Sunday, December 17, 2006

Christmas with Cheeta

They say Vermont is a winter wonderland during Christmastime. But they've never been to Palm Springs. I was, two years ago:

The Levines decided on a mere abbreviated trip this holiday season. A long weekend in Palm Springs. Turns out it was just like Hawaii. All those beautiful sandy beaches…but a much farther walk to the ocean.

We drove down on Christmas Eve. It was my first time on the Sonny Bono Memorial Freeway. Oddly, it was not tree lined.

Passed the new Morongo casino. Matt found it amusing that a casino would have “moron” in its name.

I don’t get the desert. It’s all “Gary Gilmore” country to me. The two big things to do in Palm Springs are play golf or have Sinatra get you laid. So now there’s only one thing.

Easy to tell the locals -- the men wear red polyester pants with white belts and the women dye their hair the color of Huckleberry Hound.

We stayed at a small resort called 7 Springs. We made the reservations on the ORBITZ website. No wonder we got such a good deal. The hotel knew nothing of our reservations. Even with a confirmation number. That number it seems, simply confirms that they have successfully cashed your deposit. Fortunately the hotel had accommodations that would be available in three hours. I asked why so late? The Christmas Party. Housekeeping is shut down until gift exchange. The 7 Springs is a far cry from the 4 Seasons.

And we learned (only upon arrival) that they take pets. And not just little pets either. BIG angry pets. Pets that are not used to being cooped up in hotel rooms. Pets that don’t like the idea of my wife using the pool. Who needs the playful dolphins at the Kahala when you can have surly pit pulls at the 7 Springs?

Matt suggested all guests be issued a tranquilizer gun at check-in.

And as luck would have it we were the only guests that did not bring a pet. You know you’re in trouble when one of the room amenities is a pooper scooper.

Since we had three hours to kill while housekeeping played “Silent Santa” we took a stroll down the main drag, Palm Canyon Blvd. This is the Waikiki of Palm Springs. T-shirt shops, tank shirt shops, wife beater shirt shops. Like Hollywood Blvd they have their “walk of fame” with stars in the sidewalk honoring various Palm Springs celebrities. Stars included Liberace (of course), Sandler & Young, Elke Sommer, Rich Little, Kate Ballard, Victoria Principal, Nancy Sinatra (the only female star who didn’t sleep with Sinatra), “Iron Eyes” Cody, cowboy rope trickster Montie Montana (who once performed at my elementary school), and Cheeta “the Chimp” (no foolin’) listed as star of stage, film, TV. Appropriately, his star was right next to Chevy Chase’s. For those who don’t remember, Cheeta was Tarzan’s sidekick in many films and had a brief affair with Maureen O’Sullivan. One star they featured that does not have a corresponding one on Hollywood Blvd is “Borko B. Djordjevic, M.D.—Plastic Surgeon/Humanitarian”. Annie quipped: “Boy, people must’ve been really ugly to have made him a humanitarian.”

Like Sinatra, Bob Hope, and President Eisenhower Cheeta had a compound out here. Actually he’s still there. At 71, Cheeta is the oldest living chimp in captivity. I bet he looks great in red pants with a white belt and still pines for Maureen O’Sullivan.

There are fifteen Thai restaurants on Palm Canyon Dr. Why??? Considering the mean age of the local population is 106 I can’t imagine there’s that much demand.

On the other hand, the local “Follies” show does make sense. It’s a big review of music from the 30’s and 40’s performed by people who are 57-87. Matt was a little creeped out by their poster that labeled the show “sexy”. Appearing with the Follies until New Years Eve is Buddy Greco. If Bobby Darin had lived I’m sure that would’ve been his gig. We’ll know next year if Kevin Spacey is the headliner. We didn’t go only because it was dark for the Christmas weekend.

In Hawaii a big problem is always trying to find a restaurant open on Christmas Eve. No such worries in Palm Springs. I guess because they get JEWS here, but we had no problem getting into the LG Steakhouse on Palm Canyon, conveniently located near the “Crazy Shirt” emporium. On Christmas night we hit the “Great Wall” Chinese restaurant and saw the same Jews we saw the night before at the LG Steakhouse and earlier that day at Sherman’s Deli.

Surprisingly, Sherman’s is quite good. It has to be, judging by the autographed celebrity pictures proudly displayed. Kay Ballard, Keely Smith, and Sandler & Young. I guess Cheeta was less enamored with his meal.

We put our “Do Not Bark” sign out and went to sleep. The beds were quite comfy. It was a relief that 7 Springs did not refer to the mattress.

Going through the local paper I noticed there were more ads for dermatologists than “after Christmas sales”.

I’m sure if we were at a larger resort we could’ve seen Santa ride in on a moped.

Or gotten maid service. No maid service at the 7 Springs on Christmas. And their complimentary “continental” breakfast consisted of packaged vending machine pastries and kibble.

There is a Trump 29 casino nearby. Who knew Donald Trump was an Indian?

Jacuzzi capacity at the 7 Springs: 8 people, 6 pets.

I wonder if Sinatra ever got Cheeta laid.

The Art Museum featured selections from the William Holden collection. Probably whiskey bottles from around the world.

The first two days were clear and cold (but a “dry” cold).

On Sunday Debby and Annie invaded the outlets at Cabazon (a stunt they wouldn’t even subject contestants to on “Fear Factor”). Matt and I checked out the Spa Casino. It made me long for the now defunct Debbie Reynolds hotel and casino in Laughlin, Nevada. (I always imagined Debbie getting an urgent page, “Come quick, Ms. Reynolds, the toilet in 604 is overflowing”.) A Palm Springs casino means 90% slot machines, maybe fifteen gaming tables, no craps, no sportsbook, video roulette, and aisles wide enough for walkers. But no pets!

In a pathetic attempt to recreate Hawaii we went to dinner at Roy’s in Rancho Mirage. Rancho Mirage is much classier than Palm Springs. As you drive there on Highway 111 the car dealerships get more upscale.

All foibles aside, it was great for the family to get together as one even for a few days. (Damn these kids for having their own lives!) Next year Hawaii or the Debbie Reynolds hotel in Laughlin, it really doesn’t matter.

Ken Levine


Anonymous said...

I remain proud of that plastic surgeon line. I enjoyed this trip down memory lane.

Anonymous said...

Roy's is terrible (burnt toast, burnt hash browns, warm OJ...must be the desert climate) but it's tradition to go there when we hit the town. Absolutely love it.

Mike Barer said...

Hi Ken
Palm Springs may not be for the "hip" crowd, but it sure is fun
seeing my Dad in Rancho Mirage. I loved the follies. Did Riff give you a mention while you were there? The area also has a great flight museum.

Anonymous said...

Nothing says Christmas like surly pit bulls and a swimming pool in the desert. A good place to be on Christmas, if you’re on Oahu, is in the ocean at Makapuu Beach Park. For dinner, go Zippys. They’re always open and the chili and rice is excellent. Forget Waikiki.

Cheetah is 71? My how time flies. I wonder where Tamba is?

Whoa, Montie Montana came to my elementary school too. He appeared at the “end of the school year ceremonies” one year. All of the kids in all of the classes wore home made costumes and performed dances and/or other acticvities. Montie Montana dazzled us kids with rope tricks. He was dressed in an all white outfit.

Lash LaRue appeared at the same event. He had a big bull whip and he knew how to use it. Lash Larue was dressed in an all black outfit. That was at Stagg Street Elementary in West Van Nuys. Can’t remember exactly what year it was, must have been late fifties or maybe 1960.

I knew a Barry Levine, who lived on Aldea Street, in those days. He lived near my old pal Cliff Bernay. Okay, my brain just exploded.

Thank you for all of your fine work. And thanks for the stumble down memory lane. Whoa again. Now I’m thinking of Santa Boot Lane near Louise and Saticoy. Man, that’s a lot of brain cells under the bridge.

Cap'n Bob said...

Legend has it that a man with a BB gun was hired to stand off-camera on the Tarzan movie sets. It seems Cheetah (note correct spelling) would become visibly aroused in the presence of Maureen O'Sullivan (as would I if I'd been there). When that happened, the BB gun sharpshooter had to fire a couple of rounds into Cheetah's chimphood to settle him down.

Anonymous said...

ouch hope that bb gun sharp shooter was a bad shot for cheetahs sake

Anonymous said...

Does this guy think Ken hands out a Non Sequitor of the Week Award?

Anonymous said...

Don't give up on the desert, Levine family! Try staying at Korakia Pension next time...

Anonymous said...

“Borko B. Djordjevic, M.D.—Plastic Surgeon/Humanitarian”. Annie quipped: “Boy, people must’ve been really ugly to have made him a humanitarian.”

you obviously dont know him, and boy you must be pretty damn ugly to say that about a person you dont even know. not only on the outside but on the inside! which i think is much worse. oh and by the way i know what you look like and im sure he could have done wonders on your ugly face. "Annie"