This blog consists of my observations about the mid-century: its nightlife, classic dining, and architecture.

I’m a historian who was born in Concord, Massachusetts and raised in Hawaii.  I graduated from the University of California at Berkeley and later attended the American Film Institute in Los Angeles.

In 1999, I founded the Palm Springs Modern Committee (PS ModCom) an architectural preservation group. In 2006, I produced “Desert Holiday,” a jaunty documentary chronicling the history of the Coachella Valley as seen through vintage postcards. I am also the author of “Havana Before Castro: When Cuba Was a Tropical Playground” and “Palm Springs Holiday: A Vintage Tour From Palm Springs to the Salton Sea.” My latest book is titled “Classic Dining: Discovering America’s Finest Mid-Century Restaurants” with photography by Sven A. Kirsten.

I reside with my partner in the Silver Lake district of Los Angeles and in Palm Springs.

10 Responses to About

  1. tigerbody says:

    I found you!

    Ive been looking for you for 40 years!

    I’m from Kailua – enchanted lakes


  2. Leah Ammon says:

    Dear Peter,

    (I, too, am having issues with the info@havanabeforecastro.com address, and thought I’d post my request here!)

    My organization is very interested in reproducing one of the posters from your (truly beautiful) “Havana Before Castro” book on an invitation for our biennial fundraising gala. Could you let me know whether this is something you would agree to, and if so, what the next steps would be?

    Thank you so much!

    Best regards,


  3. Hi Peter,

    I have thoroughly enjoyed reading your Havana Before Castro book. We will be hosting a 1950’s Havana themed dinner party in January, however, I’m having trouble tracking down what menu items were served at the the famous casinos and hotels during that time period. Do you have any suggestions? Thank you in advance for any input you might provide.



    • Judee, thanks for the kind words about the book. As relates to your question, I have several hotel menus that would be helpful. Do you want examples of entrée items?


      • Yes, please! I have exhausted the internet looking for options. I’ve even tried viewing old menus from the Tropicana, etc. as auction items. All with no luck. We are part of a dinner club where each couple brings one of the courses assigned by the host and the host supplies the entree and cocktails. Each meal revolves around a particular theme.
        It would most helpful if you would be able to offer suggestions for other courses as well.
        Thank you so much!


        • I have scanned the dinner menus from the Hotel Nacional de Cuba, the Habana Hilton’s El Caribe restaurant, and the Havana Riviera’s Copa Room. Send me your email address and I’ll provide pdf copies for you.


  4. Hi Peter,
    the info@HavanaBeforeCastro.com-email won’t work, so let’s try here on the blog 🙂 I have a request about some issues from the book Havana before Castro. I want to built up a german website and want to know if it is possible to use some pictures of the book for this website. I would be very pleased if it is possible. I would be give you some more details in a private email if want. So far I wish you some nice days. Greetings from Berlin, Matthias


    • Hello Matthias! Thanks for finding me through my blog. Let me know what images you’re interested in from the book. By the way, I spent some days in Berlin in 1987 and found it to be a fascinating, exciting city.


  5. Hey Peter,

    I just read your delightful Classic Dining book (this instant) and discovered that you and your partner are in the same neighborhood as my partner and I, and I wonder if we’ve met before.
    And if we haven’t, I think I’d like to.

    My partner Tim Lawson lived in Hawaii also, and I’ve spent many formative times there myself.
    The mid-century restaurant thing is a big fat passion of mine…in fact, one of my designs in toy form is suspended from the ceiling at the 21 Club at “my” table, which is actually also Bogie’s table…and I think he deserves the ownership a tad more than myself. But the staff likes me there, and that spot is a special home away from home for me.

    In any case, if you have any interest in corresponding I’d be delighted. My name is Scott Chambliss, I’m a motion picture production designer, and I thought your book was big fun.

    Cheers & Pip,


    • Scott – It’s amazing that we have so much in common! Is your neighborhood Silver Lake or Tahquitz River Estates in Palm Springs? I wrote the book especially for people like you who love classic restaurants and are concerned about them vanishing. I don’t know if you’ve been to the Dal Rae in Pico Rivera, but it remains my favorite in the Los Angeles region. Hey, if you wouldn’t mind writing a short review on my book’s amazon page I would be most appreciative. It would help me get the word out; just search amazon books under “Classic Dining.” Thanks for contacting me and let’s continue corresponding.


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