Outrageous in Pink - Page 2

An Alexander Tract Home Transformed -- Jamie Kabler's Titillating Leisureland is Palm Springs' Party Central

Leisureland's birth owes much to Jamie's persistence. He ran into Jay at the Palm Springs True Value hardware store -- which stocks a lot more than hardware. Jay, the store's buyer, had a reputation for designing homes for some of the valley's more creative denizens, and a background that included stints with such design legends as Ted Graber, who designed for Nancy Reagan; Billie Haines, who pioneered the Hollywood Regency style; and furniture designer Karl Springer, who loved varied textures, unexpected combinations, and such exotic materials as shagreen -- a rough sharkskin.

But, really, Jay owes it all to mom. "My mother worked in the drapery department of Sears," he says, "and my clients still call her today."

pools statues and rear exterior

cat But Jay said no when Jamie first came calling. Jamie understood. "He turns down nine out of 10 people." But Jamie persisted.

"I said, 'Listen to me. My name is Jamie. From now on you are on my payroll. I'm paying you twice what you're getting.'" The plea succeeded and, Jamie says, "It was the best thing that ever happened to me."

Jay walked into the house and announced, "I can do something special here." His first piece of advice: "When you buy a new house, you have to set a date for a party." Four months later that party took place, with some of the decor improvised. The centerpiece was Jamie's Vespa scooter, a manikin behind the handlebars.

Since then, Jamie and Jay have never stopped. The house keeps evolving, with Jamie buying art and collectables -- including contorted female figures from the film 'Clockwork Orange,' a statue of Atlas holding the world, photo installations by Daniel Peet, Franco Rubartelli's photo of Veruschka, plus photos of Twiggy, Joe Dallesandro, and Tura Satana. There's a 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' bathroom, a wonderful display of 60-plus Barbie dolls, and what Jay calls 'the Blonde Bombshell room.' The kitchen walls are blood red.

Jay can be described as an action designer, often working out his schemes while perusing the local shops. "I try to keep the business in the valley," he says. A favorite shop is the Estate Sale, which sells treasures from the estates of prior generations of local party people. "They've got some of the most unusual pieces of furniture," Jay says. "You can see that people in Palm Springs did some of the most outrageous things."

barbie dolls

When Jay sees something that moves him, he buys it. "Don't worry if you don't know where it will go," he advises do-it-yourselfers. "You can always make something work if it's a good piece and you like it -- whether it cost $10 or $10,000."

Jay helps design Jamie's parties as well as his house. They'll have a crew of 30 running the show. The morning after, he and Jamie analyze the night's traffic flow, figuring out how to do it better next time.

They've become good friends, united in part by their love of the desert. Jamie is in Palm Springs Thursdays through Mondays. Jay is there all the time. "I was very lucky to land here," he says, having arrived on a date with his partner 26 years ago. "I love it here when it's 140 degrees outside."

And Jamie appreciates that the desert is less stodgy than his former home in New York. "I love the inclusiveness of the desert," he says. "New York is exclusive."

"Ohmigosh," he says, "I'm the luckiest person in the world. I talk to Jay every day on the phone, and we plan things and we change things."

"You've got to laugh about this thing," Jay says. "It's such a frivolous thing. There are people dying all over the world, and we're decorating."

Photos: Barry Sturgill, Dave Weinstein