Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Palm Springs, AKA Memory Lane

I was in Palm Springs Thursday through Sunday, hanging with nine long-time PIO pals. Most of us met 20 or more years ago when we became involved in the then-new California Association of Public Information Officials (CAPIO) and over the years became great friends for life.

On my way out of town on Sunday, I stopped by some of my old haunts and took some photos to share with you.

My children and I lived in Palm Springs for a few years before they flew the coop and I moved to Pasadena.

I loved living at 225 N. Orchid Tree Lane in the Sunrise Park neighborhood. It's a classic 1958 Alexander Home, a style that is iconic in Palm Springs. Many of the Hollywood elite of the '50s and '60s lived in this neighborhood.

Hey, it's for sale! $399,000 moves you in. Three bedrooms, two baths, living room, family room, circular driveway, plus a big pool and grapefruit trees in back.

We moved to Palm Springs from Walnut Creek because my friend Jan Curran had gotten a job as a senior account executive at The Jones Agency. We had worked together at a little agency in Lafayette, near Walnut Creek. When she told Palm Springs kingpin Milton W. Jones, president of The Jones Agency and publisher of Palm Springs Life Magazine, about me and explained that she and I were a dynamic duo, he flew me down at his expense, put me up for a couple of days, grilled me to the max about my experience and hired me as a senior AE.

So Jan and I continued our working relationship and our friendship at this building, owned by Milt. You can't tell from the boxy front of the building, but The Jones Agency is on the second floor. My office had a sliding glass door behind the desk that led to an inner courtyard with lush gardens and a big fountain. It was pretty nice.

(Side note: As I write this on Tuesday night, I just got off the phone with Jan and we agreed that we worked for a couple of freaks of nature!)

At The Jones Agency I developed major campaigns for clients including Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, The Living Desert and Las Casuelas Terraza. After I led an international tourism marketing campaign for my client the City of Palm Springs, the city made me an offer I couldn't refuse. That's when I first became a PIO for local government.

Speaking of iconic desert architecture, I worked here at Palm Springs City Hall.

My office was straight across the front lobby.

The mayor when I first worked there was the beloved Frank Bogert, an honest-to-goodness cowboy who became a PR man and photographer and was largely responsible for putting Palm Springs on the map as a celebrity playground during Hollywood's golden age.

About 20 years ago the city commissioned a sculptor to create bronze statue of Mayor Bogert. It stands in front of City Hall.

He was very kind to me and a pleasure to work with. After he left office he hired me to edit his book "Palm Springs: The First Hundred Years" and we had great fun working on it together. That book sits on my coffee table to this day and I cherish the inscription he wrote to me.

Sonny Bono ran against Mayor Bogert in a hotly contested race. During the campaign, Sonny often compared himself to Clint Eastwood, who was the mayor of Carmel at the time.

I'll never forget Mayor Bogert's most famous quote: "Comparing Sonny to Clint is like comparing chicken shit to chicken salad."

Sonny won, and at City Hall we prepared for the inevitable culture shock. I hit the ground running on a massive learning curve to soak up everything I could about entertainment media, with Sonny's help of course. He also taught me a lot about promotion. He started the Palm Springs Film Festival from nothing but his movie industry contacts, and I'm proud to say the first meeting was in my office! Those were heady times, I tell you.

To this day I can write his signature flawlessly, which I did on countless promotional t-shirts, posters and other items that were sent far and wide, in the U.S. and abroad. (I just tested my forgery skills and I've still got it!) That merchandise added a lot of money to the city's coffers.

I learned of Sonny's tragic death when a friend called me from Palm Springs before it even hit the media. By then I worked for the City of Pasadena. God, it was just horrible and it's still hard to believe. I immediately wrote a note to his wife Mary, who used to always stop by my office at Palm Springs City Hall for a chat when she made her daily visit with their then-baby boy Chesare.

That's my trip down memory lane. Thanks for humoring me!

We really can't turn back the hands of time but it sure is nice to reminisce.


ben wideman said...

What a fantastic story! Forging Sonny Bono's signature for promotional reasons??? You can't make that stuff up. Thanks for sharing!

Cafe Pasadena said...

Ann, you & the other Hollywood elite lived in the Sunrise Park neighborhood? Who knew! Certainly not me!

You left Palm Springs & now where's your next travel destination? You have the best pics, especially those blk & whites from the last century.

Margaret said...

I really liked reading this post. Thanks so much.

Susan C said...

You've had such an interesting life and career. I guess we have Jan to thank in a round-about way for your eventually becoming Pasadena's PIO.

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Anonymous said...

Very nice pictures and stories!

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