by Joel Vig
For millions of fans around the world, August 16th will be forever remembered as the day the “King of Rock and Roll” died at his Memphis home, Graceland, in 1977. Each year in Palm Springs, as a celebration of Elvis Presley and his entertainment legacy, a special event featuring tours and a remembrance concert takes place at the home where Elvis spent some of his happiest times. Often referred to as the “Honeymoon Hideaway”, this is the house where Elvis and Priscilla came to directly from their Las Vegas wedding ceremony to spend their honeymoon and their first time together as a married couple.
The house itself is almost as iconic as its most famous occupant. Built as the personal residence of developer Robert Alexander in the early 1960′s, the cost of the original construction was a staggering $300,000.00. The house is built on a slope, and the architect took full advantage of the topography to allow maximum interior light and spectacular views. Robert Alexander and his father George owned a residential development company and are credited with doubling the size of Palm Springs with the homes built by their firm. Alexander homes are, to this day, much admired and sought after for their fresh modern lines, their use of innovative materials, and their sophistication of color and shape.
The Alexander firm began by building modest homes, many for less than $20,000.00, but they soon developed a more elite clientele. Many of the well-known Alexander homes are situated in the Las Palmas section of Palm Springs, the neighborhood of choice for many of the “Old Hollywood” set looking for a desert getaway. The Alexanders built homes for Harold Robbins, Dinah Shore, and Dean Martin. President Kennedy stayed in an Alexander home owned by his brother-in-law, actor Peter Lawford, which was, coincidentally, not far from another Alexander home built for actress Marilyn Monroe.
By the early 1960s, the Alexanders were in the center of the social scene in Palm Springs. In September of 1962, Look Magazine ran an eight page article filled with pictures of the Alexander residence at 1350 Ladera Circle. For much of America, this modernistic vision of irregular shaped rooms and industrial materials, with central heating and air conditioning, with built in vacuum and counter top Nutone mixer, and ceramic tiled kitchen island with a built in charcoal grill and overhead exhaust fan was more like an exhibit from the World of Tomorrow at the Seattle World’s Fair than a house that people really lived in.
The Alexander legacy in Palm Springs came to an abrupt and tragic end. On November 14, 1965, both George and Robert along with their wives, were killed when their plane crashed into the Little Chocolate Mountains near Indio while en route to Burbank airport. Robert’s only heir, daughter Jill age 11 years, lost both her parents and grandparents and the Alexander firm was shuttered.
As they say in film, fade out…fade in. One year later Presley’s manager, Colonel Parker, was looking for a place in Palm Springs for his famous client to be able to get a way from the pressures of life in Hollywood. The Alexander home was leased for $20, 000.00 for one year and secret plans began to take shape to have the wedding of Elvis and Priscilla take place at the home. But all does not go smoothly. A “Gladys Kravitz style” neighbor, journalist Rona Barrett, gets wind of the story and suddenly a media circus unfolds. Paparazzi from around the world fly in and camp out in front of the house hoping for the story and the pictures to go with it. In what seems more like a scene from a screwball comedy than real life, Elvis and Priscilla with a small entourage sneak out a hidden stairway from the bathroom of the master suite through the back yard in the dead of night with only the light of flashlights to the waiting private limos and the leer jet provided by Frank Sinatra. They are married in a quiet secret ceremony in Las Vegas and then fly back to the home in Palm Springs for their honeymoon. When the newlyweds pulled up to the front of the house, Elvis not only carried his bride over the threshold, but up the driveway and the stone lily pad steps built above and through a waterfall at the front entrance of the house.
This is only one of the many stories shared by the knowledgeable and friendly staff who guide the tours through the house. Chris and Sam not only love the house, but are huge Elvis fans and have a vast knowledge of both the professional and private lives of the Presley family and friends. They live and breathe Elvis Presley, from the shirts and brooches that they wear right down to their Elvis tennis shoes. Framed letters and photographs throughout the house tell the story of a period in time of peace and happiness for Elvis and his new bride.
In addition to the guided tours, on Sunday, August 16th a concert of Elvis Presley’s music was performed by tribute artist Marlon Von Ratibor. Marlon, a well-known entertainer in Southern California, has studied Presley for years and his knowledge and skill pay off with a performance filled with nuance and attention to detail. Marlon’s costumes are authentic recreations, many done by the same craftsmen who made Elvis’s stage and personal wardrobe. The signature sunglasses were made by Dennis Roberts who made the famous shades for the “King” himself. Even the rings on his fingers and the TCB (stands for “taking care of business”) with lightening bolt pendant that Marlon wears around his neck are authentic replicas.
With a rich baritone voice, Marlon performed a wide range of songs from the early rock and roll classics to spirituals and patriotic standards. The lips, the hips, the gestures and the gyrations all capture the spirit of the man who many feel was the greatest entertainer of all time. The capacity crowd that filled the house cheered and clapped throughout the show, both for the man performing and for the man who had been his inspiration. Near the end of the two our concert, Marlon acknowledged that as close as he tries to perform like Elvis, there is only one man who will be forever the “King”.
Besides Elvis Presley related events in January, May, and August, the house is available for daily tours by appointment. The house is also available as a location site for private and corporate events.
For more information call (760) 322-1192
or log onto The Elvis Honeymoon House