| RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif., June 8
RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif., June 8 Frank Sinatra
married his fourth wife here, Richard Nixon visited to nurse his
wounds after resigning the presidency, and now the names of
Barack Obama and Xi Jinping are added to the long list of
celebrities and political leaders who have trekked to this
The late philanthropists Walter and Leonore Annenberg
intended their Sunnylands sanctuary to be something of a "Camp
David of the West," a reference to the presidential retreat
tucked away in the Maryland mountains near Washington.
And over the years, it has seen its fair share of
headliners, as big names of American culture have escaped here
for a respite from winter. Ronald Reagan was a frequent visitor
as president, actor and California politician, spending New
Year's Eve at the Annenberg estate a total of 18 times.
Nixon wrote his final State of the Union speech at
Sunnylands in 1974 and returned months later after the Watergate
scandal drove him from office. Frank Sinatra married his fourth
wife, Barbara, here in 1976.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip came in 1983.
Streets around the 200-acre (81-hectare) complex hark back to
the area's storied past. There's a Dean Martin Drive, a Dinah
Shore Drive, even a Gerald Ford Drive, and Sunnylands itself is
on Bob Hope Drive.
The summit between U.S. President Obama and Chinese
President Xi unfolded beneath the pink-roofed modernist estate
at Sunnylands, in the Coachella Valley's Rancho Mirage about two
hours' drive from Los Angeles.
The place lives up to its name. This far from the ocean, the
desert surroundings are breathtaking, and extremely warm in the
summer, with June temperatures soaring past 110 degrees
Fahrenheit (43 Celsius).
And the desert can be known to encroach on the manicured
gardens of Sunnylands. A large lizard was found by a member of
the U.S. delegation in a bathroom. The reptile that was promptly
retrieved and sent on its way.
Built in the 1960s as the Annenbergs' winter home, the
estate is now run by a non-profit organization and is becoming a
place for top-level meetings like the Obama-Xi summit.
For the two-day summit, the estate was transformed from its
normally laid-back state.
Armed Secret Service agents with radios in hand secured the
sprawling grounds, dashing around in golf carts or taking up
position in whatever small bit of shade they could find.
While Xi and his delegation took up residence at a local
hotel and arrived in a long motorcade for each day's talks,
Obama and part of his entourage overnighted at Sunnylands.
The president stayed at a luxury cottage with 1960s-style
decor and furnishings. Speculation was that he would make use of
the estate's private golf course before leaving for Washington
Obama's Chinese visitors marveled at the scenery but, like
everyone else, could only shake their heads about the stifling
heat as temperatures topped 100 degrees F (3.7 C) for both days
of the summit.
"It's magnificent here but it's really too hot," one Chinese
journalist said. "Thank God you Americans have good air
(Editing by Alistair Bell and Sandra Maler)