We had some time to spare in Palm Springs before “The Book of Tiki” anniversary art exhibition, so we made a quick side-trip to check out The Riviera hotel. This old-school stunner made its debut in 1959 and counted Frank Sinatra and Elvis among its high-profile patrons. It re-opened to much fanfare in 2008 after a year and a half of renovations.
It’s super swank all the way, and there’s nothing very tiki about it except the Shag prints hanging up along the Starlight Lounge just off the lobby.
Some parts of the resort are sort of mid-century modern meets Lady Gaga (or Liberace, if the thought of Lady Gaga makes you gag). Anyway, it’s very Vegas.
One of the walls in the gift acknowledges another desert hotspot for Old Hollywood: the Chi Chi. That nightclub is now, unfortunately, a shopping center but in its heyday it hosted Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald, to name just a few.
That they featured so many jazz greats is already interesting to me, but the Chi Chi was also a Polynesian-style restaurant that at some point was decorated with thatch and tapa cloth. This menu borrowed from Edgar Leeteg’s black velvet painting “Hina Rapa,” an image they also co-opted for cocktail napkins and plates (Images from PalmSpringsLife.com/Palm Springs Historical Society).
The gift shop also had some rad art by Chris Reccardi, who’s worked on tons of cartoon projects including “Spongebob Squarepants,” “Powerpuff Girls,” and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.” I really dig the futuristic mod style.
If I had my pick of places to stay in Palm Springs, The Riviera would be it. That pool was just made for lounging, and the rooms look pretty snazzy too.
The Riviera Resort & Spa
1600 N. Indian Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA 92262