In the 1930s Palm Springs California became a playground for Hollywood celebrities. There were several resort hotels catering to the stars. One was the El Mirador Hotel. There were a few tennis courts and actors and pals Ralph Bellamy and Charlie Farrell often found they couldn’t get a court.
Land was cheap in the depression and for $30 an acre the boys bought some — about 200 acres — and built their own courts. And in December of 1934 opened the Racquet Club. Soon they built a pool, a bar, some bungalows, and made it an exclusive, membership only retreat.
About three years later Farrell (pictured right flanking Rudy Vallee) bought out Bellamy (above left). And throughout the next three decades the stars flocked to Palm Springs.
Although movie fans had read about the club in newspapers and fan magazines and perhaps seen pictures of stars frolicking there, most of America was unaware of its existence until Jack Benny featured it in an a episode on his radio program in March of 1941.
The show, “Murder at the Raquet Club,” spoofed the exclusivity of the place. When Benny as the sheriff of Riverside county tried to enter the club to investigate, he was asked, ” are you a member?”
“No.” His was told “then I can’t let you in.” So Benny quipped “OK throw the body over the wall.”
Most of the famous guests didn’t come for tennis, but for relaxation and privacy. But Farrell was an avid tennis player, and so were many who joined him there, like Kirk Douglas (top photo, right).
Charles Farrell had been a big silent screen star, and in the 1950s made a comeback on TV playing Gale Storm’s father on My Little Margie. The Racquet Club was big in the fifties too, where stars from the past met stars of the present. That’s William Powell with Marilyn Monroe (below).