By Denise Ortuno-Neil
With the BNP Paribus Tennis Tournament is in full swing, I though it appropriate to look back on a place that started bringing tennis to the Coachella Valley long before the now famous Indian Wells tournament was even on the map. It was Charlie Farrell and Bill Bellamy’s Racquet Club in Palm Springs.
I passed his star every time that I would do my Heart of The City tour for the Palm Springs Historical Society. “And this is Charles Farrell’s star, he was one of the first stars on Palm Springs Walk of Stars, a popular actor, mayor of Palm Springs and opened the Racquet Club with Ralph Bellamy,” that would be my quick spiel on Mr. Farrell. He was quite accomplished to say the least, and certainly aided in making Palm Springs a haven for the Hollywood elite.
The Racquet Club was the conception of Charles Farrell and his good friend Ralph Bellamy. The two actors purchased 200 acres and basically built a place where they could hang out with their actor friends, have a good time in the sun, and of course, play tennis.
The club was built by architect Albert Frey, if it was still standing today it would be high on the tour list during the Palm Springs Modernism Week. The “club” became exactly that over the years. Memberships were sold to be a part of the club and Hollywood heavy hitters were happy to join.
Everyone from Joan Crawford to Tyrone Powers made the club their go to Palm Springs get-a-way. Marilyn Monroe was even discovered there while lounging poolside. The club had tennis courts where they would hold tournaments (nothing like Indian Wells, but still a crowd pleaser), a large pool, accommodations and the famous Bamboo Room where frequent celebs had reserved seating.
The club was in existence through the late 1960’s, its popularity holding on through the decades. But it was in the 1970’s that the club fell under hard times and was eventually torn down.
Although the club has long since gone, along with its owners, the memory of it is iconic for the history of Palm Springs. It will always be part of what put Palm Springs on the pedestal of resort areas in the world and also known as one of the first places to usher in the sport of tennis on a large scale to our deserts sandy shore.
For more information on the Racquet Club, visit the Palm Springs Historical Society, www.pshistoricalsociety.org