SINATRA'S HOUSE IN PALM SPRINGS IS UP FOR SALE. NOT THE HOUSE OF the latter-day Republican with the I, Claudius haircut but the house Frank built in 1947 when he was transforming from a skinny teen idol into "Sinatra"; the house where he lived with Ava Gardner; where he rested his head at night when he recorded "All of Me" and "Night and Day." To me, this was exciting news. I called the broker, who hooked me up with Marc Sanders, the current owner.
Sanders was kind enough to show me around. I heard music playing when I walked across the patio, past the piano-shaped swimming pool. A tremor went through me as I realized I was hearing Sinatra's voice. This overture was part of Sanders's selling technique, which extended to dressing the house itself like a movie set. In the master bedroom a fedora and an old-fashioned folding camera sat atop a pile of heavy vintage suitcases and hatboxes, as if Frank and Ava had just flown in from the coast. And, as cheesy as this sounds, when I ran my hand over the stacked Arizona flagstone walls, time turned back. Suddenly I was in the mythic Palm Springs, that oasis in the Mojave Desert, the most glamorous watering hole on earth.
Sanders is part of a Palm Springs industry--selling the past while at the same time preserving it as much as possible. As anyone who reads Architectural Digest knows, in the Nineties a group of relatively young style setters began to buy up the surviving artifacts of the Sinatra era: dozens of low-slung, midcentury modernist homes built as havens for the Hollywood elite. These people--who include Jim Moore, GQ's creative director; Doug Keeve, director of the Isaac Mizrahi documentary, Unzipped; artist Jim Isermann; and interior designer Brad Dunning--completely revitalized this California town, whose population had grown so elderly that it was known as God's Waiting Room.