Resort Rich in History
Palm Springs became a famous resort destination in the 1920’s when movie stars flocked to the desert to get away from away from Hollywood studios to relax and enjoy the stunning desert setting . The city incorporated in 1937. Around the same time the famed “Chi Chi” nightclub opened under the direction of owner Irwin Schuman. The man had many connections to the entertainment industry and was able to book such major talents as Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald.
The city did its part in World War II, by hosting General Patton’s Tank Brigade. The vast expanses of the California Desert provided ample training grounds for mechanized warfare. These lands still contain such huge complexes as the Army’s Fort Irwin, the Navy’s China Lake Weapons Station, and Edwards Air Force Base.
General Eisenhower first came to the area in 1954 and soon became a regular visitor. The region was already becoming a second home for a host of luminaries.
In 1957, Schuman whose “Chi Chi” Club was already an established success purchased the land for the Riviera Resort and began developing the plans for its creation. The resort opened the following year and was an immediate success. It catered both to the business elite and celebrities from the entertainment industry. It was the first such hotel of its type to be built in the spoked wheel fashion with different wings radiating outward from a central core. The modernistic feature was in keeping with the time as the country transitioned from the conservative 50’s style to the more adventurous spirit of the Kennedy Era.
Popularity has always Remained
The Riviera Resort remained a hotspot throughout the 60’s. It was one of the favorite hangouts for the “Rat Pack.” Sinatra and several other members of the pack so enjoyed their visits that they eventually purchased homes in the region. Elvis Presley also became a regular along with members of his band.
The hotel made its movie debut in the 1965 film “Palm Springs Weekend,” Connie Stevens is shown having lunch poolside with actor Robert Conrad. Desi Arnez performed here regularly at the time with his orchestra.
Bob Hope performed here along with Raquel Welch in 1969. During that period, big bands such as the Stan Kenton Orchestra and the Count Basie Orchestra were featured. Younger audiences were entertained by the likes of The Association and The Turtles. Continuing a family tradition, Nancy Sinatra played here.
Sonny and Cher performed regularly at the Riviera Resort during the height of their popularity. Sonny went on to open a restaurant in town. Palm Springs became his principal residence, and he eventually came to represent the area as a congressman.
The Riviera Resort now comprises a significant portion of the Palm Springs Historical Tour. Noble House Hotels and Resorts purchased the property in 2004. They have pledged to continue to enhance the glamour and excitement that have been hallmarks of the Riviera resort from the start. No one doubts they will succeed.