Classic movies · Travel and Adventure

Enchanting Getaway: The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa

All I could think of in the middle of the night was “the bent neck lady”. If you’ve seen The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix you will know what I am referring to. I stayed overnight at The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa in Riverside, CA with my daughter this Veteran’s Day weekend. I never heard of any hauntings or scary stories about the hotel prior to our trip, except…my 15-year-old daughter’s assumption that since it’s a National Historic Landmark, it must be haunted.  Well, it wasn’t haunted. At least not from my experience.


From the moment we arrived, I noticed the city-block-size hotel stood out as a gorgeous gothic treasure among the modern downtown buildings surrounding it. This romantically enchanting, one-of-a-kind Mission-style architecture was awe-inspiring. The bougainvillea-covered archways and flying buttresses, secluded gardens, and soaring towers with intricate details in the spires and twisted columns, stone fountains and statues were breathtaking.


The California mission style bells greeted us as we walked down the entrance into the main lobby passing an outdoor restaurant and a large aviary with exotic birds and docents giving tours of this living museum. Fortunately for my daughter and I, we were headed straight to the Tuscan style Kelly Spa for our mother-daughter spa day before we officially checked in so we could take our time and relax before our treatments. The spa was very busy but still relaxing. My daughter had her first facial which did wonders for her teenage skin and I had a very relaxing massage. The pool and outdoor jacuzzi was a great way to end our spa day before checking in to our room.


There were multiple weddings going on each day we were there, which was not surprising since it has been a popular wedding destination since the 1920’s. Many famous people have been married there including Ronald and Nancy Reagan, The Nixon’s and Bette Davis.  At least 6 US presidents have been guests at the hotel and stayed in the 4-room presidential suite which has been converted to the Presidential Lounge.MissionInnPresidents

History of the Hotel

Taken from the website, “The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa began as a quaint adobe boarding house in 1876, and blossomed into a full-service hotel in the early 1900s thanks to California’s economic citrus boom and warm weather, attracting wealthy travelers and investors from the East Coast and Europe. Opened by Frank Miller, The Inn expanded in 1903 with over 200 guestrooms and the addition of the Mission Wing, built in Mission-Revival style while incorporating architectural features from more than 20 different California missions. The Hotel is home to many priceless treasures and 2 on-site chapels. The Mission Inn houses the oldest bell in Christendom, dating back to 1247.” (Web )


Famous Guest List

The guest list for this hotel over the 150-year history is quite impressive. I have never before stayed at a hotel with as much famous lineage. “Presidents Roosevelt, Taft, Hoover, Nixon, Reagan and Bush Jr; social leaders such as Booker T. Washington, Susan B. Anthony, Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller and John Muir; and entertainers including Judy Garland, Bette Davis, Clark Gable, Tom Hanks, Barbra Streisand and James Brolin” (Web) have all been guests at the hotel which touts this kind of recognition:

  • National Historic Landmark since 1977
  • State of California Historic Landmark since 1961
  • U.S. National Register of Historic Places
  • Riverside Landmark #1
  • Member of prestigious Historic Hotels of America
  • “Best Historic Hotel” (201-400 Guestrooms) / Historic Hotels of America
  • “Best Historic Hotel in America” / USA Today’s Readers’ ChoiceMissionInnNightSky

During my stay, I spent much of my time exploring the hotel.  The historic hotel has a different feeling in the dark. It is enchanting at night and you can find lovers kissing under a bougainvillea covered archways lite by twinkling white lights. Inside the hotel, I was drawn to the Christmas wreaths and garlands that wrapped along the grand staircase and adorned the Tuscan style grand fireplace.


Chandeliers glowed and warmed the lobby with their reflection on the black and white checkered floor. All I could do was to capture the feeling of the place by taking a gazillion photos with my smartphone, all the while kicking myself for not bringing my Canon Rebel SL1!

The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa Lobby


My daughter and I enjoyed a great meal at one of the six dining options on the premises. My daughter looooves pasta, so we ate at Bella Tratattoria and finished the evening with a decadent cupcake at Casey’s Cupcakes. We loved the cupcakes so much, we decided to bring half a dozen to our friend’s house we were visiting the next day.


Next time I stay at The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa will be with my husband. It is literally one of the most romantic hotels I have ever stayed at. Many other couples seem to think so as well since it is a top pick for wedding events and couple getaways. So, even though I missed out on a visit by a famous ghost, my stay at The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa was beyond pleasant; it was decidedly enchanting, luxurious and by far, my favorite hotel in California.MissionInnGarland

Cemetary Tours · Classic movies · Travel and Adventure

Mystery, Scandal and Stars:Paramount Pictures After Dark Tour & Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Scandalous tales, mysterious deaths, and young stars doomed to tragedy. These are the stories lurking in the dark at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Many of these were Paramount Pictures stars and scandals. Did you know that the 24 stars in the original Paramount Pictures logo once represented the stars under contract at the studio? Every time they got a new star under contract, they added a star to their logo…and that my friends, is where we get the saying MovieStar.

To celebrate our 5 year anniversary, my husband and I decided to do something spooky since `tis the season of Halloween. I have never been on a movie studio tour, except Universal Studios, which I think of more of an amusement park than a real behind the scenes movie studio tour (sorry Universal, I still enjoy going on your tour). The Paramount Pictures After Dark Studio Tour looked like it might have spirits floating around stage doors, or at least, I was sort of hoping it would. Even though I didn’t see the ghost of Howard Hughes or Lucille Ball,  we were shown the exterior of their offices.

Office of Howard Hughes
Office of Lucille Ball of Desilu Productions.

We also saw the exterior of a few famous sound stages that were constructed going back to 1929, like Stage 25. Many Televisions shows have been filmed there like The Lucy Show. Stage 18 was built in 1941 and was home to Alfred Hitchcock’s mystery, thriller Rear Window, 1947, starring James Stewart and Grace Kelly . Our tour guide told us a story about Alfred Hitchcock and how he built an amazing set inside this soundstage to create New York City for the movie Rear Window. Evidently, he opened up the basement of the building so he could build New York skyscrapers to look even taller for scenes in the movie.

Alfred Hitchcock on the set of Rear Window (1954)  (Source: reelartpress)
Alfred Hitchcock on the set of Rear Window, 1954 SOURCE CREDIT – “British Film Institute”


voxsart:      American Casual.      Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, 1954.  (Source: voxsart, via meinthefifties)
voxsart: American Casual. Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly, 1954. Filming of Rear Window, 1954 at Stage 18 Paramount Pictures.(Source: voxsart, via meinthefifties)
Paramount Pictures Famous Stage18
Paramount Pictures Famous Stage18

This is also the soundstage where the infamous black comedy Sunset Boulevard, 1950, starring Gloria Swanson, Nancy Olson, and William Holden was filmed. There is also a famous scene of the aging silent screen star, played by Gloria Swanson, entering through the Bronson Gate and famously saying “Without me, there wouldn’t be any Paramount Studio”. Check out this blog post from dearoldhollywood for photos of locations for filming the movie at Paramount Pictures and nearby locations in Hollywood. expertly breaks down the brilliant costume design by Edith Head who transformed Gloria Swanson into Norma Desmond, one of the most iconic film characters of all time.

Norma Desmond being greeted by the security guard in “Sunset Boulevard”.Image:GlamAmor
Norma Desmond driving into original studio entrance gate in the movie “Sunset Boulevard”. Image : GlamAmor
Bronson gate today at night.
Old casting office for casting calls.

I must also mention that one of my favorite Jerry Lewis movies, Cinderfella, 1960, was also filmed in Stage 18. If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend it. It is comical and laugh out loud funny and is a great one to watch on family movie night.

‘Lewis, Jerry’ ‘s musical entrance down grand staircase was done in one take, a Lewis trademark. But Jerry’s 7-second rush up the same 63 steps landed him, and his heart, in the hospital.

Some exteriors were shot at a Beverly Hills mansion also used in “Beverly Hillbillies, The” (1962)


On our tour I also got a shot of the Hollywood Landmark water tower that used to actually hold water as part of the studios’ self-sustaining small city. The studio also has its own gas station. All of the major studios have their own water tower with their logo on it and stands as a symbol of their small city within a city. Our tour guide recalled that even though the tower no longer holds water, the studio owners keep the tower as a studio symbol and Hollywood landmark “because other studios had water towers and so would they”. PSWatertower

You might be wondering right about now, whether I made it into any actual historic sound stages. Well, no, but our tour guide did take us into a very dark Dr. Phil sound stage, where he pointed out how small the studio actually is compared to how it looks on TV……the magic of Hollywood. Interestingly enough, the Dr. Phil Stage butts right up against the walls of the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Which leads us into our next part of the tour….the cemetary.

Hollywood Forever Cemetery

The Hollywood Forever cemetery houses the Garden of Legends. This is where many famous stars and their scandals and mysteries are buried. Our guide took us to the graves of famous Hollywood legends like Cecil B. DeMille, one of the founders of Paramount Pictures, whose grave site has a view of the studio beyond the lake. Many other Hollywood legends are also buried here such as, Douglas Fairbanks, Peter Lorre, Mickey Rooney and Janet Gaynor. As we walked through the dark cometary , the tour guide told stories about the famous legends and their scandals. There are two that really stood out to me among many:

The “Fatty” Arbuckel Scandal:

“Fatty” Arbuckle got his start on the Vaudeville circuit, then in 1913 became one of the Keystone Kops famously throwing pies in the face in silent pictures. Then in 1921, Arbuckle signed a 3-year contract with Paramount for $1 million, which was an unheard of amount, even by Hollywood standards at the time.  In 1921 “Fatty” Arbuckle got caught up in a terrible scandal.

According to ThoughtCo., “”Bambina” Maude Delmont, who frequently set-up famous people in order to blackmail them, claims that Arbuckle herded 26-year-old Virginia Rappe into his bedroom and party goers later heard screams coming from the bedroom and then she was found bleeding behind him when he opened the door”.

But, according to ThoughtCo., Arbuckle had a different version of the story “that when he retired to his room to change clothes, he found Rappe vomiting in his bathroom. He then helped clean her up and led her to a nearby bed to rest. Thinking she was just overly intoxicated, he left her to rejoin the party. When he returned to the room just a few minutes later, he found Rappe on the floor. After putting her back on the bed, he left the room to get help.” Nonetheless, Arbuckle was arrested and charged with the murder of Virginia Rappe, who eventually died 4 days later at a hospital from a ruptured bladder.

After 3 trials, two convictions and one acquittal, “Fatty” Arbuckle, was blacklisted by the Hays Office and his career was destroyed.  Arbuckle eventually began directing under the name William B. Goodrich. Sadly, he died at the age of 46 from a heart attack in his sleep.

The Rudolph Valentino and the cursed ring scandal:

Image: United States History:rudolphvalentino.gif

In the beginning of the tour we each took a red rose and were asked to leave it at a gravesite that touches us as a way to pay our respects. I held onto my rose for the entire tour until….our last stop on the tour, the crypt of Rudolph Valentino. Our tour guide shared a couple interesting stories about this crypt and about how Valentino died. One is about the Lady in Black who since his death has been leaving fresh flowers at his crypt.   Her identity is a mystery. Also, evidently, since Valentino’s death was sudden and unexpected, and he was 3 million dollars in debt, a friend, June Mathis, who had recently gotten divorced, gave Valentino her former husband’s crypt next to hers. There were arrangements made to raise money to build a memorial for his final resting place but never came about due to the depression. This is why this silent screen legend is buried in the corner in a small crypt.

A Cursed Ring

Rudolph Valentino left New York City  because he was infatuated  with a married socialite and went to San Francisco. It was there that he found a silver ring with a semi-precious stone in it. The jeweler he bought it from told him that all the former owners of the ring had bad luck. Intrigued, Valentino had to buy it.  A series of unfortunate events happened after he began wearing the ring. First, he wore the ring while making “The Young Rajah” which flopped so badly he did not work for two years. He did not wear the ring again until he went on his promotional tour of the “Son of Sheik.” Within two weeks of wearing it he died from peritonitis.

He left the ring to actress Pola Negri who he was dating at the time of his death. Her health failed soon after, which almost ended her film career. She gave the ring to a singer named Russ Columbo, who could have been a double for Valentino. Columbo later died in a mysterious shooting accident. Columbo’s cousin then gave the ring to Joe Casino, who wore the ring and was run over by a truck. The ring was later worn by an unknown actor in a screen test for a film about Valentino’s life. Ten days later, the actor died at the age of 21 from a rare blood disease. After all of these strange deaths and string of bad luck events, the ring was put under lock and key in a Los Angeles bank, which suffered a few bank robberies and a fire. Today, the whereabouts of the ring are unknown, possibly reeking havoc on the lives of the owner….

This is where I left my Red Rose…..Valentino












United States History:

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Art Deco architecture · Classic movies · Travel and Adventure · Uncategorized

Bullock’s Wilshire Department Store: Art Deco Tour and Fashion Show.

IMG_4172Do you enjoy shopping at a Department Store? How about shopping where Greta Garbo, Clark Gable, Marlene Dietrich, Walt Disney and Alfred Hitchcock were patrons?  The Department Store of old Hollywood glamor like the Bullock’s Wilshire in Los Angeles with its Art Deco copper and etched glass doors welcomed upper crust LA society and Hollywood stars starting in 1929. This was the first department store built to cater to the burgeoning automobile culture at the time and welcome shoppers who wanted to shop somewhere closer than downtown L.A. The 241 ft tall tower on the exterior of the building made of copper, tarnished green, welcomed motorists from the suburbs with it’s light at the top that could be seen from miles around.

This is a special place, like no other modern day department store I have ever been to.
The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles hosted a Fashion Show and Tour at the Bullock’s Wilshire on June 10th 2018, as was promised at the Egyptian Theatre event where Margaret Leslie Davis discussed her book, Bullock’s Wilshire (Balcony Press, 1996) followed by the screening of the movie The Women, 1939 (see blog post). My mom, who went with me to the Egyptian Theatre event, joined me again for the Fashion Show and Tour.

Mom and I on the J.G. Bullock’s private suite balcony with a view of downtown L.A.

I grew up watching classic films with my mom and no doubt it’s because of her influence, that I have a love for classic films and history and as a result, a passion for historic preservation and re-purposing. My hope is that we will get to experience many more of these special events together.

Join us for a glimpse of our Tour and Fashion Show at Bullock’s Wilshire:

As you enter the Foyer with it’s soft, natural lighting and elegant floor to ceiling St. Genevieve Marble and Travertine floors, you feel a sense of high glamour and sophisticated taste.

Bullock's Wilshire Perfume Hall
Perfume Hall awash with natural light muted by walls of St.Genevieve marble and Travertine Floors. Doors facing Wilshire Boulevard


On of the Elevators finished in nickel, brass & gunmetal.

Every room was designed to create an “experience”, a place where you wanted to spend the afternoon shopping and lunching with your friends. This is the place where Judy Garland was known to have sipped cocktails in the dressing room and where May West infamously waited in her car under the Port-Cochere as clerks brought merchandise out to her to purchase .

This, was a place where famous starlets shopped and where one of my favorite actresses, Angela Landsbury once worked as a clerk (Go Jessica Fletcher!) and upper crust L.A. Society came to feel pampered in the discrete boutiques. Upstairs, were showrooms with live models (as seen in The Women, 1939), and the Desert-color themed Tea Room with adjacent lounge where ladies could enjoy refreshments and watch fashion shows. Fans of classic films will appreciate that Irene Lentz (known as Irene) who became famous for dressing celebrities and designing wardrobes for major Hollywood studios, including MGM, was reported to have the first boutique devoted to a single designer inside a major US Department Store at Bullock’s Wilshire.

J.G. Bullock’s invited titans of business and politics up to his private suite on the 5th floor to enjoy cocktails and horsd’oeuvres while shopping. While on my tour with the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, I was fortunate enough to be able to go into his dark wood walled suite and onto the private balcony. Our docent showed us the secret panels that opened up to hide alcohol during the prohibition era.

More photos from the Tour:

Now for the Fashion Show which took place in the Louis XVI Room where designer dresses were sold, formal wear and later furs:

Getting ready for the event:

I had found two amazing dresses at a couple of consignment shops in Ventura on Main St. But I still needed a hat and gloves to complete my outfit. I knew exactly where to go…the Attic Trunk! I had bought a very special black velvet hat there a few years back one day while out exploring Main St with my husband. I remembered Jackie and her spark and how she had to find the perfect box for my hat I was purchasing. The box just happened to be a vintage Bullock’s box. You see Jackie was know for her vintage hats. In fact, many gals went to her store to purposely buy hats for Dapper Days at Disneyland. Jackie not only had a fantastic vintage hat collection, she also knew all about the history of fashion and could expertly show a clueless gal like me how to wear the fancy hats.

So, to the  Attic Trunk I went. Sweet Jackie helped me chose a navy blue hat with a short veil and after much searching, also found me the PERFECT pair of gloves that were navy blue and had fancy stitching along the edges of the fingers.  I was set! We were having so much fun, I asked Jackie if she’d like to see my dresses I just bought and she said she would love to see them. I left the store and ran down the street to my car and got the fifties floral dress and my forties sailor inspired Stop Staring brand dress.  When I returned, I showed her the dresses and she was so thrilled and immediately pointed to the sailor inspired 40’s style dress. She said “that’s the one”.IMG_4184

After all of that, I told her that I was going to the Bullock’s Wilshire in Hollywood for a fashion show of vintage clothes from the 20’s, 30’s & 40’s. She was so excited about it she covered her mouth with her 2 hands and gasped in thrill. We talked about me coming back to her shop to show her photos of how I looked that day and the event itself. We discussed how I should definitely wear stockings (which I truly did!).  Unfortunately, I never made it back to show her any photos. Since then, I learned of her recent passing and I feel a sense of loss for myself that I will no longer have the luxury of walking into the Attic Trunk whenever I want and peruse through all of Jackie’s goodies and talk vintage clothing shop talk. I feel a sense of loss for our community to have lost a business owner who took pride in owning her own version of a Department store with glass cases filled with jewelry and lovely gloves. You will be missed Jackie and I hope you are meeting all of the classic Hollywood fashion icons whose clothes inspired generations of ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for making all of our days Dapper!

That’s a wrap!

To find out more information about The Art Deco Society of Los Angeles visit their website.

All Images: Christina Embry


Docent-Art Deco Society of Los Angeles

Davis, Margaret Leslie. Bullocks Wilshire. Los Angeles: Balcony Press, 1996


Classic movies · Travel and Adventure

The Theatre at ACE Hotel:Dita Von Teese’s New Years Eve Gala 2018

Image: Christina Embry

A night of LOVE. Love for excitement, Love for my husband, Love for the vintage lovers around me, and most importantly Love for Dita Von Teese. What an amazing experience. I’ve always admired Dita from a far, wondering how she gets her hair so superbly sleek black and perfectly pin curled. I always admired her commitment to the vintage lifestyle.  Her show in Los Angeles at The Theatre at ACE Hotel, reflected her beauty, elegance and talent. My favorite performances of the evening were many, but I just absolutely loved the act “featuring a giant prop MAC lipstick tube that she sits on and straddles provocatively”. Read more:


It was a sold out show and when we arrived we stood in a line that wrapped around the block.  It was fun to see everyone arriving in their Vintage-esque garb as men held the hands of their ladies in heels avoiding the cracks in the sidewalk…such gentleman. Then at some point a beautiful gal with red lips walked up to my hubby and I to let us know that some scoundrel hit our car and that she made them leave their phone number. What a sweet sister! Unfortunately, the number was fake, but the damage to our car was very real. At first I thought it was a bad omen to start out the New Year. But, I soon forgot all about the damaged car and my worry about the possibly doomed upcoming 2018 as soon as I stepped into the grand lobby of this Spanish Gothic beauty.

This historic United Artists Theatre, built-in 1927, was the vision of silent movie starlet Mary Pickford, who also started the United Artists Studio along with Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and DW Griffith as a rebellion against the Hollywood studio system at the time. The Theatre at ACE Hotel we see today in the Broadway District in Downtown LA has been restored and is currently used for various events such as movie premieres, concerts and seminars, among many other events. For more information on the history of The Theatre at ACE Hotel, click here.

The 1,600 seat theatre itself, made me swoon as I stepped back in time admiring the intricately detailed craftmanship. I just love the attention to detail early movie houses paid to the ceilings (see blog post on The Egyptian Theatre). The light pink dome was encircled by what looked like sun rays. Mary Pickford envisioned a true “movie palace” where movie goers would feel the full grandeur of the experience in the magic of the movies.

Spending New Year’s Eve in this nobel theatre, I could feel the love and devotion the United Artists felt toward their craft as I absorbed the creative spirit they poured into the design of this movie house. Not even recovering from the flu could dampen my enjoyment of the evening ringing in the New Year alongside Dita Von Teese and her fellow performers, in a huge martini glass, of course. For more information on future shows, click here.

To wrap up this Vintage Life Adventure, I highly recommend the classic movie Lady of Burlesque, 1943, staring Barbara Stanwyck and Michael O’Shea. This movie is about a burlesque dancer who, along with other performers try to solve a murder of a fellow burlesque artist. This is a film adaptation of a mystery novel, “The G-String Murders”, written by legendary burlesque artist, Gypsy Rose Lee.


Art Deco architecture · Classic movies

Movie with Mom: “The Women” (1939)

It was one of my favorite days ever! I was in my happy place amongst “my people”. All around me were classic movie fans and folks who could spend the afternoon celebrating the past through the lens of Margaret Leslie Davis who wrote  “Bullocks Wilshire”. This one hour illustrated presentation, sponsored by the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles, showed photos of the interior of this department store in all of it’s art deco glory during its heyday of the 1930’s. To see current photos of the restored interior and exterior of the Bullock’s Wilshire building which now houses the Southwestern Law School Library, click here.


Afterwards we were treated to a snappy movie “The Women” (1939)

Image: Journeys in Classic Films

about a group of women gossiping about other women’s love lives in this all women cast. What made this whole experience even cooler was reliving 1930’s history inside a living preserved piece of glamorous Hollywood at the Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre (1922). This theatre, has landmark status and is now owned and operated by the American Cinematheque.


Image: Christina Embry

Experiencing the day through my Mom’s eyes made it all the more fun.  She saw the movie Ben-Hur (1959) at the Egyptian as a kid and remembered it as being a lot more grand and glamorous. She recalled the interior lobby being more open and spacious with props from the movie on display. But even with all of the changes, it still holds it’s vintage charm especially inside the 616 seat theatre with the original sunburst ceiling that I could just imagine stars like Cary Grant and Judy Garland at a movie premiere gazing up at the same ceiling appreciating it’s detailed artistry. I was in awe of the grander which is the spectacle of the old movie houses. For a complete history of the Egyptian Theatre click here.

The day wouldn’t be complete without going out to lunch. Being that it was my mom’s birthday, I really wanted it to be special, so I made reservations at the Pig’n Whistle, Hollywood CA. This historic 1920’s pub was built before concession stands were the norm like inside theaters today. Stars like Shirley Temple, Barbara Stanwyck and Clark Gable would visit the Pig’n Whistle for their favorite drink and meal before or after a movie premiere. It was indeed a favorite spot of the Stars among many eateries along Hollywood Blvd. For a list of the stars favorite drinks click here.



At the end of the day, what I really wish for is to relieve history, step back in time, feel if just for a moment, what it was like during that time in history. That’s what I will be doing in this blog. I will be rewinding time and exploring history through the lens of classic movies, historic places and interesting people that influenced and inspired generations before us and hopefully people today. I could just enjoy this time travel by myself or bring my family and friends along for the ride and keep our jewels of discovery to ourselves, but I know there are folks out there who cherish the past as much as I do and this blog only adds to our internet library of vintage life. So, off we go into the past. May it never be forgotten or overlooked when we walk by an old building, see a black and white film on TV, or read a story from history. Let it captivate and inspire us to live in the present with an utterly joyous appreciation for the beauty of the past.

More info:

***For opportunities to explore the Bullock’s Wilshire historic landmark in person, docent-led tours are offered in the summer and by invitation only as well as a self-guided tour. To get more information on these opportunities, click here.***