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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

No annual event is more beloved—and as specific to Palm Springs—as Modernism Week.

The February program, a celebration of the city’s history as a playground and showcase for midcentury modern architecture and design, has long since expanded beyond a week. It actually stirs a few months early, in the form of the Modernism Week Fall Preview, which grows more and more as the years go by.

This year’s Modernism Week Fall Preview will take place Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 17-20, with 50 events taking place over those four days—and some of those events are already sold out.

“Most of the events in October are smaller versions of what you’ll see in February,” said Tom Dolle, creative director for Destination PSP, which “produces unique, originally designed merchandise.” Dolle is the creative mind behind the Modernism Week Fall Preview’s immersive, Instagram-friendly Cul-de-Sac Experience, now in its third year.

The Cul-de-Sac Experience is a compelling hybrid of exhibit, home tour and performance art. On Sunday, Oct. 20, one short block of homes in the famed Canyon View Estates, all designed by William Krisel, will be transformed into a period replica outside and in, complete with antique cars in the driveways and costumed extras. The idea came about when Dolle—a graphic designer by trade and a classic-car lover by nature—considered how best to give back to the city he loves. He looked at the cul-de-sac where he resides, which includes eight identical houses, as well as a condo complex. He was once tasked with hosting a friend’s classic car, which, for space reasons, he decided to park in his part-time neighbor’s driveway.

“It was one of those lightbulb moments,” Dolle said. “It was like stepping into a time capsule.”

This year, the dynamic scene will be set in 1966, two years after the famed Whisky a Go Go opened in Los Angeles, and Carol Doda started dancing topless at the Condor Club in San Francisco. In addition to this year’s selection of period cars (“perfectly curated, all convertibles,” Dolle said), organizers are bringing in a DJ and period go-go dancers to perform as visitors mill about, interacting with the houses and a bevy of models dressed in 1960s high fashion. Guests are welcome to dress to the theme, and photography is more than encouraged.

Included in the experience—tickets cost $75—are guided tours of the pool and garden areas, and a souvenir booklet complete with historical information, photos and vintage ads. There will even be a vintage ice cream cart.

“Everyone gets an ice cream—a Fudgesicle or a Creamsicle,” Dolle said.

The Cul-de-Sac Experience is one of the few Fall Preview events that isn’t replicated at the main February event.

“The Fall Preview is becoming much more important (in its own right), and sort of more lifestyle-oriented,” Dolle said, whereas the main event is “much more architecture- and design- and tour-oriented.”

Dolle added: “February really attracts people from all over the world. The fall event, because it’s a shorter time period, is traditionally more local.”

Of course, the Fall Preview will include Modernism Week staples like the double-decker-bus architectural tours (some of which are already sold out). Also popular is the self-guided tour of Frank Sinatra’s former estate, the E. Stewart Williams-designed “Twin Palms Residence” in the Movie Colony neighborhood. It’s listed as a Class 1 historical site by the city of Palm Springs, and became listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016. Palm Springs Preservation Foundation board members will be on hand to answer questions and provide informational handouts.

The mini-version of the Palm Springs Modernism Show and Sale will take place on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 19 and 20. Those wanting to get a jump on shopping for vintage furniture, lighting, art, jewelry, rugs, fashion and more from 40 different exhibitors can pay to attend a preview party on Friday night, Oct. 18.

Receiving special focus this fall is prolific local architect Hugh Kaptur, perhaps the last living heavyweight of Palm Springs midcentury modernism. Kaptur, 88, will be present at a free event from 10 a.m. to noon at the recently renovated Kaptur Plaza, and the subject of a free talk given by Palm Springs Preservation Foundation board member Steven Keylon at the Palm Springs Cultural Center at 11 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 20. The new Cole Hotel, a thorough rehabilitation of the Kaptur-designed former Bahama Hotel, will hold a celebratory opening party at 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 19; tickets are $55.

The events of the Fall Preview go beyond admiring buildings; for example, those 21 and older can enjoy learning—with a three-drink minimum!—as the bartenders at Mr. Lyons Steakhouse lead a Midcentury Mixology Cocktail Clinic on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 18 and 19; the $62 cost includes the aforementioned three drinks.

Back to Cul-de-Sac A Go Go!: Dolle said he’s excited about creating a place where guests can “be really happy, and have a great time,” even if it is just for a couple of hours.

“It’s celebrating the concept of modernism,” Dolle said.

The Modernism Week Fall Preview, including more than 50 events, takes place Thursday, Oct. 17, through Sunday, Oct. 20. For tickets and more information, including a complete schedule, visit www.modernismweek.com.

Published in Local Fun

A lot of historical quirks went into making Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley the tourism mecca that it is today.

In the big-studio era of Hollywood, actors were contractually required to stay within two hours or 100 or so miles of the studio … which helped make this a haven for stars who wanted to get away. On the less-glamorous side, a tuberculosis sanatorium once attracted people here, thanks to the 350 days of sun and dryness our weather offers.

These quirks also helped, directly and indirectly, lead to the construction of a lot of midcentury-modern buildings—and these pieces of architecture will be the stars of Modernism Week’s Fall Preview, taking place Oct. 19-22.

The list of talented architects who worked in the desert includes William F. Cody, Albert Frey, Richard Neutra, John Lautner, Donald Wexler and so many others. These men were responsible for the layout of areas like the Twin Palms neighborhood. (Why did they name it that? Because each home had two palm trees in front of it.) Of course, the midcentury aesthetic went well beyond homes; these ideals were used in schools, civic buildings, religious buildings, hotels, cultural centers and commercial designs, too.

Why is Palm Springs today such a haven for this architecture—so much so that the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Palm Springs to its 2006 list of America’s Distinctive Destinations? This was a question I asked Charles Phoenix, a performer, tour guide and long-time supporter/fan of all things midcentury; he will have a hand in a variety of Modernism Week Fall Preview events.

“It’s really the people here,” Phoenix said. “Palm Springs is the ultimate place to celebrate midcentury style and design. Palm Springs is a mecca of midcentury style, and it’s where all the kingpins and fans gather each October and February (during Modernism Week proper).”

So how did this happen here? “Being in the desert, I think they were allowed to be a little more experimental and break the rules,” Phoenix said. “The minimalistic style appeals to the residents here, so they didn’t have to spend so much on the details. Remember, most of these homes were second homes.”

Since the 1920s, visionary modern architects have been designing sleek, modern homes that embrace the desert environment. The modernistic use of glass, clean lines and natural/resourced goods helped create an indoor-outdoor living style that many people love. However, midcentury architecture has not always been so beloved.

“During the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, this style fell out of favor; people thought of it just not being in style. Architects during that time thought that midcentury was yuck!” Phoenix said. “Fortunately, there are some people out there who realized that Palm Springs was a diamond in the rough at that time. During the 1990s, a group of people highlighted a couple of properties and a couple of neighborhoods and started to bring in people from all over the United States for architectural tours. Then it just started to snowball. Palm Springs is still being revitalized and recognized as the center of the universe of midcentury modern, and it’s where the lovers of this form gather.”

As these sensibilities have changed, Phoenix has found himself being pulled ever more toward midcentury design. During Modernism Week activities, you can join him on one his double-decker bus tours around town (if they have not completely sold out already), or for one of his slide presentations with actual Kodachrome slides, many of which were just given to him. Some of them appear in his newest book, Addicted to Americana, released on Oct. 3.

Modernism Week’s fall preview takes place Thursday, Oct. 19, through Sunday, Oct. 22. Ticket prices vary. For tickets, a complete schedule and other information, visit www.modernismweek.com.

Published in Local Fun