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Save The Palm Springs Plaza Theatre

Plaza Theatre front

Frasier Helps Save the Plaza Theatre

By Barbara Beckley

Who knew? Originally the NBC-TV hit Frasier was set in Denver – not Seattle. And Lisa Kudrow was cast as Roz – not Peri Gilpin.

These are just a few of the tidbits Frasier’s co-creator, writer, director and Palm Springs resident David Lee and stars David Hyde Pierce (Niles) and Peri Gilpin (Roz) divulged during the “Team Frasier Reunites to Save the Plaza Theatre” fundraiser, March 19, 2022 at the historic theater in the heart of Palm Springs.

Plaza Theatre Interior
When the Palm Springs Follies performed in the theatre.

The Backstory

The Palm Springs Plaza Theatre story begins in true Hollywood style. Built in 1936 by heiress Julia Carnell, who loved Palm Springs but thought there wasn’t enough to do. She solved the problem by buying some land and building La Plaza movie and shopping complex.  In 1936, it hosted the world premiere of Camille, starring Greta Garbo, and continued with film screenings, live radio shows from Amos and Andy to Frank Sinatra and other entertainment. In 1991, the theatre became a Class 1 Historic Site.

plaza theatre
Credit: Palm Springs Historical Society

Some $12 million is needed to preserve and keep the theatre alive with top notch entertainment so that it will work on its own.

David Lee made a $5,000,000 donation in October, 2021. In March of 2022, he hosted another fundraiser that included cast members of Frasier.

david-lee-palm-springs
Credit: David Lee

About David Lee

David was the Producer of Frasier, Wings, Cheers, and The Jefferson. For some of these shows he also acted as writer and Director. Lee has been nominated eighteen times for Emmy Awards and won Nine times. He also won the Directors Guild Award, the Golden Globe Award, Producers Guild Award, GLAAD Media Award, British Comedy Award, three Television Critics Association Awards, and the Peabody Award.

Palm Springs Power  

A nearly sell-out crowd enjoyed a delightful, gossip-tinged afternoon as only this celebrity-centric playground can deliver.

Team Frasier was testimony to Palm Springs’ celebrity magnetism, made possible only because multi-Emmy winner Lee (he also created Cheers) has loved Palm Springs all his life. First as a visitor with his parents, then with friends and now as a resident for more than 20 years. And testament to the city’s important past and present, with guests including California Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, A-list designer and Palm Springs resident/preservationist Trina Turk, Destination PSP owner Jeffrey Bernstein and partner Oscar Chamudes; The Shag Store owners Jay Nailor and MiShell Modern; Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton, the Frasier Casting Director (whom we learned didn’t have to work very hard since most of the cast were “pre-approved) and several Frasier writers.

Lee is working hard to raise the $12 million needed to restore the Mediterranean-style theater to its former glory.

plaza theatre Fundraiser

Telling Tales for a Good Cause

Up on stage, it was all smiles, laughs and fond memories as Lee and his co-creator Peter Casey, and “Niles” and “Roz” took us inside the making of the pilot episode. Divulging their off-the-wall thinking that resulted in one of the most beloved, acclaimed and long-running – 264 episodes from 1993 to 2004 – TV sitcoms ever. And proved the rumors are true. That the Frasier cast and writers were and are like “family.”

Frasier is yet to be imitated,” Lee admitted. With good reason, we learned. As the pilot rolled on the screen, Lee said “stop,” (a lot) and explained the whys of each scene and character.

To begin with, “there was no story outline.”

Usually it’s good to know the ending as you write,” Lee chuckled. “We didn’t. We just wrote it!” Which got them into some sticky situations, he admitted. Like how to resolve the angry exchange between Frasier and his dad, Martin, when his dad first moved in. Contrary to sitcom “rules,” they purposefully wrote this scene without any humor to break the tension. But resolve they did. As we watched in the following scene with Frasier on air, and Roz telling him “your next call is a father who’s having a relationship problem with his son.” Of course, the caller was Martin…

Casting Roz?

Lee explained they made Frasier unsure of himself on his radio show. Kudrow and Gilpin were both pre-approved as Roz. “You tell the story,” Gilpin laughed, leaning over and hugging Casey. “Kudrow rehearsed for three days. But she wasn’t the alpha female we wanted Roz to be,” Casey revealed. Lee admitted he could have had someone else tell Kudrow. But, “I called her myself.”

“Why?”

As Lee explained, the word “why” is the premise that made Frasier so unique and beloved. Guiding Lee and his writers to challenge old ideas and do things differently. Most sitcoms have a “stupid” character. Why? So Frasier didn’t. Why have Frasier’s dad move in with him? Co-creator Casey’s father had a stroke while they were writing Frasier. Why is Martin a cop? Casey’s dad was a cop.

Why the white lettering on a black background between scenes? “No apartment in Seattle has that view,” Lee revealed. “And viewers know Frasier’s apartment is in a building,” he laughed. So why use an establishing shot of a building? Why not do something different?”

Why Seattle?

Originally Frasier was set in Denver. “We wanted to be as far from Boston as possible. But as we were writing, the city of Denver passed anti-gay laws. No way were we going to promote Denver!” Lee explained.

Why a dog?

“Do we want our ratings to go up?” Lee reasoned. “Then add a dog.” There were two Eddies. First was Moose. And after – Lee became audibly emotional for a second – was Enzo, “with a small dye job.” Lee laughed recalling “When Frasier made the cover of Entertainment Weekly, it was just Eddie!” Why the name “Eddie? There is a reason, but too complicated for now, Lee teased.

Why the theme song? Lee asked song-writer friends to pen Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs and Kelsey Grammer to sing it, after the Carol King song they initially wanted proved too expensive.

 Curtain Up!  

“It’s great to see people in the seats,” J.R. Roberts, chairman of the Save the Plaza Theatre restoration committee board of directors, and former Palm Springs councilman, beamed in closing remarks. “It’s not often a working theatre needs restoration, but the Plaza does. We’d planned the after reception for onstage. However, we don’t trust the stage to hold this many people.”

JR Robers

No worries. With restaurants a plenty in downtown Palm Springs, Team Frasier guests adjourned to Oscar’s Palm Springs, around the corner, enjoying bubbly and hors d’ oeuvres in Oscar’s Spanish-style courtyard.

With such a great turnout for Team Frasier and enthusiastic boosters and donors, look for the historic Plaza Theatre to again take center stage as one of Palm Springs premier performing arts and events venues.

www.SaveThePlazaTheatrePS.com or call 1-760-218-6330.

Watch the Video with Lily Tomlin

Plaza Theatre front

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https://www.distractify.com/p/dont-worry-darling-filming-locations “Don’t Worry Darling” Filmed in Palm Springs Palm Springs filming locations. By Randy Garner Don’t Worry Darling is a new psychological thriller film that takes place in a 1950’s fictional California town called Victory. Official Trailer https://youtu.be/FgmnKsED-jU Why Palm Springs? The location plays a role in telling the story. While the neighborhood you see looks too picturesque to be real, in does, in fact, exist in real life. It’s not a tame and controlled conservative suburban life. Victory is a spectacular place full of opulence. It depicts something of a secret society in America, so it doesn’t represent traditional 1950s America or its values. As such, the production team descended upon Palm Springs, the longtime playground of the Hollywood elite, to create their desert utopia. A land of ever-present sunshine, blue skies and midcentury architecture galore, the area proved the quintessential backdrop for the storyline. The Storyline The Victory Corporation is building a city called Victory. It is meant to be a suburban utopia complete with sprawling greenbelts, a clubhouse, a sparkling pool and even an onsite boutique. Victory residents will want for nothing and have little reason to every leave. It is the one place to stay and be safe. The storyline follows Alice (portrayed by Florence Pugh) and Jack (played by Harry Styles), who are a married couple with a troublesome relationship. They just moved to Victory, a company town created by and paid for by Jack’s new employer, Frank (played by Chris Pine). While Jack and his colleagues go to work on the “Victory Project”, their wives are left to enjoy the beauty and luxury of their community. Here’s a look at some more specific Palm Springs filming locations in Don’t Worry Darling. The Kaufmann House The Kaufmann House was used was for the home of Victory Corporation founder, Frank, portrayed by Chris Pine. The home is fragile and extremely valuable, so much care had to be take to ensure nothing was damaged. This included bubble wrapping portions of the home and having docents in every room. Department store owner Edgar Kaufmann hired architect Richard Neutra to design a desert home for his family. A decade earlier, Frank Lloyd Wright had built Fallingwater for Mr. Kaufmann. But Kaufmann, having seen Taliesin West, thought that Wright didn’t understand desert design and chose Neutra instead. The home turned out so well, that when Wright saw it, he admitted to that is was beautiful (uncharacteristic of him). The building remains the most famous in Palm Springs in terms of international recognition. The flat roof, steel frame, and glass walls embody one prominent version of Modernism by using sharp, clean, lines and contrasting them to the rugged slopes of Mt. San Jacinto as a backdrop. When photographed by Julius Shulman, the Kaufmann House became an iconic image of modern architecture. The north wing is the guest’s quarters, separated from the rest of the house. The secluded west wing is the service wing. It would be purchased by Joseph and Nelda Linsk. She was the glamorous woman wearing yellow depicted in legendary photographer Slim Aaron’s iconic photograph highlighting the good life in Palm Springs, dubbed “Poolside Gossip.” In 1968, Eugene and Francis Klein, owners of the San Diego Chargers, purchased it. Then in 1973, Barry Manilow purchased the property and owned it until 1993. Beth and Brent Harris become the new owners and were eager to restore the property.They found a home once originally open and light-filled now dense and dark thanks to 2,200 square feet of additions that turned courtyards into interior spaces. The iconic upstairs room visible from the street, an open-air deck that really is one of the house's main features, had its views of mountains and palm trees blocked by air-conditioning compressors. Linsk addition, designed by William Cody, was compatible and relatively seamless, but removed the glass corridor to the master bedroom and drastically reduced the amount of light to the interior. Modernist furnishings selected by Neutra were replaced with those chosen by prominent Palm Springs interior designer Arthur Elrod. The Harris’s dismantled the crumbling fireplaces and numbering each stone for reassembly. To repair gashes in the walls of Utah sandstone, the firm convinced the original quarry in Utah to return to a long-closed portion of its site so the color and texture of the new stone would match that of the old. 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They made it their personal residence and lived in it until their premature death in a plane crash in 1965. The house later gained fame as the honeymoon home of Elvis and Priscilla Presley. The design of these quaint one-story duplex-style condominiums offered floor-to-ceiling windows, and characteristic Palm Springs geometric stonework. It included post-and-beam construction, open floor plans in which the living room, dining room and kitchen flow together. Built in six stages in the 1960s by developer Roy Fey, it has a utopian neighborhood feel, with a shared pool, spa and green space. It includes 180 units with attached carports. Can I Visit? Properties in Canyon View Estates are privately owned and few are available as a vacation rental. However, the neighborhood is not gated, so grab a cruiser bike and explore. Palm Springs City Hall The Palm Springs City Hall was shown briefly in the film. It is centrally located and just steps away from the Palm Springs International Airport, another beautiful midcentury modern style building. Palm Springs City Hall was one of Clark, Frey and Chambers’ most important public buildings, built between 1952 and 1957. Although a collaborative effort with the local architectural firm of Williams and Williams, the building’s initial phase was primarily the design work of John Porter Clark and Albert Frey. An unusual detail of the council chamber is its corner treatment consisting of projecting concrete blocks cut at a diagonal at every other paired row, which allows the blocks to cast light and shadow. Albert Frey was a leading early architect to Palm Springs and left a large design footprint on the city. His own residence, Frey House II, is also an architecturally significant building as was willed to the Palm Springs Art Museum upon his death. It is perched above Palm Springs with sweeping views and is available for tours through the museum. Can I Visit? Palm Springs City Hall is a popular spot on Palm Springs’ midcentury modern design tours, but visitors are also welcome to walk around and take photos. It is located at 3200 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way. Palm Springs Visitor Center Look for the Palm Springs Visitor Center, which was also shown briefly in the film. Like City Hall, it was also designed by architect Albert Frey. In 1965, it began as an Esso gas station situated in North Palm Springs. With a swooping and wing-shaped roof, it immediately captures the attention of visitors as they arrive in the city. In the 1990s, the building was converted into an art gallery, and subsequently taken over by the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism.

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