Friday, December 26, 2008

"The Interview " with Mel Haber Part 3


I doubt that Mel knew he'd we'd be celebrating The Holidays like this but...
Merry Christmas...

MM: Cecil's was the equivalent of New York City's Studio 54 in Palm Springs. When you look back, what is the single identifiable factor that lent that certain magic to Cecil's or Melvyn's?

MH: The place (Cecil's Disco) was designed in such a way--there were two statistics that say a lot. One night at Cecil's, there were 42 Rolls Royce's in the parking lot. I don't think there's a dealership in the world that had 42 Rolls Royce's on their lot! That was the kind of crowd we attracted. Number two: the place was designed in such a way that this is a disco in Palm Springs in a shopping center. We had no dress code. Eighty-percent of the guys wore jackets and fifty-percent wore ties! In a disco in a shopping center in Palm Springs. It was just a place where you got dressed up to meet members of the opposite sex. As a matter of fact, that's where I met my wife! I was 44 years old. The disco board at Cecil's was up on the second level. You could see everybody come in and see everybody dancing and watch the cocktail waitresses. And my wife was a beautiful school teacher who walks in for the first time with a girlfriend. She sees me up in the disco booth and pokes her girlfriend and says 'Isn't that guy a little old to be a disc jockey?' It was truly love at first sight--all these years ago.

MM: You've sat down with some of the most famous people in the world. You're an astute observer of people. Is there a certain identifiable trait that successful people have that stands out most to you?

MH: No. And that happens to be a very good question because I am a great fan of people of accomplishment. It doesn't necessarily have to be money, but anybody who has accomplished something. And as I sat with these people, I tried to identify just what you asked me! And I couldn't. I couldn't figure out why this particular person was so successful at what they were doing. Of the people that I know, I think a lot of them have chutzpah--the Jewish word; they step up to the plate. One time, I had the pleasure of meeting (billionaire) Kirk Kerkorian. I'm a great reader of biographies and I had a collection of books. So at the the time Kirk Kerkorian came in, I ran home and I brought back his biography and I said 'Mr. Kerkorian, would you be kind enough to autograph this for me?' And he said 'What do you want me to write?' And I said 'Write To My Friend Mel, Kirk Kerkorian'. Well, the next time he came in the manager said 'Mr. Kerkorian wants to see you'. I got nervous. I ran to his table and I said 'Mr. K. you wanted to see me?' He said, 'You know, the last time I was in here you embarrassed me. You asked me for my autograph'. I said, 'Mr. Kerkorian, do you have any idea who you are?' He was absolutely serious that I had embarrassed him because I had asked for his autograph. So, who knows what quality makes somebody as great as they are?

MM: What drove you? What drove Mel Haber to develop this world-famous hotel and restaurant with his blood, sweat and tears--16 hour days six and a half days a week for years? Something drove you.

MH: Greed. G-R-E-E-D.
MM: Greed?
MH: Yeah, Greed.
MM: Really?

MH: (Laughing): Well, I come out of Brooklyn with just a work ethic that you have when you come out of back East that you just work and work. When I first came out here, Michael, my competitors said 'Look at this jerk. If he wanted to work 18 hours a day, he could have stayed back in New York'. These guys closed their restaurants three months a year, they'd close the restaurant at 11 O'clock at night; they didn't stay open until 2 AM. So just by sheer, brute force I was able to compete just by being there much longer than they were. And they said, 'Look, if I wanted to work 18 hours a day I'd never come to Palm Springs. I came out here t play golf during the day, open my restaurant four or five hours a night, close it three months a year and travel'. And I'm the last one to say that they were crazy! I am also fortunate enough to have some staff that have been there 34 years. And I built a product. People don't come there because Mel Haber is there. They come there for the ambiance, or they like the food or the help there. And I'm not a star. Hopefully, I'm an extricated attraction.

MM: Or the main attraction. And I want to get to this. You were the host for a while of a show on radio called "Celebrity Radio" and you gave advice on the singles dating scene. Okay, I'm single.
Talk to me. What are your observations today from your vantage point of having operated Cecil's and restaurants about what makes the singles scene so difficult to navigate?

MH: Well, first of all you have sexually transmitted diseases which didn't exist when I had Cecil's. AIDS was not a word in the early 1980's. Mothers Against Drunk Driving helped raise awareness about reckless partying every night. Those two elements coincided with the end of disco. People partied back then almost seven nights a week. Today, they're nervous. And rightfully so. Also, the Internet has come into play, where all people try to find others on The Internet. My biggest observation when I ran Cecil's--and I met so many single people--and a lot of the ladies used to talk to me. They'd meet a guy and after a dance say 'he's not my number 10'. And I used to say, 'Well, maybe the guy's a 7. Why don't you go with a 7 until you find an 8, go with an 8 until you find a 9 and you can't go from zero to a hundred overnight. And incidentally, I'm a very big philosopher on love relationships, I really am. You can't really know somebody until you go out with them, because everybody puts on a facade. Everybody has a shell out there. Until you really get to know them, you don't have a clue. Now if someone is repulsive, I don't suggest that you try and strip that layer off. There's another thing that I believe in. I don't buy the cliche' 'You can't judge a book by its cover'. I think the cover is the book. I think the way that ladies dresses is her tastes--nobody else's. The way she combs her hair is the way she thinks she looks good. And if I don't like her taste in clothing, nobody dressed her. She is the cover!
MM: Okay, Mel. I'll have to give that some thought. I admit, I wasn't expecting to hear that. But that's why it's fun to visit here.

Note from Michael Manning: To each and every one of you, dear readers, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas with my Warmth and my Love. Each year, I continue to find myself both surprised and sincerely touched by the depth of feeling so many of you consistently communicate to me. If only the whole world were like each of you! I Thank You with all my heart. And I'm aware that I owe many of you visits. I am still operating without my Laptop Computer (while it's in tghe repair shop), so my access is erratic. But I will catch up with you. Meantime, hug someone you love and celebrate Christmas!

Mel wraps up our visit tomorrow with a cup of coffee and a word about an organization near and dear to his heart: The Angel View Crippled Children's Fund. Please join us!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

"The Interview" presents Mel Haber Part 2


Mel is back!...

"My staff of misfits included a day-to-day manager who sported a Buddha-like belly, a bad toupee, and a pronounced limp; a twenty year-old man-boy with a thick Arkansas drawl who alternately served as a bell captain, bellman, bookeeper and front desk clerk; a temperamental chef with a huge appetite for pornography; a housekeeper who had difficulty making beds because of a bad back; and four sixty-year-old waiters, including an Englishman who caused diners to gag on their escargot by addressing them as "Mum" and "Pops".
---Mel Haber, from "Palm Springs a' la Carte".
MM: My readers are a young audience. They'll recognize the names of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver, Cher, Madonna, Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn and Kate Hudson. But how do you explain the appeal of The Ingleside Inn? You write about walking into one of the the two basements (rare in Palm Springs) of the hotel and finding files of Guest Cards left behind by Ava Gardner, Liz Taylor, john Wayne and Howard Hughes--as I mentioned in my introduction of you--from the 1940's. That's a big stretch to today! I mean, we're talking over 50 years of celebrities in that brief mention. How do you explain that appeal? Someone opens a restaurant in Scottsdale, Arizona and it stays open more than six months, they are considered lucky!


MH: Well, there's a charm and there's an ambiance. The place was built in 1925. And everybody says 'Why don't you open another Ingleside Inn?' And I said 'If I knew how to build another place 80 years-old I would! I don't know how to duplicate that. But there's a certain intrinsic charm and ambiance about the place. And I must tell you as I've come to find out, that people who love small, intimate properties--they hate what they call the big box hotels. Now, having said that, I happen to be going to New York tomorrow. And I stay at a big-box hotel. I'm one of these guys who likes to sit in a lobby and see a thousand people walk by. But there's a whole clientele for my product. That's why it is so incongruous for me to have an Ingleside Inn and a restaurant--because I still can't even cook a hamburger. The point of the story is in the last line of the book, and it's really the story. 'If I can do it, anybody can'. I really hope that it will be an inspiration and motivation for anybody to try anything they want to do. Because I came to this business, knew nothing about the business, was not interested in the business, had no connections, had no money and I had no particular intelligence. So those are things you don't have control over anyway. The things you do have control over is caring, how hard you're willing to work and building around those two things is legitimate. Everybody has those tools. They're intelligence: whatever God gave is what they're stuck with. But everybody can control how hard they're willing to work, being sincere, listening to the customer--that's what I'd like to point out, Michael. The fact that I don't know anything about wine, food or liquor--I couldn't criticize a customer or correct them or anything. The only thing I could use as a tool was to listen to the customers and if a customer called coffee tea when he wanted coffee--I'd give him tea. I wasn't out to prove anything. I was only out to satisfy the customer. And because I had no knowledge, I had to listen to everything they said. My famous saying is, ' I've never been accused of listening to nobody, but I've been accused of listening to everyone'. It's such a great story. Forget about the guy whose name is Mel Haber. I mean, Michael, I just called my best friend in New York and said 'I think I just discovered the cure for cancer'. He said what? I said 'They're putting me on 60 Minutes cause I have a hot saloon!' For all I know, I'm going broke tomorrow. Amazing!

MM: Television has been good to you. You've been on '60 Minutes', 'Phil Donahue', 'David Suskind'. How did that turn out for Mel Haber? Television becomes you!

MH: I enjoyed it. It turns out that I didn't realize I was a ham! I did ten additional shows because I created the word 'Palimony' (this was during the famous 1977 lawsuit between actor Lee Marvin and live-in girlfriend Michele Triola). I mean, that was a great story and a great debate from my side of the fence.

MM: Let me throw out one name for a thumb nail sketch--and you knew him: Frank Sinatra. I'll let you elaborate.

MH: Frank Sinatra is the only person I have ever been in awe of. There was an aura of power about him. And everybody knew that about him. And he was a very high profile presence in Palm Springs. Everybody knew where he was having dinner, and where he was having drinks. in those days, when I first opened Ingleside Inn, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria (Shriver)--they were in the hotel once a month. Once they got married and had kids, they wound up renting a house near The Ingleside Inn and then eventually he became governor. They came into the restaurant (Melvyn's) quite a bit and they were great customers. Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn would come here back when Kate Hudson was just a little kid. As a matter of fact, one day as I was walking out of my office and I saw Kurt and Goldie and I said, 'Oh, God! What are you guys doing here?' As it turns out, they needed someplace to go. So, they decided to fly to Palm Springs--Kurt Russell is a pilot--and spend an hour and a half at my pool at The Ingleside Inn and then fly back home in L.A.--which was a quite an honor for me. Marlon Brando spent a couple of days at the place--spending half his time, I might add--sitting in his mobile home outside the property talking on his CB (Citizens Band) radio. If these people knew they were talking to Marlon Brando on their CB Radios, they'd go crazy! John Travolta used to come down here all the time--back when he was in "Saturday Night Fever". All of that was such a blur, Michael. I had five restaurants that I had going and all of that celebrity was going on --and I was the loser. because I was so busy with my restaurant or my hotel--working 18 to 20 hours a day. I didn't have the time to absorb all of the people that I met. I remember one time, I told my wife 'Of all the people I met, I always wanted to meet Dionne Warwick'. And my wife took me into my office at home and showed me my picture with Dionne Warwick!

MM: Well, this next item was hilarious for me. All three of actor Michael Landon's ex-wives showed up at the restaurant at the same time. My God, how did you handle that nightmare?
MH: I'll one-up you on that. One night, as it turns out--a married couple that were cheating on each other somehow wound up in adjacent rooms at The Ingleside Inn and both walked of their rooms at the same time and I was standing there--and they were both in shock! They wound up getting a divorce, of course. But both a very prominent couple from Beverly Hills--both decided to sneak away to the small Ingleside Inn where nobody would see them and as fate would have it--I guess it was meant to be--they both walked out of the rooms and saw each other. But those stories go on endlessly. I'm sitting at the bar and a guy walks up to me and says 'Can you do me a favor?' I said certainly! He says 'I'm sitting right around the corner at the first table with my girlfriend. I'm going to go out into the car and I'm going to give you a ring. And after that, would you come around the corner and propose to my girlfriend for me?' So he does that. He gives me the ring, I wait until he walks around the corner and I walk up to his table and say to his girlfriend, 'Excuse me. Would you like to get married?' And she says, without hesitation. ' I hardly know you'. And I said, 'Not to me--to him!' And then she screamed and kissed him and they got married.

MM: There ya go! Tell us about the night Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw showed up. This is a killer!

MH: And that's how I got to meet the prolific Marshall Terrill, who wrote the biography of Steve McQueen, ("Steve McQueen: Portrait of an American Rebel") right? This is the story I am best known for. It was the first of a million bleeps. In 1975, while I was remodeling the place there was a young guy who hung around everyday. because he was a parking lot attendant at a restaurant two blocks away that was closed for the summer. So, he had nothing to do. He hung around and we became friends. His name is Danny Glick. He promised me that he would send up people from Lion's English Grille--it's been around for years. Come opening night, everybody is dressed beautifully. I am as nervous as can be. In the dining room, I had a maître d' who knew everybody in town. Everybody had jackets and ties. During the course of the evening, many people came up and told me 'Danny told me to come up and look at the place', and one was actor Tony Franciosa. I step outside to take a smoke because I'm nervous, and a motorcycle pulls up--a big blue Harley-Davidson with a girl on the back. And they're dressed the way they should be dressed on a motorcycle. I looked up and said "Buddy, give me a break will ya please? It's my opening night". And the guy looks at me, smiles and he takes off. An hour later Danny shows up and I said 'Danny, you're a sweetheart. It was just marvelous'. He said ' Did ya get all the people? Tony Franciosa, the actor?' I said 'Absolutely'. He said 'How about Steve McQueen?' I said 'Steve McQueen never showed up'. He said 'What are you talking about? That big blue Harley showed up and he promised me he'd come right up'. So, I got famous for chasing away Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw!

Next Up: We're Gonna Disco
at Cecil's!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

"The Interview" presents Mel Haber Part 1


Mel Haber

Owner of The Ingleside Inn & Melvyn's

Palm Springs, California

The New Book by Mel Haber with Marshall Terrill

Mel Haber is my Guest today on "THE INTERVIEW" and he is a celebrity among U.S. presidents, business tycoons and movie stars alike who are frequent guests of The Ingleside Inn and his famed restaurant and bar named Melvyns. Not to worry! I'll be staying there soon after reading his new book.
Now, you've got to admit: my timing is a bit ...different. I mean, posting a new Guest on December 23rd! Am I crazy? Au contraire! Then what's the deal? Well, January, 2009 marks the publication of Mel's book Palm Springs a' la Carte. Built in 1925, The Ingleside Inn fell into a state of disrepair by the 1960's. Then in 1974, after a long career in New York as a garment industry executive, Mel Haber took on the Hospitality Industry armed only with a determination to be successful and to restore the storied hotel that was frequented in the 1940's by the likes of Howard Hughes, Katherine Hepburn and Liz Taylor. Never mind that he can't cook a hamburger! Today, The Ingleside Inn's roster of clientele includes Madonna, Cher, Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Kate Hudson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Maria Shriver! Unlike the corporate-owned chains of predictable hotels and casinos one finds in Las Vegas and Atlantic City, Mel Haber restored The Ingleside Inn and built Melvyn's with his own blood, sweat and tears. It was (excuse the pun) a roll of the dice. But Mel managed to survive every embarrassing blooper and blunder and emerge with his wit and humor intact.
Can you imagine being in Mel's shoes the night all three of actor Michael Landon's ex wives showed up at Melvyn's? YOW! Or how about seeing a pretty lady on the back of a blue Harley-Davidson motorcycle with a bearded guy and watching Mel in a slightly stressed out state of mind say, "Buddy, it's Opening Night. Please, give me a break!"...only to discover he just sent away Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw! OUCH! And remember the other night, when I wrote about suffering a laughing fit and falling off my couch at home? It was 11 PM and I had just read the opening of Chapter 5 of Mel's book. His description of the kitchen staff he inherited redefined the word "Hysterical"! No, I can't repeat his description here. But believe me...When every thing that could go wrong and did, Mel admits it in this highly entertaining book with nothing held back! Whats more...Little did I know that it was Mel (not that other guy) who first used the term "Palimony". Then there was the night when a dining patron begged Mel to propose for him to his girlfriend while dining at Melvyns! Another time, Frank Sinatra summoned Mel over to his table to discuss a party he was planning. And Frank knew details like no one's business! Sly Stallone filmed Rambo: First Blood Part II at The Ingleside Inn. Oh, I could go on...and I will! And the reason is that many of you read BLOGS on Christmas Week. So, I figured: "Why not?" In that spirit we sat down last weekend to get a take on life among "Caviar Dreams and Champagne Wishes". I separated this visit along 4 days. It is a fun roller coaster ride. Welcome Aboard!


MM: You made a fascinating observation toward the end of your book where you stated that the celebrities of New York (Mel was raised in Brooklyn) were actors, actresses and well known millionaires of the business world. But in Palm Springs, celebrities are more likely to be restaurant owners, bartenders, valets and doormen. Tell us about this. It's a curious take on fame, isn't it?

MH: It's a totally different mentality. When I first came out here in California 34 years ago in 1974, they would tell me that the guy to see was Vidal Sassoon. At that time, he owned a hair salon that did women's hair. The other guy was Mike Silverman. Mike was a realtor, and if you wanted to buy a house, he took your girlfriend or your wife around to show them a house. In New York, to be big you had to be Donald Trump; you had to own twenty-two buildings. In California, a business owner or a store owner was a big shot in Beverly Hills. And they would point these people out to me. I remember when I first came out here, there was a club that I wanted to join called PIPS--it represented the points on a backgammon table. Anyway, it was a very exclusive and private club. When I applied to join they told me I had to be qualified by Stan Herman. Stan Herman was a realtor! He was a very prominent socialite, but again, he was the guy to show you around when you wanted to buy a house. And it was a whole different mentality. You had to get used to that after a while.

MM: Mel, when you arrived in Palm Springs in 1974 what was your first impression of the area before you acquired The Ingleside Inn?


MH: Well, when I first came to Palm Springs, I was interviewed by The New York Times. And nobody could define the magic of Palm Springs. And in the interview, out of my mouth came the word 'Gold'. I realized that was the magic of Palm Springs. Another comment made me the worst outcast in town. I said, 'My first impression was that it had the ugliest mountains I ever saw! They were brown, they were dirty. I come from back East where the mountains are green, there's trees and there's foliage'. So, of course that didn't make me very popular in town. But as I was describing my existence in Palm Springs, I said 'Depending on your personality and your nature, when I was in New York, if I was looking for clothes, maybe there were better clothes in other stores and I'd go and look. If I was in a certain bar, maybe there were prettier ladies somewhere else'. In other words, there were always choices about where I could be or should be, maybe I should be someplace else. If I was staying here, maybe there was more action there? And you were always a little anxious. When I came out to Palm Springs, the magic was that there was nothing happening anywhere. So, if you were staying at The Spa Hotel, or The Riviera or The Canyon Hotel, you didn't say 'I could be or should be' because there were no choices; there was nothing happening. Subsequently, you were totally at peace with yourself. It was serene. If you wanted to sit by the pool and read your book, or go to a bar and have a drink or play tennis whatever you wanted to do in the desert, you knew that there was nothing else going on. There were no theaters, things weren't happening. Wherever you were is where it was happening! And that was the magic of Palm Springs, that you didn't end up missing something. Now of course things are changing--that's called progress. And now you have choices, there are things to do. But still, it's three words. It's Quality of Life. As an ex-New Yorker, if I get caught by a traffic light or I can't park my car in front of a store, I'm annoyed. Everything is relative. When I was in L.A. last week doing an appearance on a TV show, I said to myself, 'I don't understand why people even live there! I am so spoiled living in the desert, it's amazing!'

MM: This is a fascinating story, because the way you and Marshall wrote this book, I literally felt as though I were along with you! When you first drove onto the Ingleside Inn property it sounded dilapidated. It was not in great shape. But you had the vision to really see something beyond what was physically there before you. Not everybody that you brought out there as potential investment partners saw what you did. I guess this goes right to the heart of the magic you spoke about. What were you seeing that others didn't?

MH: You know Michael, I would like to think that there was some foresight there. When you say that not many people saw it--nobody saw it! But I can't explain it. I'm not into old properties. I'm not into charm. I'm not into that. But there was something that made me want to buy The Ingleside Inn without having the intention of either operating a hotel or a restaurant. I just looked on it as an investment with no downside. Two acres in the middle of Palm Springs at a very inexpensive price. In hindsight, they say that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I didn't know what I was doing! If I knew then what I know now, I could have never done it. I would have been aware of all of the obstacles; I would have been aware of the odds. All of these things I came to learn about! You don't know that you can't accomplish something--we didn't know we couldn't get to the Moon! Some way someone got us to The Moon. For years, we never thought we could get to The Moon, so we never got there! So, there's something to be said for just perseverance and tenacity without knowing what you're doing--just plodding straight ahead. And you wind up getting there somehow. That's my story nonetheless. I'm a lucky beneficiary of lucking out or of succeeding in spite of myself and not because of myself.

Look for part two of this interview soon.

To order a signed copy of Palm Springs a la Carte, visit

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Haber's new book offers delicious second helping

Mel Haber has written yet ANOTHER book, this time he enlisted the help of author Marshall Terrill. Mel's first book Bedtime Stories was well read and a huge success about the guests of his Palm Springs hotel the Ingleside Inn and the on-site restaurant Melvyn's. Bedtime Stories was an entertaining peek into the colorful world of stars and royalty at their famous Palm Springs hideaway!

His second book is Palm Springs a la Carte: The Colorful World of the Caviar Crowd at Their Favorite Desert Hideaway. The book starts where he was born, Brooklyn, New York and continues through his career as a former automotive accessory manufacturer to his 1975 move to Palm Springs.

Mel then tells the story of how he came to buy the hotel property with no knowledge of running a hotel or a restaurant. The rest of the story complete with personal and sometimes intimate detail is indeed a look behind the scenes and behind a few doors of the Ingleside Inn and Melvyn's restaurant.

Visitors have included Golden Era celebrities Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, John Wayne, Howard Hughes, Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn, along with contemporary celebrities Madonna, Cher, Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maria Shriver and Lance Bass.

Keep in mind with all of these celebrity name droppings that Mel Haber treats all of his guests like a star. Purchase this fabulous new book and read the charming and often hilarious book by going to his web site Once you read it you will find yourself inexplicably dialing 800-772-6655 for reservations for dinner at Melvyn's or a weekend at the Ingleside Inn.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Mel Haber by the numbers

Palm Springs a la Carte paints Mel Haber by the numbers

Mel Haber (born October 24, 1936 in Brooklyn, New York) is the owner and proprietor of the Ingleside Inn and Melvyn's Restaurant in Palm Springs since 1975. He has served on the board of the Angel View Crippled Children's Foundation for more than twenty-five years and has been its president for the past fifteen.

Early years

Haber is the youngest of four children and the only boy of Louis and Mary Haber. The son of a garment district salesman, Haber grew up in an apartment overlooking Ocean Parkway in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn. He attended Erasmus High School, which boasted a healthy roster of famous and important people throughout the years. Some of its alumni included actors Jeff Chandler, Moe Howard, Bernie Kopell, Barbara Stanwyck; singer Barbra Streisand, author Micky Spillane; chess player Bobby Fischer and Sid Luckman, the former quarterback of the Chicago Bears.

When Louis Haber died at fifty-two of a heart attack, Mel became the family's breadwinner. To make ends meet, the twelve-year-old started delivering groceries, sold peanuts and beer at Ebbets Field and spent his summers in the Catskills as a busboy. He says it was there were he learned “motion efficiency," which is commonly known as “working smart,” a trait he used when he eventually operated six different restaurants. Once Haber graduated high school, he enrolled in the Fashion Institute of Technology (F.I.T.) on the west side of Manhattan in the fall of 1954.

Successes and failures

Two months after Haber enrolled in F.I.T., he quit after he received a phone call from businessman Artie Schifrin, who offered him a job at $85 a week working for Wallfrin Industries. In December 1954, ABC aired a three-part series called “Davy Crockett, Indian Fighter.” The coonskin hat worn by actor Fess Parker set off a craze with the nation's youth, and several manufacturing companies, including Wallfrin Industries, jumped on the multi-million dollar business bandwagon and began producing coonskin items. The craze lasted longer than anyone expected and finally ended when raccoon tails surged from twenty-five cents each to $5 a pound by May 1955.

Out of work for the first time in his life, Haber regrouped at age nineteen. He first sold shoes and then stocks before he received a life-changing phone call from Schifrin, who switched Wallfrin Industries from a bicycle accessories business to an automotive novelty business and desperately wanted him back.

Wallfrin Industries

Following World War II, the greatest and longest economic boom in world history was launched, and by the late fifties, approximately ten million cars were sold on an annual basis. It was an era in which American teenagers (the Baby Boom Generation) did everything in their cars. Between 1961 and 1968, Wallfrin Industries produced 750 different items such as hula dolls that gyrated in rear windows, religious statues for the dashboard, fuzzy dice for the rear view mirror, self-adhesive pin striping and tiger tails to hang on the gas tank. Their most successful product was Amber Lens Dye, which sold more than one million units.

Automatic Radio purchased Wallfrin Industries in 1968 for $3 million, of which Haber collected 10 percent. Haber used the money to start several new businesses on the side. He launched a boiler-cleaning business, a front-end wheel-alignment franchise, a company factoring medical centers, an import business, a vacuum forming business, and an automotive-chemical manufacturing business. None of them were money makers and Haber shut them down and regrouped. Facing a textbook mid-life crisis, Haber traded in his large house in Long Island and Rolls Royce for a used Fiat and a furnished apartment in Marina Del Rey in Los Angeles.

Palm Springs

Invited by a friend to visit Palm Springs, Haber stumbled upon the Ingleside Inn in 1975. The property, located at 200 Ramon Road, was in a state of disrepair thanks to an absentee owner. Haber learned the original owner was the widow of Humphrey Birge, manufacturer of the Pierce Arrow motorcar. She built the private estate at the foot of the San Jacinto Mountains in 1925 and sold it a decade later to Palm Springs Councilwoman Ruth Hardy, who transformed the place into a 20-room hotel. She successfully ran the Inn for the next thirty years as an exclusive private club whose guests came by invitation only. Hardy's clientèle included Howard Hughes, John Wayne, Greta Garbo, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, Greer Garson, Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, Salvador Dali, Norman Vincent Peale and J.C. Penney.

After Hardy's death in 1965, the stardust from the old days had largely faded away over the next decade. Haber, who knew nothing about operating a resort, made a spontaneous handshake deal to buy the property for $300,000. On April 15, 1975, Haber was officially the proud new owner of the Ingleside Inn.

Ingleside Inn and Melvyn's

Haber shut down the Inn that summer and spent another $250,000 in restoration costs, including Melvyn's restaurant. The Inn opened its doors on September 15, 1975 and was an immediate success.

Over the years, the Inn has become a magnet for Hollywood's elite, U.S. Presidents, royalty, aristocrats, captains of industry and celebrities visiting Palm Springs. They include Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Marlon Brando, Arnold Schwarzenneger and Maria Shriver, Sylvester Stallone, Liza Minelli, Liberace, Jerry Lewis, Barry Manilow, Kurt Russell, Goldie Hawn, Rita Hayworth, Pat Boone, Debbie Reynolds, Larry King, John Travolta, Sidney Sheldon, David Hasselhoff, President Gerald Ford, George Hamilton, and celebrity travel columnists Donald Pile and Ray Williams,.

The status of the hotel took a quantum leap upward when Frank Sinatra and Barbara Marx held their pre-wedding party at Melvyn's in July 1976, and another when the restaurant and Inn were later named one of the world's premier hotel and dining venues by Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.

Cecils and other restaurant ventures

Tapping into the popularity of disco, Haber opened Cecils, a 9,000-square-foot Chinese restaurant/discotheque on October 1, 1979. The $1.2 million disco rivaled Studio 54 in popularity and attracted celebrities like Kirk Douglas, Sonny Bono, Evel Knievel, Reggie Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Joan Collins, Jack Paar, Mary Martin, Carol Conners, Lola Falana, Lyle Waggoner, Ed Marinaro, Deney Terrio and John Travolta.

Haber followed Cecils with a pair of dining ventures in the early 1980s: Saturdays and Doubles. Saturdays was a knock off of the T.G.I.Friday's franchise while Doubles was a large restaurant inside the famed Tennis Club. Haber unexpectedly found himself the second largest employer in Palm Springs with approximately 200 people on his payroll (the local hospital was the largest).

Angel View

Pop culture historians had proclaimed disco dead by 1980, but it was alive and well in Palm Springs. Haber sold Cecil's to a pair of local businessmen in 1985. That same year he also unloaded Doubles and Saturdays. With more time on his hands, Haber devoted himself to the Angel View Crippled Children's Foundation, which was based in nearby Desert Hot Springs.

The foundation was originally created by a small group of people from the Coachella Valley who felt the area's natural hot springs would be useful in the rehabilitation of children with polio. Angel View's mission broadened to include those children afflicted with a wide-range of physical challenges. Haber served as a board member in 1983 and became Angel View’s president in 1993. The foundation opened its seventeenth home and named it the Mel Haber House on November 14, 2002.


Palm Springs had been awaiting Mel Haber's return to the club scene and in January 1994, he obliged them with the opening of Touche, a $1.3 million Moroccan-themed bar, nightclub and restaurant. More than 500 people showed up on opening night, including Andy Williams, George Hamilton, Connie Stevens, Jack Jones, Engelbert Humperdinck, Marc Lawrence and Jackie Mason. Despite an international plug from Runaway with the Rich and Famous featuring Robin Leach, a curious pattern started to emerge at Touche: Haber was turning people away on weekends but had no mid-week business. He eventually discovered that people's work and play habits had changed, and that there was also more enlightenment about alcohol and substance abuse through the media. Haber sold Touche in 1996 for $250,000, and had come full circle: he had returned his attentions back to The Ingleside Inn and Melvyn's, which were still thriving.

Author and Palm Springs Walk of Fame

With the sale of Touche safely in the rear view mirror, Haber wrote an anecdotal book called Bedtime Stores of the Legendary Ingleside Inn in 1996. The book mainly focused on funny stories and misadventures involving the Ingleside Inn and Melvyn's. With a dedication by Arnold Schwarzenneger, the book sold approximately 10,000 copies. That same year Haber received a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Fame on October 24, 1996, which was his sixtieth birthday. The city of Palm Springs also decided to make the Ingleside Inn an official historic site in 1996, which commemorated Haber's second decade in the desert.

By the new millennium, Palm Springs was infused with new life when the younger generation went through a retro movement and yearned for Hollywood's authentic glamor days. As a result, the Ingleside Inn and Melvyn's has become the center of the nostalgia movement.

In January 2009, Haber will see the publication of his second book, Palm Springs a la Carte: The Colorful World of the Caviar Crowd at The Favorite Desert Hideaway, co-authored with biographer Marshall Terrill.

Cars keyboardist records Beatles tribute CD

The Beatles Uke

by Greg Hawkes

Greg Hawkes is paying tribute to The Beatles almost 45 years after they enticed him to get into the music business.

The famed keyboardist and co-founder of The Cars, said everything musically begins and ends with the Fab Four.

My first concert was seeing the Beatles in 1964,” Hawkes said. “They changed my life. Indeed, they changed the world.”

The release of The Beatles Uke (Solid Air Records, 2008), a cover of Hawkes’ favorite Beatles classics – is a timeless testament to the inspiration and influence of the legendary group’s music and on his career.

The 15-song collection of Beatles songs is played entirely on the ukulele and multi-tracked to create a “Ukesymphonic” orchestra.

Perhaps it’s not such a far-fetched idea after all when you consider that George Harrison, a known ukulele enthusiast, is considered the spiritual leader of the current wave of interest in the music. Fellow ex-Beatle Paul McCartney also plays the instrument, and compellingly so when he paid tribute to his fallen friend on “Something” during his 2002 world tour.

Hawkes, who helped define the sounds of the 1980s with his signature keyboard stylings on Cars hits such as “Just What I Needed,” “Let’s Go”, and “Shake It Up,” and “Heartbeat City,” took a new direction with his music in 2001 when his wife gave him a ukulele as a gift. He’s been hooked ever since.

Hawkes started collecting ukuleles and got involved in the “Uke” scene in and around Boston, which led him to try duplicating Beatles string parts. Longtime friend and former Cars guitarist, Elliot Easton, put Hawkes in touch with James Jensen of Solid Air Records, who suggested an entire CD of Beatles tunes. The result is The Beatles Uke.

The ukulele has made playing music fun again,” Hawkes said.

For more information on The Beatles Uke, visit or

Track listings for The Beatles UKE:

  1. Penny Lane

  2. And I Love Her

  3. Strawberry Fields Forever

  4. Here Comes the Sun

  5. Eleanor Rigby

  6. Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite

  7. The Fool on the Hill

  8. Yellow Submarine

  9. Piggies

  10. She’s Leaving Home

  11. Honey Pie

  12. For You Blue

  13. Yesterday

  14. Blue Jay Way

  15. Goodnight

Sunday, December 21, 2008

McQueen's last years in exhibit

McQueen's last years in exhibit

This spring a photography exhibition featuring the works of Barbara McQueen will be on display at the Chandler Center for the Arts.

Steve McQueen: The Last Mile, is composed of about 30 prints sampling an intimate glimpse into McQueen's world near the end of his life. McQueen had taken a step back from Hollywood before his untimely death from cancer at age 50.

"These pictures show a private side of a very private man," said Marshall Terrill, a Valley resident who helped co-write the book, Steve McQueen the Last Mile, which features about 150 private photos of the actor. "This was a guy who always had a sort of inner struggle and these pictures show him at peace."

Barbara was his third wife and documented this pop culture icon enjoying some of the actor's more simple pleasures, such as hitting the open road in his vintage pick-up truck, driving 700 miles to pick up a rare World War I motorcycle and drinking a beer. She has had exhibitions everywhere from London to San Francisco, although Chandler will be her last stop.

The exhibition will be on display March 6- April 11 at the Chandler Center for the Arts, 250 N. Arizona Ave.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Lively Librarian says Pete Maravich is top shelf

I'm not much of a sports fan but I am a BIG fan of exceptional people and after reading Pete Maravich The Authorized Biography of Pistol Pete by Wayne Federman and Marshall Terrill I have a new respect for an extraordinary athlete and family man, the basketball legend "Pistol Pete".

Authors Federman and Terrill write an authorized biography of a man with an awe inspiring talent who deeply loved his family and his faith. The book is meticulously researched and written with details that aren't just facts from interviews but from the rare privilege of collaboration with Pete's widow. The beautiful family photographs, the inclusion of personal letters and the quirky personality traits (Pete's wearing of large stretched out gray socks for 9 seasons because he thought they made his feet appear smaller and made him feel faster) are all included in Pete's story and create a book that is hard to put down. Not only are his athletic accomplishments mind boggling (he is considered by many to be the greatest college basketball player of all time and is a 5 time NBA All Star) but his dedication to his health (he was vegan, grew his own vegetables and ate soy and juiced before it was mainstream) and his family (wife Jackie and 2 sons) and his faith (in the depths of despair he found Christ and changed his life) are inspiring.

Pete died suddenly at age 40 in 1988.

Read the book and learn what true greatness is all about.

For more information on this review, go to or to buy a copy of Pete Maravich: The Authorized Biography of Pistol Pete, visit

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mistaken Identity

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Mistaken Identity

The following is an excerpt from Palm Springs à la Carte by Mel Haber with Marshall Terrill (Barricade Books, Inc.), to be published February 2009.

Printed with permission

By opening night the whole town was waiting for me to open my doors. Back then the doyens of Palm Springs society were a small-knit group, but an informed one. I happened to open my place at a time when there was absolutely nothing else going on and I got lucky. Very lucky.

I also made a key hire — someone that could bring the stars to my hotel, bar, and restaurant, which I had renamed "Melvyn's" on the advice of a friend.

"I can't name it Melvyn's," I protested initially. "You'd have to be an egomaniac to name a place after yourself."

"Nobody has ever called you Melvyn," my friend said. He had a point. Nobody had ever called me "Melvyn," including my mother. Everyone simply called me Mel. But the trick was going to be trying to find a guy to be Melvyn — a suave, sophisticated front man who knew how to cater to powerful people. I knew I wasn't polished enough to pull it off.

As hard as this may be to believe, I'm basically pretty shy. I am not a very sociable person, but that doesn't preclude me from talking your ears off once I know you. It's never been my style to walk up to a stranger and strike up a conversation. I've always preferred my little space in the back office and pulling the strings. So the trick for me was to find someone who could be Melvyn and be a face that the public would associate with my establishment.

Through a bit of good luck, I managed to lure Hank Van de Boer, who was the longtime maitre d' of the world famous Racquet Club. The historic hotel resort was founded by actors Charles Farrell and Ralph Bellamy in December 1934, and the opening and closing of the Racquet Club signaled the beginning and the end of each season in Palm Springs. Just about every major Hollywood star traipsed through the doors of the storied club, and now I had the maitre d' who'd befriended these stars. My timing couldn't have been better. The club had just been sold and was starting to lose some of its luster. The maitre d' saw it as the right time to make a move, and luckily for me, he did. He brought plenty of his former clientele to my new place, and for that I was very thankful.

August was drawing to a close, and the site was looking pretty spiffy. We were not completely finished, but I had come to the realization that it would never be and there would always be something to fix. My beach boy chef, Charlie, much to my surprise and delight, had put together a very ambitious yet traditional Old World menu. We decided to open the doors on September 15. I chose to have a quiet opening so that I could iron out the kinks before the season went into full swing. I placed a small ad in the Desert Sun announcing that Melvyn's was now serving dinner. I had also made up a critique sheet that I was going to use for customer feedback. It was presented at every table with the check, and the waiter was instructed to buy a round of drinks for every table that filled it out.

As I drove to Melvyn's on opening night, I honestly had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be a bust, or would my efforts be appreciated? I was stunned to find the bar full of people and every table in the dining room was taken. I mean, I couldn't believe my eyes. To say that I was nervous was a major understatement. The maitre d' informed me that we were sold out! Who knew? I thought maybe we might get some curiosity seekers, but to have a sold out crowd was beyond my wildest dreams. As I looked around the totally unfamiliar crowd, it appeared as if all the women were beautiful and all the men were handsome and dashing, and everybody was impeccably dressed. I had argued with myself that day as to whether or not to wear a tie, but luckily I made the right decision. Had I guessed wrong, I would have been totally out of place because all the men were wearing jackets and ties.

The maitre d' pulled me into a corner in the dining room and gave me a run-down of the people in the room: actors Mary Martin and Tony Franciosa; Mousie Powell, wife of Dick Powell, who ran Four Star Studios; Mayor Frank Bogert; 21 Club owners Jerry and Molly Berns; retired studio mogul Darryl Zanuck and his wife; the Florsheims; and several other movers and shakers. As he related their names and who they were, I felt flush. It seemed as if I had the Who's Who of the country in my establishment.

I circulated throughout the dining room and bar for about two hours, having no idea what to do with myself. As I walked around, several people stopped me to introduce themselves and wish me good luck. It seemed as if an angel had sprinkled some stardust on me because everything seemed to click. I had even hired a piano player for the lounge, and while he was tinkling the ivories in the back, that area began to fill up, too.

I had a college student named Danny Click to thank for a lot of the patrons; Danny and I struck up an unlikely friendship over the course of the summer. He was a young, ambitious kid who parked cars at a well-known restaurant two blocks away. I immediately liked him. Perhaps I sensed in him the same work ethic and hustle that I had possessed at his age. His restaurant was closed over the summer, and he visited almost every day. Danny had assured me that when I opened he would recommend people to stop over and visit Melvyn's

His word was good as gold, and several people dropped by Melvyn's on opening night, mentioning that Danny had sent them my way. At about ten o'clock, I walked outside to have a cigarette. Just at that very moment, a scruffy-looking guy dressed in dungarees and a T-shirt and sporting a heavy beard pulled up on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. He had a very pretty lady on the back of the bike. He's certainly not the Ingleside Inn type, I thought, becoming a little full of myself. The guy said he had come to see the "new place."

"Please buddy not tonight!" I begged him. "It's opening night and I don't want any trouble. Come back another night and I'll buy you a drink." He smiled at me, gunned the throttle on the motorcycle and drove off. I was pleased at how I handled a delicate situation so adeptly.

About an hour later, Danny showed up and asked, "Mel, have you been getting all the people I've been sending over?" I told him I had and thanked him profusely He then asked how I enjoyed meeting Steve McQueen and Ali MacGraw, Hollywood's new golden couple. Startled and disappointed that I had not, I said they never showed. Danny said he was surprised because they assured him they would come right over to have a nightcap.

He said, "They were on a big, blue Harley-Davidson motorcycle and Steve McQueen was wearing blue jeans and a T-shirt." It turned out that I'd yanked the welcome mat from under the international box-office champion and his glamorous movie star wife. He never came back. Luckily for me, that was the only blunder of that night. However, it was the first of many faux pas that I eventually became famous for.

For more information or to order Palm Springs a la Carte, visit or


From model to photographer

Nancy Lee Andrews: From model to photographer

Alyssa Webb

Media Credit:

Media Credit: Nancy Lee Andrews

Media Credit: Nancy Lee Andrews

Former international Ford model Nancy Lee Andrews spent her narcissistic days, as she refers to them, in front of the camera. Slowly, she became more interested in clicking the shutter rather than being the subject. A fateful day rinsing prints in a darkroom with renowned photographer Milton Greene solidified her fascination.

Asking Greene too many questions, he eventually handed her a Nikon and encouraged her to begin taking pictures of "anything that [she] found interesting." He praised her; "You've got an eye, Nancy."

"As soon as I started creating imagery and controlling other people with it, I was hooked," said Andrews. "You can really capture people, if the timing is right and the atmosphere is right, you can really dig in."

Thus began the photography of the half-Sicilian, half-Cherokee woman who captured the lives and faces of some of the great artists that decorated the '70s.

Andrews' book "A Dose of Rock 'n' Roll" (Dalton Watson Fine Books, 2008, $49.00) is a nostalgic journey into the land of musical greats like Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Pattie Boyd and Ringo Starr.

"When we would all get together, I'd cook a big dinner. The guys would go in the living room, go to the bar and start drinking Brandy and Heneiken." Like a family.

An intimate portrayal of Andrews' personal relationship with Ringo Starr is also fully illuminated in the photos.

In 1974, Andrews met Ringo Starr at a house that John Lennon had rented. Andrews was introduced to Lennon through her former boyfriend, guitarist Carl Radle.

"He was legally estranged from his wife at the time and was just finishing up on his 'Ringo' album," she said. "I think he said to John, 'I want to meet her' so a couple months later after a brief meeting, John set us up.

"It was John that pretty much introduced us and played Cupid."

Andrews spent her life through the '70s with Ringo, rubbing elbows with musical greats everywhere she went. She was never star struck, but understood that these people were special.

"I realized that these guys were so talented, and had their finger on the pulse of music and pop culture, but at the same time, I was never awe struck."

But the girl that was surrounded by legendary artists met her match in composure when she ran into 'The Duke' at the El Padrino Room in the Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

"We were having dinner and John Wayne was sitting across from me and we were both speechless," she said. "We were like two kids. I think we had just seen 'The Quiet Man' and there he was.

"When he got up, Ringo stopped him and said 'Mr. Wayne' and he goes 'Well, 'Ello Mr. Ringo'"-in her best John Wayne impression-"and Ringo says 'I'd like to introduce you to my girlfriend. Will you give her a hug and a kiss?'

"I stood up and he just grabbed me, and John Wayne is a really large man. My knees were knocking. He laid a big Maureen O'Hara kiss on my lips. It was totally surreal."

The book captures an era that this college generation did not get the chance to see. Andrews, now 61, knows how lucky she was to experience it, but she doesn't pine for those days.

"I don't miss that life," she said. "At the same time, I feel like a very lucky girl, who was happy to be in the middle of it. Also lucky because I loved photography so much that I was able to document it. There's so much that didn't make it into the book. It's pretty phenomenal!"

There's no way she could fit all of her historic photos into one book.

"The book could have been 500 pages. That was my thing. I've got thousands of photos," she said. "You have to condense the story."

The book was designed and written by Andrews and reminds her somewhat of a family photo album.

"It just happens to be extraordinary pop icons. What a bunch of posers we were!" said Andrews with a laugh. "We were always posing for each other. I said to my publisher, 'I don't know who's going to be interested!'"

But people are interested.

"We're already talking about doing 'Another Dose of Rock 'n' Roll!'"

For more information on A Dose of Rock 'n' Roll or to purchase a copy, go to or