Notes From A Traveler: The Traveler Experiences Palm Springs in a Very Different Way

Hi-jinx in the low desert

One of the many friends we made in Palm Springs. Image via amazon.

We used to go to Palm Springs a LOT. My company had a very generous vacation policy and it was not expected that you would retain any contact at all with the office since you were, literally, out of office. Everyone I worked for at that company considered vacations to be sacrosanct. Unless you were on premises you were not to be molested in any way. Everything could wait for your return.

For this narrative I’m going to name us after two of Palm Springs’s most famous residents. I’ll be Bob Hope and Better Half will be Frank Sinatra.

The first time we went we were planning to go to Los Angeles, which we had already been doing for years. “Bob, why don’t we go to Palm Springs? It’s supposed to be fairly close. Can you look into this?”

I was enthusiastic, because Palm Springs is one of the Gay Meccas, like Fire Island or Provincetown or Key West. Somehow, in the proto-internet age, I found out about a clothing-optional all-male gay resort geared toward couples. Now, it must be entirely illegal to refuse accommodation to people who are not gay men interested in naturism, but I think if someone tried to reserve without knowing much about the place they might be told, “Great, we’d be happy to have you. I must remind you though that there will be men wandering around au naturel, dangly bits a-swinging…” so that might put them off. 

I myself am not much interested in naturism and Frank is prudish about this, but the gay places to stay in PS all seem to follow this practice.

The place was great and we returned many times. It was behind a high wooden fence and when you walked in there was an Olympic-size pool and a one-story motel like structure. Around the pool was shrubbery and outdoor furniture. To the left was the office and the living quarters of the male couple who owned it. To the right, and discreetly shaded by a bower of plants and trees native to the area, was a little casita. I’ll get to that soon. Breakfast was provided en suite, and every evening at 5 there was wine and non-alcholic drinks accompanied by food provided by one of the hosts, who had trained as a chef “back east.” If you hadn’t met everyone already by splashing around in the pool you did then while nibbling canapés and swapping life stories. As you can imagine, I took to this like a fish to water.

One year, for one of my milestone birthdays, Frank said to me, “Bob, I was going to surprise you with this but I think I have to ask you how you feel about it.” 

“My instinct is to say add a zero to the check amount but…what?” 

“I want to go back to Palm Springs and I called [the owners; we were buddies by then] and they told me it’s the Dinah Shore Golf Classic.”


“Well, they are booked solid but a couple of weeks later they called and said they’d give us the casita if we wanted it. They’d also arrange to have dinner delivered from [a French restaurant encapsulated en gelée from about 1962, so my favorite].”

“This sounds perfect. You don’t need a buy-in from me, I’m sold.”

“The thing is the Dinah Shore Golf Classic attracts a lot of Lesbians so it’ll be booked solid with women.”

“I don’t care, we have plenty of Lesbian friends, let’s go and we’ll make more of them!”

So I’m one of the few men who can say that he stayed at a clothing-optional Lesbian resort, at least it was temporarily. They gave us the casita, which had its own private walled patio, thinking it would be some kind of private second honeymoon or something, and that we might not be in the mood to mingle with these non-traditional guests. I was having none of this. What I didn’t know is that the hosts had contacted every single guest to get their OK before they let us have the casita. I found out later that they all thought it would be kind of fun to expose themselves to us, assured as they were that we were mild-mannered, fun-loving, coupled off gay men and not creepers, but little did they know you could drop me in a group almost anywhere and I’d be gamely learning the language and prying all sorts of stories out of them. In deference to them we kept swimsuits on, because I’m sure male appendages would be unwanted elements on their Palm Springs sightseeing itinerary. Within the first two or three hours we all became close chums.

They were all coupled off, and we were all around the same age. We came from all over the country and there was one couple from Canada, so there was much to discuss. The Canadians told me several obscene jokes, which I won’t repeat. The women disappeared during the day to watch the golf, and Frank disappeared during the day to go shopping at this vast outlet mall on the outskirts of town, so I had the place to myself. It was during that time that I improved my breast stroke and the “dead man’s float” in the pool. I also did a little gardening and hung out with hosts and helped with Happy Hour snack prep. 

At the appointed evening the dinner provided to us on our private patio was fantastic. We dined à deux. Both meals contained about 6,000 calories each, so it was just right. Frank had stopped by a liquor store and laid in a couple bottles of “champers” to celebrate. I fell fast asleep that night, thankful for Frank and all the food and drink and clement weather and our new Lesbian friends. Not a bad way to embark on the next decade of life.



  1. What made Palm Springs such a tourist place? I got the impression it was basically as hot and arid as Las Vegas, except without even having casinos, which would be an understandable draw for coastal  Californians living in less harsh conditions year round.

    • It’s fairly easy to get to Palm springs from LA (to this day I think there’s still train service) but not that easy. I think starting in the 1920s celebrities started going there to get away from it all (“all” being the strict studio morality enforcers and tabloids nosing around for scandal.) It famously has sunny days 360 days a year, and in sun-obsessed California that must have also been a draw. Finally, I think the whole point of Palm Springs is that there’s really no pressure to do anything except to just hang out. The sightseer might be interested in Joshua Tree which is close by, and within the city itself there’s a tram that goes up to the top of a mountain and from its summit you can see the entire Coachella Valley.

      The one thing I found bizarre (but I really shouldn’t have) is that, like Las Vegas, it is golf-obsessed. The whole valley is full of these little communities, gated or not, and a cluster of, say, 20 or 30 houses will back up to a golf course. Where the hell is all the water coming from?

      • Where the hell is all the water coming from?

        Forget it, Jake, it’s Chinatown.

        If this whole thing was a giant real estate scheme by people like Bob and Bing, you have to wonder what kind of palms got greased to make it happen.

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