the-racquet-club-palm-springs

Break Point

James Powers Tennis

the-racquet-club-palm-springs
Nice shot. The Racquet Club at its prime in 1967.
PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY PALM SPRINGS LIFE ARCHIVES

111 East

ICONICA

Depending upon who tells the story, The 
Racquet Club was founded in 1934 by actors Charlie Farrell and Ralph Bellamy because they were frustrated either by having to wait for a court at El 
Mirador Hotel or by being repeatedly asked to remove themselves from the hotel grounds for hogging the limited tennis facilities.

Starting with just two courts, The Racquet Club expanded with the addition of a pool, the famous Bamboo Bar, cottages, and more courts. Almost from the start, it was de rigueur for Hollywood royalty (and those who wished to ascend to such noble heights) to drop in while visiting the desert. From Kirk Douglas to Audrey Hepburn to Paul Newman to Farrah Fawcett, the biggest names in show 
business served and volleyed at the resort at the once-remote north edge of town. Lack of proficiency in the game wasn’t an impediment to being invited for the weekend. There is no evidence that a certain blonde starlet knew one end of a racket from the other, but she entered the grounds as unknown Norma Jeane; years later, she left the club as Marilyn Monroe.

Long before the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, The Racquet Club Invitational was the desert tournament. Actor William Powell’s wife, Mousie, augmented that with her long-running weekly contest, the Mouseburger Tournament.

In the ’70s, The Racquet Club began an irreversible decline and eventually fell out of favor with the Hollywood crowd. Stiff competition from the Palm Springs Tennis Club didn’t help, and a fire in 2014 seemed to signal The Racquet Club’s demise. But the true cause of death was the club’s mysterious, and ultimately fatal, loss of glamour.