Hidden Paradise: The Mesa

Hidden Paradise is the very appropriate tour name given by the Palm Springs Historical Society to refer to The Mesa; an eclectic and beautifully secluded hillside neighborhood.  I took all of these photos two days ago, on the last day of the tour for this season.  It was a hot one….and I’m not referring to just the tour.

Beyond this gate was the home of actor Joseph Cotten (Citizen Kane, Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte among many other well known films).

I was invited to go on this relatively new tour, not being aware of how incredibly close in proximity The Mesa is to where I reside. I’m really happy I chose this walking tour from several the society offers because it’s another hidden jewel that I’m told many locals don’t even know about.  Even though some of the homes you can see from a distance, you may not know how to get there.

As they say on their website it is truly a slice of paradise. The amazing variety of architecture  ranges from the romantic Spanish Colonial Revival of the 1920’s to today’s dramatic contemporary styles.  Even one original mid-century modern home that stands out.

Max Factor (the makeup maven) family mansion.  The gate was open; it felt somewhat inviting.

With a glamorous past it has long been home to the Hollywood elite (Natalie Wood, Robert Wagner, Cher, Joseph Cotten, Henry Mancini, *Johnny Mercer, Jack Warner of Warner Brothers Studios, among others). Many have been celebrities from the World of Music – singers, composers, lyricists and musicians.  Even the cartoonist Lee Holley, known for Denis the Menace and comic strip Bugs Bunny who passed away in his home here just last year.  Our guide told us that he was so friendly he’d give away some of his original cartoon drawings.

Home of cartoonist Lee Holley – a fairly modest home here.

There are many vacation rentals here now too.  One home had no outside windows at all in the front to keep passersby from peering inside.  But I’m telling you; never judge a house from the outside.

Unless you’re lucky enough to get an invite to one of Barry Manilow’s fundraising shindigs, you can see his home and that of his friend Suzanne Somers from the outside only.  However the area itself which is larger than it appears is striking just to walk around and  see the gorgeous gardens.  In fact, it was really more of a garden/landscape tour than home tour – walking around for 2 hours+.

You can see the home of Suzanne Somers in the distance.  She said she can see Barry Manilow in one of the rooms of his home (which is a compound) – way up on the opposite side of the hill.

A crown jewel of desert architecture, Ship of the Desert, is located here.  Designer Trina Turk (love her clothes) resides here.  I’ve seen this home from afar many times. I know a few people who’ve been to a cocktail party inside (there are no hallways) during Modernism week.  They referred to Turk as a lovely and gracious host.

Ship of the Desert. d. king
This home appeared in this magazine in 1936.
and many years later

Michael, our patient tour guide was very knowledgeable about the homes and the people who lived/lives here and entertained us with some anecdotes and juicy gossip.

I highly recommend one of the walking tours (only $20) when visiting or even living in Palm Springs.

Other tours the Historical Society offers are Golden Era (Hollywood Homes of Old Las Palmas), Inns, Architecture and Glamour, The Tennis Club (Celebrity Haven), Rat Pack Playground (and Frank Sinatra’s Neighborhood in the Movie Colony), among Private Tours (Architecture gems and Palm Springs Highlights).

See the 3 guard dogs? As easy as it appears to jump this fence…I don’t think so.  I wonder what lies behind that door….Narnia?

*Johnny Mercer wrote 1,500 songs and won 4 oscars.  He’s probably most famous for writing Moon River for Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Also the Days of Wine and Roses, Autumn Leaves, etc.  He was a big fan of Barry Manilow and near the end of his life he donated all of his songs to Manilow.

I plan to go on other tours next season.

https://pshistoricalsociety.org/collections/walking-tours

 

 

 

 

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Monday Mood: MODERNISM

It’s that time of year again….Palm Springs hosts it’s 14th annual signature event featuring midcentury modern architecture, interior, and landscape design, art and vintage culture from February 14-24, 2019.

Photo credit: Bethany Nauert

Join us for modernist tours, talks, shows, exhibits, films, parties, and much much more.

Photo credit: Christopher Kennedy
Grace Home Furnishings
Photo credit: Lance Gerber

Tickets still available:

https://www.modernismweek.com/

I’m telling you folks….if you’ve never been….it’s something not to be missed.

 

 

 

 

 “Botero” – a documentary

A good painter looks for solutions.  A great painter looks for problems – Fernando Botero.

 A fascinating behind-the-scenes profile of Columbian artist Fernando Botero.   The North American premiere of “Botero” at the 30th Palm Springs International Film Festival was one of the most compelling documentaries I’ve seen in a long time. The figurative painter and sculptor is known as the world’s most recognized living artist –  although someone I knew very little about and was curious to find out more.

For starters, many people only know him from his illustrious paintings of distorted fat ladies.  Well…turns out he’s much more well rounded (pun intended) than that.  He does not only people but landscapes, animals, fruit and sculptures.

Botero’s style is familiar in the same manner that other famous artists are, no matter what they paint. Picasso, Warhol, Monet, Pollock….their style is always identifiable. Botero’s colorful whimsical work with a touch of satire  tends to appeal to the masses.

I was blown away by Botero’s body of work including enormous sculptures which grace some of the world’s major landmarks and institutions. You don’t have to like everything, however you can’t help but  admire and respect it. Not all art critics understand the thought process behind the artist. Some get it, some don’t.  It’s pretty simple.  A great artist makes you feel because there’s a story behind every piece of art whether it’s abstract or otherwise.  It’s not just brush strokes.

For instance,  Botero did a series of paintings of a young boy –  boy is sitting atop a wooden horse, dressed up as an officer.  We learn the young boy was Botero’s son, struck by a truck early on in life and died instantly. This was Botero’s way of honouring his boy.  For a long while the young boy is all he painted.  It must have been torturous for him to do so.  But we look at the painting not knowing the story behind it and feel what we feel .

Director Don Millar who was here in person for a Q&A afterwards delves not only into the psyche of what makes Botero tick, he also interviews Botero’s daughter and two sons.  You see the love and respect they have for their father. They are clearly family people, educated and articulate.

On display: many works by Botero are on display at the Botero Museum in the center of Bogotá, Columbia.

Botero also very generously donated ALL of his private paintings, drawings and sculpures (including works he owned by Picasso, Monet and more) to the Museo de Antioquia in Medellin, his hometown in Columbia.  He now spends most of his time in Italy but the donation in Columbia is a positive way to take the focus off of a city which conjures up images of drug cartels, gangsters and kidnappers. The collection is the largest of his work anywhere to date.

Ringing in the New Year starting with….

I look forward to this time of the year. It always starts off with a bang.  The bang being fireworks for New Year’s Eve and after a day or so of recuperation (depending of course on how much partying I do)…..my favorite way to start the year is by viewing & reviewing a bunch of great films at the Palm Springs International Film Festival; one of the largest film festivals in North America.  It’s always an exciting time to be in Palm Springs.

  • On Thursday, January 3, the annual Film Awards Gala will kick off the festival at the Palm Springs Convention Center.  The gala honours the best achievements of the film year by a celebrated list of talents.
  • The screening portion of the festival will run Friday, January 4 through Monday, January 14.

The Festival welcomes over 135,000 attendees each year for its lineup of new and celebrated international features and documentaries.  Produced by the Palm Springs International Film Society, the Festival offers 12 days of events and film screenings featuring over 200 films from 78 countries.

I don’t present myself as a movie critic or pretend to be one.  I only attend the films and documentaries that interest me personally and blog about it for this website.  So I am obviously hoping to “like” everything I see and am aware that what I like, you may not.  I’m looking to be entertained and learn something new.  And I feel privileged to be given media passes to premieres and special events.

YELLOW IS FORBIDDEN. Star Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei, the face of the “new China,” gave documentary filmmaker Pïetra Brettkelly an all-access pass for this fascinating — and occasionally troubling — behind-the-scenes look at Guo’s life and the run-up to her make-or-break Paris runway show.

See you at the movies!

 

 

 

Monday Mood: Couture Beyond

It’s been a while since I’ve had some serious Style Inspiration but this goes beyond.  This is global fashion culture. I’m talking about the first Canadian exhibition devoted to the work of Guo Pei, China’s preeminent couturière, and the first fashion exhibition ever presented at the Vancouver Art Gallery.  In collaboration with SCAD FASH MUSEUM OF FASHION + FILM.  On until January 20, 2019.  Simply Superb!

Photos: d. king

Featuring more than forty complete looks from Pei’s most iconic runway shows from 2006 to 2017.   Theatrical, extravagant (no kidding) creations combining contemporary aesthetics, production methods and materials with ancient tradition, evoking Chinese history and mythology in her technique with fabric selection and imagery.  These photos do not do her justice.

Photos: d. king
Rhianna wore this gown to the Met Gala.  It is made of silk & fox fur.
Photos: d. king

If you get the chance I highly recommend checking it out.  To date it is definitely the most magnificent display I’ve ever come across in fashion.

Film: The Happy Prince

The world is a stage but the play is badly cast – Oscar Wilde

Rupert Everett as Oscar Wilde

Poet and Playwright Oscar Wilde is famous for many reasons.   I’m most familiar with his whimsical satire of Victorian society The Importance of Being Earnest – a classic about love, deception and mistaken identity.  A great character study… perfectly cast.

 And I saw his lipstick covered tomb at the renowned Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, France.

Other than that, I learned a lot more when viewing the special presentation of THE HAPPY PRINCE at the Vancouver International Film Festival (VIFF) yesterday.

No man is rich enough to buy back his past – Oscar Wilde

Actor Rupert Everett gives a simply remarkable performance as Wilde. He also impressively wrote and directed this powerfully empathetic account of the last years of the legendary Irish writer.

A short synopsis:

After spending two years in prison for his homosexuality—”gross indecency” was the official conviction—Wilde exiled himself to Paris, where he continued his self-destructive lifestyle while living in penury. Buoyed only by occasional contact with old friends Reggie Turner (Colin Firth) and Robbie Ross (Edwin Thomas), and with his wife (Emily Watson) and two sons far away, he’s a desperately lonely man who assuages his pain with alcohol, drugs and a succession of young men.  Everett was born to play Wilde, and his open, deeply felt film both honours his idol and conveys the essence of a man who, deprived of the things that make life worth living, maintained his ironic sense of humour until the end.

I can resist everything except temptation – Oscar Wilde

More exciting cinema until October 12th at:

Viff.org

Healing Art: Picasso’s Guernica

The other day I wrote briefly about the importance of using ART in all its various forms (to view, read or listen to) as a healing tool for managing grief. Here’s one of the best remarkable examples of a great art piece created out of tragedy to commemorate a terrible time in history:

Probably Picasso’s most famous work, Guernica is certainly his most powerful political statement, painted as an immediate reaction to the Nazi’s devastating casual bombing practice on the Basque town of Guernica during the Spanish Civil War.

Pablo Picasso, Guernica, 1937, oil on canvas, 349 cm × 776 cm. (Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid)

Guernica shows the tragedies of  war and suffering it inflicts upon individuals, particularly innocent civilians.  This work has gained a monumental status, becoming a perpetual reminder of the tragedies of war, an anti-war symbol, and an embodiment of peace.

On completion, Guernica was displayed around the world in a brief tour, becoming famous and widely acclaimed.  This tour helped bring the Spanish Civil War to the world’s attention.

Another reason why ART is so important in recovery.

 

 

 

 

The HyperRealistic ART of Omar Ortiz

The opposite of Abstract

Omar Ortizborn in Guadalajara, Mexico (1977) where he still resides.

His paintings are surreal.  His work is characterized as minimalistic – described as hyperrealism where the human body is predominate, done in oil with texture-filled backgrounds.  He has also worked with pastels, charcoal, watercolor, acrylics, and airbrushing.

Omar describes his work:

“Since I started painting I have always tried to represent things as real as I can.  Sometimes I succeed and sometimes not, but it’s a fact that it is very difficult for me to do the opposite.  I really enjoy the challenge of reproducing skin tones under natural light and the nuances that it gives us, particularly in bright conditions.  I like to keep simplicity in my pieces since I believe that excess make us poorer rather than rich.”

Art moves us.  Everyone should be in agreement with this.  While we may not all agree on liking a specific piece enough to want to hang it in our home, we can admire the work for what it is and the dedication involved in bringing something to life and/or giving us something to ponder.  Everyone can visualize something different in abstract, but in realism everyone sees the same – it’s like looking in the mirror (technically speaking).

Culture/Film: Mightier than the Sword

Film for Thought

When you believe in something that’s bigger than yourself you fight to make yourself heard.

Journalist Roberta Staley is fighting for women’s rights in Afghanistan.  Having traveled  undercover to Afghanistan on several occasions,  she took risky chances trying to create positive change.  She’s responsible for the award winning documentary entitled  “Mightier than the Sword” which has helped enpower women over there by giving them a voice to be heard.  A major accomplishment.

Rahibib Rahimi (L) and Roberta Staley (R)

I first met Roberta in a Spanish class over coffee in 2012 and was intrigued when she said she’d be leaving for a few weeks to go on assignment for Elle Magazine. In Afghanistan no less.

The Story (in brief)

Roberta went back to Afghanistan three years later to tell the story of Mozhdah Jamalzadah, a regular person here and a superstar in Afghanistan, where she’s a powerful voice for women similar to that of Oprah.  The Vancouver raised woman is actually referred to as the Oprah of Afghanistan.

This 48-minute documentary focuses on Afghan female journalists and filmmakers and their impact on gender perceptions and gender equality. In Afghanistan, a significant advance since the fall of the Taliban has been the entry of women into the media as reporters, directors, writers, producers and authors.

Excerpt by Lucas Aykroyd from Vancouver Magazine:

The powerful debut by Vancouver filmmaker Roberta Staley examines the impact of female media personalities in Afghanistan’s fight for gender equality. Staley, an award-winning editor and longtime contributor to Vancouver magazine, created the new 48-minute film to complete her Master’s degree in graduate liberal studies at SFU. After spending three weeks in 2012 in the Central Asian nation on assignment for Elle, she returned there in 2015 to shoot Mightier Than the Sword in 35 C weather during Ramadan. Staley remortgaged her condo to finish the film, which cost her more than $80,000. “That’s what you do when you believe in something,” she says. “I was obsessed with telling this story about the media and how it was changing gender perceptions and gender equality.”

View Trailer:

http://www.mightierthanthesword.ca/videos/

More to come

Music/Culture: OPERA in the PARK

Opera unites music, poetry, drama, and spectacle in the most elaborate of all art forms.

So it was an absolute pleasure to finally attend “Opera in the Park“, the Palm Springs premier cultural event in April .  This is the first time I’ve stayed here this long.  Usually I’m gone by the end of March because it gets too hot here, but this time I decided to stay a little longer. The event takes place at Sunrise Park which is a very short drive from where I live (part-time of course).

I originally had a spot reserved under the big white tent but decided to sit on the grass just outside it in a shady area with my lawn chair and the lunch I packed because I wasn’t sure they’d have food.  But they did have food and drinks.  And souvenirs. Most people were sitting outside the tent. It was lovely.

This live concert with arias from operas by Bizet, Delibes, Donizetti, Gounod, Mozart, Puccini, Rossini and Verdi draws thousands of people from all over Southern California every April in a celebration of great music with a professional orchestra conducted by Valery Ryvkin. In addition, a special tribute to Leonard Bernstein’s Centennial featured music from West Side Story and Candide.  It also marked the 20th Anniversary of Opera in the Park.  Oh, did I mention that it’s free? 

The Palm Springs Opera Guild Orchestra performed from 1-4 pm with famous operas including  Carmen, Rigoletto, Madame Butterfly, La Traviata, Faust and more.

There were food vendors from well known establishments offering delicious sandwiches, salads, platters, wine, beer, and cocktails.  You could even pre-order online from Trio restaurant.

Presenting Sponsors: The Augustine Foundation and

*Newman’s Own Foundation

Using the power of philanthropy to transform lives*Newman’s Own Foundation is all about supporting people doing great things.  People whos stories inspire us.

This month there’s also Coachella, a more famous and  enormously profitable music festival with a great long lineup.  A lot of musicians whom I’m familiar with and many I’m not.  But it was actually Opera in the Park that I really wanted to go to.  Coachella maybe another time.

Have you been to either?

Opera in the Park: Music Director: Mona Lands.  Artistic Director: Andrew Eisenmann.