Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Zsa Zsa Slept Here

We had our introduction down pat as visitors entered the front door. Yes, it was true. This was the home where the famous Gabor sisters and their mother stayed as they recuperated from their many trips ‘under the knife.’ It was also home to many famous and infamous celebrity parties of that era.

All of that was true and our guests loved it. Sharon and I were docents for the day and having a blast spinning tales of old Palm Springs as it was back in the day.

Modernism Week is a signature event held every February and unique to Palm Springs. It attracts thousands of modern architecture lovers from all over the country and the world. There are a host of events to showcase and highlight the very best of modernism designs and trends. There are art fairs, a modernism yard sale, vintage car show, lectures and films on historical Palm Springs architecture, as well as many events at the convention center. One of the highlights of the events each year are the neighborhood home tours.

Beginning in the mid-40s, architects originated a design movement specific to the greater Palm Springs area. It became known as Desert Modern. Their buildings featured ground-breaking techniques such as post-and-beam supports, floor-to-ceiling glass walls and a wide array of colors to match the surrounding mountains and desert. Now famous architects such as William Krisel, E. Stewart Williams, Albert Frey, William F. Cody, Richard Neutra and Donald Wexler were among the masters of this design.

Our neighborhood, Indian Canyon, was included in the home tours for the third year in a row. Sharon and I volunteered to be docents at one of the homes. It was a great opportunity to meet more of our neighbors and peek in on the lives of the design-conscious, artsy-types who created these one-of-a-kind homes.

It was fascinating to see what had been done to these retro houses and how the other half lives. Most of the homes were owned by interior designers…no surprise there. Each was a designer’s delight. Stunning is not too strong a word to describe some of those settings.

Here are some examples of the homes on the tour:

We were docents at a home that was built in 1973 and considered a Pueblo Modern. In keeping with the times and lore of old Palm Springs this home had its own fabled history. Over time the tales of its past residents has only grown and become more embellished with each new owner.

Famously known as the ‘Gabor House’ this house carries its own colorful banner of ‘Old Palm Springs’ and its connection to the golden era of old Hollywood.

A plastic surgeon, Dr. Borko Djordjevic, was its first owner. He is reported to have held many celebrity parties during his years there. However, he is most known for hosting the extensive stays for the Gabor sisters and their mother after they had ‘work’ done by him in town.

Explaining the Gabor sisters to our younger visitors was like comparing them to the present-day celebrity sensations The Kardashians. No talent, no chemistry, no discernible reason why anyone would care but somehow fans do care about the Kardashian. The Gabor sisters had that same aura about them back then.

Rumors abound about the house and the escapades there. The sisters, it is claimed by nosey neighbors, used to sunbath with only towels covering their newly remodeled faces. And the rumors just grew and grew.

The house has been totally remodeled and is stunning in its d├ęcor. It’s a fitting tribute to the glitz and glamour that was old Hollywood. Older visitors seemed genuinely interested in the tales of its past occupants. The newer ones just liked the mid-century design. So it goes in the land of fact and fiction, rumor and innuendo - but always a good story to tell.

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