cover image PALM SPRINGS CONFIDENTIAL: Playground of the Stars!

PALM SPRINGS CONFIDENTIAL: Playground of the Stars!

Howard Johns, . . Barricade, $35 (320pp) ISBN 978-1-56980-269-4

Johns, editor-at-large for Palm Springs Life , set out to write a locator guide for stars' homes but instead wound up compiling a gossipy who's who of Palm Springs, Calif., the tony desert community 100 miles from Hollywood that was once was the stomping ground of the big screen's hottest silent stars, screen goddesses, studio moguls and more. As Johns explicates in lurid detail, Palm Springs and its environs was where the rich and famous came to drink and do much more than dance the night away, while hangers-on and has-beens got into even worse trouble. Robert Mitchum opined about his short stay in a local jail after a pot bust in 1949: "It was like Palm Springs, without the riffraff." Johns delights in his tabloid antics, and his range of trivial knowledge about a vast array of movie and TV stars is impressive. Who knew Hollywood legend Kirk Douglas was implicated in the disappearance and death of a starlet in 1949? Or that beloved family man Bob Hope romanced numerous ever-younger women behind the back of his faithful wife of nearly 70 years? To be sure, Johns focuses on the more salacious moments in Palm Springs history: the murder trials of Lana Turner's daughter, Cheryl Crane, and actor Tom Neal; the overdose deaths of Dorothy Dandridge and Alan Ladd; and the bisexual affairs of Cary Grant and Van Johnson. Much of the book is well-researched filler concerning who lived where and is often repetitive. Bitchy and irreverent, this dish isn't very fresh, but Johns serves it with lots of spice and relish, making it a guilty pleasure. Photos. (Mar.)

Forecast: With fabulous photos (like one of Liberace picking grapefruit in his swim trunks), this tome is bound for the camp classic section of queer libraries. It'll also appeal to anyone interested in Hollywood, then and now.