California Travel Articles
The Beat Goes On at Palm Springs Beat Hotel
It was 1957, when an ordinary hotel in the Latin Quarter of Paris was dubbed "The Beat Hotel" and then became the center of this literary groundbreaking artistic energy.
The three men that christened this hotel were some of the core founding fathers of the counter cultural Beat Generation: William S. Burroughs, Gregory Corso, and Allen Ginsberg. The Beat Hotel at 9 rue Git-le-Coeur on the Left Bank was the original live-in retreat and study center for ten years until it was torn down in 1967.
Serendipitously, another nondescript mid-century modern hotel was being built the same year the Beat Hotel was christened. This hotel, practically half way around the globe, came to life in Desert Hot Springs, California. The true purpose would, unfortunately, not be known for more than forty years, when it would be resurrected from the dead and its name changed from the Monte Carlo Resort Motel to The Desert Hot Springs Beat Hotel. This two story, eight unit hotel, after a sad period of dilapidation and resurrection, would become a live in retreat and study center for lovers of the arts, and in particular, the literary and visual arts of William Seward Burroughs. According to its owner, chief restorer, and curator, Steve Lowe, it is a living museum that caters to writers. On an equally remarkable side note, Steve owns another impressive Lowe Desert motel called The Lautner, which was designed by architect John Lautner.
Steve admits that the vision for the Desert Hot Springs Beat Hotel came from two places: 1. A similar looking hotel structure, El Muniria Hotel in Tangiers, Morocco, where the infamous William Burroughs wrote his most famous book, "The Naked Lunch", and, 2. From "The Last Hotel", a book written in 1986 by a peculiar Burroughs collaborative visual artist and author named Brion Gysin.
Gysin imagined that El Muniria was transported to Southern California, 200 miles from Los Angeles and rebuilt on the San Andreas Fault. If you look at any Southern California map, the location to the prediction is uncanny. The "new" Beat Hotel is a place of rest, rejuvenation, and where a person can recharge his or her mind. Having no telephones or televisions in any of the eight rooms, this is clearly a living museum that pays homage to William S. Burroughs. The Beat Hotel is a piece of installation art with a mineral fed swimming pool and spa that must truly be experienced to be fully appreciated.
According to Burroughs, writer and artist, "One of the jobs of the artist is to fabricate dreams for other people. We dream for these people who have no dreams of their own to keep them alive."
By the time William Burroughs died in 1997, he lived quite a colorful existence for 83 years. His compelling ideas, creative raw power in his writing style and worldly cynicism expressed in numerous poems and in over three dozen books turned him into an underground celebrity and revolutionary literary figure. Another favorite creative outlet, his expressive abstract artwork, often came from whatever materials were at hand for his personal needs: spray paint cans, shotguns, plywood, et cetera and was symbolic of his belief in the advancement of total freedom. Many of these original Burroughs works (of art) are on display at the Beat Hotel, where the life, the legend and the literature are fused into one.
William S. Burroughs —
The stone-faced grandson of the inventor of the Burroughs Ten Key Machine, William was destined to live his life according to his own rules where he strongly emphasized the need for personal freedom and nonconformity.
Throughout his life, aside from writing, Burroughs never really seemed to work, since his endeavors were financed by his wealthy Midwestern family.
He was an intelligent bookworm who graduated from Harvard by studying literature and anthropology. William, who experimented with various lifestyles, was an avid gun fanatic and frequent drug user. He had a fascination with the gangster underworld, and often when he was out in public, was sharply dressed in a business suit and fedora. In addition, he was a frontiersman who traveled extensively and lived on the cutting edge of society everywhere from Chicago, Colombia, Morocco, Paris, London, New York, New Orleans, Mexico, and Texas, until he "retired" in Lawrence, Kansas in 1981.
As he traveled, he preferred to settle into a motel and use it as his base camp for writing some of his numerous often shocking and highly idiosyncratic books. Hence, his aforementioned quote about his creative spirit being unleashed while staying in a hotel room.
On a beautiful evening with a full moon slowly rising over the low Desert Hot Springs sky, Kim and I pulled our MINI into the barely identifiable, yet full hotel parking lot. The only building moniker, a small grouping of white letters saying, "Hotel" signified to us where we were.
The Beat Hotel is at the end of a residential street and is surrounded by empty plots of land complete with natural desert landscaping. Upon ringing the doorbell, we were warmly welcomed by the owner/curator, Steve Lowe, and were given an extensive tour of his labor of love.
Throughout the tour, Steve recalled numerous memories he had of William S. Burroughs from his years knowing him. He explained the history of his extensive collection of Burroughs artwork, pictures, manuscripts, and memorabilia. As Steve departed us for the evening, we were on overload from countless facts about the godfather of the Beat Generation. So, we dropped off our bags at our very hip room, and each grabbed a complimentary glass of wine from the library and went perusing the Beat Hotel's funky lounge, and outdoor pool area.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim and Don Tatera, Jetsetters Magazine Correspondent. Join the Travel Writers Network in the logo at www.jetsettersmagazine.com
by Kim and Don Tatera