FOR SALE: $515,000. 757 E. Racquet Club Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92262
In 1963, Harry Karl, the owner of hundreds of shoe stores across America, purchased this Racquet Club Estates home as a single man, which was strange; for at the time he was married to actress Debbie Reynolds (Carrie Fisher’s mom) and he used her money. This 3 bedroom, 2 bath home, designed by William Krisel and built by the Alexander Construction Company, was intended to be a personal vacation home for Debbie’s parents: Raymond Francis and Maxene Reynolds.
Mr. Reynolds was a thrifty man who believed that if you couldn’t pay for something yourself in cash, then you shouldn’t buy it. Taking a gift from his Hollywood starlet daughter was not an easy thing to do. Once before, he had filled a pool with sand that Debbie had purchased for him as a gift for his Los Angeles area home. He did however allow her to buy him a shiny red MG convertible in 1951, along with a set of new golf clubs, using her MGM paychecks. After all, Debbie’s Dad was thrifty, but still a man had to be sensible.
Debbie’s parents loved this Palm Springs home. It was a great place to enjoy retirement and a fun getaway from LA. Their grandchildren, Todd and Carrie Fisher, who were only 5 and 7 respectively when the home was purchased, could come visit here and swim in the pool and enjoy the frequent afternoons of sunshine. Palm Springs added Debbie to its list of luminaries when she was selected to be the Bob Hope Desert Golf Classic Queen. A decade earlier she had been selected as the Desert Circus Queen. It didn’t take the Reynolds’s long to make Palm Springs their full-time residence.
Unfortunately, despite Debbie’s Golden Globe and Oscar winning performance in The Unsinkable Molly Brown in 1965, the 1960s saw Debbie and Harry fall on tough financial times as Harry plowed through his own $22 million and then Debbie’s $10 million. On at least one occasion, Harry tried to get Debbie to forgive his foibles by purchasing her some unique jewelry at Jolie Gabor’s Pearl Salon in downtown Palm Springs. But alas, Debbie Reynolds held no more emotional savings in the Harry Karl account. Harry was a heavy gambler and that coupled with some poor business decisions and a few indiscretions, left the couple headed towards bankruptcy. Before he was through with his shenanigans they ended up $12 million dollars in debt.
In 1970, Debbie separated from Harry as she sought to sort out her feelings and finances. That same year, she starred in her own television series: The Debbie Reynolds Show and won another Golden Globe; this time for Best Actress in a Television Series Musical or Comedy Show.
Also in 1970, as a way to pay off some of her staggering debt, Debbie Reynolds hosted the first of her several Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer memorabilia auctions where she sold her famously accrued celebrity collection of items like Charlie Chaplin’s bowler hat, Harpo Marx’s felt top hat, and Marilyn Monroe’s white dress from The Seven Year Itch which she wore above an active subway grate whose wind effects caused the dress to fly about exposing Marilyn’s legs and upper thighs when trains whooshed by underneath.
As Debbie’s and Harry’s separation became permanent, their financial settlements included this home being deeded permanently to Debbie’s parents, which was a good thing because Debbie and Harry’s other Palm Springs home, in the Las Palmas neighborhood was sold pre-foreclosure as a way of paying off some of the bills and staving off bankruptcy. Debbie couldn’t bring herself to stiff her creditors. She paid off her $6 million of debt and, in 1973, left Harry permanently as the divorce became official.
Debbie’s career caught a second wind as she performed in plays on Broadway, guest starred on television shows, and took her own variety show on the road to Las Vegas, Lake Tahoe, San Francisco, New York and other locations around the country, sometimes bringing Carrie and Todd with her. This home became a resting place for Debbie, and Carrie and Todd too, as they would come back to Palm Springs after months on the road and visit the grandparents.
In 1976, Debbie’s daughter, Carrie Fisher landed the role as Princess Leia, which would catapult her to mega-star status as the Star Wars franchise became a movie franchise of unparalleled comparison.
In 1979, Debbie opened the Debbie Reynolds Dance Studio in North Hollywood, CA, and in 1983 she produced a work-out video entitled Doing it Debbie’s Way.
In 1984, Debbie Reynolds married for the third time. This time she married real estate developer Richard Hamlett. The marriage lasted till 1996 when Debbie divorced him for his money squandering and philandering. Some girls just have a hard time finding the right guy.
In 1987, Debbie’s father, Raymond, died. During his tenure in this home he’d made improvements to the garage by adding a work room for his tools and hobbies, and in upgrading the plumbing. Her mother, Maxine, was 74 at the time of his death and she was ready for a greater degree of care. She no longer wanted to live in the desert while Debbie was in Hollywood. So, Debbie and her mother sold this Racquet Club Estates home; yet, their love for Palm Springs continued on.
In January, 2004, Debbie Reynolds was given a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Fame at 155 S. Palm Canyon Drive.
In 2013, Debbie played Frances Liberace, the famed pianist Liberace’s mother, in the HBO show Behind the Candelabra, which was partly shot in Palm Springs.