Purple Room in Palm Springs Finds Its Groove Again

After the pandemic nearly closed the doors on the historic nightclub, owner Michael Holmes is happy to be back and flourishing.

August 30, 2022
purple room palm springs california

The Purple Room Supper Club in Palm Springs opened this week with nightly entertainment and a full dinner menu.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY PURPLE ROOM PALM SPRINGS

“I’ve always lived with the idea of tomorrow and that was taken from me.” — Michael Holmes, owner of Purple Room in Palm Springs.

The Purple Room supper club in Palm Springs re-opens this week, but it wasn’t that long ago when the fate of the historic nightclub hung in the balance.

Originally opened in 1960 inside the Club Trinidad Hotel, this unique venue was an intimate hangout spot for celebrities like Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., and Dean Martin, and even served as the hangout for the infamous “Rat Pack” act.

Flash forward to the year 2020, this classic supper club thrived while serving as a hot entertainment spot for the desert community. When the pandemic struck in early March, the Purple Room was blindsided and eventually forced to close down like the rest of the entertainment industry.

Despite the sudden closure, Holmes decided to find purpose for the unused space. After learning the Eisenhower Medical Hospital was running low on protective gear, he arranged to help make protective equipment for those in need across the valley. However, after 18 months of complete closure as profits used to support the livelihood of the Purple Room and staff dried up, Homes wasn’t sure if they would be able to open again.

Sue Cameron and Lucie Arnaz thought of an idea: Why don’t they start a fundraiser for the Purple Room? The community had shown this venue so much love and consideration throughout the pandemic, and it seemed like a vehicle to resurrect the club. After some hesitancy, Holmes accepted te help. And much to his surprise, the community showed their support in an unexpected way: over $150,000 worth of donations (The Purple Room GoFundMe is still live and currently stands at nearly $170,000).

Holmes discusses the past two years in more depth with Palm Springs Life.

michaelholmespurpleroom

Michael Holmes’ lesson from the pandemic: “What I learned is take nothing for granted, don’t sweat the small stuff, and learn to roll with the punches.”

Looking back on the time when you faced closure of the Purple Room, how did the community around you respond?

The community response was overwhelmingly supportive. Initially, we reduced to less than 50 percent of capacity and then we were completely closed down in the middle of a Monday evening. In total, we were closed 18 months as we have no outdoor seating. We started doing ’to go’ dinners when we were able and the community came out in force to support us. So many kind comments of love and support came with the to-go orders, we were all deeply touched. Eventually, we realized that although the love and support of the community was wonderful, it was not enough to sustain us, and we shut down completely. Shortly after that Jeremy Hobbs (The Western Wind Foundation) and Lucie Arnaz brought to my attention that Eisenhower Medical was in desperate need of masks. We converted our dining room into assembly lines cutting gown patterns for those in need in the Coachella Valley. We also did two holiday toy drives with Darci Daniels Murphy coordinating with Well In The Desert to collect, wrap, and distribute over 1,500 toys. Again, the community response was stunning, often leaving us in tears of gratitude realizing what a compassionate, generous community we live in.

As time went on with the Purple Room still not being able to open, Sue Cameron and Lucie Arnaz started a GoFundMe drive for the Purple Room. Being from the Chicago area, I have a midwest work ethic (I’m told). This combined with pride, I was very hesitant to do this. However, I eventually realized we would not be able to continue without it. The response was beyond anything I could have imagined and quite literally saved us. Again, tears of gratitude and joy.

What did that mean to you, and how were you able to have a full season of shows after that hardship?

We reopened late August of 2021. Although many entertainers had been out of work for almost two years it was a difficult choice for many whether to perform again or wait. There was an uptick/surge of COVID cases just as we were reopening and many entertainers decided to postpone or cancel their performances as many involved air travel, etc. Eventually, we were able to fill out the season and the entertainers and the audiences were thrilled to be together once again.

Did having that experience change you at all?

This was one of the scariest prolonged periods of my life and, I’m sure, it was for many
people. I had always lived with an idea of tomorrow and that was taken away from most
of us. What I learned is take nothing for granted, don’t sweat the small stuff, and learn to
roll with the punches. In the end, surround yourself with people you love and respect, do
your best, and pray it all lands well.

brennawhitaker

Vocalist Brenna Whitaker performs Sept. 9.

What did that response tell you about why the Purple Room needs to stay a part of the entertainment offerings in the valley?

My main concern was for the 35 staff members that have become the Purple Room family. Then the enormous response from the community as well as from the entertainment knocked us all off our feet. I have always felt that the Purple Room held a bit of magic for us who work and perform here. What I learned is that many in our community felt the same. It is one of the glorious feelings in the world to learn that one’s community values and appreciates what you have spent your life creating.

What do you think people receive at the Purple Room that they can’t get elsewhere?

Intimacy and kindness. That applies to guests as well as staff and entertainers. When you come to the Purple Room you are coming into our home, our dining room as welcome and honored guests. The space is limited at Purple Room. This offers the opportunity to see major headliners ups close and personal. The audience and the entertainers alike repeatedly tell me how they love the exquisite energy that is shared here.

Are there any exciting events that we have to look forward to in the upcoming season?

I believe every event at Purple Room is one to look forward to.. Having worked in the entertainment business for many years, many of these great talents are also great friends. From Rose Mallett, Darci Daniels, Charles Herrera and Sharon Sills, who are our regular weekday entertainers, to internationally known greats as Marilyn Maye, Lucie Arnaz, Billy Stritch and many more, I have a personal relationship with them. I praise their extraordinary talent and they trust my values.

Did the acts booked last season shed any new light on what people respond to more?

I have always strived for variety. I think that is what works best. From jazz greats like Grammy winner Diane Schuur to film and Broadway stars like Marilu Henner and comedy stars like Lady Bunny. We have a terrific variety of talent to appeal to almost everyone.