life as he can snuggled down in the bottle-green mountains of British Columbia, covered with a lush rug of Douglas fir and cedar, at first finds the mountains that encircle the playpen of Palm Springs rather starkers and uninteresting. The Santa Rosa mountains, which provide a protective barrier against the smog of Los Angeles, 160 km away on the ocean, and the San Gorgonio range that slopes away to the east are bereft of trees, naked as a jaybird. After awhile, watching the slant of the sun throughout the day—a major project for a man whose brain is idling in neutral—one begins to understand the everchanging beauty of this desert oasis and the advantages of having mountains that are undressed.
Because they do not have that deep-pile carpet of foliage, the solid angular rocky crust beneath absorbs and plays with all the shadows and angles of the boring sun, modulating each hour and changing the face of the slopes from pink to mauve to purple, a wall-to-wall mural that changes from dawn to sundown. Amazingly, an expert in mountains realizes that nude can be more interesting than clothed. I will always, thereafter, think of B.C. mountains as shy brutes afraid to come out of the closet and brandish their skeletons.
Luckily, Palm Springs itself suffers no such inhibition. As a collector of esotérica, a chap who always envisages himself as a startling visitor from Mars alighting among strange earthlings, I find this the mother lode. Here is Homo sapiens in self-caricature, an old black-and-white 1940s movie walking around in Technicolor, where the colors don’t quite match and one must wear sunglasses even at midnight—not because of the lights but because of fear of cornea damage from the hand-painted ties of the male guests. The home of Bob Hope, a giant dome that somewhat resembles a curdled pancake that droops at the edges, hovers the highest on the nearest protective 2,500-m mountain,
Allan Fotheringham is a columnist for Southam News.
proudly pointed out by the locals to gawking tourists, proof indeed that Hope’s architectural tastes are as antediluvian as his telegraphed jokes. There is Bob Hope Drive, Frank Sinatra Drive, Fred Waring Drive. Gerald Ford, the president who fell down a lot (an achievement surpassed only by his public pardon of Richard Milhous “I am not a crook” Nixon, the well-known crook) wanted a drive named after him, since he hits people on the head with golf balls at the Thunderbird Country Club, but local sentiment squelched the idea. When Fred Waring has a lock on the
white-shoe generation, mere ex-presidents finish down the track.
There is Victor Mature, broad in the shoulders, cunningly tailored around the waist—Tony Riccio, restaurateur buddy of Sinatra’s—serving superb private dinner parties for the Palm Springs glitterati, all of whom are legends in their own minds. His lady, devastatingly cléavaged, bej angled, begowned and blond-blond, is Jeannine Monique Levitt, who in a previous incarnation was married to one of the gillionaires who built Levittown on Long Island, the model for all of American suburbia. Jeannine, Mr. Levitt having expired, hit Palm Springs like a female version of Maurice Chevalier. (Like Chevalier, like Laurier LaPierre, like Jack Webster, she shrewdly discovered the advantage a sexy, slightly incomprehensible accent strikes among local yokels and, while dazzling in her conversation, is almost mysterious in the nuances of her straightforward speech. One merely breathes deeply, ingesting
the perfume from the cleavage—which is not only better than cocaine but cheaper—and nods dreamily.)
Jeannine Levitt, raised in a convent in France, graduated to a New York tycoon, soon had Palm Springs at her feet and decided to run for mayor this year—the first time this refuge of pastel had ventured the dangerous prospect of actually electing its chief magistrate. Her main platform—a visionary from French convents set among these Philistines in Lacoste tennis shirts—was a proposal for moving sidewalks, an obvious head start for
those attempting to make their way home from the golf club after an afternoon with deadly margaritas, which have claimed more victims than rattle snakes in this parched mecca. Alas, she became the victim of vicious gossip, which strikes this community like crabgrass in more mundane locales, and tearfully withdrew. The first democratically elected mayor in Palm Springs’s peroxide history turned out to be cowboyhatted Frank Bogert (could you make it up?), obeating out one John æWeston, who takes the society photographs.
2 Oh, it is all so vile. There disgraceful lawsuit be-
tween the two prime plastic surgeons, Dr. Mohammad Reza Mazaheri and Dr. Borko Djordjevic, as to who actually did Betty Ford’s face-lift. There are those disgraceful four-color ads taken out in Palm Springs Life by the swinging dentist Dr. Charles Block, his cleavage split to his oxygen tank, inviting all affluent widows in for deep breathing. One observes and one sees the future of Western civilization.
As an antidote, there is a trendy afternoon tearoom in Los Angeles called Trumps. On a Saturday afternoon it is filled to a corner with a Sweet 16 party, prematurely aged teenagers down from the Beverly Hills hot tubs, dressed in Vogue’s latest advice as to why 16-year-olds should look like 22year-old miniskirted hookers. Their stage mothers, dripping tweed and envy, hover as the overseers of two dozen incipient Brooke Shields. One looks into the tea and weeps. Listen to California. California is your future.
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