Legend has it that Sinatra sauntered into the office of Palm Springs architect E. Stewart Williams in May 1947. The swinging singer was eating an ice cream cone and snapping his fingers, recalls a flyer from the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation, which hosted a tour during Modernism Week’s Fall Preview.
“I want to build a house and I want it done by Christmas,” Sinatra told the architect. And, one other thing. Sinatra wanted his new house to be a Georgian mansion.
That didn’t sit well with Williams. “Buildings must be compatible with the land where they sit, compatible with the colors of materials and shape and form of the site,” the architect once said, according to the PSPF flyer. “I don’t design something that looks as if some alien spaceship set down onto the landscape.” But how to convince the Chairman of the Board that a desert modernist design was the way to go?
Williams explained that a Georgian mansion was hardly practical for the desert, but Sinatra really wanted it. So Williams did two mockups, one of the Georgian mansion, and one of the low-slung, shed-roofed mid century modern design that became Twin Palms. “My career would have been over if he had chosen the Georgian design,” Williams later said.
We’re glad Williams was so persuasive. Here are some of our favorite sights from our tour of Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms estate, which you can now book as a vacation rental or for weddings and other private events.
Sinatra’s go-to drink was whiskey. But not just any whiskey. “Ladies and gentlemen,” Sinatra announced on stage in 1955, “This is Jack Daniel’s, and it’s the nectar of the gods.” The next year, Jack Daniel’s annual distribution doubled from 150,000 cases to 300,000, according to Tales of the Cocktail.
And there were no frou-frou cocktails for Frank. He enjoyed an occasional dry martini. “Set ‘em up, Joe,” he’d say to the bartender Joe Gilmore at London’s Savoy Hotel, quoting one of his song lyrics.
When it was time for Happy Hour at Twin Palms, Sinatra would fly a Jack Daniel’s flag. His house was on the outskirts of mid century Palm Springs, and the flag beckoned far-flung friends to come on over. “We’d fly a flag again,” a PSPF docent told us, “If we could find a vintage Jack Daniel’s flag and photographic evidence that confirmed where we think the flagpole was.”
One docent told us Sinatra was a “was a decent practitioner of the hard-edge painting style,” the docent added. Popular in California during the 1950s and 1960s, the hard-edge painting style featured bold, contrasting colors and in-your-face geometric forms.
But Sinatra’s artistic interests extended beyond the abstract expressionism popular during the Mid Century. He often painted clowns. To some, a 1957 painting of a sad clown resembles the painter himself after his tough breakup with Ava Gardner.
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