The “Architectural Driving Tour of Palm Springs” offered this month during Modernism Week Online Experience takes you inside the Frank Sinatra home in Twin Palms.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY MODERNISM WEEK
There’s receiving a key to the city, but then there’s being handed keys to a 1966 convertible Mustang.
Bert Simonis is the lucky driver you’ll see when you watch “Architectural Driving Tour of Palm Springs”, one of many virtual video tours being offered as the Modernism Week Online Experience runs in February in place of the in-person version due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Modernism Week hopes to bring an in-person version back in April, but in the meantime these video tours offer a safe way to see why Palm Springs is considered a midcentury mecca. The programs began being available for on-demand streaming Feb. 1, and are available for viewing for the entire month. Visit modernismweek.com for information.
You will be a passenger next to Simonis as he takes you to a variety of must-see homes, including Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms and the Lear House (recently the backdrop for a Palm Springs Life fashion spread in the January 2021 issue).
Simonis, a filmmaker in Palm Springs who owns a midcentury home designed by Hugh Kaptur, and David Dixon, creative project manager for Modernism Week, fill in the details with Palm Springs Life. Both have been guides on Modernism Week’s infamous double-decker bus tours for years.
What was the inspiration for creating this video?
David: We wanted to highlight what we thought were some of the better buildings that we have to showcase in Palm Springs, and do this tour so that people who can’t come to Palm Springs and who can’t come to Modernism Week, and obviously this year not take the bus tour, to give them a little taste of what that’s like.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JAKE HOLT
You’ll stop at the former Dinah Shore home in Palm Springs.
Where did you get the car?
David: The car belongs to two guys that I’ve known for a long time here, Scott King and Sandy Edelstein, who are both car collectors. They have quite a fleet of nice cars and we wanted a fun convertible to do the tour in. They were gracious enough to allow us their car for the day.
What perk will viewers enjoy during the tour?
Bert: We go inside some of the home that you only drive by on the bus.
David: We thought it would be a nice addition to get access to a few places so that we’re showing a little more than we’re actually able to show from a car.
Bert: When you stop on the bus in front of the (Frank Sinatra) estate, you really can’t see much beyond the wall. And this time we opened the gate, walked in toward the swimming pool, beautiful house, and we took our cameras all around and showed people what it was like.
Did you find some surprises in doing the tour?
Bert: I think one of the surprises, certainly, was at the Lear House because when we drive by it, you know that the golf course is behind, but you don’t really get the perspective of how the house is situated, the gorgeous views that are available from the pool and backyard. The Sinatra house, it’s large, but it feels very homey, it feels very comfortable. But it’s a very large house.
Where else do you stop and gain access?
David: We go into one of the Donald Wexler and Richard Harrison designed steel houses, and then two different homes in Twin Palms, one of which belongs to Chris Menrad, who’s a preservationist and also president of Palm Springs Modern Committee. We tour his house. The tour itself is 46 minutes long. And we start and end at the Palm Springs Visitor Center.
Besides having this video available as a permanent part of the video archives for Modernism Week, how else will the video be used?
David: There’s a group from Palm Springs High School that is actually going to get to use the video for their educational purposes. Every year during Modernism Week, we have what we call Education Day, where we invite students from Palm Springs High School and from other neighboring high schools, as well as students from Southern California area colleges who are studying architecture and design to come. We do a tailored bus tour for them, and I’m usually the guide for those. We take them and we show them things that we think are relevant to their curriculum. For the local high school students, we focus more on buildings that they see every day and maybe aren’t familiar with. And for the college students, we make it a little more scholarly, so that it appeals to their curriculum. We are going to be sharing this video with high school students this year so that they can actually view it as well.