The Sweet Life

Recently my partner James and I, along with Jason and RJ from Gay Fresno, set off to Palm Springs at the invitation of Ken Stabins, one of the owners of La Dolce Vita, a renovated, upscale gay men’s resort in Palm Springs. Ken and his partner, Tim Phillips, purchased the property two years ago in a life changing move that took them away from corporate America into something much more meaningful.

When we arrived we met Everett, who runs the front office. He gave us a full tour of the grounds. Walking in you’re greeted with the warm pool, one of two pools on the property, kept at a soothing 90 degrees. There’s also a cold pool, we well as two outdoor Jacuzzis and a tiled steam room, all of which are available to guests 24 hours a day. There’s a large outdoor workout facility, with both machines and free weights, as well as lockers. There’s a complimentary wireless internet connection, and a desktop computer and printer available during office hours. The front desk is also stocked with a selection of movies you can watch in your room.

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Rooms around the main pool have individual canopies over the entrances. Everett led us through the bright French doors into our spacious room. We had a king size bed, an armoire with TV and VCR, and a CD player. In the closet we found robes to use during our stay, as well as a safe. In the bathroom there was a stall shower with a rainstorm shower head and a supply of Aveda bath products. Off the main room there was a separate seating area, complete with refrigerator and microwave on one side, and a loveseat, chair and table on the other. Another french door opened onto our semi-private patio, with chaise lounge, table and chair. We were especially lucky the nights we were there to have a perfect view of the full moon above the tall palm trees that lined the back fence. 

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La Dolce Vita has 20 rooms & suites, of varying sizes. There are smaller rooms, as well as large suites with full kitchens and connecting doors.  All the rooms are spacious, well decorated and comfortable.  The resort's staff is quick to make you comfortable and feel at home. Everett runs the front office and Rick handles housekeeping, managing to keep the rooms immaculate while making sure you have everything you need. Everyone we met at the resort was friendly and engaging. La Dolce Vita is closed to all but guests, and you can sense that feeling of home as soon as you walk through the main gates. They serve a complimentary breakfast poolside, offering everything from fresh, homemade waffles to fruit, muffins, bagels, cereal, yogurt, milk and juice. They also host an outdoor social hour in the evening with complimentary cocktails & hors d’oeurvres, where guests gather to socialize and get to know each other.

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The morning after we arrived I sat down by the main pool with Ken to talk about the resort. When I asked how the name originated, he looked toward the mountains that towered over the roof of the resort.

“When we sat down here and looked up at those mountains, we said, oh my God, La Dolce Vita, which means ‘the sweet life’ in Italian.”

Ken moved to the west coast from New York years ago, and eventually found himself wanting something more out of life than a corporate career. “I worked for a medical company as the director of business development and traveled all over the world. But I wanted to do something different. I met Tim, who was a VP for an information technology company in Orange County. We both had this desire to get out of our corporate lives.”  So they talked about their options, in real life terms.

“Our lives before were filled with straight people working in offices with computers. We wanted something else. So we identified the things that make us happy and are important to us. We wanted something relatively interactive, with gay people, and outdoors. We went through the things that matched that and at the top was a B&B. Then we just had to get the courage to quit our jobs. It’s really tough to leave a good, high paying job with benefits where you don’t have to worry about things when you come home at night.”

But Ken was at a point in his life where he didn’t want money to be his only driving force. “We’re always trained to let money be the driver because it’s prestigious. Shame on us if we don’t do something else with our lives, because we can. So many people can’t, but we can.”

So they did, and this Valentine’s Day marks the two year anniversary of La Dolce Vita Resort. Ken and Tim have created an oasis in the desert, with their  dedication to quality visible in every corner, from the rooms to the grounds and staff. This is a place the owners definitely care about and are invested in.

It wasn’t easy at first, since the property hadn’t been updated in some time. “We live on site and we just started working and never stopped,” Ken told me. “It was funny though, because here we are, Ken and Tim with our rollers in our hands, painting and painting, and then saying, isn’t this room beautiful? But it wasn’t long before we realized we couldn't do it ourselves and we needed help. So we hired painters, and painted everything, inside and out.“

There was also some structural work to be done, along with adding some air conditioners, building some walls and removing some doors. Ken and Tim are very hands on, and are currently working on a water garden near one of the pools.

Ken explained La Dolce Vita’s clothing optional policy. “It’s the concept of being free, of releasing your clothes and being free. We have guests who want to be totally free and naked in a place that’s totally closed, totally private. We also have people who don’t take off a stitch of clothing and that’s all right too.”

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Ken’s greatest satisfaction comes from getting to know the gay people that come to stay at the resort. “The most rewarding aspect of this job has been sitting down with the guests and talking. People come here to get away from stress, from anger, from the things that bother them in life. You get this great spectrum of gay people. We wanted to have a place where people could relax, meet people and network, and share the creativity among gay people. That’s one thing we’ve learned is how creative and valuable gay people are to our society. And straight people do not understand that."

To visit La Dolce Vita’s WEBSITE click here. Room rates fluctuate depending on season and availability, so discuss any options that might be available. There’s a reward program for referrals, as well as weekday incentive specials. La Dolce Vita is a top notch escape, and I recommend it highly. I know we’ll be going back…

*photos: Chris Jarvis

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