By John Curley
Last September, Goldmine talked to Darlene Perez about her experiences at Elvis Week in Memphis. Since Elvis Week is happening this week, we’ve decided to revisit Darlene, a Southern California-based model and Priscilla Presley tribute artist, to discuss the Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway in Palm Springs, CA and the activities happening there in the near future.
What events will be taking place at the Honeymoon House during Elvis Week?
Darlene Perez: The Elvis Honeymoon House is in full swing celebrating the extraordinary life and career of the King of Rock and Roll! On Saturday, August 20th, we have Elvis Tribute Day, which consists of house tours and an exciting living-room concert starring one of Graceland’s 2011 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist finalists Ted Torres! In fact, Ted just received the “Best Vocal Award” at the Elvis Fest in Las Vegas, presented on the same legendary stage at the Hilton (International) where Elvis performed in the 1970s. We are honored and excited to have Ted perform for us.
Rockabilly Hall of Famer and friend of Elvis Glen Glenn will be our celebrity guest. Glen Glenn is rock royalty in his own right, with many Rockabilly recording hits, and he and Elvis were really good friends in the 1950s. Glen Glenn is going to share a few stories and some memorabilia with our audience.
I encourage fans to join us for a spectacular time, especially if they are West Coast Elvis fans who are unable to travel to Memphis and Graceland for festivities this summer. The next best place to enjoy Elvis would be here, with us, at his honeymoon hideaway. We offer the unique opportunity to be entertained by “Elvis” in Elvis’ very own living room, meet one of Elvis’ personal friends—a true Rockabilly legend, have a field day snapping photographs, plus they get to meet other Elvis fans and extend their “Elvis family” with new friendships!
Guided tours are available every day of the year by appointment. You can call us directly or book an appointment online via our official Web site. (Editor’s Note: Contact info is below.)
What role will you play in the festivities?
Darlene Perez: I am the resident 1960s Priscilla Presley Tribute Artist. As a look-a-like, I will be dressed in one of my historic replicated honeymoon outfits, complete with mod makeup and towering black beehive. I transform myself into a circa 1966-67 Priscilla for added nostalgia and entertainment to our events. I walk around during the tours, greet fans, and pose for photographs with them and “Elvis.” At specific events, I sing a few duets with our performing ETA.
Channeling Priscilla gives fans an unexpected surprise. It gives the house the bookend to its featured Elvis Tribute Artist and creates a unique photo opportunity for everyone. Guests are delighted to find themselves in the company of “Elvis” and “Priscilla” while enjoying the home during the tours and featured concerts!
What makes the Honeymoon House a special place in Elvis lore?
Darlene Perez: Naturally, there is the immediate excitement of having an Elvis connection. After all, he was and is arguably the world’s biggest, most beloved and most celebrated entertainer. However, for many fans, it is much deeper than just visiting his old stomping grounds. There is something extra special about this place that no other Presley residence can hold claim to.
The Ladera Circle home has a rare, priceless ambiance and history. Inside these walls, you had Elvis and Priscilla celebrating a rite of passage. This humanizes Elvis. The time he spent here with his bride and their family and friends was a very private and personal one. It is here that Elvis made the transition into a married man.
As a fan, visiting this house allows you to connect with him on that personal level. The minute you walk through the door, you are invited to step back in time and revisit one of the happiest moments of Elvis’ life.
Fans cherish landmarks where they can feel the heart of Elvis. Here, you witness Elvis as a happy newlywed with plenty of archival photos, and feel the energy and share the joy of his life here with documented stories told by the docent. The honeymoon house truly encapsulates the lyrics of any romantic love song that Elvis ever sung.
What is the history of the Honeymoon House, before, during, and after the time that Elvis spent there?
Darlene Perez: The Honeymoon House was the home to Palm Springs Royalty. Developer Robert Alexander built and lived in the home with his family in the early 1960s, and Elvis Presley occupied it near the end of the same decade.
Alexander created the midcentury masterpiece in the Las Palmas neighborhood of Hollywood stars. Known for his specialty modern homes in the desert, the famous architect built the property on three levels with four interconnecting concentric circles and no square rooms. With peanut brittle rock walls, a 64-foot banquette sofa, picturesque backyard complete with pool and lush gardens, the Alexander estate became known as the “House of Tomorrow” and was featured in an eight-page article in the September 1962 issue of Look magazine.
The Alexanders hosted many social activities at their home, with a who’s who list of society and celebrities of the day. Parties included entertainment by popular recording artists and often occupied by the latest dance craze. Legend has it that Chubby Checker was invited to personally perform and teach the twist to the guests at one party, and even led a conga line from the living room to around the swimming pool.
In 1965, Robert Alexander, his wife, and four others, were killed in a private plane crash northeast of Palm Springs. A short time after, Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis’ manager who lived down the street, passed by the house one day and saw it was available. He suggested it to Elvis as the perfect place to relax, entertain his friends and escape from Hollywood. Elvis fell in love with the home and leased it from 1966 to 1967.
Unbeknownst to the public, Elvis and Priscilla successfully planned their wedding day on May 1, 1967—despite being under the radar of neighbor and Hollywood gossip columnist Rona Barrett. In the wee hours of the morning, the couple snuck out of the home, hurried through a secret trail in the backyard, and hopped into a waiting car that took them to the airport where they boarded Frank Sinatra’s Lear jet. The couple arrived in Las Vegas, married in a short ceremony at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, then returned back to Palm Springs to honeymoon by late afternoon—all in the same day.
Fast-forward to the 1990s: Restoration brought back the original 1960s grandeur and elegance, complete with classic mid-century furnishings, Elvis decor and memorabilia. It has since been open for tours, and guests are given a detailed historic account of both the Alexander period and the Presley occupation at the home. Annual events take place that include tribute artist concerts and celebrity meet and greets. The house has been featured in many movies and magazines, most recently Time magazine and Fodors California. Part of the documentary Elvis by the Presleys was filmed here.
Are fans able to tour the house?
Darlene Perez: Absolutely! We are available for guided house tours every day of the year, by scheduled appointment. You can call us or visit our Web site to book a tour.
We are also available for productions, filming, photography, corporate parties, seminars, weddings, honeymoons, and private events. Contact us for more info.
Is it known if Elvis enjoyed the time that he spent in Southern California?
Darlene Perez: Yes, it is well-documented that Elvis enjoyed himself in Southern California. Because of his commitments in Hollywood making movies and recording music, Elvis made Los Angeles, and ultimately Palm Springs, his home away from Memphis.
He resided in the Bel-Air neighborhood of Beverly Hills. Elvis enjoyed screening his favorite movies at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, playing touch football with his friends at De Neve Park, riding his Harley-Davidson down Pacific Coast Highway and loved to meditate at the Self-Realization Garden in Pacific Palisades. In fact, his favorite recording studio in California was Radio Recorders on Santa Monica Blvd.
Elvis loved the serenity of Palm Springs. The desert provided a retreat for Elvis and he spent a lot of time here, most famously while celebrating his honeymoon with Priscilla Beaulieu at their residence here on Ladera Circle. Elvis also recorded a few songs for RCA at his home studio in the Chino Canyon estate he purchased down the street, which he owned from 1970 to 1977.
He loved the evening temperatures of the valley and Elvis would often sleep until late afternoon, with the air-conditioning cranked down to “meat locker” temperature, so he could enjoy outdoor activities such as home pool parties at night.
Elvis would ride his motorcycle to downtown Palm Springs for a Pineapple ice cream run. He had fun racing go-carts with his entourage at Camelot Park (now Boomers) and frequented Bookland (now Coffee Bean), both on Palm Canyon Drive. In addition, Elvis enjoyed local lounge acts at Caliente Tropics, playing blackjack at the Spa casino and dining on his favorite “combo #1” plate at the original Las Casuelas Mexican Restaurant.
Next year marks the 35th anniversary of Elvis’ death. As time goes on, how can places like the Honeymoon House help keep the memory of Elvis alive?
Darlene Perez: Yes, 35 years! Can you believe that? And he still stands tall!
Places like the Honeymoon House, Graceland, Tupelo, and all the other Elvis landmarks open to the public are vital in keeping the memory alive—because of their conservation, preservation, and education of Elvis Presley. We fans are fortunate that we can trace Elvis’ footsteps at places like Sun Studios and get a feel for that magical period of time. You can read Elvis literature, but to visit a Presley site is like stepping into a living, breathing scrapbook. Visiting an Elvis historic site gives you a connection to, and a deeper appreciation and understanding of, his life story and his contributions to music and pop culture. You use all your senses and everything …just…comes alive. It is simply organic.
It is important that Elvis fans recognize and embrace Elvis landmarks while they still exist, and to correlate their experience visiting these sites with the history they already know and the music they love, to other fans and new fans. Before you know it, the 50th anniversary will come along. And how many of us will be around for the 100th anniversary?
In the same breath, I am confident that Elvis’ memory will live on forever. Elvis is a legend, and legends never die.
It is fantastic that Elvis continues to be loved so dearly by his fans. I am proud to be a fan and enjoy sharing my love for Elvis with others. And I will continue to promote, educate, protect and preserve his history and legacy for as long as I can.
For additional information, contact:
Elvis Honeymoon Hideaway
1350 Ladera Circle
Palm Springs, CA 92262
Darlene Perez’s Web site is www.darlingpresley.com.