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24-Hours At The Legendary Riviera Resort & Spa

It felt like 1968 for a minute. He sat on the balcony in his upstairs room at the Riviera, overlooking the pool shaped like a “paint palette,” reading his USA Today  in a Burberry bathing suit, as the women below were in hair rollers and stilettos buzzing about the Miss California pageant taking place later that afternoon.

It was an oasis dropped in the middle of the desert with no neighboring skyscrapers, just palm trees, just mountains.

The women languished around the pool’s private cabanas decorated in portraits of previous Miss California winners —a pageant that’s taken place at the legendary resort since it opened in 1958.

A poolside waitress with dark hair and tanned skin, dressed in a bikini top and blue-and-white shorts came out from a thatched hut above the pool deck surrounded by white chairs and illuminated by light—an area known as the “Bikini Bar.”

She passed the green and orange chaises and the firepits to come to a man and woman worshiping the sun gods that morning before retreating back to the cabana to turn on the plasma-screen television. A fan in the cabana cooled the desert’s heat.

The man on the balcony, a Parisian financier, put down his USA Today and got up from his chair.

It was hot – almost 90 degrees on a November day. He went inside to sit on one of the two retro, white chairs with orange pillows in the room that was adorned with a Marilyn Monroe painting that took up almost half the wall.

He walked over to the room’s fully stocked wet bar, standing in front of a pop-art inspired mirror to grab a water.

Next to the bar, a jeweled chandelier hung above the table in the 840- square-foot suite, not far from the fireplace which was easy to turn on with just the flip of a switch.

In the suite’s dark colored bedroom that looks out to the living room, was the reporter he met on his vacation to the United States. She sat on a king bed with a white leather headboard, outlined in studs, extending to almost the ceiling.

Twelve hours earlier, they were sipping lemon drops and merlot at Circa 59 on seats in the “gothic” style restaurant at the resort. If it had been 1963, they would have been sitting next to Connie Stevens who filmed Palm Springs Weekend  at the hotel designed in the shape of wheel by Irwin Schuman.

As the couple sat at Circa 59, eating the best American food and seafood in the desert, it looked like they were a poster ad for the Stardust Hotel in Las Vegas, decades before their time.

Ending dinner, they decided not to go next door to the resort’s “Side-Bar.” Like the Bikini Bar outside where a disc jockey spins records on weekends, these are the destinations for young Hollywood’s elite to “be and be seen.”

Instead, they walked up the stairwell underneath just one of the many perfected details of the resort that recently underwent a $70 million upgrade: a red oversized crystal chandelier.

They walked through “The Arcade.” It’s the resort’s central hallway, with sectioned off areas filled with silver couches and Warhol inspired portraits of Frank Sinatra, Cher and Debbie Reynolds by Carl Myers — who created the glittery art  from Guatemalan coins.

They passed the pool table made out of glass and “cartoon like” wing backed chairs, before coming to the signature Starlight Lounge.

 A “chi-chi” inspired hang-out, it was filled with people, like the couple, in their 20s and 30s, and people in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. They sat in the room with vivid colors — bright whites, metallic and orange over tones — with a 30-foot video wall flashing images from Palm Springs’ storied past.

The next morning the financier approached the writer to tell her he was thinking about a massage at the Riviera’s Spa Terre.

Walking down the two-story building where the suite occupied the second floor was the resort’s Asian-inspired spa. Instead the journalist went, and left him behind.

Inside she stepped, walking next to the hotel’s full-service salon, with stations sectioned off in white circular porticos.

Like the circle walls, circle glass lights hung in the 12,000 square-foot spa’s entryway. She walked along the wood floors, in the hallway decorated with Buddha paintings until coming to the Watsu pool.

A co-ed intimate and indoor pool, it has palm trees next to the Jacuzzi, in front of sectioned off areas with white fabric draping from the ceiling above lounge chairs for spagoers to relax.

For her, the ritual treatment was recommended–a combination of a body scrub, massage and facial in one of the zen rooms. It’s a signature treatment for the signature spa.

The morning ended, her 24-hour get-a-way from her home in Beverly Hills was almost over. A car ride less than two hours away, the two worlds are so different.

Life at the legendary Riviera allows those who may not be celebrities, live like they are. It combines the chic of the 1960s and adds a modern flair. 

The resort that re-opened its doors on Oct. 15 after a two-and-a-half year renovation by owner Noble House Resorts & Hotels is located at 1600 N. Canyon Dr., Palm Springs; 760-327-8311; psriviera.com

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