Palm Springs a la Carte gets served up February 1, 2009
Mel Haber still doesn't know how to cook a steak, make a Bloody Mary or open a cash register.
That's not an astounding statement to make unless you have been a very successful restaurateur and have been in business for more than three decades. Haber, who was the operator of six different restaurants, including the legendary Melvyn's Restaurant and the Ingleside Inn in Palm Springs, made every mistake in the book and succeed in spite of himself.
Perhaps even more amazing is the fact how the former automotive novelty manufacturer from Coney Island, Brooklyn, stumbled into the desert in 1975 and made a name for himself in a business he knew nothing about – the hospitality industry.
Palm Springs a la Carte: The Colorful World of the Caviar Crowd at Their Favorite Desert Hideaway (Barricade Books, 2009) is a charming, often hilarious book describing the adventures of novice restaurateur and hotelier, Melvyn Haber, an automotive accessory manufacturer from the bowels of New York City who is a legend in the sugar-frosted society of Palm Springs.
Haber admits he made every mistake in the book, which didn't preclude him from running one of the most successful restaurant's and hotels of all time. His establishments have attracted a guest list that reads like a Who's Who of the world. Visitors have included Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Marlon Brando, Liberace, Liza Minnelli, President Gerald Ford, Steve Allen, Lucille Ball, Dinah Shore, Rita Hayworth, Jerry Lewis and June Allyson.
Haber restored the historic inn and grounds, and built his own restaurant, Melvyn's. He learned the business the hard way and lived through a comedy of errors that would have bankrupted most investors in today's ultra-competitive hotel and restaurant markets. He managed not only to survive, but flourish, and became an example of the American dream in its fullest flower.
The book is filled with entertaining stories that offer a peek into the colorful world of celebrities, Hollywood elite, royalty, diplomats, mafioso and lovable con artists at their favorite desert hideaway. As a raconteur, Haber has few equals. With this book, he finally lifts the velvet rope to give readers the best seat in the house, and enthralls them with witty stories about his black-tie clientèle.
These days you're likely to see Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, Sylvester Stallone, Cher, David Hasselhoff, Barry Manilow, Lance Bass, Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, Donald Trump and John Travolta enjoying themselves at the site. It remains one of the world's top dream resorts.
Haber feels his story should be an inspiration to everybody, because in his own words, “If I can make it, anybody can.”
Mel Haber is currently the owner of the Ingleside Inn and Melvyn's restaurant. He is also the president of the Angel View Crippled Children's Foundation and has served on its board for twenty-five years, the last fifteen as president. He resides in Rancho Mirage, California.
Palm Springs a la Carte (ISBN 1-56980-353-6; 978-1-56980-353-0) is published by Barricade Books and will be distributed through the National Book Network.