“Hola, Amigo!” That’s what you should say when you enter the hotel bar of the Ace Hotel and Swim Club in the small desert city of Palm Springs, California. The bar is called the Amigo Room. It fits snugly behind the hotel lobby and a restaurant that are like set pieces of fashionable late mid-century modernism as experienced in the 1950s and ’60s.
The bar is small and sexy. It has all the local southwestern interior and architectural design flourishes of a previous era. The brick walls are painted black. In an alcove a large Native American-inspired macrame art piece in the form of a face in profile prominently hangs on the wall. The lights are low, but not too low. There are leather-cushioned edges on the bar and semi-circular leather-backed booths. The Amigo Room evokes the golden age of Hollywood, of stars and starlets on weekend getaways, of sweaty, alcoholic nights at the bar and hungover afternoons napping poolside in the desert heat. The only thing missing is cigarette smoke. The bar serves as an unmarked back passage to the hotel’s massive and very contemporary pool, and it feels semi-secretive. You have to look for it. You don’t stumble into it.
We recall that 10 years ago — practically to the month — we were holed up for a couple of nights at the Ace. It was not long after it had opened. We whiled away a couple of pre-game hours at the Amigo Room, sipping on caipirinhas and people watching. That evening, a hipstery singer-songwriter type in a wide-brimmed hat sat at the end of the bar playing guitar and singing mellow, forgettable indie-rockish tunes to a sociable but otherwise apathetic audience. Lame hipstery stuff aside, it was a nice moment of relaxed inebriation ensconced in a beautiful faux-retro space that was (still is, it seems) as much evidence of fashionable, contemporary tastes as any.
Ah, to be young and drunk and in the desert again.