Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Bermuda Palms (1967)

Bermuda Palms
737 Francisco Boulevard
San Rafael, California

The above postcard was taken from this Flickr photostream and is dated 1967. Judging from the cars in the lot the photo was taken MUCH earlier. The caption on the rear reads:

California's Las Vegas - a complete hotel resort. Coffee Shops - Cocktail Lounges - Banquet Rooms - Ballrooms for Dancing - Auditorium - Swimming Pool.

Perhaps. Many seem to remember The Palms as a fairly sleazy spot in a not very nice part of San Rafael in the 1970s-1980s. But it did certainly have a colorful history well before that time.

In 1955, Robert Mitchum was hired by John Wayne's production company to star in Blood Alley which was partially filmed in San Rafael. According to Lee Server's Mitchum biography, the actor had driven up to the hotel, where the production had booked several rooms, from Palm Springs in his Jaguar. Mitchum was reportedly (and violently) not happy with his initial room, so was upgraded to a room about the film's director. The actor was in a celebratory mood and with several friends and kept the director up for much of the night. A minor fracas occurred between the actor and director which was later blown out of proportion by the press and Mitchum was dropped from the film.

In 1962, San Francisco MUNI Driver and soon-to-be record label owner, W.C. Stone, "discovered" Doug Cox (guitar & bass guitar), John Allair (Hammond organ & piano), and Pete Lind (drums) appearing in the cocktail lounge as the resident Doug Cox Trio. Stone was floored and took them under his wing, released 3 singles (re-christened The Cals, using the first letters of each of their last names) by the group on his fledgling Loadstone Records label. They also became something of a house band for the label's R&B singers, with Allair sometimes providing arrangements.

By the late-1960s the hotel ballroom that once had hosted performances by the Duke Ellington and Count Basie Orchestras was known as The Citadel (and later Pepperland), presenting the likes of The Sons of Champlin, The Grateful Dead, and Big Brother & The Holding Company. A decade later it was more well known for its transient residents and links to the drug and skin trades.

The Bermuda Palms is now a Motel 6.

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