On the day in which the Ukraine civil war claims the most casualties yet, and when an Al Qaeda spin off, too extreme even for its "conservative" roots is preparing to unleash a caliphate smack in the middle of Syria and Iraq forcing the Pentagon to admit it has dispatched an aircraft carrier in advance of further escalations, it is only logical that the U.S. president, in sequence of events, is...
Air Force One has landed in Palm Springs, where Pres & Mrs Obama are to spend much of a long weekend.— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) June 14, 2014
Pres Obama on his way to Dem fundraiser in Laguna Beach, CA. Closed to press coverage. Then to Anaheim for U.C. Irvine Commencement.— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) June 14, 2014
The fundraiser is being hosted by Democratic donor Anne Getty Earhart, granddaughter of oilman J. Paul Getty.— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) June 14, 2014
Pres Obama back in Palm Springs from Commencement in Anaheim.— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) June 14, 2014
The Obamas are spending the weekend as guests at the Rancho Mirage home of WH decorator Michael Smith & US Amb to Spain James Costos.— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) June 14, 2014
According to Nexis public records, the 11,000-square-foot hilltop home sits on 8 acres and is under Costos' name. The couple now call Madrid their home base, though Smith's interior design business is based out of Los Angeles.
The estate, named Ichpa Mayapan — the Mayan term for "exclusive estate" — was designed in 1970 by modernist and local architect Howard Lapham, who also is responsible for many other homes in the Thunderbird Heights area. The Mayan-themed house, at one time known as the Cook House, was originally built for socialite-sportswoman Maxine Cook and formerly owned by Stan Jolley, a TV producer-director and one of the original Disneyland designers.
The estate is one of Lapham's largest residential projects boasting three bedrooms, 4.5 bathrooms, an eight-car garage, tennis court, helipad, mini horse corral, clubhouse, game room and a two-bedroom, two-bathroom guest house.
Prior to his diplomatic appointment, Costos was the vice president for Home Box Office responsible for HBO's global licensing, retail and marketing division created to expand the company's domestic and international interests. Costos also held fashion and retail executive positions in New York, including vice president titles at Tod's and Hermès.
Costos' diplomatic appointment came in the wake of significant financial support for Obama's re-election. Around the same time, Obama also appointed John Emerson, former president of Capital Group Private Client Services and chairman of Music Center of Los Angeles, as ambassador to Germany; and Rufus Gifford, former producer and California fundraising consultant and financial director of the president's re-election campaign, as ambassador to Denmark. The appointments were widely cited as reminiscent of former president Ronald Reagan's tradition of appointing big donors to foreign posts.
Costos and Smith are credited with raising at least $500,000 for Obama's 2012 re-election campaign. In June 2011, the couple hosted the first lady at their Los Angeles home for a fundraiser that would lend a hand to the campaign. Prior to the fundraiser in 2009, Michelle Obama selected Smith to redecorate the residential quarters of the White House. He would be asked to redecorate the Oval Office the following year.
Behold Ichpa Mayapan:
Some have speculated that the Obamas will pay a social call to the couple at their home in the Thunderbird Heights neighborhood in Rancho Mirage. Others are speculating that the Obamas may be looking to purchase a home in the area, possibly the Costos-Smith home, although real estate sources have said the residence is not for sale.
In brief: the world may be burning, so the Obamas go house hunting. Who says the second housing bubble has burst?