Hollywood in the Desert

by Bob Sparrow

Charlie Farrell and Dinah Shore

I spent last week in the desert . . . whining & dining, the whining mostly took place on the golf course.  Even though it was our 32nd year visiting our timeshare at Marriott Desert Springs in Palm Desert, I’ve found, unlike me, it never gets old.  But you won’t be hearing about my golf game (Thank God!) or the next great place to eat in the desert.  I have something even more mundane than that to discuss this week.

On our way out to the desert on Highway 10, as went by the road sign that read Bob Hope Drive, and it got me thinking about all the streets in this area that are named after celebrities, like Frank Sinatra, Burns & Allen, Bing Crosby, Barbara Stanwyck, Danny Kaye, Ginger Rogers, Dean Martin, Jack Benny, Liberace and many more.

And I wondered, who started all this?  Well, a little research revealed that it was Charlie Farrell, the tennis playing movie star turned hotelier turned mayor and owner of the glamorous Racket Club in Palm Springs.  He saw value in recognizing celebrities, so he and fellow actor, Ralph Bellamy, realized that many actors took advantage of Hollywood’s ‘two-hour clause’ in their contracts, which stated, in the event a ‘re-shoot’ was needed, actors had to stay within two hours of Hollywood – Palm Springs is just under two-hours away.  For those old enough to remember the old television series, My Little Margie, Charlie played Margie’s father.  And yes, of course, there is a Ferrell Drive in Palm Springs.

Other notable ‘street stories’ . . .

Which door does Monty Hall live behind?

Monty Hall Street in 2000 former Let’s Make a Deal host Monty Hall had a street in Palm Springs named after him. Tourists were encouraged to guess which house he lived in. They were asked, “Does Monty live behind door No. 1, door No. 2, or door No. 3?

Fred Waring Drive – Another interesting resident of the desert was Fred Waring, an American musician, bandleader and radio and television personality.  Many of you, who have blended a Margarita, may have used a Waring Blender, and while he didn’t invent it, his name is on it because he was the money and marketing behind the product.

Gene Autry Trail – The “Singing Cowboy”, was a movie and TV star of the ‘40s and ‘50s and a Palm Springs entrepreneur.  He bought his first Palm Springs home in 1940, and a Palm Springs Holiday Inn in 1961, which he turned into the Gene Autry Hotel; his mid-century residence on the hotel grounds is an elegant guest suite.

Kirk Douglas Way – movie star Kirk Douglas, who passed away just four years ago at the ripe old age of 103, was a resident of Palm Springs for more than 40 years.  His house backed up to Dinah Shore’s house in the celebrity-packed Las Palmas neighborhood.

The ‘Singing Cowboy’

Dinah Shore Drive – the vivacious ‘40s, ‘50s, ‘60s singer, TV personality and avid golfer, put the LPGA on the map in 1972 when she founded the Colgate-Dinah Shore golf tournament at Mission Hills County Club (Now know as the Chevron Championship and it has moved to Houston).  Her Palm Springs house is now owned by Leonardo DiCaprio.  So look for a DiCaprio Drive soon!

As I thought about all these stars of the past, I thought that my kids would be somewhat familiar with most of the above names, but their kids will have no idea why these streets are named after these random people.  For me, it was an interesting trip down another street, Memory Lane; I hope it was for you too.