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post Palm Springs Rodeo

April 24th, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — admin @ 6:02 pm

by Ginny Shook

On the weekend of March 23, Don Collier was one of the many Western stars who attended the Palm Springs Frank Bogert Memorial Rodeo.

Cowboys in Palm Springs? The Palm Springs Rodeo? The words hardly seem to go together. Most people, when they think of Palm Springs, picture a celebrity playground for the Hollywood set. The city has had superstar visitors as early as 1910 with Rudolph Valentino, who was arrested after his Palm Springs wedding night for being not quite divorced from the first Mrs. Valentino. In the 1930’s actor Charles Farrell (along with his wife, Janet Gaynor, the superstar Hollywood couple of the late 20’s) created the Racquet Club of Palm Springs, which attracted such legends as Spencer Tracy, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, Erroll Flynn, the Marx Brothers, Jack Benny, Ginger Rogers, Judy Garland and many others. Supposedly the Bloody Mary was invented there. The 1950’s brought the biggest names of the day – Frank Sinatra (with a piano-shaped swimming pool), and the rest of the Rat Pack, Elizabeth Taylor, who lived across the street from Dinah Shore, Loretta Young, Tony Curtis, Walt Disney (a great horseback rider), Lucy and Desi. In 1966, Elvis bought his Palm Springs home and had his honeymoon there with Priscilla. The 60’s brought out Gene Autry, Liberace, Rock Hudson, Chuck Connors, the Gabor sisters. Even politicians came to play golf and relax by the pool – Presidents Eisenhower, Regan and Ford had homes in the desert, while JFK spent many vacations in the hot sun (its been suggested that Marilyn Monroe’s residency had something to to with that). Most important of all, Cameron Mitchell and Linda Cristal both lived in Palm Springs (and Cameron is also buried there.) Current superstar residents of the Coachella Valley include Barry Manilow, Barbra Streisand, Tom Cruise, and Bill Gates.

But Palm Springs also has a long and proud Western history which makes the rodeo a natural. In the late 1930’s the small city had nine stables and only one golf course. In 1931 the Desert Riders club was formed with 200 members from all walks of life to take a morning ride through the desert. Members included such “cowboys” as Cary Grant and Clark Gable. To celebrate their western history and love of horses, Palm Springs began the Desert Circus in 1934, which included a rodeo and parade. The rodeos continued through 1989.

Palm Springs most famous mayor (no, not Sonny Bono) is always described as a crusty ex-cowboy – sort of a modern day John Cannon. He did not take off his cowboy hat when he met President Lyndon Johnson and wore his usual Western wear when he met JFK. He was known for his straight way of talking – read “not politically correct.” He raised his daughters to believe they were equal to men. At the age of 90, Bogart attributed his long-life to a daily horseback ride and a daily shot of tequila, and he lived to 99. Serving eight years as mayor, Bogart and the Palm Springs Rodeo were synonymous. Which is why the resurrected Rodeo is proudly named in his honor.

As a matter of fact, if John Cannon had just come a little further west he would have had a much easier time of building his empire. The Agua Caliente Band of Cauhuilla Indians were more accepting of the appearance of the White Man than the Arizona Apaches and assisted the early settlers in 1884 to make their home in the land of the hot mineral springs from which the tribe got its name. Those springs are still an important part of the tribe’s land today – the Agua Caliente’s Spa Resort (where Don stayed during the Rodeo) still offers baths in the magical water. If The High Chaparral ranch had been located in Palm Springs, Manolito could have had a daily warm bath instead of his usual once a month “whether I need it or not” wash.

Joining Don at the event were fellow Western stars Ted Markland, Johnny Crawford, Dan Haggarty, Ed Faulkner, Michael Dante, Andrew Prine, Ty Hardin, William Smith. Celebrities in Palm springs – as usual.. But this weekend they represented fond memories of the Old West and were once again the cowboys they portrayed.

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