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The surrealistically beautiful San Jacinto mountains rise straight up at the desert’s edge, like a cosmic, not quite to be believed movie set, Nature’s version of the ultimate special effect.

 

All day long the colors and the play of light, shadow and geometric form transform the mountain range. No matter how late you may have partied the night before, get up a half hour before dawn and watch as the sunrise turns the range into an exquisite terra cotta expanse. This only lasts for about 20 minutes, so don’t be late.

Forget everything you know about Palm Springs: this is not the PS of Dinah Shore, Gerald Ford, or rich Aunt Martha. Forget the renowned golf courses and the Rodeo Drive like shopping (unless you are a gay golfer in need of a pair of Bruno Maglis).

For a provincial easterner whose image of the desert was formed by vintage Lawrence of Arabia movies and whose idea of a warm weather vacation always involved the shore, PS is nothing short of a revelation. Beware of getting bitten by the bug: one week-end quickly turns into more, and the real estate search usually starts by trip #Two.

Palm Springs first came on the map as a place for Howard Hughes and Hollywood moguls to keep their mistress du jour, as well as a retreat for stars to dry out and lose weight at the fat farm.

The first heyday spans the years from Marilyn Monroe’s discovery to her death. In the seventies and eighties it went into a tailspin and became the elephant’s graveyard for bluehairs with money. PS has preserved the largest collection of mid-century modernist architectural masterpieces by accident: during its decline, there was no economic incentive to do tear downs.

When Sonny Bono became mayor in 1989, he started to bring out his Hollywood pals. With the 90s retro revival, PS once again became hot: along with martinis and cigars, Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack, it was once again back in vogue. READ MORE

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