Modernism Week is All Grown Up
Fall Preview, October 9-12

As the town transforms, so goes Modernism Week. Just a few short years ago, I talked a couple of friends into driving out to Palm Springs for a kitschy event called the Retro Martini Party. MAYBE, there were 50 guests in attendance. I remember oohing and awing at one of the first restored midcentury houses I’d seen in Palm Springs, complete with round pavers and the never-before-seen fire glass in the fireplace! How 2007!

The next day, we climbed into the Modernism Week tour bus, not knowing quite what to expect. Great tour of the de rigueur, cool movie star homes except for the fact that for some reason, someone thought riding in an old noisy, smoky vintage British double decker jalopy-of-a-bus was a good idea. As we chugged along Palm Canyon, people pointed, stared and laughed. It finally broke down and we walked home.

In it’s infancy, what we now call Modernism Week was basically an addendum to the Modernism Show, brought to the desert by Jack Caussin (who helped nurture the show into what Modernism Week has become), a vintage furniture dealer. It was a trade show of mostly midcentury furniture dealers that attracted quite a few curious people to the desert, but I thought except for the very serious furniture collectors, were more interested in the parties. Couldn’t find any statistics but if my math is right, it seems the attendance triples every 3 years. So, if, according to Lisa Vossler Smith, the Executive Director and queen of Modernism Week, 2016 festivities encompassing 300 events expects a crowd of 60,000; way back in 2007, a few hundred, maybe 1,000 (I’m just guessing) curious modernists trickled into town for some random events that I don’t think even had a name.

My how times have changed.

I just went to the Fall Preview Modernism Week, October 9-12. People on the street stared jealously at us sitting proudly on top of the sleek, double decker buses purring down the street. The old double decker vintage clunker a distant memory. And rather than the tour guide pointing out just old movie star homes, the very charming Keith Markovitz, realtor and bon vivant, slumming as our tour guide, talked about the architecture. Because that’s what Modernism Week has become, a savvy, smart 11-day homage to not just Frank or Elvis but the stars that the new Modernism Week attendee expects to see now: the architects and their buildings. The Krisels, the Wexlers, the Kapturs, the Codys, E. Stewart Williams, Richard Neutra. These are the big attractions to the new Modernism sophisticate.

The Modernism Show is still a fixture. The more compact version was held at the Air Museum. The opening night event with the massive doors open to the tarmac and the balmy desert weather was spectacular. Because I waited too long to buy tickets to one of the glitzy event, I had to be satisfied with the Media Tour. But it was terrific and I didn’t feel like I missed a thing not going to any of the fancy parties. We were treated to a preview of Christopher Kennedy’s 2016′s showcase house. It will no doubt make the hair on my arms stand up when it’s done. I told Christopher Kennedy, I was immediately starting the charter
chapter of his fan club. Lunch was at the new Hollywood Regency-esque 849 Restaurant on Palm Canyon Drive. I usually am “meh” about the food in PS eateries but for this place, I will come back on my own dime. This was the opposite of the Woody Allen line about the food being bad and the portions were too small. 849 served great food and the portions were gigantic. If I didn’t have to get on the bus after lunch, I’d have doggy bagged my leftovers and maybe everybody else’s.

The Keith Markovitz bus tour mixed in a bit of everything significant in Palm Springs today. If this were my first and only trip to the desert, I would leave it feeling I had tasted just enough to want to come back for more…alot more.

Anyway, the bus dropped us off where they picked us up and I did my second favorite thing after Modernism Week…shopped. Bought a pair of Trina Turk sandals on sale. Oh yeah, so that’s what I mean about how Modernism Week has changed Palm Springs and helped turn it into the place it is today. No longer just a row of T-shirt shops and crappy food. It’s now got designer clothes, hard-to-get-into trendy restaurants with real chefs and luxury hotels and spas that rival those anywhere. Palm Springs may not have reached it’s full maturity but it’s getting there and I plan to be around to see it all happen.

Modernism Week

[img title="" alt="The Media Tour started with a “before” photo of the 2016 Christopher Kennedy Show House." src=""][img title="" alt="Christopher Kennedy leading the tour" src=""][img title="" alt="Christopher Kennedy explaining which designer will work on which room" src=""][img title="" alt="View out the large double front doors of the Show Case House" src=""][img title="" alt="Lisa Vossler Smith talking to the owner of 849 Restaurant, Willie Rhine." src=""][img title="" alt="Great lighting design featured in 849 Restaurant & Lounge" src=""][img title="" alt="One of the dining areas at 849 Restaurant & Lounge" src=""][img title="" alt="Charming Willie Rhine hosted the Media Tour Group for lunch at 849" src=""][img title="" alt="Yummm, my Coachella Lime Pie at 849" src=""][img title="" alt="The Media Tour Group sampling the Modernism Week Architectural Tour Bus, overlooking the downtown major construction project." src=""][img title="" alt="On the Tour Bus...a glimpse of the “Dinah Shore House” designed by Donald Wexler, now owned by Leonardo di Caprio " src=""][img title="" alt="We sped by the Kaufman House by Richard Neutra" src=""][img title="" alt="The Tramway Gas Station before it became the iconic Visitor’s Center" src=""][img title="" alt="The plaque commemorating the building" src=""][img title="" alt="The great Moroccan/Hollywood Regency screen I chickened out from buying. " src=""]

Double the Pleasure, Double the Fun
Clash of the Mid Century Palm Springs Events

October 10-13, saw the dueling of two splashy events: Modernism Week’s Fall Preview and MOD Palm Springs (“Mid-Century Modern carefully blended with retro Tiki culture”) Weekend. So many events…so little time. But, being the Piggy Party Princess I am, I wanted to hit as many as I could and didn’t feel the least bit conflicted or confused. Hey, if I were on, Modernism Week is the thin, smart, stylish, bookish guy vs. MOD, the loud but charming, funny guy in a Hawaiian shirt holding a Mai Tai . What the hell, I would go out with both. So, I did.

Started off the weekend at the Hacienda Cantina & Beach Club. There, Modernism Week hosted a swell cocktail party and an outdoor screening of Elvis’, “Blue Hawaii” in dazzling Technicolor on a super, gigantic screen from Five Star Productions. Had a nice chat with Earl, Five Star’s owner who performs all his audio visual magic for every Modernism Week. The Hacienda is such an interesting, sexy venue with a restaurant, bar and nightclub with cabanas surrounding a swimming pool. Kind of what I imagine is a poor man’s Billionaire Club in Sardinia, Italy. Unfortunately, I’ve never been but I can dream, can’t I? Anyway, hit the tail end of that event with Jodi, a friend visiting from Santa Monica and a novice to the Mid Century party scene.

We made a deal before she arrived. She’d let me drag her around town to the various events (why she would need “dragging”, I’ll never know) IF we did the MOD’s “The 55th Annual Cocktail Climb” with host, world famous, Shag! I was all in so we showed up at the Curve Hotel, Saturday afternoon and the first people we meet were two very personable women sans husbands/boyfriends. One of the ladies was, inexplicably, dressed just like me: white pants, a coral sleeveless top, accessorized with turquoise jewelry. It was like we were living in a parallel universe.

Anyway, after several tropical drinks and herded into very cushy busses, we made a pitstop at the Shag Gallery on Palm Canyon. After some shopping and yet another cocktail, we were whisked off to the the iconic Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It was quite a cheap thrill being part of the slightly inebriated, festive group of MOD/Shag followers, screaming, “whooooooh” everytime the tram hit the transitions between the monstrous towers holding up the tram lines. We hung out at the Mountain Station looking down on the smoggy basin below. Afterwards, we assembled, more like stumbled by this time, into The Francis Crocker Room for a confession from Shag, himself. He explained “The 55th Annual Cocktail Climb” was not, in fact the 55th after all, but the very first, inaugural “climb”. He was thrilled that after much talking and planning, it finally came to fruition. This long trip, 55 years-in-the making was just that…a “trip”. Hopefully, it will become a tradition. I’m signing up for the 56th.

As Jodi and I continued to roam the town the rest of the weekend, we were surprised to discover that not only was Palm Springs hosting Modernism Week Fall Preview, MOD Palm Springs but also the American Heat Bike Weekend! C’mon, this little desert town of 45,000 on this particular weekend was the crossroads of every demographic in Southern California, hell, the country and well, maybe the whole world. The stylish, urban, architecture buffs; the retro Tiki enthusiast partiers AND the rock’n roll, tatted bikers! These are the kind of weekends that make Palm Springs converts of any and many blasé Los Angelenos and beyond. Who can resist the weather, the architecture, the fun. Not us. Just wish there were some better restaurants!!!


The Desert in Demand


Palm Springs Is in Demand, With Help From Coachella

It was Dinah Shore Weekend in Palm Springs — or the Dinah, as it’s known — five days of Sapphic revelry that every April draws some 15,000 women from around the country to this sun-washed city 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles. On Saturday evening, however, the hottest ticket in town may not have been the L Word Pool Party, but a relatively low-key cocktail reception hosted by the Palm Springs Art Museum to benefit its new Architecture and Design Center.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club is a center of attention in Palm Springs, Calif., especially during Coachella weekend in nearby Indio. Credit Patrick T. Fallon for The New York Times

The event was held at the Vista Las Palmas home of the television producer David Lee, and his partner, Mark Nichols, an interior designer. In the airy living room of the Brutalist-style residence, set at the foot of the San Jacinto Mountains, modishly turned-out guests circulated with the verve of the subjects in a Shag painting. The conversation, as it happened, swirled around Ms. Shore — not the Dinah, but the estate she owned here, a series of glassy pavilions designed by Donald Wexler, which several weeks earlier was sold to an entertainer at least as celebrated as Ms. Shore was in her day: Leonardo DiCaprio. “There’s no question he’s going to generate a lot of young Hollywood energy,” said a partygoer in his 30s whose chin stubble suggested Dean Martin the morning after.

A man in flared orange slacks as vivid as safety cones added: “If someone as private as Leo is buys, it’s a good sign. It means more like him can.”

Whatever it means, Mr. DiCaprio’s presence jibes with something of a Palm Springs renaissance. According to a recent article in The Hollywood Reporter, Anne Hathaway is rumored to be house hunting there, and Ryan Gosling and Eva Mendes were recently seen furniture shopping in the Uptown Design District.

New hotels, restaurants, clubs and galleries are shaking up droopy Palm Canyon Drive. And the sight of snowy-haired Cadillac drivers is giving way to that of millennials cruising the streets on vintage bikes. (The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival drew some 200,000 Gen Xers and Yers — including Mr. DiCaprio — to the area this year.)

The city has even gone bicoastal. In 2012, Virgin America began offering nonstop flights from Kennedy Airport to the two-runway Wexler-designed Palm Springs International Airport.

“Every few years, there’s a magazine article: ‘Palm Springs is back’; ‘It’s hot again,’ ha, ha,” said Brad Dunning, an interior designer who began visiting the resort from Los Angeles in the early 1990s and moved there full time last year. “But now it actually feels like it is.”

If Mr. DiCaprio’s move has many locals reading the runes, it’s probably because movie actors and moguls put Palm Springs on the map in the first place. In the late 1920s and early ’30s, resorts like El Mirador and the Racquet Club catered to Hollywood players attracted to the sublime weather and studio-handy seclusion. Cary Grant, Jack Warner and Darryl Zanuck were among those who built Spanish-style estates in neighborhoods like Las Palmas and the Movie Colony. After World War II, the pioneering modernist architects drawn to the area created sexy glass-walled residences for clients such as Ms. Shore, Frank Sinatra and Kirk Douglas.

The Donald Wexler-designed house in Palm Springs formerly owned by Dinah Shore that was recently bought by Leonardo DiCaprio. Credit Julius Shulman and Juergen Nogai/Palm Springs Art Museum

In the 1970s, moneyed developers and vacationers migrated “down valley,” to communities like Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert, and Palm Springs faded like a matinee idol. The senescence of the remaining population earned the city the nickname

God’s waiting room.”

But in the ’90s, the area enjoyed a boomlet of interest as creative directors, advertising photographers and interior designers discovered its space-age relics. “This was a very specific sector who appreciated the architecture and design,” said Catherine Meyler, a Los Angeles location scout who bought Richard Neutra’s glass-and-steel Miller house in 2000 and has been restoring it ever since. “Now the group has widened.”

For years, the city’s demographics have skewed “gay and gray,” but the community is diversifying. “Coachella changed everything,” said Keith Markovitz, a young real estate broker with TTK Represents/Christie’s International. “They’re coming out for the music, but guess where they’re partying?”

For the last five years, a good number of the bearded and tattooed have been partying at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, a former Howard Johnson motel that seems to thrive inside a pair of giant, invisible quotation marks. There is a diner with rock walls and brown leather booths, a cavelike dive bar and a decorative trailer out by the pool. On a recent evening, a D.J. spun electro-lounge anthems outside, where a party of glassy-eyed 20-somethings kicked off a treasure hunt (sample checklist item: “Anyone who knew Frank Sinatra or Bob Hope”).

Other big-ticket events, like the Palm Springs International Film Festival and Modernism Week — a 10-day affair celebrating all things midcentury — have helped raise the city’s profile. But the primary engine of the revival is the economy: drubbed by the recession, the local real estate market is on the rebound. “It’s been a fantastic season,” said Mr. Markovitz, climbing into his black Range Rover and cranking up the air-conditioning. “By the third week of February, we had 17 properties in escrow.”

He pulled up in front of a low, angular, maize-colored compound: the Max Factor estate, recently purchased by the Australian singer and -songwriter Sia Furler. Other buzzworthy transactions include the Vince co-founder Rea Laccone’s acquisition of Villa Serena — commissioned by the actor Laurence Harvey from the firm Buff & Hensman in 1969 — and the sale of the Gerald and Betty Ford estate in nearby Rancho Mirage to the DreamWorks Animation chief creative officer, Bill Damaschke, and his partner, the talent manager John McIlwee. Just listed, at $9.5 million: “The House of Tomorrow,” a circular showcase home better known as the honeymoon digs of Elvis and Priscilla Presley.

The options for visitors are also growing. Josie and Doug Smith recently opened Sparrows Hotel, a 20-room complex at the south end of town that looks like a Western set and functions like a Zen retreat. Just down the street from Sparrows, the two-year-old Saguaro, a former Holiday Inn done over in a psychedelic color scheme inspired by desert flowers, wraps around a pool that is reputed to be the largest in Palm Springs and that, during the Dinah Pool Party II, was thronged with female guests sipping tropical drinks.

Mr. DiCaprio at a party during Coachella. Credit Rick Williams/Splash News, via Corbis

Another south-end resort, the elegant William Cody-conceived Horizon, is being renovated by the designer Steve Hermann. And in the Uptown Design District, ground was recently broken for Arrive, a high-tech boutique hotel (guest rooms will open at the tap of a smartphone) bankrolled by Ezra Callahan, who made his riches as an early Facebook employee.

Sprouting up around the north end of Palm Canyon Drive, the Uptown Design District has matured into a sleek shopping zone with scarcely a T-shirt shop or frozen yogurt chain in sight. Home to some of the city’s best midcentury design stores (Modern Way, Flow Modern Design, A La Mod) and art galleries (Archangel Gallery, Jorge Mendez Gallery and Yares Art Projects, which is opening in October), it now has a number of equally worthy restaurants.

The brunch crowd dons its most eye-popping Trina Turk and Wil Stiles and lines up outside Cheeky’s for the restaurant’s fresh-pressed juices and bacon bar. Workshop Kitchen & Bar offers locally sourced New American fare in a monastic, vaulted-ceilinged space inside the historic El Paseo complex. And in the inky depths of Bar, bands and D.J.s play for the beer-cocktail set.

Bar also hosts “Art Bar,” a well-attended happy hour (or three) introducing underexposed local artists. “We’re finally getting the young creative class in Palm Springs,” said the event’s organizer, Eric Nash, a painter who moved to the desert from Los Angeles four years ago. “I wanted to provide a forum for fashion and art and music people to connect and cross-pollinate.”

While they appreciate the Palm Springs prevailing aesthetic, Mr. Nash and some of his colleagues said they didn’t want to see the city calcify into a kind of midcentury modern Williamsburg. “Palm Springs should be the laboratory for new and progressive architecture and design it always was,” said Phillip K. Smith III, an artist whose monumental light installation at Coachella in April, “Reflection Field,” was a magnet for selfie-takers. (Among the city’s more innovative architects, Lance O’Donnell makes steel prefab homes, and Sean Lockyer designs residential and commercial projects that update the desert modernist tradition without being slavish to it.)

A new shopping center going up in the middle of town, a slick mall anchored by a six-story Kimpton Hotel, represents a missed opportunity to residents who would prefer that the city support the “adaptive reuse” of historic buildings if it can’t get behind more dynamic projects. “Developers are working hard to demolish things that could add to the charm of the town, like the Town & Country Center,” said Ms. Meyler, referring to a retail complex that was designed in the International Style by Paul Williams and A. Quincy Jones in 1948 and is threatened with destruction.

More eagerly awaited, perhaps, is the architect and developer Chris Pardo’s Hacienda Cantina and Beach Club, a sprawling day club and nightspot set to open in south Palm Springs at the end of the year. (Galas and benefit parties may take place every weekend during “the season” here — October to May — but the city has long lacked a major social hub.) “I think the Hacienda might be like what the Racquet Club used to be,” said Stephen Collins, a style pundit from Britain who hosted a web series for Modernism Week. “Maybe not sitting in a clubhouse in flannel trousers, but a kind of be-there experience.”

But even Mr. Collins, who believes Mr. DiCaprio has “made it permissible to be an A-list movie star in Palm Springs again,” suggested that the city’s rebirth might best be a quiet one. “Maybe it’s always going to be a lovely place to just come and chill out by your pool,” he said. “Because I do think one of the charming things about Palm Springs is that it really doesn’t matter what type of flip-flops you’re wearing. In the Hamptons I suppose they’d have to be Marc Jacobs.”

You can see the original article here…