Wednesday, January 7, 2009
Palm Springs a la Carte
Reviewed by Connie Martinson
It is said that every business man or woman has two businesses, his own and the desire to be in show business or run a restaurant. Neither is the way the dream seemed. In Palm Springs, Mel Haber found the way to combine both. He wrote with Marshall Terrill "Palm Springs a la Carte: The Colorfull World of the Caviar Crows at Their Favorite Desert Hideaway"(Barricade Books $23.95).
In other words, can a small town boy from Brooklyn, NY find happiness in the sunny Palm Springs running a hotel and restaurant? This is before Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells, when there was only Palm Springs and the rest was sand.
When he was 13 Mel's father died, a month before his father was at his Bar Mitzvah, his father was in a business where five checks arrived every month and he knew everyone when the family went to Miami Beach, Mafia and show folk. After his father's death, the checks stopped and Mel started a series of businesses. He got married young, had children and had a partner, Artie, who shared in the various businesses that Mel was in. In 1971 Mel decided he wasn't in love with his wife and that he was happiest when he was in California.
On a trip to Palm Springs with his new friend, Barbra, he started to look at real estate and on April 15, 1975, he bought the Ingleside Inn and restaurant for $300,000 dollars. He never looked back. There were tough financial years, there were people he never should have hired, but where else could he have gotten to know Frank Sinatra and catered his pre-wedding dinner to Barbara Sinatra at the restaurant now known as "Melvyn's".
Mel was present when a certain man who stepped out of The Sopranos placed a phone call to that certain singer telling him to be at the Dinner Theatre in Westchester, NY.
Along the way, Mel remarried and he has a daughter, Stephanie, who is in college. He opened disco dancing restaurants, and a Chinese restaurant, he even had a late night radio show. .Due to the economy and changing times, both have closed. Today, Mel is 72 but he still has the Ingleside Inn and Melvyn's and as he said to me when we taped, that if he sold it, five minutes later it would be "Mel, who?". I laughed and reminded him of the Jack Warner quote about "next week I am just a rich old, Jew". And with changing times, Palm Springs is coming back to be the centre of attention.
To buy a signed copy of Palm Springs a la Carte, go to www.inglesideinn.com, or visit Amazon.com.