Whispering Palms

Whispering Palms is a collection of articles originally published in past issues of Palm Springs Life.

Explore stories of celebrities who made their homes here and witness the lurid and tragic side of Palm Springs' past.

William Asher - The Man Who Invented the Sitcom.
The quintessential director of I Love Lucy, the wizard of Bewitched, Gidget's Big Kahuna, the principal ingredient in Our Miss Brooks and the brains behind hundreds TV comedy episodes takes a breather in La Quinta. Whatever rotten times colored his boyhood experience, something must have given him the insight and direction to exceed his parents' dreams and circumstance.
Bob Hope, Thanks for the Movies.
By Jill Borak
Our local boy made very good. Vaudeville, Broadway, radio, television. And, of course, the movies. There isn't a showbiz venue that Bob Hope hasn't conquered. His movie career started in 1930 on the Pathé Studios lot in Culver City - Bob Hope's first screen test. He refers to the test, with him and his vaudeville partner Louise Troxell performing their act before a camera and crew, as "the accident." Would his movie career end before it began?
Sudden Death of Bradley Little
By Gant Gaither
They were the highest-octane of LA’s high-powered couples, Gant Gaither and Bradley Little. Gaither, best known as the theatrical producer who first put Grace Kelly on the stage and Little, the editor of the influential shelter magazine Architectural Digest, lived a life in Los Angeles right out of a storybook. Chic movie star friends, glorious vacations, festive parties filled their lives. And then one night it all came to a hideous end. On April 9, 1971, on the mean streets of Los Angeles, two gunmen entered their fragile lives and changed it forever.
When the Desert Was Disney's Land
By Allene Arthur
What did Walter E. Disney do for fun in the desert? He loved to ride horseback. He was crazy for lawn bowling. And more than a few neighbors recall Walt's attempts to get them to invest in some cockamamie amusement park. How did the man who practically invented good times, entertainment and dazzling fantasy for generations of the masses get his own kicks? What did Walt Disney, grand master of the animated film, Lord of theme parks, and daddy of Mickey Mouse do for his own fun and games?
The House He Lived In - Frank Sinatra.
Ever since Frank and Barbara sold the desert compound, the whole town's been buzzing about the new owner. Who is he? Where did he come from? Why did he buy it? Meet Jim Pattison - who's going to do it his way. If these walls could talk, what would they be saying? I can't help wondering that as I wait to meet the new owner of the Frank Sinatra compound in Rancho Mirage. Over the years, I'd heard stories about the wild parties held here; the famous houseguests, the goings-on. I can only wonder about the opulence inside.
They Dream of Jeanne
Some people are born for sex. Born to perform it; born to love it; born to talk about it as naturally as the more uptight among us discuss food and child-rearing. Just watch former B-movie queen Jeanne Carmen as she’s being interviewed by staid news anchor Jerry Dunphy on a recent KCAL-TV newscast. She’s so natural talking about her boobs and whom she slept with, whom she’s slept with. It’s liberating just watching her. Turns out Jeanne’s always had that effect on people. Starting as a sharecropping cotton picker in the fields of Paragould, Arkansas, Carmen, neé Carmon, has lived a life reeling from one sexual encounter, one sexy experience, one blind stroke of luck to the next.
Tribute To Loretta Young
By Sewart Wiener
She didn't want to be interviewed. No, indeed. "I don't have anything to say," Loretta Young told me on the phone that fall afternoon in 1995. "I don't have anything to promote and I just want to be left alone." She paused. "But," she added, polishing off the kindest and gentlest turndown we've ever experienced, "you are so sweet to ask." Say this for us: We're persistent. For one thing, we're not used to being turned down. To us, being on the cover of Palm Springs Life is a rite of passage when celebrities move to the desert. People who wouldn't think of posing for the cover of anybody's magazine - we're thinking Frank Sinatra and Johnny Carson as examples - often ended up on ours. Undaunted, therefore, we sent Miss Young flowers, thanking her for her time and hoping she'd reconsider after she got settled in.
The Moonwalk Killer
On the night of July 20, 1969, Neil Armstrong first stepped foot on the moon. At 71-659 Estellita Drive in the Magnesia Falls district of Rancho Mirage, an insurance broker and his family sat in their living room watching the Apollo 11 crew turn science fiction into history. It was the last thing Rancho Mirage resident Jack Hale ever saw.
Flip Side
What is the most elegant chanteuse on the supper club circuit doing in Pioneertown? The collection of Nancy Wilson vinyl LP's from the Sixties gathers dust on the bookshelf, elegant reminders of a pre-digital age, refreshingly old-fashioned in this chilly new world of shiny CD's. Those '60s covers had gumption, though, give them that much: "This monophonic microgroove recording," it reads on the back, "is playable on monophonic or stereo phonographs. It cannot become obsolete." Talk about optimistic.
Killer Career
Actor Tom Neal wanted to be famous in the worst way. And that's pretty much how he did it. Although he was featured in at least 180 Hollywood productions, starting with Out West With the Hardys in 1938, he never really emerged from B-movies. Indeed, he spent virtually all of his career playing macho character roles in films such as Flying Tigers, Behind the Rising Sun and First Yank Into Tokyo. The closest he got to bigtime fame was his role as the unlucky, star-crossed piano player Al Roberts in the cheapie 1945 noir classic Detour. In that film Neal's character hitches a ride to California to be with his girlfriend, accidentally kills two people and ends up destitute and on the lam.

Palm Springs Weekend
Written by Larry Kusik and Paul Evans
Palm Springs, Palm Springs, go to Palm Springs and you'll find out what you've been missing... Let loose to all the swinging things you want to do...
From the song, "Live Young" Sung by Troy Donahue in Palm Springs Weekend
Palm Springs wanted nothing to do with "letting loose," thank you.

The Secrets of the Road Runners
Story and Photography by Michael Tennesen
The Roadrunner cartoon character that appeared on our cover was especially drawn for Palm Springs Life by the artists at Warner Bros. Jim Cornett, the curator of natural science at the Palm Springs Desert Museum, tucked a photo of a roadrunner and a photo of a bald eagle under his arm and ventured out onto the streets. His mission was to test the public's awareness of animals. Stopping 35 pedestrians and asking them to identify the photos, he reports: "Only 30 percent recognized the bald eagle. The rest thought it was a buzzard, a hawk or a vulture. And this is our national bird!" Then he smiles, for he has good news, too. "But more than 55 percent recognized...the roadrunner." Ah yes, the roadrunner. Is this the most popular animal symbol of the Southwest or what? "Go through any telephone book," continues Cornett, "and you'll see more businesses named after the roadrunner than any other animal."
The Mysterious Disappearance of Jean Spangler
Story by Arthur Lyons.
Like so many other talented hopefuls in Hollywood in the 1940s, Jean Spangler wanted to be a star. A sultry and big-eyed, the statuesque 27-year-old brunette had eked out a precarious living as a dancer and a bit player in movies and on TV while she waited for that one big break, that one part that would get her noticed and launch her screen career. On October 7, 1949, Jean got the part that would make her famous, but it was not in any movie. At five p.m., Jean kissed Christine goodbye and told her sister-in-law that she was going to meet her ex-husband, plastics manufacturer Dexter Benner, to talk about an increase in child support payments. After that, she was never seen again.
Extreme Tourism
"Back in the old days, you had to be made of pretty adventuresome stuff to drive to the desert. The Automobile Club of Southern California, celebrating its 100th anniversary, reaches into its archives and tells it like it was." The challenge and majesty of spectacular scenery in remote areas of the world lure today's adventurous travelers to scale mountains, cruise jungle rivers and mingle with wild game on safaris. But less than 100 years ago, Southern California's desert was the unexplored frontier that attracted the hardiest travelers to explore its scenic beauty.
Jerry Vale, A Singer's Life
By Richard Grudens
Jerry Vale is one of those guilty pleasures in life. Not known for being cool, hip or cutting-edge, Jerry's simply a darn good singer. He sings songs you know, in a style where you can actually hear the lyric. And these are songs with lyrics you want to hear. Classics and sentimental favorites. Jerry Vale, born Genaro Louis Vitaliano in 1932 in the Bronx, is one of the last saloon singers. In this excerpt from the recently published Jerry Vale, A Singer's Life by Richard Grudens (published by Celebrity Profiles Publishing and available in bookstores and on amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com) he talks about his encounters with two other famous crooners.

The Black Widow of Rancho Mirage
Talk about a stormy life. The way she tells it, Andrea Claire grew up in New Jersey; at age 15 she was raped by a 22-year-old friend of her sister, got pregnant and was forced by her mother to marry the man, bore him yet another child, was beaten violently during the marriage and eventually sued for divorce. And that was just her early years. While she was in her mid-20s, Andrea then took a stab at acting and managed to land bit parts on M*A*S*H, Bewitched and the soap opera, Days of Our Lives under the stage name Samantha Scott. But her acting career never took off, and she once again turned to her call-girl ways to support herself and her children. It was in that capacity, in 1980, that she met wealthy lumber company owner Robert Sand. She was 39; Sand was 69.