Celebrities' houses arouse neighbors' ire Controversy: Palm Springs wants to end commercial parties in Elvis Presley's Honeymoon Hideaway.

December 14, 1997|By Michelle Caruso | Michelle Caruso,NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

There has been a whole lot of shakin' going on at the Honeymoon Hideaway, where rock and roll king Elvis Presley once stayed -- and neighbors want it stopped.

The city of Palm Springs has gone to court in a bid to bar commercial parties and functions in the spaceship-like home where Presley and his bride Priscilla spent their first married days in May 1967.

Second only to Graceland as a mecca for Elvis fans, Honeymoon Hideaway is at the center of a legal storm over commercial use of former celebrity homes located in residentially zoned areas, including estates once owned by Elizabeth Taylor, Liberace and Cary Grant.

Unless a compromise can be reached in the next few months, the case is headed for a king-size trial in February.

On one side of the dispute are neighborhood residents, who loathe the noise and traffic produced by parties at Honeymoon Hideaway and other former celebrity homes.

"It's a nuisance to the whole neighborhood," says Bruce Kendall, 79, who lives across the street from the house.

On the other side are owners of the famous homes and agents who book special events.

"Being able to go back to Omaha and say, 'I had dinner at Liz Taylor's estate' or 'I partied at Elvis' honeymoon house,' is what sets Palm Springs apart from other cities that try to lure conventions and corporate gatherings," says Sylvia Schmitt, whose Locations Unlimited books special events, tours, and movie and photo shoots in the area.

"The stars are the ones that put Palm Springs on the map," says Mike McLean of McLean Co. Rentals, which handles the Hideaway's bookings.

Honeymoon Hideaway, the circular-shaped, four-bedroom, four-bath house, has been preserved almost exactly as it was when Elvis rented it for his honeymoon, May 1, 1967. It still has the tacky 1960s leopard prints, built-in wraparound sofas and pink satin king-size bed, a replica of the one where, legend has it, Lisa Marie Presley may have been conceived.

The king's gold records line the walls, along with photographs that show Elvis and Priscilla cooing on the wraparound couch and Elvis lounging by the home's pool with his Memphis cronies.

The high point of Liberace's flamboyantly decorated estate is the pianist's secret bathroom, hidden by a bookcase, with the toilet in the shape of a gilded throne.

The luxurious home Cary Grant once shared with heiress wife Barbara Hutton features a 1930s-era cantina with a wall mural of the Marx brothers playing poker.

According to figures compiled by three agencies that book tours and special events, the business drew 15,245 visitors to Palm Springs in the first five months of 1996, bringing nearly $9 million to the city's hotels, restaurants, golf courses and local merchants.

Palm Springs City Manager Bob Parkins says he hopes a compromise -- perhaps one that limits hours of operation and the numbers of guests -- can be reached.

But Kendall says he thinks compromise is unlikely.

"This is a Residential 1 zone, and that means you can't have a commercial venture here," he said.

But M. L. Lewis, the agent for the trust that owns the Hideaway, says the house is a "national treasure" that should be open to as many people as possible because Elvis is a 20th-century cultural icon.

Pub Date: 12/14/97

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