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Appellate Judge Mac McEntire • Location: Shrewsbury, MA
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PSIFF Day Three: Tour of the Stars' Homes
January 19th, 2007 10:13PM

I don’t believe I’m about to admit this to the entire world, but here goes: while at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, I went on one of those bus tours that takes you around to the stars’ homes. If I were to sum up the entire tour in a single word, it’d be “hokey.”

People in Palm Springs rarely refer to it as “Palm Springs.” Instead, almost everybody just calls it “the Desert.” Driving into town, the Desert is not exactly what I’d call “pretty.” This isn’t the nice sweeping dunes of Lawrence of Arabia. Instead, it’s more of grungy, grey-brown, brush covered desert, like something out of, let’s say, Tremors. The city itself is much nicer, of course. Not only are there big ol’ palm trees everywhere, but the city passed an ordinance years ago outlawing large outdoor advertising. As a result, the whole place gets to show off some nice architecture without gigantic signs and billboards cluttering up the main streets. I can see why so many old-timey celebrities were drawn to the place. Speaking of celebrities, let’s move on to some of the goofy stuff from the tour.

My tour guide was also a part-time member of the Dixieland Band at Disneyland, and was the closest thing to an actual celebrity I met while there.

Ten minutes into the tour and the first “celebrity home” we saw was game show host Monty Hall’s mother’s house. This didn’t fill me with much hope, but, fortunately, there were other stars’ homes that were, shall we say, a little more high profile.

The Desert’s two favorite sons are, by far, Frank Sinatra and Bob Hope. There was more info about these two guys on the tour than anyone else. In neighboring Cathedral City, we drove by the former Sinatra compound, made up of several buildings' worth of living space and partying space. Sinatra allegedly had the entire interior of one house painted bright orange, including ceilings, furniture, doors, doorknobs, and everything else, complimented with orange shag carpeting in every room. Why’d he do this? Because he’s Sinatra and he did it his way!

Bob Hope owned several homes in the Desert, living in a smaller one, and reserving the bigger ones for his parties. Turns out Hope made his fortune not from entertainment but from real estate. He had the foresight to buy up huge properties in the Desert long before rich folks started moving out there. I guess movies and comedy were just something he did on the side when not making shrewd land deals.

There are a lot of stories out there about Sinatra being all short-tempered, and I’m not saying that those aren’t true, but he also did a lot of charitable things for the town. The most notable of these is a park designed for use by the blind, which he financed with a blind friend in mind. The park has all kinds of displays in Braille, along with a special audio message from Sinatra himself, welcoming everyone to the park. With all that in mind, I guess it would be pretty insensitive of me to wonder why one path going through the park is lined with cacti on both sides.

An ordinary-looking trailer park proved itself to be a notable locale, as it’s where Bing Crosby and Jack Benny both lived in their later years. This begs the question: What in the heck were Bing Crosby and Jack Benny doing living in a freakin' trailer park?

Marylin Monroe’s house is very cool and classy-looking, which you'd expect from her. It’s also just a few blocks down from the home President John F. Kennedy stayed during his visits to the Desert. My tour guide said the two of them used to pass each other while jogging in the morning. Yeah, I’m sure they did.

Liz Taylor’s house is not only gigantic with an elaborately landscaped back yard, but folks can rent it out for several thousand dollars a day for parties. So you better not let your 9-year-old daughter find out about this place, or she'll be begging you to have her next birthday there.

Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn have a very nice house, and guess what? Their next door neighbor is Madonna. Tell me that’s not a sitcom waiting to happen.

The guy who did the voice of the Shadow on the old 1930s radio show is not only still around, but he has a little plaque outside his home bearing the famous line, “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” I do believe that was the coolest thing I saw on the tour.

While driving past Hedy Lamarr’s house, where her grandchildren live today, I learned that not only did she have quite the real-life adventure escaping Nazi Germany to make it to Hollywood, but she’s also credited as the inventor of a radio guidance system for WWII torpedoes! Where’s that biopic?!?

Vincent Price has a house in the Desert, but, sadly, it’s not a dark gloomy castle. It does, however, have the distinction of being the longest house in the city. So, that's something, at least.

These were the highlights for me. In case you're wondering why I'm not providing the full listing of all the houses I saw, it's because I really don't care that much. It was just something to do.

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