Gifts from the royal family, a U.S. president and other bigwigs with whom the famed Annenbergs rubbed shoulders will be on display, beginning Sunday, as part of a yearlong exhibit at the Sunnylands retreat in Rancho Mirage.
“Treasures at Sunnylands: Selections from the Gift Collection of Walter and Leonore Annenberg” will feature nearly 50 items.
“It’s exhilarating to see a collection of the tangible markers of the Annenbergs’ extraordinary lives,” said Anne Rowe, director of collections and exhibitions at Sunnylands. “These gifted objects from all over the world, in all shapes and sizes, and signed with warm expressions of love and affection, create a powerful narrative.”
Among the attractions:
— a silver cigarette box from Queen Elizabeth;
— a singing fish plaque from President George H.W. Bush; and
— the golf cart-sized Austin Mini Moke car provided by Frank Sinatra.
According to curators, the exhibition is the second highlighting the Annenbergs’ social history.
News broadcasts over the years showed motorcade after motorcade entering the gates to this mysterious place time after time,” Rowe said. “Famous people would be spotted in town, and speculation would grow that they were guests of the Annenbergs at Sunnylands.”
Contributors to the treasure trove that will be available for public viewing include Bob Hope, Kirk Douglas, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Randolph Hearst.
The Annenbergs maintained their winter estate at Rancho Mirage. They gained recognition for their philanthropic efforts while running several successful publications, including TV Guide.
Walter Annenberg served as ambassador to the United Kingdom under President Richard Nixon in the early 1970s. Leonore Annenberg served as chief of protocol for President Ronald Reagan from 1981 to 1982.