By Spencer Beck | September 26, 2016 | Culture
For half a century, Sunnylands has made Palm Springs America's Power Capital West.
Palm Springs eternal! Sunnylands, the subject of a new book from Abrams, has played host to a glittering array of celebs and world dignitaries for five decades, including President Barack Obama, who hosted the president of China, Xi Jinping, at the historic Annenberg estate for two days in 2013.
As election mania sweeps into full swing, Sunnylands, a new book from Abrams, pays tribute to a not-so-little western White House (make that “Pink House”) that for fifty years has made Palm Springs the unofficial western capital of the United States. Long before Brent Bolthouse and Leo DiCaprio remade the once-upon-a-time-Hollywood-cool Coachella Valley into the millennial playground for the rich, hip, and famous, billionaire publisher, philanthropist, and art collector Walter Annenberg (1908–2002) and his glamorous second wife, Leonore (“Lee” to intimates), transformed 200 barren acres in Rancho Mirage into a modern-day postmodern fiefdom for the rich, powerful, and famous.
Sunnylands quickly became a Disneyland for America’s political elite. Since 1966, every president from Eisenhower to Obama has made the pilgrimage west to play golf (the estate has its own nine-hole course), tour one of the country’s premier collections of Impressionist paintings (since Annenberg’s death, housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City), and otherwise chit chat–à l’intime—with the likes of political and non-politico party-ready A-listers such as Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, the Reagans (who never missed the Annenbergs’ legendary New Year’s Eve party), the Queen of England (who stopped by for a Pimm’s Cup in 1983), and a varied assortment of glittering celebs and international jet setters.
Since Mrs. Annenberg’s death in 2009, at the age of 91, Sunnylands, the only great American “palace” of the modern era, has reinvented itself as a nonprofit “Camp David West,” open to dignitaries as well as mere mortals, who, for just $25, can catch a glimpse of that rare intersection of money, power, and exquisite taste (pre-Donald times!)—with an only-in-California pink twist. And unlike that famous house in DC, you don’t have to stand in line to get in.
photography courtesy of White house photo