For Mayor Max, a lifelong position as chief of Idyllwild is a full-time job. “The mayor goes out in public every day and on weekends,” says his chief of staff, Phyllis Mueller. “We just do kind and loving things for people. But we do it all day.
That’s a lot of work for a 9-year-old golden retriever. Yes, the official mayor of the original mountain community of Idyllwild — nestled in the San Jacinto Mountains overlooking Palm Springs — is a dog, the perfect mascot for an unincorporated town that prides itself on creativity and community. “We don’t have any local politicians except for Mayor Max,” Mueller said. “If we need to do something, we form a group and do it.”
This creative and community spirit is increasingly attracting people in the entertainment industry who are looking for a rural retreat or a fresh start. Lily Rock Realty’s Maureen Jones, who has lived in Idyllwild for 57 years, has seen the pandemic accelerate the area’s popularity. “We have seen an incredible increase in Los Angeles as well as other communities since COVID. Many of our buyers are looking to make Idyllwild their primary home,” she says.
Inventory is low and demand is high in Idyllwild, which is surrounded by protected state and national forests. In 2020-21, prices are up 32.3% from the previous year, and are expected to increase about 20% in 2022. “The cheapest house in our MLS [recently] was $439,900,” says Jones, noting that the number of listings on the local multiple listing service is often less than 20.
But Hollywood’s passion for Idyllwild, while growing, is nothing new. A two-hour drive from Los Angeles, it has long been a laid-back haven for stars like Clark Gable, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and Frank Sinatra. Laura Dern shared that she was conceived in Idyllwild when her parents were filming the 1966 film wild angels. For decades, artists, musicians and writers, including Ansel Adams, Woody Guthrie and jazz musician Marshall Hawkins, have been drawn to the Pine Cove area of Idyllwild, which now has a population of 2,500. . David Dastmalchian shared a photo while on a local getaway with friends last year, posting, “Sometimes you just gotta disappear with people you love in a cabin in the mountains.”
Mueller says, “It’s like a big family. And people go to the grocery store and the post office in their pajamas.
According to writer-producer Angelina Burnett (Stop and catch fire), this spirit of solidarity dates back centuries. “It was the Cahuillas’ summer residence. … It was the place where they all gathered in the summer when it was too hot in the desert because you could see … all their territory,” she said. “There’s Tahquitz Rock, which is the big rock that you can see from the town and is this really spiritual and important place in their culture and their tribe. I always joked that there was a magnet in that rock. When you go there, it reverses your polarity and you are drawn there forever.
Despite its reputation as a rustic haven for artists and creatives — it’s also home to the Idyllwild Arts Academy boarding school and an annual film festival — the area was until recently one of Southern California’s best-kept secrets. “Probably 15 years ago, I was like, ‘Idyllwild is seconds away from becoming the hip place people in LA go to,'” Burnett says. “I need to get my things together and buy a few cabins and get rid of all the gnarled pines and baskets on the walls and turn them into hip, mid-century modern places. I just couldn’t get the money together…I don’t give a damn about myself because five years later…exactly that.
A relatively new full-time resident is TV writer Jayne Hamil, who grew up vacationing in Idyllwild and taking programs at art school. “We used to have campfires and Pete Seeger would play and sing and we would roast marshmallows,” she recalls. “There is a wonderful family atmosphere that envelops you when you wake up here.”
After his long career as a writer for shows, including The nanny and Still awake, Hamil and her husband were ready for a change. “I was pretty much retired at that time,” she says. “Everything I was doing was just on the internet. We said, ‘Why are we still in LA?’ And we were sort of looking around the LA area, and for $800,000 you could have a house in Sylmar next to a meth lab. So we went, ‘Well, wait a minute.’ We started looking here and almost immediately found something. In 2018 we moved here and never looked back.
Many first-time buyers face the burden of expensive fire insurance, but they still find Idyllwild to be more affordable than other nearby retreats. When an Echo Park-based screenwriter (who prefers to remain private when it comes to real estate) was looking for a second home, she found a ’70s A-frame with a large deck. “You definitely get more for your money,” she says. “One of our wishlist items was a sense of privacy, which doesn’t seem like a big deal, but in a more built-up area it’s pretty hard to find unless you buy a resort or something. something like that.”
Burnett adds: “It’s just a really amazing way to slow down. The stars are amazing. You never get stars like that in the city.
This story first appeared in the May 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.
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