The actress reports on good memories at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club with her medley of playmates.
Since I put down roots in Los Angeles eight years ago, I've been hearing friends describe Palm Springs as the "perfect place to steal away to," a sun-soaked oasis from which they returned reborn, fresh, ruddy, and optimistic. Despite all this enthusiasm, I didn't bite, and instead headed north to greener pastures when in need of an escape.
Not until a few months ago, when a friend suggested we flake on a snowboarding trip and instead head for the dry heat, did I finally discover desert-style bliss in the form of the Ace Hotel and Swim Club, a former HoJo with a seriously hip facelift. After a few days of its relaxed, unpretentious chic, I felt the overwhelming desire to bring everyone I loved to this place—to see them soak in the saltwater pool, feast in the funky and delicious King’s Highway restaurant (a former Denny’s), imbibe at its sexy Mexican-style bar, and gather for a weekend free from cars, strollers, gates, lines, velvet ropes, and all the other things that complicate and isolate our lives.
It would have been wrong to keep it a secret, to deny them liberation from the boring exclusivity of conventional hotels, where guests probably aren't provided with a walking stick and a record player in each room.
So I beckoned, and they came, dogs and babies in tow, to my 26th birthday celebration in the desert town that I now finally understand, where the sky is so clear the snow-capped mountains look flat, like a perfect, digital, photoshopped print. They were further lured by my descriptions of canvas-tented bedrooms, communal fire pits, and a D.I.Y. Bloody Mary bar at this funky little hideaway, where the Do Not Disturb sign simply says "Not Now.”
A broad array of types and ages were invited, a family clan to help me entertain the option of never returning home to our daily lives in Los Angeles, where the beach is a dog and cocktail-free zone, more conducive to jogging than kicking back with friends. Around the pool we lounged, lips stained blue from sucking on fresh blackberry "adult" snow cones, bouncing and swaying to live DJ sets. We swam with the adorable bevy of next generation representatives, and (thanks to a particularly thoughtful guest) sneaked in some hoola-hooping, all the while connecting and conversing in a way that we never seem to get the chance to back home.
That night, after a feast of tacos and tequila, I was serenaded by a former cabaret singer in her 70s, certainly the grande dame of the establishment, who'd found her home at the Ace after years working in a local casino. In sequins and acrylic nails, she brought the crowd to their feet with a throaty rendition of Judy Garland's "Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart." (I later learned she runs free Bingo every Monday night in the bar. Yet another reason to never leave.)
We moved en masse into the Amigo Room, the coolest hotel bar you've ever been to, where debauchery ensued and was documented, regrettably or not, in the photo booth—a truly magical device capable of bringing out even the most shrinking violet's inner exhibitionist despite the mere scrap of curtain as a shield—before gathering the troops and plunging into the enormous hot tub for the last hilarious chapter of a truly perfect evening.
The philosopher Albert Borgmann offers four affirmations that define a meaningful moment:
There is no PLACE I would rather be
There is no one I would rather be WITH
There is nothing I'd rather be DOING, and
This I will REMEMBER well
Somewhere in the middle of that Saturday afternoon, standing on the edge of the pool as the sun slid diagonally across the easy smiles of my dear friends, it struck me that I was indeed experiencing such a moment. The fact that it took a mass exodus from L.A. to reach this transcendent state is not surprising, but certainly worth repeating, particularly at a place where the spirit of Burning Man meets the YMCA, and the room key says with a wink, "Thanks for sleeping with us."