THRILLVILLE: Will "the Thrill" Viharo's weird, wild world of Pulp Fiction, B Movies, & the Lounge Lizard Lifestyle.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Palm Springs: Old Vegas/Vegas: New Disneyland (Thrilling Holidays, Part 2)

I would love to someday retire to either Honolulu or Palm Springs, or at least maintain a second home in either, but most likely, it will be the latter, and I'm okay with that. Monica would get island fever in Hawaii, whereas I like the idea of physical isolation from the rest of the world. Palm Springs is somewhat remote but still on the mainland, close to LA where she could pursue her career as an actress, and most of all, it is a Midcentury Modern Oasis. Unlike Vegas, which has completely forsaken its original identity as a sinful, stylish adult playground in favor of a bloated behemoth of a family-friendly amusement park, Palm Springs remains a Hedonistic Hipster Haven, its stunning architecture preserved and promoted as a matter of civic (and gay!) pride. Recently for Monica's birthday trip we continued our project, staying in every room at our favorite home-away-from-home, the Orbit In. We started off six years ago when we stayed in The Rat Pack Room during my 40th Birthday Roast. This time it was the Albert Frey Lounge. It is extremely relaxing there, Orbitinis at dusk by the pool, watching an old Sinatra Xmas special in the room, etc. We had dinner and drinks at some fabulous joints, old and new - Tropicale, Trio, and best of all, circa59 at the newly restored, legendary resort the Riviera, once frequented by The Rat Pack and Elvis alike. We loved sitting in the Riviera's ultra-swank and retro-mod lobby bar the Starlite Lounge watching You Only Live Twice on the big screen (so our second life will be in Palm Springs?). The food and cocktails everywhere we went were top notch. Palm Springs is the manifestation of our space age lifestyle dreams. Then it was off to Disneyland, where Monica and I enjoyed her actual birthday. I often compare Las Vegas to Disneyland, in a negative sense, but unlike Vegas, Disneyland itself retains enough of its traditional, nostalgic charms to keep me us coming back every few years or so.

I was last in Disneyland for my own 43rd birthday, nearly four years ago. "Pirates of the Caribbean" was closed then for renovation, but I'm happy to report that it hasn't changed much, the addition of some Johnny Depp animatronics notwithstanding. Depp is my favorite modern actor - hell, he's everybody's favorite modern actor - so no beef there, especially since the attraction retained nearly all of its original appeal. Can't say the same for the Finding Nemo-ized "Submarine Voyage" - it starts out okay, with sunken tikis and the old school underwater panorama of fake fish seen through the porthole, but then it quickly turns into a 3-D cartoon for most of the ride. It was really boring! The only slightly redeeming factor was listening to a nice instrumental version of "Beyond the Sea" as we exited. Like the rest of Tomorrowland, no longer a stylish Space Age playground, this icon from my youth has been ruined beyond recognition, I'm sorry to report. I also was not enthralled by the Nightmare Before Christmas-ized "Haunted Mansion," typically my second favorite attraction. Someone did a spot-on Paul Frees impersonation for the narration, but it was way too much Tim Burton and not nearly enough old school Disney for my tastes. Nothing against the movie or Burton, as I'm a fan of both, it was just wasn't what I wanted from this particular ride. Fortunately this is only a seasonal change. My other favorite attractions are all in Adventureland, which remains my favorite area of the park - "The Enchanted Tiki Room," "Jungle Cruise" and "Indiana Jones." They remain classic and unadulterated.

Monica's favorite ride and the main reason for this trip - besides the fact she got in free for her birthday! - is "It's a Small World," all Christmas-ized for the holidays but in a very pleasing fashion, seamlessly mixing the original song with Christmas carols and adding gorgeous decorative touches to the existing set pieces. We went on that one twice. At night it was festively and brilliantly lit up - like me in Palm Springs...Happy Holidays from Palm Springs and "The Enchanted Tiki Room," annexes of Thrillville. It's a small world, after all. Cheers.