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LITCHFIELD’S The sign towers over
the other buildings on East Francisco
Boulevard, an enduring presence
flanking a busy portion of the highway.
Did it belong to a now-defunct grocery
1954 Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall,
store? Far from it. Dubbed “Califor-
nia’s Las Vegas,” Litchfield’s Bermuda
Palms was the place to be during the
’60s and ’70s. Built in the late 1940s
by Irving “Whitey” Litchfield,
a millionaire construction
mogul, the resort had a
luxury swimming pool, color
television, nightly dancing and rooms
for under $10 a night. In its prime, the
on-site ballroom drew top music acts
including Duke Ellington, the Grateful
Dead, Janis Joplin, Pink Floyd, Chuck
Berry and many more. Litchfield’s also
served as lodging for the glitterati — in
John Wayne and Robert Mitchum
stayed there while filming Blood Alley
at China Camp. And since Whitey was
an amateur boxer, it once even served
as a boxing training camp. In the ’70s
drugs and prostitution proliferated in
the area and the motel’s shimmer began to fade. The neighborhood grew
dangerous and Litchfield claimed he
lacked support from police. In 1988
he finally shut down the property and
kicked out all tenants except those
placed by the county welfare department. There was one final jab. On the
motel’s marquee he left the message,
“I have sinned. Please forgive me.
I have created a haven for humans.
Don’t judge me too harshly.” K.P.