Fun Times in the Desert

PALM SPRINGS TOUR

When Temple Isaiah and Carlos King, a member of its Board of Trustees and a Palm Springs designer joined forces last year, it was a match made in heaven.

The timing was perfect as Palm Springs’ Temple Isaiah, dedicated on March 28, 1952,  was the only synagogue designed by E. Stewart Williams, the architect who made “modernism” a star in mid century style.  From the synagogue’s trellis design catching the sunlight casting angular shadows to poured concrete and cantilevered stairs, Temple Isaiah has a history as hip as its legendary benefactor, Frank Sinatra.  In fact, the stone, wood, glass and plaster resemble the ceiling in the Sinatra home, which was also designed by E. Stewart Williams.

King gave me a preview tour revealing the treasures this historic synagogue holds dear, from a contemporary art collection by Yaacov Agam, the Israeli mid-century sculptor and experimental artist who moved art to a new level with intense optical and kinetic drama to a mysterious urn donated by the Hearst family, former Palm Springs residents.

An interior designer who has resided in the desert for seven years, King pointed out the works of art he will feature on the tour such as the eternal light and Ten Commandments designed by Donald Wexler and the stained glass windows in the Liberman Sanctuary, installed in 1969 and designed by Eric Ray, who was educated in London on Modern Jewish Synagogue Art.  Temple Isaiah, a stunning architectural masterpiece, will be showcased as part of the Palm Springs Modernism Week events February 14 to 24.

There are four 30-minute tours ($15 per person) operated daily on six days, February 15, 18, 19, 20 , 21 and 22, at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m., and repeated at 2 p.m. and 3 p.m.  For details on the tour, contact King at (760) 880-9987, for tour tickets, go to www.modernism.com.

THE DESERT’S PRINCESS, HELENE GALEN

The 24th Annual Palm Springs International Film Festival brings out stars and more, with 475 screenings of 180 films from 68 countries over 13 days, nonstop.  Thanks to the leadership of individuals such as Helene Galen, vice chairman of the festival’s board of directors, the world’s “cinematic spotlight” (to quote chairman, Harold Matzner) reaches an international audience.  Palm Springs (or Hollywood East to quote Variety) is a magnet for film fans, and the desert is a panoply of parties, nonstop.  This season my “Academy Award” for the perfect party goes to Helene Galen and Jamie Kabler, her partner.

They warmly welcomed over 350 of their friends invited to their Tamarisk Country Club residence as search lights illuminated the sky and a jazz band rolled out a musical message of welcome.  What a stellar way to usher in the Festival after the Opening Night Gala.

A steady stream of guests was bedazzled by art and artists, politicians, philanthropists, celebrities everywhere, from Senator Barbara Boxer and Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet to Carol Channing and Jack Jones.

A surpse awaited in the kitchen, and it wasn’t canapés!  Author, Australian-born David Wills, curator and photographic preservationist, was signing his book, Audrey, the ‘60’s, for guests.  Frances Allen, desert social reporter, remarked that the event was in the tradition of Hollywood East (Palm Springs) as Mary Hart, host and master of ceremonies of the 24th International Awards Gala, arrived with husband Burt Sugarman.

Frances Allen, witty British born and bred social columnist, noted the décor from papier mache moons to heaters disguised as mid century-inspired heater lamps transformed the residence into what could have been a clever backdrop for a Noel Coward play.

Seen sashaying through the crowed were Madeline Redstone, Lois Horowitz, Margie Victor, Harvey Lambert with Jane Effress and Palm Springs City Councilman Paul Lewin, all headed toward the kitchen for the luscious looking mini pizzas and macaroni and cheese puffs, I presume.  Desert visitors Mr. and Mrs. Bob Rosenthal and their daughter Brooke from Washington, DC, were seen by the lagoon like pool where well-rehearsed swimmers did their thing.

Closer to home were Al and Betty Haagen III, making the news with their popular Empire Polo Club in Indio, replete with a lavish rose garden and the venue for the  Coachella Valley Music and Stagecoach California Country Music Festival.  It’s just one more magical moment in our desert.  Α

Pam Price resides in Palm Springs and is the co author of Day Trips from Los Angeles.


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