By Denise Ortuno Neil
He was a charismatic individual. Known as Mr. Palm Springs to those who knew him, Ray Ryan joined the list of Coachella Valley pioneers developing landmarks throughout the valley. But his success was laced with tragedy, a byproduct of greed and poor judgment with those he associated with.
Ryan was an eccentric oil tycoon from Evansville, Indiana, who helped establish Palm Springs as a Hollywood hangout Mecca. From storied accounts, Ryan was well known for throwing over the top shindigs at his crown jewel, The El Mirador Hotel in the 1950’s, now the Desert Regional Medical Center. Ryan had an undeniable vision for the future and spread his developers arm to the east side of the valley with the creation of the Bermuda Dunes Country Club, and all the way to the Salton Sea with the North Shore Yacht Club, all of which were just some of Ryan’s many endeavors.
With Ryan’s big bucks, and even bigger persona, he was able to hobnob with the swankiest hobnobbers in town. At one point, he even convinced his dear friend William Holden to go in with him on a very elaborate vision quest. The Mount Kenya Safari Club in Africa, which is still in existence today and run by Fairmont Hotels. The Safaris Club guest list read like a roster of legends with Walt Disney, Winston Churchill and Clark Gable as members just to scratch the surface.
But besides developing hotels and country clubs, Ryan also liked to gamble. Developers in general have to be a bit of a gambler anyway, however, Ryan took it a bit further. He enjoyed playing the tables with high profile stakes and high profile people, with some swarthy characters thrown in for flavor.
In 1949 Ryan entered a card game with one of the “characters” and won a great deal of money from him. But along with the winnings, Ryan won a ton of trouble from his fellow player as well. It should have tipped him off that playing with this certain person could introduce some future problems, as the man’s name was Nick “The Greek” Dandalos. Sometimes the most obvious danger is not obvious at all.
As it turns out, Ryan was accused of winning the game dishonestly, and as a result, was pursued by Dandalos and his mobster friend Marshall Caifano.
The vendetta must have been a solid one that even time could not extinguish. Because even though Dandalos died in 1966, Ryan managed to get himself blown up in a car bomb explosion 11 years later in his hometown of Evansville, Indiana as he existed his gym….could it have been Dandalos’s friend Caifano who carried it out? Nobody knows as the case remains unsolved, although the mob was highly suspected in the murder.
Although Ryan met an untimely death, his life was filled with glitzy glamour, with a dusting of danger for extra spice, and he helped bring Hollywood to Palm Springs with his forward thinking developments. And for that he will forever be known as….Mr. Palm Springs. Thanks Ray!