It is with a tear in my eye and hole in my heart that I give the 2017 Lifetime Achievement Haberdashery Award to a man who was like a Dutch Uncle to me ever since we met some 25 years ago out here in the desert. I first met him at his nightclub Cecil’s then followed him to my all time favorite hunting ground Touche’ while the whole time getting lessons in how a gentleman should act and dress from him at Melvin’s and The Ingleside Inn. Once shoe salesman from Brooklyn who made a fortune from the infamous dashboard hula girls in the 1960’s and moved out here to Palm Springs, CA and bought an old estate and turned it into an exclusive boutique hotel, 5 star restaurant and simply the most elegant nightclub frequented by many of entertainment industry’s biggest stars even old blue eyes the Chairman of The Board himself!
Mel was always the epitome of style, class and the “best of the best” as a dear friend and business partner who introduced me to Mel so many years ago would always say! Here is a photo of Mel with that friend’s father Kjell O. Nelson, the man many described as “the go to guy” in Los Angeles for many years from the late 1950’s until his passing a few years ago. Hands down the classiest, best dressed couple of true gentleman if there ever was! It was my express privilege and honor to have known both of them on a personal level and to have them share their many life lessons with me! This photo is front and center in the place of honor in my living room! Truly, the last of a breed, both of them.
Mel always dressed in gray slacks, blue or black double breasted blazer, English spread collar broadcloth shirt with French cuffs, minimal but tasteful jewelery, silk pocket square and that million dollar smile that literally not only lit up the room but lit up the entire Coachella Valley (as if we needed more sun!) through his tireless philanthropic efforts and community good will. Here’s a photo I’m sure would have been a favorite of Mel’s of him with his lovely daughter Autumn aswell as the rest of his regular golf foursome who go back to his Brooklyn beginnings taken shortly before his passing.
Mel was a master story teller and here’s Mel describing the night Frank Sinatra got mad at Mel’s parking Valet (Mel’s son and my friend Gary Haber) courtesy of 89.3KPCC
Mel was one of those guys that made everyone who walked through his door feel like a million bucks….a celebrity. He’d greet me and my date like long-lost relatives and seat us down at his end of the bar for the best damned dirty martini’s in the universe, then personally bring our drinks over to our table in the intimate dining room. Then as we were ordering desert he’d come over and sit down and we’d talk about how our mutual friends were doing or about an upcoming charity event he was involved with and invariably, if it was my date’s first time meeting him he’d tell a story of some celebrity like in this video where he talks about record producer Clive Davis.
So farewell my friend, it was truly an honor and privilege to know you. You taught me by example how to be a gentleman who gives far more than he ever took. You taught me humility, style and elegance. You were a confidant, mentor and above all, a friend of ours. 😉