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Palm Springs: An Oasis Of Nostalgia In The Desert

Living it up like a bygone movie star, '50s-style

In an era that now celebrates Sinatra, swing dancing, and martinis, it was just a matter of time before Palm Springs came back. The campy California desert resort--a couple of hours' drive from either Los Angeles or San Diego--is in the midst of a remodeling boom. At least a half a dozen old hotels have been or are in the process of being refurbished. Hundreds of stylish urbanites from Los Angeles and elsewhere are snapping up area properties as second homes.

To investigate this new-old thing--a sort of South Beach in the desert--I checked into the Ballantines Hotel at 1420 North Indian Canyon Drive. This 14-room motel, a favorite of the young Marilyn Monroe, was purchased just last fall by Fraser Robertson and Sarah Robarts, two Brits who were surprised to find no places in Palm Springs that celebrated the city's 1950s heyday. Robertson and Robarts filled the place with furniture by Charles and Ray Eames, George Nelson, and Harry Bertoia. The rooms are now Fifties Fabulous right down to the avocado-colored kitchen appliances and rotary dial telephones. Blue Astroturf surrounds the pool, and lounge music fills the air. Rooms start at $169 a night in high season, which begins Nov. 1.