Palm Springs Modernism Week – “Welcome Aboard – The Pan Am Experience”


The tour of the Royal Hawaiian Estates was the main draw for me for this year’s Palm Springs Modernism Week, but there were a few other interesting things we were able to check out during our quick trip.


I was glad there was an event that gave us an excuse to see the rainbow spectacle that is The Saguaro. One of the ballrooms at the hotel was hosting an exhibition entitled “Welcome Aboard –– The Pan Am Experience.”


These days it’s hard to imagine air travel as anything but a hassle, but Pan American World Airways aspired to make it exciting and glamorous, as emphasized by this photo of Marilyn Monroe climbing aboard one of their planes.


Pan American Airways started in 1927 as an airmail service from Key West to Cuba and was America’s largest international airline, reaching its zenith in the Jet Age of the 1950s and ‘60s. According to the exhibit’s information: “Pan Am introduced the Boeing 747 creating the favorite airline of the rich and famous and was renowned for its stylish stewardesses, first-class amenities, including the first sleeper seats, fine dining and Clipper cocktails.”


The airline ceased operations in 1991 when I was still pretty young, so I don’t remember any personal experiences with it. Aside from the short-lived TV show in 2012, I’m probably most familiar with Pan Am from those blue and white bags with the iconic logo. They’re still so covetable that reproductions of those retro styles are still sold today.


The exhibit was all from the personal collection of actor Phillip P. Keene (“The Closer,” “Major Crimes,”) who has been amassing Pan Am memorabilia for 20 years. A wide variety of items were on display, including travel posters, uniforms, wing pins, toys, books (even a cookbook) and ephemera like matchbooks.


I was particularly amused by these lighters shaped like the Pan Am Building. This New York skyscraper opened in 1963 and was the headquarters for the airline. It was sold in 1981 and is now known as the MetLife Building.


We spent quite a bit of time browsing through the binder full of vintage travel brochures. Some had wonderful, over-the-top poetic descriptions like: “From the mists of Time, from the illimitable blue vastness of the Pacific, came the Polynesians. Searching for new homes eastward beyond the wide ocean, guiding their frail craft by the glittering pinpricks in the heavens, they came at last to Hawaii.”


I loved the juxtaposition here of the tattooed Maori native having his picture taken by the buttoned-up tourists, who look like Don and Betty Draper on vacation in New Zealand. Another brochure tempted travelers with this text: “A thrilling excursion into the primitive past, the ancient ceremonies of the Maoris, their little villages with beautifully carved meeting houses, are easily within reach through the magic of the Flying Clipper.”


Meanwhile, this Bermuda brochure (false advertising, much?) looked like something we would have seen at the “Mid-Century Mermaids: A History” presentation by Vintage Roadside at least year’s Modernism Week.


The collector himself was on hand during our visit. He was guiding around a few former Pan Am flight attendants that I believe were Scandinavian. It must have been an interesting sort of trip down memory lane for them…

Related Posts:
Modernism Week 2013 – Tour of Royal Hawaiian Estates
Modernism Week 2012 – Mid-Century Mermaids Lecture
Modernism Week 2012 – Architecture Bus Tour


Modernism Week – Vintage Airstream Trailer Tours

IMG_7181The closing weekend of Palm Springs Modernism Week featured two days of vintage airstream tours. Dozens of people hauled their restored travel trailers here for us to line up to take a peek inside at their handiwork.

IMG_7144The Decoliner looked like it landed here from another planet. (It was Oregon, actually.) Randy Grubb builds amazing custom cars — Jay Leno bought one — and he made this beauty in 20 months with the front cab of a 1950 COE, 455 Oldsmobile engine, and 1973 GMC motor home chassis.

IMG_7146The inside of it was just as groovy. Those little windows are part of the stairs that lead up to the flying bride. That’s right, you can drive it from the top.

IMG_7153Each trailer had its own unique style. One of my favorites was this 18-foot-long 1964 Airstream Bambi Two, probably because it reminds me of an Anthropologie store. The design was inspired by the Sierra Foothills and the modular furniture was made from salvaged local wood.

IMG_7162Owner Kristiana Spaulding rents out the trailer for commercial shoots and special events, plus she designs jewelry featuring (what else?) trailers. We also saw other airstream enthusiasts turning their passion into businesses by selling themed magnets and t-shirts.

IMG_7205It’s so easy to admire these shiny symbols of the open road (with a few of the comforts of home). RV connoisseurs would have been excited to see this rare (so I’ve read) 1965 Dethleffs Beduin, but I was more thrilled with what I spotted inside.

IMG_7199There was a retro tableau set up in the dining area, complete with ceramic tikis. They looked great with the tropical plant print on the seats.

IMG_7224The Palm Springs High School band program had set up a bake sale and there were also vendors like Vintage Roadside and a dude that made these neat neon signs (and whose business card I’ve unfortunately misplaced). Airstream Life magazine had organized this event for the past three years, but this was the last time they’ll be directly involved. I’m hoping next year will be just as memorable. (Oh yes, we’ll be back.)

Dazzles Vintage Store – Palm Springs, CA

IMG_7036After our Modernism Week architecture bus tour, my cohort and I started walking up Palm Canyon Drive to get a closer look at the tiki torches from Don the Beachcomber Palm Springs. About a block before we reached them, we stopped in our tracks when we spotted these two tikis out by the sidewalk.

IMG_7004They ended up serving their purpose, which was drawing us into Dazzles, a vintage store that we otherwise wouldn’t have noticed. It’s set back from the street in what appears to be a converted motel or apartment building that they share with a dentist’s office.

IMG_7015The first rooms you encounter are filled with knickknacks like macramé owls, resin grape clusters and this lovely Venus rain lamp. Make sure to keep exploring the rest of the building because this is just scratching the surface of their selection.

IMG_7016The tiki bar at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe no longer exists, but back in the day they produced so many mugs that they’re not all that uncommon to find. I also saw a couple peanut lined face mugs marked at $20 a piece.

In the central courtyard there was an empty swimming pool surrounded by for-sale patio furniture and more palm tikis. On the north side are open doorways leading to still more rooms that are also part of Dazzles.

IMG_7026Here’s where we really hit the jackpot of neat stuff — so many stacks of furniture and art that we had to be careful not to knock anything over. There’s also a large case of bakelite and costume jewelry that Yelpers seem to be quite fond of.

IMG_7027Hello, gorgeous! That’s a nice pair of…barstools. (I was referring to that tiki bar there in the middle, of course.)

I liked these matching restored rattan rocking chairs, but at five grand for the pair they were a wee bit out of my price range. Just like me to pick out the expensive items, but there were tons of other more wallet-friendly finds, including rattan side tables, coffee tables, wine racks and lamps.

IMG_7032Dazzles is just one of many mid-century modern shops in Palm Springs’ Uptown Design District, which the Los Angeles Times recently blogged about. While you’re in the neighborhood, check out the Shag Store and Trio Restaurant.


1035 North Palm Canyon Dr.
Palm Springs, CA 92262