With only 17,000 year-round residents Rancho Mirage is a small town. Yet in its 37 year history it has been a powerhouse playground for Hollywood celebrities and American Presidents. For a taste of this history visit Rancho Mirage’s City Hall and explore the galley of archival photographs that line the walls of the public spaces. City Hall is located on the south east corner of Highway 111 and Frank Sinatra Drive – the names of the streets in our town provide a clue to the players that helped mold our City.
Frank Sinatra’s famous compound built to entertain Jack Kennedy after his election is only a half mile from City Hall. At the last minute JFK didn’t accept the invitation and Frank was furious. The City Hall Photo Gallery is brimming with images of Frank and Barbara Sinatra during happier occasions – playing golf, reading to children (Frank), cutting ribbons (Barbara looking resplendent, Frank demure). Find the image of Paul Newman and his brother Arthur Newman celebrating Arthur’s election to the Rancho Mirage City Council in 1994. There’s a snap of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez impeccably dressed for resort play at the entrance to their home in Thunderbird Country Club. Lucy served twice as the honorary mayor of Rancho Mirage – can you imagine – WHAAAA!
Check out Dinah Shore who founded the Kraft Nabisco Championship over forty years ago, and Ginger Rogers, Robert Montgomery (Dinah’s husband for a period), Jack Benny, Bing Crosby and more and more and more. One autographed picture of Harpo Mark seated in a golf cart plastered with Elect JKF posters catches the high-jinks sprit of this playful Rancho Mirage pioneer.
A series on images reveal the mid-century modernist homes that the celebrities preferred and home collectors today cherish and are thankfully preserving. The Rancho Mirage Desert Air Park is documented with a number of photos. Imagine catching an air taxi in L.A. and hopping over the San Gabriel’s to the Desert Air Hotel for polo and campfire fun in the hard scrabble desert. Today, the verdant Rancho Las Palmas Resort & Spa occupies the site of the Desert Air Hotel. One shot of a whiskered cowboy air pilot catches him leaning against his plane leering at two bathing beauties sporting pageant sashes that announce – Miss Desert Air Cruise 1955!
The power images: King maker Walter Annenberg and his wife Lenore posing with American Presidents at their Sunnylands estate. Walter, decked out in a red blazer, doesn’t seem too happy to be entertaining Bill Clinton, but lightens up considerably in another image with Hillary Clinton. Bob Hope buddies around with the Reagan’s, the Bush’s (first set), The Eisenhower’s, and The Ford’s who made Rancho Mirage their post White House home and played a significant role in the development of this very special corner of paradise. Betty Ford still resides here and the Betty Ford Clinic, that she founded, is probably our most famous institution.