Palm Springs Mythbusters

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Palm Springs Mythbusters

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With its strong Hollywood presence over the years, there are plenty of folk tales and myths floating around the Coachella Valley. Here, some colorful urban myths are examined for their veracity, resulting in some inconclusive Palm Springs mythbusters. However, more than a few examples of local folklore are confirmed true or false. Read on to find out which are real and which are just Palm Springs urban legend.


1. At Frank Sinatra's classic mid-century modern Twin Palms Estate, there is still evidence of a major blowout between Ol' Blue Eyes and second wife Ava Gardner: a crack in one of the original sinks.


TRUE. Gardner wrote in her autobiography that the marriage was very turbulent, but that the worst episode occurred in that house. To this day, the master bathroom sink has a crack resulting from a champagne bottle hurled at Gardner by an enraged Sinatra, a testament to this Palm Springs urban legend. According to the current operators of Twin Palms, Sinatra tossed all of Gardner's possessions onto the driveway that night and threw her out as well, along with pal Lana Turner.

Twin Palms Estate
Palm Springs, CA

2. Chicago mobster Al Capone had a hideaway in the Palm Springs area.


TRUE. Capone stayed north of flashy Palm Springs, in a house on the grounds of Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa in the dusty town of Desert Hot Springs. On the run from Eliot Ness and the Chicago authorities, this was a more discreet location. A small perch on the top of the house served as a lookout tower and gun turret, should the lawmen arrive in the desert.

Two Bunch Palms Resort & Spa
67425 Two Bunch Palms Trail
Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240
760-329-8791

3. Walt Disney considered building his Anaheim theme park in the Palm Springs area.


UNCONFIRMED. However, Disney vacationed in Palm Springs since the 1930s and bought his first desert home in a gated residential resort called Smoke Tree Ranch in 1948, a place with which he was very enamored. Although we cannot conclusively bust this Palm Springs urban myth, it is impossible to confirm whether or not Mr. Disney ever seriously considered the desert for the site of Disneyland.

4. The classic movie Lost Horizon was partially filmed in Palm Springs.


TRUE. The Shangri-La scene, with its cascading waterfall, was filmed in Palm Springs' then-remote Tahquitz Canyon, which is still a popular hiking destination, thanks to the natural 60-foot waterfall featured in the movie. Legendary film director Frank Capra and his crew hauled in their equipment on mules. Even today, it takes a seasoned hiker up to two hours to reach the falls.

Tahquitz Canyon Visitor Center
500 W. Mesquite Avenue
Palm Springs, CA 92264
760-416-7044

5. Lucille Ball was once elected Mayor of the City of Rancho Mirage.


FALSE. Ms. Ball never ran for political office, but she did reside in Indian Wells with her husband Desi Arnaz. In 1958, the couple founded the Indian Wells Resort Hotel. In 1965, however, the Chamber of Commerce named Ms. Ball its first "Honorary Mayor" of Rancho Mirage, the neighboring town where she later resided.

Indian Wells Resort Hotel
76-611 Highway 111
Indian Wells, CA 92210
800-248-3220

6. Palm Springs, known as "Hollywood's Backyard," was universally popular with celebrities.


TRUE & FALSE. Palm Springs became "Hollywood's Backyard" or "Hollywood's Playground" as early as the 1920s, and remained popular for decades. An escape to Palm Springs met the so-called "two-hour rule" that required movie stars to be no more than two hours from the set at any time. Surprisingly, however, Palm Springs was too trendy for some stars, who desired a quieter, less ostentatious environment. Barbara Stanwyck, who loved the outdoors, preferred the more rustic lifestyle on a ranch in Desert Hot Springs. Greta Garbo, Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Ginger Rogers pushed the limits of that two-hour zone, hiding at a site that is now the La Quinta Resort & Club.

La Quinta Resort & Club
49-499 Eisenhower Drive
La Quinta, CA 92253
760-564-4111

7. Rock legend Jim Morrison enjoyed diving off the second story of Palm Springs' Movie Colony Hotel into the pool below.


UNCONFIRMED. The lead singer of The Doors apparently stayed at the hotel in 1968 – it was then known as the San Jacinto Hotel – thereby making this popular folklore. Although there is no reliable confirmation that he dove into the pool from a second-story balcony, it hardly seems a stretch for a drug-induced rock star. Therefore, we can't definitively classify this under Palm Springs mythbusters.

Movie Colony Hotel
726 North Indian Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, California 92262
760-320-6340

8. The Coachella Valley is the date capital of the nation.


TRUE. No myth to bust here. About 80 percent of all date production in the U.S. occurs in the area.

9. According to Indian Canyons Golf Resort folklore, the starter shack on the North Course used to be equipped with a "red phone" connected directly to the White House, because of the course's popularity with U.S. presidents.


FALSE. Probably. Although we are unable to officially bust this Palm Springs urban legend, it is likely just local folklore propagated by proud club members. Its only plausibility lies in the fact that Presidents Lyndon Johnson, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan all golfed here on vacation.

Indian Canyons Golf Resort
1097 Murray Canyon Drive
Palm Springs, California 92264
760-833-8700
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