Doll House, Palm Springs 1960s
The Doll House in Palm Springs was an instant success when it opened in 1945, hosting a movie crowd that included the Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra, Doris Day, film bigwigs like Darryl Zanuck and billionaire business and entertainment mogul Howard Hughes.
It was the first restaurant for owner Ethel Harutun and her then-husband George Striebe. ‘It was bought over a cocktail. Just like that, presto,’ says the woman who became Palm Springs’ most famous restaurant hostess.
The price was $120,000 with a down payment of $34,000. The Streibes only had $300 in the bank and borrowed money from Ethel’s sister to get started.
The Doll House was noted for its convivial atmosphere, food with ‘oomph,’ excellent entertainment and professional bartenders. A young woman called Norma Egstrom often visited the Doll House, sang a few impromptu songs and later credited the place with kickstarting her career as Peggy Lee, the famous American jazz vocalist.
Ethel also liked to tell an anecdote about waitress May Cook who strongly resembled the famous film star Joan Crawford. When the actress visited the restaurant, the waitress asked for her autograph, but Crawford went one better. She jumped up, put on an apron and began serving customers.’ Customers said: ‘You know, you look just like Joan Crawford, the actress,’ Ethel related.
In the 1960s Ethel and her husband John sold the site of the Doll House – it was a one-story roadside building at 1032 North Palm Canyon Drive – to a steakhouse owner and opened another place called Hideaway. Then they opened That John’s. A new Hideaway was opened at the then brand-new Smoke Tree Village shopping center and Ethel's stellar career as a restaurateur continued till her retirement,
Courtesy Private Collection.
Each order includes a print of the interior menu.