Coachella Valley Independent May 2024

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Mailing address: 31855 Date Palm Drive, No. 3-263

Cathedral City, CA 92234 (760) 904-4208


Jimmy Boegle

staff writerS

Haleemon Anderson

Kevin Fitzgerald

coveR and feature design Dennis Wodzisz


Melissa Daniels, Charles Drabkin, Katie Finn, Bill Frost, Bonnie Gilgallon, Bob Grimm, Valerie-Jean (VJ) Hume, Clay Jones, Matt Jones, Matt King, Keith Knight, Cat Makino, Brett Newton, Greg Niemann, Dan Perkins, Gilmore Rizzo, Theresa Sama, Jen Sorenson, Robert Victor

The Coachella Valley Independent print edition is published every month. All content is ©2024 and may not be published or reprinted in any form without the written permission of the publisher. The Independent is available free of charge throughout the Coachella Valley, limited to one copy per reader. Additional copies may be purchased for $5 by calling (760) 904-4208. The Independent may be distributed only by the Independent’s authorized distributors.

The Independent is a proud member and/ or supporter of the Association of Alternative Newsmedia, the California Newspaper Publishers Association, CalMatters, DAP Health, the Local Independent Online News Publishers, the Desert Business Association, and the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert.


The last month or so has worn me out.

There has been a lot to do here at the Independent and at our sister newspaper in Reno. I’ve also been spending a ridiculous amount of time in meetings and discussions dealing with the proposed California legislation that would force Google and Facebook to pay news operations for the links to news on their platforms. (I’ll have more to say about this at a future date; while I’m told changes are coming to what’s being called the California Journalism Preservation Act, I am not a fan of the bill as it stands as of this writing.) Throw in some family obligations, and my schedule has been nuts.

However … I am lucky. I am blessed. The trials and tribulations I’m dealing with right now are nothing compared to the mess—figuratively and, especially, literally—the businesses and homes in the Panorama area of Cathedral City have had to endure since the arrival of Tropical Storm Hilary last August.

For this month’s excellent cover story, which you can read on Page 12, Haleemon Anderson talked to the owners of three businesses that were upended when a mudflow, caused by rain from the tropical storm, crept through their corner of the Panorama area on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2023.

(As an aside: It blows my mind that we’re reporting on tropical storm damage here in the Coachella Valley. This is just the latest addition to the list of unbelievably surprising things we’ve all had to deal with in recent years.)

In a related vein: Our Restaurant News Bites column, on Page 22, includes the awful news regarding the April 14 fire that destroyed four businesses in the Bristol Farms shopping center in Palm Desert, including two restaurants: Papa Dan’s Pizza and Pasta and, a personal favorite, D’Coffee Bouteaque. I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to watch my business literally burn. I feel queasy just thinking about it.

However, both of these stories, as terrible as they are, also have a positive side.

Anne Ambrose, Cathedral City’s assistant city manager, told Haleemon that she was wowed by the community’s response to help those harmed by Tropical Storm Hilary.

“The community just came out in force to help (these) very small geographic areas of our community that were impacted so dramatically,” Ambrose said. “… There has been such a great response from the private sector, public sector, nonprofit and individuals that I thought was just very special, and I’d not experienced to the extent that I did here and throughout the Coachella Valley,” she said.

A fundraiser largely put on by real estate agents brought in more than $14,000 to help Frazier Pest Control, one of the businesses ravaged by the mudflow. Another, Desert Promotions, was helped by a GoFundMe campaign that netted more than $32,000.

A similar community response is developing to help the Palm Desert businesses destroyed by the fire on April 14, with multiple crowdfunding efforts emerging to raise funds for the victims. (As of this writing, I have not been able to verify the legitimacy of these various crowdfunding efforts; when I do, I’ll post the links at

I am taking these stories as a reminder that I need to be thankful for what I have. Two more lessons: Life is unpredictable— and we’re fortunate to live in amazing place with a lot of good people.

Welcome to the May 2024 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent. As always, thanks for reading.

—Jimmy Boegle

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LIt’s a great time to explore Joshua Tree National Park— although you may want to save the bouldering for cooler months

ast month, we talked about the start of snake season, and how to stay safe should you encounter a snake while hiking.

Well, we are now in the midst of snake season. (Yes, it is a “season” here in the desert.) Snakes usually emerge from brumation (a low-energy dormant state that reptiles go into during the winter to survive cold temperatures) in March or April, depending on rising temperatures; I have seen them as early as late February during warmer days. When it becomes warm and sunny, usually around 70 to 80 degrees, snakes will be out and on the move, through at least October.

the Coachella Valley? Of those, seven are venomous!

Those are two of the facts I recently learned at a very informative class about the diverse snake species found throughout Joshua Tree National Park. Here are some more interesting facts I learned from the class, put on by the Desert Institute and Paisley Ramstead:

Did you know that there are more than 20 different snake species that live with us here in place your hands. It might be in your best interest to seek more visible areas for hiking, and leave the bouldering for cooler seasons.

• Most snakes are nocturnal, meaning they are more active at night, especially as temperatures rise to 90-plus degrees. During the springtime, you may see them more during the day (when it’s cool at night). You most likely won’t see snakes at all when it’s 115 degrees during the day, but they might be out at night.

That said, it is a perfect time to visit, hike and/or camp at JTNP. The wildflowers are peaking, and it’s generally eight to 10 degrees cooler there than in Palm Springs.

• Snakes don’t have eyelids, so it’s not a good idea to engage in a staring contest with a snake. You will always lose.

• Snakes don’t have ears; they cannot hear you, but they can smell you and feel you coming from ground vibrations.

Ramstead also busted some rattlesnake myths. For example, have you heard that baby rattlesnakes are more dangerous? False! All rattlesnakes are born with the ability to control the amount of venom they deliver during a bite. Also: It’s never safe to pick up a dead rattlesnake. Fangs may retain venom for hours after death, and the snake can still bite (reflexively). Never pick up a snake.

In other snake-event news: The Desert Care Network hosted a “Desert Survival Seminar” to bring public awareness to snake season, snakebite prevention and snakebite treatment. The meeting was held at the Hi-Desert Medical Center in Joshua Tree, where local doctors and park rangers came together to help prepare people for possible snake encounters. With the abundance of snakes and people out on the trails, I suspect there will be more desert-awareness seminars held locally.

If you plan to go hiking and bouldering around in Joshua Tree National Park, you’ll need to watch where you step and where you

Prior to your trip, you can learn what flowers are blooming, and where they are, thanks to the Joshua Tree National Park Wildflower Watch site, at www.inaturalist. org/projects/joshua-tree-national-parkwildflower-watch.

One of my favorite short and easy hikes in the heart of JTNP is the historic Barker Dam Trail. It is a 1-mile loop trail that only takes about 30 minutes to complete, but you can make it longer or shorter if you want. This trail is mostly flat, with an elevation gain of less than 60 feet, and it does have some optional rock-scrambling. There are some iconic boulders on this trail, and large granite rock formations where you may see rockclimbers. Don’t miss the rock art site, where you’ll find petroglyphs. If you go during the rainy season or just after it rains, you may find water; however, it is mostly dry. I have seen bighorn sheep in the dam area before— and I’ve come across rattlesnakes, so be careful, and remember to watch your step.

Another short and easy hike—30 to 45 minutes, less than 2 miles—that is dear to my soul is the famous Heart Rock (and Arch Rock) Trail. This trail is located deeper in the park at White Tank Campground; you may find parking at the Arch Rock Trailhead parking lot in White Tank. Today, this is a marked trail with excellent signage that will take you right to Heart Rock, and then on a short loop to Arch Rock.

Some years back, before the signage was installed, I spent countless trips and hours trying to find Heart Rock; it was very hard to find. I made it my mission to find it, and I eventually did after a couple of years of searching. Those were the days when you could visit Heart Rock and be the only person

there. That won’t happen today! Still, it really is worth seeing. It stands 10 feet tall and is surrounded by a stunning backdrop of boulders. You’ll love it! It is a scenic place for pictures at sunrise, at sunset, or any time throughout the day.

JTNP charges a moderate entrance fee; currently, a private vehicle pass, valid for seven days, is $30. You can also purchase an

annual National Parks “America the Beautiful” pass for $80. There is little to no shade inside the park, so it’s a good idea to get an early start, and wear a hat along with appropriate clothing and gear. Stay hydrated; bring snacks and extra sunscreen; and always bring more water than you will need. There is no cell service in much of the park, so it’s a good idea to grab a map at the park entrance kiosk.

Heart Rock used to be difficult to find, but today, trail signage points the way. Theresa Sama


As an advocate for equitable housing solutions, I am deeply concerned about the lack of affordable housing across our state—particularly in the Coachella Valley.

Affordable housing isn’t just about shelter; it’s about equity, economic stability, social cohesion and the very fabric of our American culture. All people need to have the ability to pursue the American dream, no matter our income status. In this pivotal moment, as we evaluate political candidates and ballot measures, it’s imperative that we support concrete plans to address the housing crisis.

The data draws a dark picture. Per the National Low Income Housing Coalition, there is a shortage of 7.3 million affordable and available rental homes for extremely low-income renters in the

United States. In addition, wages have stagnated while housing costs have soared, leaving millions burdened by unaffordable rents and at risk of houselessness. In one of the world’s richest nations, this is a systemic failure that undermines the prosperity and well-being of our entire country.

In the Coachella Valley, the demand for low-cost housing far exceeds the available supply. According to a report by the California Housing Partnership, the Coachella Valley has a deficit of more than 30,000 affordable rental homes, leaving many residents struggling to find adequate and affordable housing options. This shortage is exacerbated by factors like high housing costs, limited rental vacancies and a significant portion of the population earning low to moderate incomes. The lack of affordable housing not only strains household budgets; it also poses challenges to the region’s economic development.

As a nonprofit affordable-housing developer, the Community Housing Opportunities Corporation exists to help ease that strain for working, low-income families and individuals across California. Specifically in the Coachella Valley, our soon-to-open 56-unit Placita Dolores Huerta community is a significant milestone for the desert area as efforts to bridge the affordable housing gap evolve. Despite the complex’s successful development, however, ample work must be done to alleviate the ongoing housing crisis—and that work starts at the ballot box.

Vague promises and platitudes won’t solve this crisis locally, regionally or nationally. We need leaders who are willing to roll up their sleeves and implement tangible solutions. That means investing in affordable-housing development, preserving or renovating existing affordable units, and expanding rental-assistance programs. It means zoning reforms that encourage economically integrated neighborhoods and combat exclusionary practices. It means tackling systemic issues like discrimination and inequitable access to credit and similar resources.

Some may argue that addressing affordable housing is too costly, too complex or not effective. The truth is, we cannot afford not to act. The cost of inaction is measured not just in dollars, but in lives lost. Study after study has shown that stable housing is a linchpin for health, education and economic opportunity. For example, a report by the National Health Care for the Homeless Council states that individuals experiencing houselessness are more likely to suffer from chronic health conditions compared to the general population. Stable housing provides access to consistent health-care services, allowing individuals to better manage and treat these conditions. And research published in the Journal of Children and Poverty indicates that stable housing is positively correlated with improved educational outcomes like higher graduation rates and better academic performance. When families are forced to spend an exorbitant portion of their income on rent, they have less money for food, health care, education and other essentials. This perpetuates a cycle of poverty that causes declining health, stifles upward mobility and perpetuates intergenerational inequality.

Furthermore, the lack of affordable housing exacerbates houselessness, strains social services and undermines public safety. It’s a crisis that touches every aspect of our communities, and it demands bold and comprehensive solutions. That’s why it’s not enough for candidates to pay lip service. Detailed plans with measurable goals and timelines are critical.

Addressing affordable housing is an economic opportunity. Investments in affordable-housing development create jobs, stimulate local economies and generate tax revenue.

According to the National Association of Home Builders, each affordable housing unit generates $106,000 in local income. By prioritizing affordable housing, politicians have the power to foster economic growth and prosperity while also bettering their constituents’ lives.

The issue of affordable housing transcends partisan politics. It’s not about left or right; it’s about ensuring that every person has a

Voters must demand concrete plans for affordable housing from political candidates

place to call home, because housing is a human right. The affordable-housing crisis is one of the most pressing challenges of our time, and it requires bold and decisive leadership. As voters, we must demand concrete plans from candidates and hold them accountable for delivering on their promises. The future of our community depends on it.

Joy Silver has, for more than 40 years, served as an advocate for working, low-income families and the underserved who face challenges in both healthcare and housing. Based in Palm Springs, she currently serves as the chief strategy officer for the Community Housing Opportunities Corporation, a nonprofit affordable housing developer. Learn more at
Opens May 24!
Community Housing Opportunities Corporation’s new 56-unit complex will soon open in Coachella. Noé Montes


Amanda Sanders was just 16 years old, living with her mother in a condominium in Palm Desert, when her sense of security was shattered.

It happened on an evening in June 2018. Sanders and her mother had just parked the car in the assigned space for their unit.

“We were coming back home, around 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.; I was a sophomore in high school,” Sanders recently told the Independent. We were walking back, and we see that his blinds are open vertically, so you can see somebody’s right there … and we just see him masturbating. I can see his arm moving. Basically, I started freaking out. I started just going off. … I’m telling my mom, ‘Look

what he’s doing to us. You see what he’s doing?’” Sanders said her mom—who grew up in Colombia, with a “different societal norm”— dismissed the incident, blaming Amanda for looking at the man.

As it turned out, that was just the beginning.

“Another time, we were going to school,” Sanders said. “I was walking with my mom, and I noticed that he had moved his blinds a little bit, like, just to the side. I was just like, ‘Oh, God, what’s he going to do?’ Basically, he sees us coming. He knows what time we’re coming, and we get into our vehicle. That’s when he opens his door, and we can see him just standing there, fully naked and masturbating. I start to freak out; I started to just go off and start telling my mom, ‘Look what he’s doing. He’s completely naked.’ And my mom’s telling me, ‘It’s your fault, because you’re looking at him. He’s doing it because you’re looking.’

“I got so fed up … with my mom blaming me that (when) I came home from school, I went over to his apartment to see what number he was living in, and then I went over to the main office, and I told the ladies in the office exactly what was happening. That’s when they called the police, and that’s when I was interviewed.” Sanders said that after these incidents, the man would always smile at her when he saw her. “He knew where I went to school, because (his family) has a business right by Cook Street near Palm Desert High School,” Sanders said. Sanders felt she needed to defend herself and take action, so she filed a police complaint. Riverside County ended up charging the man with several misdemeanor counts of indecent exposure, and one misdemeanor count of annoying/molesting a child under the age of 18. Sanders expected that justice would be meted out soon—but that never happened.

According to the Riverside County Superior Court public access portal, court proceedings began on Sept. 10, 2018. For the next 5 1/2 years, her case dragged on.

Twice during those years, Sanders requested, and was granted, protective orders

against the defendant. The first came less than two months after the charges were filed, with the second coming in March 2023 after Sanders had an unnerving chance encounter with the defendant.

“For me, it’s hard to live a normal life knowing that in this society, somebody can do that while the mother’s child is present,” Sanders said. “You have to be sick—like, you have to be mentally disturbed. I used to work at (Ristorante) Mamma Gina after all this happened. I was a host, and I literally sat him (in the restaurant), and we made eye contact. He knew who I was, and he stared at me the whole time. That’s when I refiled my

After 5 1/2 years of continuances, Riverside County dismissed an indecent-exposure case simply because a courtroom was unavailable for a trial

restraining order.”

The case history shows that PC-1050 continuances were granted on 51 occasions along the way. According to the Shouse Law Group website, “a 1050 motion to continue is a request by either the prosecution or the defense to postpone the hearing to a future date. The date can be for a pretrial matter or a trial. A judge will only grant a motion to continue if there is good cause to do so. Good cause is determined by the facts of the case. If granted, the hearing or trial is put off for a period of time that is necessary to resolve the issue forcing the continuance.”

Sanders said: “There were so many (continuances), and it’s just, like, you have to accept it. … One reason that they continued the case was because his lawyer was going on vacation. How was that even allowed? It’s been years. We were announced ready (for trial), and all of a sudden, she’s going to go on vacation? I understand that people have a life—but why then? And it was permitted.”

Meanwhile, the filing of motions and the requests for continuances proceeded

seemingly unchecked—until March 11, when the case was suddenly dismissed, and Sanders’ protective order was terminated. Sanders’ long journey in the Riverside County Superior Court system was over, and justice had been denied.

The Riverside County Superior Court public access portal does not show any other criminal complaints against the defendant. Because the defendant has not been convicted, and he is no longer facing charges, the Independent is not publishing his name.

Antonio Fimbres is a deputy district attorney in the Riverside County District Attorney’s office. He supervised the unit of attorneys who handled Sanders’ case.

“This case fell right within the heart of the COVID continuances,” Fimbres explained during a recent interview. “A significant number of those continuances were the result of the judicial extensions of time in the court’s own motion of continuing the case because of the COVID-19 epidemic. … In October of 2022, the Riverside County Superior Court elected not to seek any further judicial extensions on

Amanda Sanders: “This level of incompetency makes the victim feel like they have to take it into their own hands … because the system isn’t protecting us.” Kevin Fitzgerald

cases, and all the cases then (on the docket) had determined last days. Since that time, we’ve had significant numbers of dismissals because of what is called ‘the backlog of cases’ that weren’t tried or resolved during COVID.”

Sanders responded that COVID-19 is not the only reason for the continuances. She said many of them were because of “either a lack of judges, or a lack of courtrooms for six years.”

Sanders called the state of the Riverside County court system “insane.”

“This level of incompetency makes the victim feel like they have to take it into their own hands … because the system isn’t protecting us,” she said. “The fact that (the defendant was) targeting minors is so angering; it literally gives me chills. That’s why, for the longest time, I wanted to expose him. I wanted to make fliers and put his face everywhere to show what he does, since he’s so proud of doing it, and so blatant with it. Of course, then I would face a defamation (lawsuit), because I’m slandering his character. It’s infuriating.”

Sanders described the shock she felt when the case was dismissed.

“They did it so fast, and (the defendant) wasn’t there, either,” Sanders said. “It was such a fast and insensitive process. … They basically said, ‘Oh, we’re just going to dismiss the case.’ They got up. I got up, and they were like, ‘Oh, would the victim like to say anything else?’ I was so pissed off that I left cussing. I was so angry. I yelled at the DA and my ‘victim’s advocate.’ She literally just sat on her phone the whole time that she was there.”

Fimbres explained that the case was dismissed “pursuant to section 1382 of the penal code.”

“The penal code specifies that a case has to be brought to trial within ‘x’ number of days from a time of arraignment,” Fimbres said. “In this particular case … (which) was continued quite a number of times, particularly during the COVID period of time, the penal code also allowed for the case to be continued well beyond what’s called its ‘original time,’ by either mutual agreement or by order of the court.”

However, Fimbres said those extensions ended after his office announced it was “ready for trial.” Why?

“The court did not have any (available) departments to send the case out to trial,” he said. “And because of that, the court dismissed the case by way of defense motion. The court granted the motion and dismissed the case, because it wasn’t brought to trial within the statutory time.”

Fimbres insisted that it’s “highly irregular” for a case to get dismissed due to section 1382. He also said his office could not re-file the case, because it was filed as a misdemeanor.

“It’s only (with) felony charges where we’re allowed to refile the case,” Fimbres said.

“Once a misdemeanor is dismissed, it’s gone

forever. In many ways, that’s the sad reality of the situation. Once a misdemeanor case is dismissed, it cannot be resurrected unless there’s some appellate process that gives us the ability to have the appellate courts take a look at it, and possibly resurrect the case.”

Riverside County is dealing with a shortage of judges. According to the Judicial Council of California, as of April 1, Riverside County was short by four judges—and that’s the lowest such number in years, a reduction from the 22 referenced in a KESQ News Channel 3 story from February. As Fimbres said, when that fact is combined with a shortage of other court staff and of actual courtrooms, it means cases get continued—and dismissed.

According to that February KESQ story: “Nearly 1,800 criminal cases were dismissed (in Riverside County) between October of 2022 and April of 2023. Over 1,200 of them were from Indio.”

A JCC report from 2022 includes the most recent statewide and countywide data on case dispositions. It says that in fiscal year 2021, in the category of non-traffic misdemeanors, 302,906 cases were filed statewide, with only 172,366 dispositions—leading to a case-clearance rate of just 57 percent. In that same year, just 40 misdemeanor trials were conducted in all of Riverside County.

The state does not keep records of dismissals specifically due to the unavailability of judges or courtrooms. The Riverside County District Attorney’s public information department did not respond to several inquiries about this data.

Whatever the exact numbers are, it’s clear that a lot of cases are being dismissed simply because of a lack of time and resources, meaning a lot of would-be criminals are getting neither the punishment they deserve, nor the rehabilitation they need—and victims have no recourse.

Sanders said the most difficult challenge during her 5 1/2-year judicial experience was simply persevering and “being strong for myself, because it took so much for me. Like, there were days when I was extremely suicidal, just because your whole sense of security was robbed from you. … My mom was never there. Afterwards, too, she would just not respect how I felt, and she would keep saying I should stop bitching about it, so it was very hard. … The hardest thing was to keep myself fighting.”

Sanders said she is worried that the nowformer defendant may victimize others now that he’s gotten away with it.

“It scares me that he’s out (there),” Sanders said, “and he could do this to somebody else … and it just continues. He feels so comfortable doing it. … For the longest time, I had to get out of that fear of being in public. I was afraid—like, this could happen to me anytime with anybody, not just him. You know what I mean?”

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Construction on a new Cathedral City park is finally under way—and it will soon bring open space and recreation to a historically underserved neighborhood after nearly a decade of planning, meetings and grant applications.

Ground was officially broken on the Dream Homes Park in early April, and it is slated to open in the spring of 2025. The site is a 7.5-acre stretch of land located to the east of Gene Autry Trail, in the neighborhood north of the shopping center including The Home Depot and Aldi on Ramon Road.

John Corella, the city’s director of public works and engineering, said at the groundbreaking

on April 3 that Dream Homes residents approached the city nearly 10 years ago regarding the lack of development and recreation in their neighborhood. Long home to working families and once plagued by gang violence—a reputation the city has worked to shed—the Dream Homes neighborhood didn’t have any nearby recreational areas.

Organizations including local schools and the Coachella Valley Association of Governments also weighed in on planning efforts—but despite the need, Corella said the city kept hitting roadblocks on securing funding.

“We persisted,” Corella said. “That persistence

was to accomplish a goal, and that was to get a grant for Dream Homes Park.”

Things changed in 2018, when California voters passed Proposition 68, a $4 billion bond measure for the development of parks and other infrastructure. About a fifth of the funding was dedicated to communities that had median household incomes less than 60% of the state average—and as of the 2020 Census, Cathedral City was one of those communities. Though Cathedral City applied for a grant as soon as funds became available, it didn’t get approved outright; the state reported receiving $2.3 billion in requests that first year, with just $254.9

Cathedral City’s Dream Homes Park will be a huge boon to an underserved community

million in grants available at the time.

But park planners didn’t give up, Corella said. More community meetings were held; Corella said organizations like the Desert Health Care District, Loma Linda University and the El Sol Neighborhood Education Center worked to support the project—doing health assessments that showed the importance of more recreation activity in the area, for example.

In December 2021, an $8.5 million award to Dream Homes Park was among the $44 million awarded to parks in the Coachella Valley and Imperial County via the Prop 68 bond program. (That year, about $395.3 million was available statewide.) Corella credited the efforts of Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, calling him the “orchestrator” of securing the funding.

Other parks being built in the Coachella Valley from that round of funding are:

• Indio Sports Park on Jackson Street, a 31-acre sports park that will have two baseball fields, four soccer fields, a football field and an open play field, plus other amenities.

• Central Park in Coachella, a 4.7-acre spot off 52nd Avenue that will include walking pads, picnic areas, community gardens and a splash pad.

• Thermal Park, a five-acre park in the unincorporated community that will have playground and sports amenities.

Sergio Espericueta, a member of Palm Springs School District Board of Education, raised his children, now adults, in the Dream Homes neighborhood. He told the Independent the park is a victory that local leaders “worked hard to get.”

“It’s a lot of land over there, and it will be a quality park,” he said. “Anybody can use it, but the location is more a property for the neighborhood. and I think that will be a good place for the students to use it.”

Dream Homes Park’s planned amenities are specifically tailored to the needs of the community. While many desert-recreation spots feature pickleball courts—like the new ones recently installed in the open pit behind the Kimpton Rowan in downtown Palm Springs—Dream Homes Park will have soccer fields, basketball courts and multi-use fields. There’s also a futsal field, used for a globally popular football-style sport that’s played on a hard court.

Picnic areas, dog parks and shaded seating are also part of the plans, as is a centralized dropoff zone by the play areas. The city’s art commission is making plans for community-inspired murals, and the location will be connected to CV Link, the biking and jogging corridor through

the Coachella Valley.

Ryan Hunt, Cathedral City’s communications and event manager, told the Independent that the amenities were decided upon after numerous community workshops, many of which were held at the Agua Caliente Elementary School, in the middle of the neighborhood. “Parks and open spaces are markers of healthy communities, and therefore, they serve as an area for establishing and improving the quality of life in a neighborhood,” he said.

According to the National Recreation and Parks Association, parks have a direct effect on the health and well-being of residents. This is particularly acute when it comes to mental health: Compared to people who live close to a park, those who live more than 3 miles away from a green space have nearly 50 percent higher odds of experiencing stress, the NRPA says. An Australian study published in Nature in 2016 found that spending at least 30 minutes outside during a week could reduce the prevalence of depression and high blood pressure by 7% to 9%.

Here in the desert, an abundance of natural beauty and near-constant sunshine are two main draws for many residents. But without safe and accessible ways to enjoy open space, people can’t reap the benefits. At the April groundbreaking, Mayor Mark Carnevale said that improving the quality of Cathedral City’s outdoor spaces “remains the top priority” for City Council.

“One of the key components that makes parks and outdoor facilities so special is that they’re free for the public to use and provide memorable gathering places for people of all ages and backgrounds,” he said.

Reservations recommended. Call 760-779-5000 Open Thursday through Tuesday 71680 Highway 111 #F, Rancho Mirage (Next to Hilton Garden Inn)
At the groundbreaking for Dream Homes Park, Cathedral City Mayor Mark Carnevale said open space is one of the city’s top priorities. COUrtesy of Cathedral City


Anationally renowned artisan couple are bringing their colorful yet practical aesthetic to the most bustling corner of the Morongo Basin.

All Roads Desert Market opened in March. With an all-white exterior and colorful flags with the signature circular logo, the grocery and gift shop is an eye-catching addition along Highway 62 in Old Town Yucca Valley.

Co-owners Janelle Pietrzak and Robert Dougherty have spent more than 10 years working together as a design company that specializes in textiles and metalsmithing. Clients and collaborators include Ace Hotels, Kimpton Hotels, One Kings Lane, Soho House, Urban Outfitters

and Anthropologie. But their new store sells their hand-woven linens, merch and housewares—alongside unique grocery items meant for grab-and-go snacks and meals.

“We always wanted to open a store again and create a customer experience and offer something to the community that wasn’t already here,” Pietrzak said. “It was really important to us to create a space that hopefully locals could find and relate to—not just another tourist shop.”

On that front, All Roads has succeeded by curating merchandise that is both attractive and practical. Its signature textile line features products like tea towels, table linens and tote bags in colorful plaids, designed by Pietrzak and handwoven in Mexico. Some pieces are made from the scraps of others, part of a “nowaste” ethos.

“For a long time, our work was only for higher-end customers, and now we’re able to produce a product that’s more accessible,” she

said. “It feels good.”

On the grocery side, the assortment includes savory snacks, sweets, beverages and pantry staples—but they’re all bespoke items that shoppers won’t likely find at a chain grocery store, like non-alcoholic craft brews from Sober Carpenter, cactus tortilla chips by Tia Lupita and instant noodles from Shaman Raman. Some of the best-sellers are culinary brand Momofuku’s pantry products, like chili crunch sauce.

Pietrzak said the selection is meant to include healthy grab-and-go snack alternatives and “meal savers,” or items that are easy prepare whether you’re at a campsite, at an Airbnb or in your own kitchen after a long day.

“We thought a lot about what kinds of things we like for road trips or camping, and mixed with what you can’t already find up here in the high desert,” she said. “Our grocery options are limited, so we wanted to bring that in.”

The arrival of All Roads is another sign of

All Roads Desert Market is a stylish part of Yucca Valley’s business renaissance

life for one of Yucca Valley’s most frequented hot spots. The shop is located in Old Town near the intersection of Highway 62—which cuts through the Morongo Basin—and Pioneertown Road, which leads up to the famed Pappy and Harriet’s in the enclave of Pioneertown. Any given afternoon, scores of denim-and-linenclad visitors stroll through to get a snack at Frontier Cafe or Luna Bakery, thumb through vinyl records at The Hoodoo, or duck into one of the multiple vintage stores.

In response to the increased activity, the town of Yucca Valley is working on a parking project that will put in roughly 150 parking spots—as right now, most visitors have to find street parking or pull up on dirt lots.

Pietrzak told the Independent that locating in Old Town was a no-brainer, after they found their locations, which had been empty for about two years. They previously ran a small store off the beaten path in Yucca Valley that closed when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Then they sold goods out of the Mojave Flea Trading Post in Palm Springs. Being part of those

markets taught them the importance of foot traffic—and how to figure out the right pricing strategies and inventory levels.

So far, Pietrzak said that All Roads is getting “a great response” from the community, including repeat local visitors and curious tourists. She said she’s thrilled to be a part of a season of business development in the high desert, including the ongoing development of Corner 62 down in Twentynine Palms, the Yucca Valley Art Walk that happens every third Saturday in Old Town, and a slew of locals opening their own independent shops and popups. Pietrzak is developing a small-business association to help the new entrepreneurs collaborate and connect.

“I feel like a tide is turning,” she said. “There’s a lot of newness, and if you haven’t been up to the high desert in a couple of years, and you come up now, you’re going to see a change.”

All Roads Desert Market is located at 55879 Twentynine Palms Highway, in Yucca Valley. Learn more at

The All Roads Desert Market team—Robert Dougherty, Janelle Pietrzak and Taylor Askins—poses for a photo at their grand opening on March 23. Andrew Casey


NA look at the lasting valley legacies of three famous residents

umerous celebrities have established homes in the Coachella Valley—and a handful helped make the name “Palm Springs” known around the world.

Three names in particular—Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore—stand out.

Bob Hope

When Bob Hope passed away in 2003 at the age of 100, numerous local mourners placed floral wreaths atop his star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars.

Bob Hope was more than an entertainer; he was an institution, bringing joy and laughter to millions—and his favorite place of all was Palm Springs.

Palm Springs’ first honorary mayor, Hope first visited Palm Springs in 1937 and bought his original home at 1014 Buena Vista Drive, in the Movie Colony neighborhood, in 1941. He also owned another home nearby, at 1188 El Alameda. He still owned both at his death in July 2003. He often used the El Alameda home rather than his formal residence, the futuristic Southridge home that has become a valley landmark.

The huge building shaped like Darth Vader’s helmet, resting on a hill at the south end of town, is the landmark most residents and visitors recognize as the “Bob Hope house.” About 24,000 square feet, it was primarily used for entertaining. The home features a par-3 fairway and golf green. The house there today is not the original, which burned to a skeleton frame while under construction in July 1973. For a great bird’s-eye view, you can hike up the Araby Trail, which goes up behind the Southridge home.

The annual tournament long known as the Bob Hope Desert Golf Classic started in 1960 and quickly became one of the major draws to the Coachella Valley. The Desert Classic (currently known as The American Express) has also been known as the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and the Humana Challenge. It is still one of the desert’s largest fundraisers, dispensing millions of dollars over the years to more than 130 nonprofit organizations. The Bob Hope Classic Ball became one of the premiere social events of the year.

Hope donated 80 acres of land in 1966 (worth more than a half-million dollars at the time) to develop the Eisenhower Medical Center on what is now Bob Hope Drive—one of the valley’s major roadways—in Rancho Mirage.

The comedian loved the desert. In 1990, he spoke to a Palm Springs High School graduating class, which presented him with an honorary diploma. Hope—who received 54 honorary

doctorate degrees, a Peabody Award, special Academy Awards, an Emmy Award and the Congressional Gold Medal, among other honors— told the delighted young audience that he really cherished their honor.

He even showed up unannounced at the Plaza Theatre to throw a few one-liners to a surprised Fabulous Palm Springs Follies audience. He loved to walk and was sometimes spotted walking down Palm Canyon Drive well into his 80s.

While his primary residence was in Toluca Lake, where he passed away, his love of Palm Springs helped make the desert oasis a household word.

Frank Sinatra

In the waning days of their marriage, Frank and Nancy Sinatra designed a $150,000 air-conditioned home at 1148 E. Alejo Drive in Palm Springs. They signed the papers in 1947—and an impatient Sinatra paid triple to have it completed in time for a New Year’s party.

The modern 4,500-square-foot home, designed by noted architect Stewart Williams, features lots of glass walls and high ceilings. It is still called Twin Palms in reference to the two tall palm trees behind a piano-shaped pool.

Frank kept the Palm Springs house after the divorce settlement, along with a 1949 Cadillac convertible and his musical compositions. Years later, a new owner of the house was doing some renovating and, so the story goes, found some of Sinatra’s original work. That Palm Springs home has been sold several times since and is currently available for events.

Sinatra in 1951 married Ava Gardner, whom he allegedly met at the Chi Chi Club in Palm Springs; they divorced in 1957. Throughout the 1950s, Sinatra entertained often and long at his Palm Springs house.

He later built a large compound on what was originally called Wonder Palms Road in nearby Rancho Mirage; the road name was later changed to recognize the star. The Sinatra compound’s address is now 70588 Frank Sinatra Drive in Rancho Mirage.

He campaigned hard for his friend John F. Kennedy in 1960 and, immediately after the election, beefed up the security in the compound. He added a large guest house and a heliport, anticipating that Kennedy would turn

the Sinatra compound into the western White House. But because of Sinatra’s ties with organized crime, Kennedy prudently chose to stay at Bing Crosby’s desert estate instead, forever irritating Sinatra.

In 1976, Frank married Barbara Marx, who formerly was wed to Zeppo Marx, one of the famed Marx Brothers.

After his father’s death in 1969, Frank Sinatra raised $805,000 to endow the Martin Anthony Sinatra Medical Education Center, adjoining what is now Desert Regional Medical Center, at the old El Mirador location in Palm Springs.

In 1980, Sinatra campaigned for his friend Ronald Reagan, who named him chairman of his inauguration gala. That year, he raised another $1.3 million for the medical center, after which the grateful U.S. Rep. Jerry Lewis addressed Congress, naming Frank “America’s No. 1 entertainer and philanthropist.”

Frank and Barbara Sinatra continued to spread their wealth around to Palm Springs benefactors; Barbara Sinatra has the children’s center at Eisenhower Medical Center named after her. Among numerous honors, the one Frank cherished most was the Presidential Medal of Freedom, presented by President Reagan at the White House in 1985.

Frank died in 1998; Barbara continued to be a major benefactor in the Palm Springs area until her death in 2017.

Dinah Shore

Dinah Shore, by hosting what evolved into the premiere women’s golfing event, immediately gave status, credibility and prominence to the Ladies Professional Golf Association.

Born in Tennessee, the popular singer, entertainer and TV variety-show host kicked off the

Colgate Dinah Shore Golf Tournament back in 1972. It was held at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage. Later called the Kraft Nabisco Championship and later the ANA Inspiration, it continued to attract the top LPGA competitors for 50 years, through 2022. With a new sponsor in Chevron, the LPGA tournament moved to the Houston area in 2023.

The golf tournament become a major annual draw for women—and led to the start of The Dinah, now one of the oldest and largest lesbian events and music festivals in the world, in 1991. Even though the golf tournament has moved, The Dinah lives on; this year’s Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend will take place from Sep. 25-29, 2024.

Dinah Shore and husband George Montgomery built their first Palm Springs home in 1952 in the Movie Colony neighborhood, at 877 Avenida Palos Verdes. Then in 1964, she had a new home designed by architect Donald Wexler built for them at 432 Hermosa Place, in Old Las Palmas. The home changed hands several times and was eventually purchased by actor Leonardo DiCaprio, who still owns it; today, it’s available as a short-term rental.

Once the Dinah Shore Classic was up and running, Dinah moved to Mission Hills Country Club, the site of the tourney.

Shore passed away in 1994. Dinah Shore Drive, named in her honor, is a major eastwest thoroughfare between Palm Springs and Palm Desert.

Sources for this article include Palm Springs Confidential by Howard Johns (Barricade Books, 2004); Palm Springs Babylon by Ray Mungo (St. Martin’s Press, 1993); and View From the Saddle by Frank M. Bogert (ETC Publications, 2006).

Dinah Shore and Kirk Douglas. Photo courtesy of the Palm Springs Historical Society


May’s first morning features a last-quarter moon, half full, in the southeast as twilight begins to brighten. Since the lower left half of the moon is illuminated, you’ll know that the sun is in the northeast, below the direction of the brightest twilight glow.

To the moon’s lower left, between the moon and the sun’s known position, look for a string of first-magnitude planets, in order of increasing distance from the moon: Saturn, Mars and Mercury. You’ll likely need binoculars to see Mercury rising in bright twilight.

As the moon approaches the sun the next five mornings, it goes through waning crescent phases and slides down the lineup of planets. It is to upper right of Saturn on May 3; between Saturn and Mars on May 4; to the lower left of Mars and to the upper right of Mercury on May

5; and to left of Mercury on May 6.

The Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar for May 2024 illustrates these events, as well as the evening gatherings of the moon and stars mentioned below. The May calendar and a detailed evening star map will be posted online at

The brightest stars in May’s morning sky shine at zero magnitude: Golden Arcturus is in the west, and blue-white Vega is nearly overhead. Note the stars Altair and Deneb completing the summer triangle with Vega. Also noteworthy is the red supergiant star Antares, heart of the Scorpion, in the southwest. On May 30, as the Earth passes between Antares and the sun, the star stands at opposition, and is visible all night: low in the southeast at dusk, in the south in the middle of night, and low in the southwest at dawn.

Mercury is highest for several mornings around May 12, but only 3° to 4° up in midtwilight from the Coachella Valley. During this worst apparition of the year, the planet’s brightening through magnitude zero to nearly -1 doesn’t help much.

For the best Milky Way viewing, get out to a dark place two hours before sunrise May 5-17. You’ll notice the Cygnus Star Cloud along the neck of the Swan inside the summer triangle nearly overhead, and the Greater Sagittarius Star Cloud looking like a puff of steam rising up from the spout of the Teapot in the south.

The moon returns to the morning sky after the full moon of May 23. Catch the moon near Antares on May 24, near Saturn on May 31, and near Mars on the morning of June 2.

At dusk at the start of May, since Jupiter is nearly on the horizon, the brightest object easily seen is the “Dog Star,” Sirius, in the southwest. Start there, and go clockwise around the huge oval of bright stars—Procyon, Pollux, Castor, Capella, Aldebaran, Rigel and back to Sirius. The red supergiant star Betelgeuse lies inside the oval. By the end of May, of all these stars, only the “spring arch” of Procyon, Pollux,

Castor and Capella will remain. Look nightly, using the sky watcher’s log (which you can download at the online version of this column at to keep track of your observations.

Pollux and Procyon are 23° apart. Trailing behind them as they slide down the western sky, look for a star at the apex of an isosceles triangle, 37° from each—Regulus, heart of Leo, the Lion.

Other bright stars at dusk in May are Arcturus, starting out in the east, and Spica, in the southeast, both moving higher toward the south as the month progresses. Later in the month (and/or later in the evening), keep an eye out for Antares rising in the southeast, and Deneb rising in the northeast, to the lower left of Vega.

Watch the moon nightly at dusk May 8-23, waxing from a thin crescent, very low in the west-northwest, to full on May 23, passing the five first-magnitude zodiacal stars Aldebaran, Pollux, Regulus, Spica and Antares as it goes east at an average rate of 13° per day. The conjunctions of the latter four stars on the evenings of May 12, 15, 19 and 23, respectively, are very close and noteworthy. Binoculars will help you enjoy the view.

The Astronomical Society of the Desert will host a star party on Saturday, May 4, at the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center; and on Saturday, May 11, at Sawmill Trailhead, a site in the Santa Rosa Mountains at elevation 4,000 feet. For dates and times of other star parties, and maps and directions to the two sites, visit

The Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar is available by subscription from www. For $12 per year, subscribers receive quarterly mailings, each containing three monthly issues.

Robert Victor originated the Abrams Planetarium monthly Sky Calendar in October 1968 and still helps produce an occasional issue.

Planets and Bright Stars in Evening Mid-Twilight

For May, 2024

This sky chart is drawn for latitude 34 degrees north, but may be used in southern U.S. and northern Mexico.

A string of first-magnitude planets dominates mornings; Sirius is the star of the stars in the evening

He enjoys being outdoors sharing the beauty of the night sky and other wonders of nature. Robert Miller, who provided the evening and morning twilight charts, did graduate work in planetarium science, and later astronomy and computer science at Michigan State University, and remains active in research and public outreach in astronomy.

when the Sun is 9° below the
May 1: 42
after sunset. 15: 45 " " " 31: 46 " " " N S E W 1 Jupiter
by Robert D. Miller
mid-twilight occurs
Aldebaran Rigel Betelgeuse Capella Sirius Procyon Pollux Castor Regulus Spica Arcturus Antares
Deneb May's evening sky chart. ROBERT D. MILLER NEWS
It’s easy. Repair drips and leaks. A leak as small as the tip of a pen can waste more than 200 gallons per day. LiveWaterWise EVERY DROP COUNTS!

The cleanup is complete,

and the Kims will soon be back in business. The Mobil station and convenience store they own at Date Palm Drive and Vista Chino in Cathedral City will soon be pumping gas and selling energy drinks, car washes and snacks—after being closed for almost eight months.

On Aug. 20, 2023, Tropical Storm Hilary wreaked havoc on the Panorama enclave in Cathedral City. A mud flow devastated the area, shuttering businesses and damaging homes for blocks.

The family-owned gas station, one of about

10 small businesses in the area, is the last to dig out of the devastation. Fifteen mounds of waist-high dirt are all that’s left of the wall of mud that crashed down during the storm.

Johnaten Kim runs the business that his parents started. They have a couple of gas stations in the Coachella Valley; his background is in finance, but Kim said he was raised in gas stations and has been learning the intricacies of the business since childhood. But neither Kim nor other nearby business owners could have possibly been prepared for the mud. Recovering from Hilary involved

replacing everything down to the bones of the building, after shoveling through a four-foot crush of mud that left no corner untouched.

“We’re talking close to 200 tons of mud,” Kim said. “The structure remains the same; the footprint remains the same, but all the materials inside are brand-spanking new. It was about $800,000 worth of damage.”

“ We’re talking close to 200 tons of mud. The structure remains the same; the footprint remains the same, but all the materials inside are brand-spanking new. It was about $800,000 worth of damage. ”

and 30 to 40 people to wheelbarrow all the mud out.”

Somu Desai, owner of Desert Promotions, at 68915 Vista Chino, is still replacing, piece by piece, the machinery his company uses to create signs, screen-printing and custom embroidery. In January, he was able reopen his 8,200 square-foot facility after “working tirelessly” alongside friends and neighbors who helped remove three feet of mud.

He described the effects of Storm Hilary as worse than the effects of the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Frazier Pest Control, nearby at 68920 Adelina Road, was in a unique position to avoid the worst of Storm Hilary: Joe Frazier’s drivers take their equipment with them. If his trucks had been stored at his facility where he works alongside his wife, son and a handful of customer service staffers, “We’d be out of business,” Frazier said.

“Our guys take the trucks home. After it happened, it took, like, two days to just assess everything and figure out what the heck we were going to do.”

He bought laptops for his schedulers and set them up to work at home. Thanks to some quick thinking and a technology boost, they were back up and running within a week.

Still, Frazier Pest Control didn’t escape the wrath of Hilary. “Our building is 2,000 square feet, and there was three to four feet of mud completely (covering floors) inside the structure,” Frazier said. “It took two weeks

“We were at the epicenter of it,” Desai said. “Before the flood, we had a huge capacity. We did almost (all of our printing) and everything in-house. Once the storm happened, we lost a lot of our machinery. We had to take little steps. We were able to clean up the whole building, but we didn’t have any equipment, so we are replacing a few pieces at a time.”

Desai wanted to get his staff back to work as soon as possible. In six years at the Vista Chino location, they’d become like family. Some went on unemployment while others looked for part-time work—even as they continued to help at the store.

“Our staff was very instrumental in the cleanup,” Desai said. “They are just very faithful and wanted to help us out. We have so much invested in them; they’re so much a part of our team. And we didn’t want to lose any of them—you know?”

Over at the Mobil station, Kim had to deal with unique challenges—because gasoline has a way of complicating a cleanup.

“You have environmentally hazardous material, gasoline, sitting under the ground,” Kim said. “There are still empty spaces in there just flush with water. While the (underground storage tank) itself remained perfectly fine—

– Johnaten Kim owner of the Mobil gas station at Date Palm and Vista Chino

it did its job—the space around it, you have to recover it, wash it off, clean it and test it.”

Since the gas station was closed, Kim decided to take the opportunity to do a full renovation.

“You think, ‘OK, a 30-year-old building gets wiped out by a hurricane. Let’s use this moment to springboard it up, change the dynamic of the property and rebuild it to a more modern spec,’” Kim said.

Even with flood insurance,

business owners had to come up with a lot of money out-of-pocket to get back up and running. Frazier estimates insurance paid about 30 percent of the total needed to replace everything. It covered damage to the structure—but nothing inside the building. The mud damage was so horrific, it made salvaging impossible.

“We had everything torn out, all the way to the studs,” Frazier said.

A low point came for Frazier in November, when federal disaster relief was finally approved for the parts of California hit by Hilary. It provided Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance to “state, tribal and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations.”

“But nothing for the businesses or the residents—and I just lost it,” Frazier said. “They said it wasn’t a big enough disaster for them to help.”

Frazier is right: Individual assistance—the kind that follows a disaster on the level of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, or the recent Maui wildfires, and puts FEMA agents on the ground providing public assistance to individual households and business owners— was not included.

Affected businesses and nonprofit organizations throughout Riverside County are eligible for loans of up to $2 million to repair or replace damaged assets, and home owners are eligible for loans of up to $500,000 to repair or replace real estate, and $100,000 to replace or repair personal property. A Small Business Administration outreach center at the Cathedral City Library helped get those initial applications processed quickly, and the loans are still available until a June 24 deadline. However, while the loans are lowinterest, they’re still loans and need to be repaid.

While some businesses owners and homeowners affected by the mud flow expressed anger at Cathedral City for a lack of action, Anne Ambrose, the city’s assistant city manager, explained that the city has no control over the federal government’s disaster designation or response.

“It starts at the local level,” said Ambrose. “As a city, we declare a local disaster, because

the incident is larger than what we can (handle) with our local resources. The counties declare a disaster and then roll it up to the state. … So even though we had a small area that had a significant amount of damages, in our community, it wasn’t significant enough to trigger the federal government” to provide relief to businesses beyond low-interest loans.

Cathedral City is working with FEMA to recover the costs the city incurred for emergency-relief efforts.

“The city did what it could in terms of removing the debris from the public areas,” said Ambrose. “To this date, we’ve spent over $6 million on our public infrastructure and debris removal that we’re currently working through the process with FEMA to try and recover.”

She said the city recognizes there are community members who felt local governments should have done more.

“We know there are individuals who would like to have seen the local agency do more, but local cities are not in that position,” she said.

“We’re not like the federal government, which is set up for that kind of assistance.”

Determining the responsible agent in an event that spreads over miles is also a complicating factor.

“If you look at what impacted Cathedral City, the mud flow that came into our city started 25 miles away, up in the hills,” Ambrose said.

“That mud and debris flowed down and blocked channels, which was a major portion of the damage in the Panorama neighborhood around Horizon, and the businesses over there. They got the brunt of the mud flow that came into the city.”

Tropical Storm Hilary dropped about three inches of rain in the Coachella Valley, where we typically get about five inches of precipitation in the entire year. However, the mountains surrounding the valley were deluged: Mount San Jacinto, for example, got almost 12 inches of rain—and some of that water from the mountains came rushing down into the valley.

Ambrose said officials have described Hilary as a 1,000-year storm. “A 1,000-year flood event or a 1,000-year storm is a really significant event. That probably would have exceeded any mitigation effort in place,” Ambrose said.

The Coachella Valley Water District and the Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, the agencies that are responsible for flood control, have met with Cathedral City’s City Council to discuss potential mitigation efforts to lessen the impact of severe weather events in the future, including projects that are already funded or under way.

For Frazier, returning to pre-disaster norms meant taking out a loan from the SBA.

“It’s going to cost me $2,000 a month for 15 years to pay that,” he said.

Frazier said the family considered calling it quits.

“Everything that my wife has done to get this company back up and running, it’s been a strain on our marriage; it’s been a strain on the family,” Frazier said. “It’s been a strain on the employees. I had two quit because they were tired of working out of their house. I get upset talking about it.”

While government assistance

was lacking, the affected businesses all expressed gratitude for the community’s support.

Area real estate agents raised more than $14,000 to assist Frazier Pest Control. Greater Palm Springs Realtors got the national Realtors Relief Foundation involved, offering up to $2,500 in assistance to affected citizens.

Loyalty to his customers kept Frazier motivated. After 37 years in pest control, he said he’s amassed more than 3,000 clients, with 600 real estate agents, who depend on Frazier Pest Control.

A low point came for Joe Frazier in November, when federal disaster relief was finally approved for state, tribal and eligible local governments and certain private nonprofit organizations. “But nothing for the businesses or the residents—and I just lost it,” he said. “They said it wasn’t a big enough disaster for them to help.”

“We have a huge name in this valley. We couldn’t do that (give up),” he said.

Desai said community support went a long way toward getting Desert Promotions back in business. Donations poured in, and local businesses came forward to help. Ace Hardware in Palm Springs donated shovels; Renova Solar and Teserra Outdoors helped with the cleanup. Aspen Mills Bakery donated food for almost a month, Desai said.

“We were fortunate enough to have a lot of support from our customers, friends and family,” he said. “They set up a GoFundMe page (which raised more than $32,000), and we had local businesses that donated furniture, time and food. There were a couple of big donations from a couple of our customers, you know, which was very helpful.”

Desai said representatives from Jose Andres’ World Central Kitchen stopped by a few

continued on next page


times to serve food to the workers.

“I can only name so many (people who helped),” he said. “I don’t want to leave anyone out, but honestly, strangers we don’t even know came out to help us.”

Ambrose has worked in local government for almost 26 years. She said she’s worked in other disasters, but what she observed in Cathedral City was different.

“The community just came out in force to help (these) very small geographic areas of our community that were impacted so dramatically,” she said.

special, and I’d not experienced to the extent that I did here and throughout the Coachella Valley,” she said.

Johnaten Kim hopes Cathedral City is preparing for the next disaster.

“ We were fortunate enough to have a lot of support from our customers, friends and family. They set up a GoFundMe page (which raised more than $32,000), and we had local businesses that donated furniture, time and food. ”
– Somu Desai Desert Promotions owner

The city developed a list of more than 200 individuals or businesses that volunteered aid and assistance, according to Ambrose.

“There has been such a great response from the private sector, public sector, nonprofit and individuals that I thought was just very

The customer area at Desert Promotions after the mud flow, and today. Owner Somu Desai was able to re-open in January after “working tirelessly” alongside friends and neighbors who helped remove three feet of mud.

Weather conditions can’t be controlled, but he hopes there is a plan going forward to put more mitigation measures into effect.

“No one wants something like this to happen again,” said Kim.

He said he hopes city planners will use federal money for infrastructure projects.

“Even though we are in the desert, there should have been some type of mitigation,” he said. “We’re still getting storms. This past year, we’ve had a good four, five seasonal storms where we’re getting all this water that’s carrying mud from west of our property. Every time it rains here, it brings a flood of sand onto the property, because this is the low level, acting as a basin. We can tell the city, ‘Hey, build a culvert here to prevent this in the future.’ They need to do something infrastructurally to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”

Haleemon Anderson is a California Local News Fellow. She can be reached at handerson@

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RAP Foundation works to strengthen, grow and assist organizations in eastern Riverside County

The Regional Access Project Foundation, aka the RAP Foundation, works to “provide funding, oversight, technical assistance and guidance to nonprofit, community-based organizations or other collaborative groups which serve the populations of eastern Riverside County in the areas of health, mental health and juvenile intervention,” according to the nonprofit’s mission statement.

To put it more simply: The RAP Foundation, which was founded in 1992, aims to enhance the quality of life for all residents of eastern Riverside County by investing in and empowering nonprofit organizations to serve needs of the community.

Leticia De Lara, the CEO of the RAP Foundation, recently talked to the Independent about the RAP Foundation’s collaboration with the University of California, Riverside’s Palm Desert campus (UCR-PD) to build a nonprofitmanagement curriculum. The RAP Foundation is resuming a program that offers scholarships to the classes.

“In May, we will begin accepting applications to award up to 20 student scholarships into the nonprofit management program,” De Lara said. “Our scholarships will ensure that potential nonprofit leaders will only have to pay $500 of the program’s cost.”

The 35-week program consists of classes on a variety of topics including grant-writing, social-media marketing and fundraising, as well as a capstone course where students focus on real-world issues involving the dayto-day management and strategic planning of a nonprofit organization. The goal of the certificate program is to foster the next generation of nonprofit leaders.

This restart of the scholarship program is an extension of the RAP Foundation’s NPO Centric program. NPO Centric is a resource center dedicated to strengthening the capacity of nonprofits in Riverside County. This initiative is not just about providing resources,

but about building a community, De Lara said.

“We have over 25 nonprofit organizations that rent office space from us, plus we offer four different meeting rooms for nonprofits to use.” De Lara said.

The RAP Foundation offers training and seminars on a variety of topics, such as volunteer management, grant-writing and leadership.

“We host at least eight different workshops per month, with 50 to 75 nonprofits participating,” De Lara said.

The RAP Foundation also makes grants to reflect its commitment to making a tangible impact in the community. With a focus on health, mental health and juvenile intervention, the grants are designed to support projects that offer significant benefits to the residents of Riverside County. These grants cover a broad spectrum of needs, from small grants of up to $10,000 for various projects, to education grants for school districts and sponsorship grants for public events. The nonprofit also makes grants through NPO Centric to nonprofits seeking technical assistance.

For more information about the RAP Foundation, or to learn how to support the organization’s mission, visit

LGBTQ people are among the many subgroups of Americans known to experience high rates of food insecurity.*
The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert provides food for 30,000+ people annually.
The RAP Foundation offers a variety of seminars, including one on marketing, for nonprofit leaders.
Scan here to Donate
*The Williams Institute



In August, as the McCallum Theatre prepares for its just-announced 2024-2025 season, the venerable Palm Desert performing arts center will come to the end an era: Mitch Gershenfeld, the theater’s longtime president, CEO and artistic director, will retire.

“I think it’s time,” Gershenfeld said.

This means the upcoming season will serve as Gershenfeld’s swan song—although he points out that he’ll continue booking shows, including some for the following 2025-2026 season, until his August departure. He said he’s leaving the theater in a good place.

“Attendance has been terrific,” he said. “In fact, all of our Broadway shows were sold out, which

is, I think, probably the first time that’s ever happened.”

Next season’s Broadway slate includes six shows, including two returning tours: Come From Away (Nov. 25-Dec. 1) and Book of Mormon (Jan. 30-Feb. 1).

“They were both shows that sold out here, and they both were shows that people left saying, ‘I really enjoyed this experience,’” Gershenfeld said. “With Come From Away, this was a cathartic experience: ‘It was an amazing story, and I cried; I laughed.’ With Book of Mormon, it’s more, ‘I laughed, and then I laughed some more.’ But people want to see these shows again.”

Dear Evan Hansen, which won six Tony Awards—including Best Musical—in 2017, will make its McCallum debut Feb. 21-23.

“Evan Hansen is such an interesting show,” Gershenfeld said. “It deals with some very, very serious topics, and it’s a very well-crafted show. It’s a terrific score, and I think this one is going to be sort of like Come From Away the first time we did it. … It’s a very compelling story.”

Ain’t Too Proud, which tells the story of The Temptations’ journey to stardom, will be at the McCallum March 7-9. Later that same month, SIX: The Musical, will come to town for five days, March 25-30.

“SIX is just a phenomenon. This is one of the biggest party shows,” Gershenfeld said. “It is 90 minutes long, no intermission, and it’s a rock concert, basically, but it is very, very clever. It’s (about) the six wives of Henry VIII—and Henry doesn’t come off very well in the telling of the story.”

The 2024-2025 season, as announced (newly booked shows will be added, as always), will conclude May 9-11 with Tina—The Tina Turner Musical. In years past, the McCallum’s season would usually conclude in April, but this year, the season was extended into June, with shows by Wanda Sykes and Samara Joy as late additions. Gershenfeld confirmed this indeed signals a shift away from the McCallum’s previous October-through-April-only seasons.

“I don’t think a few years ago, I ever

would’ve considered going into June, but now, I think we can start in September and October, and I think we can go into May and June,” he said. “Next season, we had an opportunity to get Tina, which is a very, very hot property, and the dates that it was available to us were in May, and so we thought we’d give that a shot. Are we going to have 5,000 people (indicating five nearly sold-out shows)? Let’s hope so.”

While the season-announcement press release touts “nearly two dozen McCallum debuts,” the 2024-2025 season doesn’t offer a lot of surprises. It starts off with two shows by musical political spoofer Randy Rainbow on Oct. 11 and 12, and it has a particularly robust holiday-show slate, including favorites like ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro (Dec. 11), Voctave (Dec. 17) and Dave Koz (Dec. 22).

The National Geographic LIVE lecture-show series is back with three shows, as is Jeffrey Siegel’s Keyboard Conversations classical-music series, with four shows.

“(Keyboard Conversations) is a series that’s going to be going into its 25th season (at the McCallum), and I think this is one of the most important things that we do at the McCallum Theatre,” Gershenfeld said. “… Jeffrey will play a program, and … he’ll talk about the music, but not in any sort of pedantic way. He makes the music very, very relatable, and he talks about the composers; he talks about them as people and what they were going through. … We had music appreciation classes in school. You don’t have that anymore, so this music is going to be lost. I think it’s important for people to recognize what they can get out of Jeffrey Siegel’s programs. We try to keep the ticket prices very reasonable.”

Gershenfeld mentioned the season’s particularly strong dance offerings—including the return of Twyla Tharp Dance (Feb. 18) to the McCallum for the first time since 1999, and the first appearance by Ballet Hispanico (March 17) since 2003. However, Gershenfeld singled out the McCallum’s own annual Palm Desert Choreography Festival (Nov. 9 and 10), calling it an “amazing thing.”

The McCallum Theatre announces its 2024-2025 season—and the retirement of Mitch Gershenfeld

“I think the Choreography Festival gets too little publicity nationally, because it is one of the very few competitions that are for choreographers—it’s not about the dancers; it’s about choreographers and the work that they do,” he said. “There’s fairly significant prize money, a $10,000 first prize, which is why people want to come here and do this. Kajsa (Thuresson-Frary, the McCallum’s vice president of education), who produces this, brings in topnotch people to be judges. It is a very serious program and competition, and I’m just thrilled that we have it.”

Gershenfeld has been a part of the McCallum for so long that it’s hard to imagine the theater without him. He joined the McCallum in 2000 as the director of presentations and theater operations, becoming the president and CEO in 2012. He’s retired as the president and CEO twice, in 2019 and 2020, before returning when his replacements didn’t work out—although he always remained on staff and continued booking shows as the McCallum’s artistic director.

Before the 2023-2024 season, the theater announced Gershenfeld would remain as president and CEO through the 2025-2026 season, and as artistic director through 2027-2028.

Since the announcement, however, a lot has changed at the McCallum, including the departure of longtime McCallum board chair Harold Matzner; he was replaced by Garry Kief.

Gershenfeld is no longer listed as the McCallum’s president and CEO; he currently has the title of artistic director. Robert McConnaughey, the McCallum’s chief financial officer, is now the organization’s interim president.

What changed?

“I think that with new leadership on our board and a really great staff in place, it’s time

for somebody else to make the artistic decisions,” he said. “I’m sure that our audience of people who come year after year after year, and buy lots and lots of tickets, they’re going to be very happy with the way the programming will go. I think clearly you’ll see a change, but it’ll be a very, very positive change. I think it’ll be more reflective of the community and more reflective of the demographic, and I think that’s very positive.”

Gershenfeld said he did not know who would take over booking duties after August.

“I’m sure it will be great,” he said. “I think it’ll be a good thing for the McCallum. I’ve been doing this for 24 years, and I think it’s time for somebody new to take the reins. I think our chairman, Garry Kief, definitely wants to see the McCallum expand its programming in terms of opening to the entire community, being more inclusive, having some more diversity, and going further into the calendar. I think that’s going to be a very, very positive thing for the McCallum. I think the McCallum is going to be in fantastic shape.

“I loved this theater from the day that I started here. This has been half my career, maybe more than half my career. I love this place, and I certainly want to see it thrive and continue, and I know it will, because this community is fantastic and supportive. The philanthropy that helps support this theater is unbelievable—the envy of all my colleagues. I wanted to make sure before I left was that we had really great people in place … so I feel very comfortable about that.”

For more information on the McCallum Theatre’s new season, visit the box office at 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert, or head to www.

Addison Garner and other members of the touring cast of Come From Away. The musical is returning to the McCallum Nov. 26-30. Matthew Murphy/MurphyMade


Renee Rauso-Woodward’s paintings, on display at Old Town Artisans, have an emotional impact

At the heart of local Renee Rauso-Woodward’s paintings are … hearts!

“The theme of my work is around the heart—heartache, heartbreak and redemption,” she said. “I deal with issues of the heart and secrets of the heart.”

Heartbreak and heartache have certainly played a part in her life. She’s been through a tough divorce; the tragic death of her son when he was only 91 days old; being a single mom to her daughter; and more. Art is cathartic for her, especially in times of personal crisis.

“I find painting helps me focus my mind,” Rauso-Woodward said. “(It helps me) pick myself up time and time again and just keep going.”

Viewers and buyers of her work also experience the emotional impact of these pastel-colored gouache and acrylic paintings, which also incorporate tiny words. Ellen Pirosh, who has bought one of her paintings, said of Rauso-Woodward’s works: “They might look simple, but they represent so much more. In my life, I have experienced extreme pain and loss, but Renee’s paintings remind me to keep going. After all, love and loss are inevitable in life, but our heart keeps beating.”

Isabella Garcia is the gallery and event coordinator at the Old Town Artisan Studios, where Woodword’s paintings will be on display through May.

“Her art is impressive,” Garcia said about Rauso-Woodward. “She uses sweeping brush strokes that remind me of German expressionists of the early 1900s that conveyed their emotional experiences.”

The tiny words embedded in RausoWoodward’s work come from a lifelong love of magazines.

“I buy tons of them (magazines), look at the headlines, choose one that moves me, then shorten it,” she said. “I like to use words to

convey what transpires between the heart and the birds.”

Yes, birds are often featured in her art along with the hearts; they symbolize the importance of conscious and subconscious knowledge, she said. The hearts themselves are a symbol that she has been drawing since childhood.

“All your emotions run through your heart. It rules your body, your affections, your emotions,” she said.

Her artworks remain unframed, she said, “because I don’t like to limit my artwork to a confined frame.”

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Woodward moved to the desert 32 years ago, when she got her first job as a graphic designer for Palm Springs Life

“I love the palm trees and mountains. The music scene here is second to none; (I also love) the museums, parks, the lifestyle,” she said.

Renee Rauso-Woodward’s works will be on display through May at Old Town Artisan Studios, 78046 Calle Barcelona, in La Quinta. Visit for more information.

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“Out of Heart Hotel” (cropped) by Renee Rauso-Woodward.



Black and white tones, grainy film, dramatic and intense dialogue, suspenseful action and dark themes—these are all elements of film noir, and they’ve helped the genre stay relevant and engaging 80 years after the genre’s golden age.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year is the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, happening at the Palm Springs Cultural Center with 12 films from Thursday, May 9, through Sunday, May 12. Tickets are $14.50 per film, or $149 for a festival pass, which includes the opening night party. For more information, visit

“It started back with Arthur Lyons and Craig Prater and the Supples, who owned what was

then the Camelot Theatre,” festival director Alan Rode said during a recent interview. “Arthur and I became friends around 2001, and I started helping him with the programming and the guests and doing film introductions. This was back in the days of having guests like Jane Russell and Tony Curtis and people like that. … Very sadly, Arthur died in 2008, and the Supples asked me to take over the festival, which I was glad to do. It was formerly known as the Palm Springs Film Noir Festival. In honor of Arthur, we changed it to the Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival, and it has been named as such since 2008.”

Arthur Lyons was an accomplished writer who called Palm Springs home. Both his explorations into the world of thrilling mysteries and his connections to the desert are still very much alive within the film festival.

“The festival has become an international destination, where I’ve had people come from Canada, Australia and a lot of people obviously from Southern California … but the core audience has always been in the Coachella Valley,” Rode said. “The loyalty of the audience has been unbelievable over the years. I always say … that this festival is the film noir version of Same Time, Next Year. Through the years, my wife and I have made many, many friends. We’ve had great experiences, and I’ve had guests like Ernest Borgnine and Norman Lloyd several times, and Marsha Hunt and Jon Polito, and on and on and on.”

Rode has watched as the festival has explored both the beauty of film noir and the Coachella Valley.

“Film noir, in my view, is more of an organic cinema movement that started in the 1940s,” Rode said. “The people who were making these movies didn’t know they were film noir. Nobody did, but there’s an inexhaustible supply of these movies. Like beauty, film noir is often in the eye of the beholder—and I’m the beholder. It’s just a fun time, and the festival has followed a tried-and-true pattern where we have a film on opening night, and then we show four films on Friday, four on Saturday, and three on Sunday,

so 12 films in a weekend. It’s a good schedule, because it gives people time in between movies to go out and get something to eat, and enjoy a little of the great environs of the desert and Palm Springs and so forth.”

The 2024 edition of the festival is filled with special guests. Rode outlined some highlights.

7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 9—Body and Soul (1947): “On opening night, I’m going to show probably the best boxing movie of all time, Body and Soul, starring the great John Garfield. It was nominated for three Academy Awards. It was written by the great Abe Polonsky, and it really is an unforgettable film. My guest to introduce that film is the actor and writer Jim Beaver, who has been in the tradition of great character actors. He’s been a fixture on television and films for more than 40 years, and he’s also a noted writer and film historian. He was very prominent recently in the hit series Deadwood and Justified, and he has 150 other credits. There are few actors and few people who know more about movie history than Jim Beaver, and I really look forward to our conversation.”

1 p.m., Friday, May 10—Border Incident (1949): “Border Incident is a down-and-dirty film about a vicious smuggling ring exploiting Mexican farmworkers in Southern California. My guest for that is going to be author Luis Reyes, who has written a book called Viva Hollywood: The Legacy of Latin and Hispanic Artists in American Film. The subject with which this picture deals obviously was topical then, and I think it’s even more topical now. ... I think the audience will find Luis fascinating, and he’s going to bring some of his books that will be available for signing.”

7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 11—Day of the Outlaw (1959): “Day of the Outlaw was made in 1959 and directed by Andre De Toth. This was filmed on location up in Oregon during the winter, and it stars one of my favorite actors of any genre, Robert Ryan, with Burl Ives, Tina Louise and a lot of familiar faces. One of the actors, Mike McGreevey is going to be with us, and if anyone wants to hear some raconteur

The Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival celebrates 25 years of movie magic in Palm Springs

stories about Hollywood, they need to come out to see this movie and listen to Mike. Mike began his career as an actor at the age of 7, with Jane Powell and The Girl Most Likely, (released) in 1957. During his subsequent acting career, he appeared in features opposite Alan Ladd, Robert Mitchum, Kirk Douglas, Donna Reed and many, many other classic Hollywood stars. Then he moved behind the camera and became a top writer and producer. … There aren’t too many people who can tell you about making movies and smoking pot with Robert Mitchum.”

1 p.m., Sunday, May 12—Escape in the Fog (1945): “On Sunday, I’m going to show a real obscure movie that kind of goes back to the tradition that Art started of showing obscure B-film noir movies. This one’s called Escape in the Fog, and it was directed by Budd Boetticher when he was still being billed as Oscar Boetticher. Of course, Budd Boetticher became very well known for directing the Ranown Westerns. … This is an early one about a wartime novel and a woman recovering from shock, and it’s really an espionagethemed noir movie. I’m going to have the Emmy Award-winning screenwriter and producer Kirk Ellis.”

Rode attributed the lasting love for film noir

to the art of storytelling.

“Arthur Lyons used to say it’s all in the story, and I think that’s very true,” Rode said. “I think film noir has provided a connective umbilical for classic films to new generations, even though younger people may scratch their heads and say, ‘Why are doctors at hospitals smoking cigarettes? Why are men and women wearing these hats? Why are the phones the size of boomerangs?’ The films (themselves are) about people, and about the human condition, which is very often dark, and certainly fascinating. When someone knows they’re doing something that’s wrong, and they do it anyway—that’s noir, and I think it’s the old tried-and-true tale of lust, greed, larceny, compromising and all of that stuff. … There’s a lot of subtlety in these films that doesn’t underestimate the intelligence of the audience. Part of that was by design, and part of that was because of censorship in those days.”

The Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival will run from Thursday, May 9, through Sunday, May 12, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $14.50 per film, or $149 for a pass to every film and the opening-night party. For more information, visit

Howard Da Silva, Charles McGraw and Ricardo Montalban in Border Incident



Acolorful lucha libre mask hanging for sale somewhere may provoke thoughts of wrestling— but the truth is that lucha libre is much more than just wrestling. Yes, there are still body slams, but the form of Mexican wrestling has roots going back to the 1860s—and its impact on Latino culture goes far beyond the ring.

For more than a year, Agua Caliente Cathedral City has been hosting Viva La Lucha events, during which a ring is set up in the Agave Caliente Terraza. The next event is happening at 7 p.m., Saturday, May 4—and it may be the last local Viva La Lucha event for a while. The lucha events are run by Masked Republic LLC, a company focusing on “the emerging growth market of lucha libre (Mexican

wrestling) beyond the borders of Mexico.” For more information, visit

During a recent phone interview with Masked Republic founder and CEO Ruben Zamora, he explained how his career in lucha libre events began.

“I grew up in Los Angeles; my parents were Mexican, and I had two older brothers who didn’t like hanging out with me, so my dad would take me to the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, and that’s where I first came across lucha libre,” Zamora said. “For me and a lot of other Mexicans, Latino kids, my superhero was never Spider-Man or Batman; it was always the wrestlers, the luchadores with the capes and the masks and the shiny outfits. When I got to see them live and in person, it just blew my brain off.

“We would later move to San Diego. … Right across the border from San Diego was Tijuana, and they were running shows Fridays and Sundays religiously, every week. I would end up going all the time, and to me, it was awesome, because you could go up to them; you could touch their arms and pat them, and they would say hi to you and shake your hand and tap my head because I was a little kid, and it was just crazy to see these, like, superheroes come to life.”

As an adult, Zamora got reintroduced to the world of lucha libre by chance.

“I was a police officer in San Diego, and one of the secretaries there knew a luchador, Rey Misterio Sr., and she was going to see him wrestle in Tijuana that night,” he said. “I hadn’t gone in about 10 or 12 years … so I went, and I met Rey Misterio Sr. He had just opened up a new gym, a lucha libre gym, and I hated going to 24 Hour Fitness—I’d get bored on the treadmill—so I started training lucha libre with Rey Misterio Sr., Psicosis and all these new kids who would later become luchadores, just because I wanted to stay in shape. I wasn’t trying to be a luchador, but I was running around the ring and the ropes, and to me, it was the coolest thing ever, and I stayed in shape for my police career.” He wound up getting into the lucha libre business somewhat accidentally.

“This was before social media, before Twitter or Facebook, so if you were a U.S. promoter, and you wanted to get ahold of a Mexican luchador, you’d have to call them at home—you had to know their phone number, and if you don’t speak Spanish, it’s kind of hard to do,” Zamora said. “If you’re Mexican, but you’re trying to get to the U.S., you’ve got to connect with the promoters, but if you don’t know English, it’s kind of hard to do. … I spoke English and Spanish, so every time the crew from Tijuana would go somewhere to wrestle, they would give the promoters my number, so I unofficially became the booker, the agent, of Rey Sr., Psicosis and a lot of the crew from Tijuana. Then other wrestlers started coming to me, and I kind of became that bridge between Mexico and the U.S.”

He was introduced to his future business partner, Kevin Kleinrock, through legendary luchador Konnan.

“Kevin has been involved in American-style wrestling since he was like 15 years old,” Zamora said. “He did everything from writing reviews at the local paper to ring-announcing to (being a) guest timekeeper. He started seeing the writing on the wall, that there was this great world of luchadores and lucha libre that had never been done right in the U.S., so he was looking to get into that type of business. He and I were introduced by Konnan, and we got together and put our brains together, and we came up with Masked Republic. We started off doing live events in San Diego … and now we’re into licensing and IP (intellectual property) representation. We help luchadores get their work visas and their trademarks … and we are the one stop shop for all things lucha libre. We do movie and TV consulting, video games—everything that has to do with lucha libre, we are in it or have our hands in it one way or another.”

Bringing an authentic lucha libre experience to fans is the most important thing for Zamora, he said.

“I get goosebumps talking about it. … I like sitting back and seeing the kids and how they react,” he said. “(The wrestlers) were guys who I would see on TV, but I’ve known these guys

Lucha Libre wrestling comes to Agua Caliente Cathedral City— for perhaps the final time

for so long that we’re friends now, so I never want to lose that feeling of excitement, and I get that feeling seeing how other people react to them. When I was 10 years old, that was me in the front row trying try to tap the wrestlers as they walked by, trying to get an autograph or a photo, so to me, that’s my biggest joy. … I want these kids to grow up remembering that they went to these lucha libre events in Cathedral City or San Diego or Chicago or wherever we’re at, and be able to tell the stories I tell.”

A while back, Agua Caliente Cathedral City reached out to Masked Republic to bring lucha to the desert for an all-ages crowd.

“Our first show we ran, I think they only had, like, 300 chairs, and I think the tickets were only, like, $5,” Zamora said. “… We showed up, and there were no tickets left, and there were people trying to buy tickets, and there were no more chairs to put up. People were standing outside in the parking lot trying to get a view of the ring. I told (Agua Caliente), ‘You’ve got people outside who couldn’t get in; maybe you should put up some more chairs, and the tickets should maybe be around $20.’ After the first show, we sat down and had a plan of how the shows should be run, and what else they could do to provide a better atmosphere.”

Zamora said audiences have consistently grown.

“The casino has been killer to work with, and the community has come out in ways that we’d never thought (possible),” he said. “I think now we’re doing 750 people, and it’s … sold out every single time. The support from the community has been beyond what we ever expected, and way more than what we were doing with bigger stars. I just think it hits home. We bring in real luchadores from Mexico, the ones you would see on TV … and then we bring some of the best young talent from California, like the high flyers and the more exciting wrestling, and we package

it for everybody. … They set up a beer garden, tacos and churros and corn, and it’s a real Mexican lucha libre atmosphere.”

But as of this writing, the upcoming Viva La Lucha show will be the final one hosted at Agua Caliente Cathedral City, Zamora said.

“From what I was told, they had new management come in, and they don’t want anything that brings in kids,” he said. “I told them that ‘if you’re going to try to do these shows for 21 and older, it’s not going to work.’ I said, ‘I’ll come back, and you guys can pay us to run the show, but it’s not going to be as successful as the whole family atmosphere.’ We’re really bummed about it, but we had a great run, and hopefully in a couple of months, they’ll reconsider and bring us back.”

Fear not, for Viva La Lucha is going out with a bang! The May 4 show at Agua will be headlined by a feud involving two lucha icons.

“The headliner is Atlantis, who’s probably the most successful lucha as far as winning masks,” Zamora said. “In lucha libre, the biggest feud is mask versus mask, where the losing luchador has to unmask, and he can never wear a mask again. People know who he is, and you have to give your real name. … He’s been wrestling for probably 40 years, and he’s won at least 40 to 50 masks. He’s a legend in Mexico, and one of his arch rivals is El Felino. Now both of their kids are wrestling, so we’re doing Atlantis and Atlantis Jr. vs El Felino and Felino Jr. It’s a classic family feud. For people to see a superstar like Atlantis and El Felino, and the next generation of them, is rare—because they don’t come to the U.S. a whole lot.”

Viva La Lucha: Lucha Libre Mexicana will take place at 7 p.m., Saturday, May 4, at Agua Caliente Cathedral City, 68960 E. Palm Canyon Drive. Tickets start at $25. For more information, visit

Ultimo Maldito and Arkangel Divino, from Tijuana, with the referee and Bamboo and El Rey, from Tijuana/San Diego.




ith ever-increasing difficulty, it’s my job to bring you a monthly column regarding craft beer in the desert and throughout Southern California. The last part of that last sentence makes my job much easier than it would be if I were limited to discussing the Coachella Valley.

Country Club and Cook Street Palm De sert

If you’ve read my previous installments regarding this festival, you know my attendance is largely motivated by getting to see various friends I don’t often get to see in one place—but that is a bit unfair to the festival itself. It’s pretty damn good. Does it have the best breweries? A few of them. Is it in the greatest beer-festival location? It’s certainly not bad, but downtown L.A. isn’t

food-truck court. The beauty was that all five of us in the initial group (more joined later from elsewhere) were able to enjoy different kinds of food. I went to a delicatessen-style truck and had a corned beef on rye with mustard and sauerkraut, while I eyed the dumplings, the birria torta and the poutine being enjoyed around the table.

With a solid food base established, it was time to enter the festival proper.

Immediately, I spotted Sour Cellars. I devoted half of a column (they really deserve a whole one) to them a few months ago. I greeted co-owner Chintya, who remembered me from my visit; we chatted while I tried a

brilliant sour golden ale with honey, and one with passionfruit. This was an excellent start. Next, I was absolutely ecstatic to see Radiant Beer Co. and Everywhere Beer side by side. I had stopped in at Radiant on the way to Los Angeles, basically on a supply run for the weekend. This time, it was all pleasure. I went with a pour of Celebrate Anything, a hoppy pilsner with a dank and fruity quality that jumped out of the glass, but was easy to drink—just as any good, crisp, clean pilsner would be.

At Everywhere’s booth, I made a seemingly strange choice: I went with a seltzer. I have been to Everywhere before, and I have tried many of their beers, but my only visit included a taste of a seltzer that was so odd-sounding, yet so rich (yes, rich)—with the use of coconut cream, spices and fruits—that I was stunned. I usually find seltzers unsatisfying, with a vaguely fruity flavor that almost immediately leaves the palate. At the festival, Everywhere

brought a seltzer inspired by the Mexican beverage of jamaica (pronounced ha-my-ca) that contained hibiscus and lime. It was very satisfying. Later, I tried a barrel-aged stout with flambeed bananas and maple syrup that they served with a dollop of whipped cream and sprinkles. It was a truly decadent experience—and one that had me cleaning my beard thoroughly afterward.

After trying a couple of unremarkable beers from random breweries, some members of our group made it upstairs into the VIP area. This year, I was confronted with bottle pours of Abraxas. Perennial Artisan Ales from St. Louis makes this Mexican-chocolate-inspired barrelaged stout once a year, and it is legendary in craft-beer circles. But as delicious as it was, it wasn’t even my favorite beer on that table.

That honor went to Le Seul from Une Annee out of Chicago. An American wild ale with passionfruit, it surprised me with its subtlety in a beer category that has seen many overbearing, acidic entries. I don’t know if I’ll ever see cans of theirs again, but I sure as shit hope I do.

Across from that table was another with cans mostly from Great Notion out of Oregon. Holiday Ledge Bier is their German-style pilsner, and it was just what I’d hoped for when I asked for a pour. Next to that was Rimske Pivo, a Czech-style pilsner. My eyes popped wide open after my first sip; I’d already tried a very good Czech pilsner the day before at Radiant’s tap room, but this one surpassed

it. It ticked every single box. Soft malt body? Crisp? Lovely herbal, spicy hop notes and a balancing bitterness? Czech. (Sorry. The pull of the pun was too strong to resist.)

I’m getting short on space, meaning there are some beers I can’t fully get into here.

Makku Rice Beer was a Korean makgeolli. I didn’t know what that was, so I researched a little and learned it is an unfiltered rice drink. I tried the coffee and the passionfruit varieties and loved both. They both resembled sake underneath it all, but they were very fun.

On Makku’s end of the festival, five Christian protesters stood outside of the chain-link fence and called us “perverts” and “fornicators” with their bullhorn. So we recruited someone in line with us (“Hell yeah, I was raised Catholic!” was his response to my request) to take a group photo as close to the protestors as security would allow. This perfectly capped off the festival for us.

Will we return to the L.A. Beer Fest? I honestly don’t know. The festival is a solid seven on a scale of 10, but I suspect my friends and I could find fun at almost any get-together. But would I recommend it if you were in town and inclined toward beer festivals? Definitely.

Eat, drink and be merry—for tomorrow, we go back to work.

Brett Newton is a certified cicerone (like a sommelier for beer) and homebrewer who has mostly lived in the Coachella Valley since 1988. He can be reached at

L.A. Beer Fest—and
more delicious craft-beer discoveries
Another year, another trip
Brett (at the top of the photo) and friends at the Los Angeles Beer Festival.


We savor mesquite-smoked carne asada in Palm Springs, and a horchata latte in Coachella

WHAT Mesquite-smoked carne asada

WHERE Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge, 849 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs CONTACT 760-325-8490;


WHY It’s perfect every time.

WHAT Horchata latte

WHERE Sixth Street Coffee, 1500 Sixth St., Coachella




WHY It’s a delicious treat.

Most of the food and drink items featured in this space are new finds for me—but the mesquitesmoked carne asada at Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge has long been one of my favorite entrées in the Coachella Valley. I was sure I’d waxed poetic in this space about the dish before, but a rigorous search on our website showed I hadn’t … so I am now.

There are so many things I love about the dish. There’s the delicious, almost-always perfectly cooked skirt steak. There’s the Negra Modelo ranchera sauce, which is tangy and slightly sweet—a perfect complement to the steak. The refried pinto beans add some earthiness; the pico de gallo and the little pile of yellow corn esquites both offer texture and freshness.

Pro tip: Ask for tortillas with the dish. Then load up said tortillas with the slices of steak, the sauce and the other accompaniments, and revel in the deliciousness.

Eight4Nine has become a valley favorite for many reasons, just one of which is the mesquite-smoked carne asada. Whether you’re there for lunch, weekend brunch, dinner or simply drinks in the lounge, you’ll enjoy yourself. (Endorsement within an endorsement: The fried bacon on the lunch menu. You can get it by itself for $11, or as the star ingredient in a Bloody Mary for $15. Just don’t tell your cardiologist.) The “crisp white” décor inside is beautiful, and the patio outside is one of the town’s loveliest.

If you’ve never been to Eight4Nine, you should change that. If you’ve been to Eight4Nine, but have never had the mesquitesmoked carne asada, you should change that. If you have been to Eight4Nine and have had the mesquite-smoked carne asada … you know what I’m talking about.

On a recent work-errands jaunt around the east valley, I decided to take a coffee break— specifically, to try out Sixth Street Coffee, a place I’d somehow never visited since it opened to raves in 2019.

But what to order? I perused the menu, unsure what to get, until I came across the description of the horchata latte: “voted best latte by Palm Springs Life magazine.”


Subsequent research revealed that Springs Life of the drink, but I ordered the hot version— and I can now confirm the hot version is raveworthy as well.

If you’re unfamiliar with horchata, two things: 1. You poor soul! You’ve been missing out.

2. It’s a beverage typically made of rice, milk, cinnamon and sugar. It’s delicious, and, as Sixth Street Coffee has proven, it’s a perfect pairing with espresso.

Sixth Street Coffee’s unique offerings go beyond the horchata latte. The “specialty” latte menu also includes lavender, Spanish, honey con canela (cinnamon) and “oat-chata” varieties—the latter for horchata fans who want to avoid dairy, of course. Sixth Street also offers standard coffee and tea fare, and if you’re hungry, a small food menu includes three toast varieties (salmon-avocado, avocado and Nutella); two sandwiches (the Coachella turkey club and a cranberry chicken salad sandwich); and various offerings using bagels from Palm Springs’ Townie Bagels.

Sixth Street Coffee is also about more than the food and drink; it’s a great place to hang out, with seating both inside and outside. It shares a building with the Coachella Library, and it’s just across the street from Coachella City Hall; the area is one of the most charming parts of the valley.

If you’ve never been to Sixth Street Coffee,


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Restaurant NEWS BITES


We are deeply saddened to report that a massive fire in Palm Desert destroyed a building at the intersection of Country Club Drive and Monterey Avenue that housed four businesses, including Papa Dan’s Pizza and Pasta and D’Coffee Bouteaque

These were not just businesses, but cherished parts of our community. Papa Dan’s is a longtime favorite of mine, and D’Coffee Bouteaque is a charming relative newcomer; they’ll both be greatly missed—but we’re happy that owners of both restaurants have said they plan to re-build.

We are grateful that nobody was seriously injured and extend our best wishes to everyone affected by this tragedy.


Much has been said on social media about the possible construction of a Chick-fil-A at Ramon Road and Gene Autry Trail in Palm Springs. (There’s already one local Chick-fil-A, in Palm Desert.) Although paperwork has been filed with the city of Palm Springs, I understand that the project is on hold while the company works out details with the landlord.

Some Palm Springs residents are concerned, for a variety of reasons, including Chick-fil-A’s longtime support of anti-LGBTQ+ and anti-choice causes; the proposed restaurant’s massive size, including three drive-through lanes and almost 5,700 square feet; and dismay over yet another chain restaurant coming to the village.

If you are concerned, this is a fantastic time to get involved in city government. Palm Springs residents can make a difference by joining the Planning Commission, which currently has four open seats. Find out more on the city’s website.

I will repeat what I said in 2021, when that aforementioned Chick-fil-A was about to open Palm Desert: I encourage you to spend your hard-earned dollars at locally owned, non-discriminatory restaurants, many of which serve delicious fried chicken.


Mi Chavella Fest will return from 4 to 11 p.m., Saturday, May 4, at and around Luchador Brewing Company, 68510 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Cathedral City. The festival will feature michelada vendors, live music, a lucha libre match, food trucks, a beer garden with more than 20 choices, and a lowrider classic-car show. Tickets are $17; an adult must accompany kids under 18. Get tickets via Eventbrite.

Gabino’s Creperie East has opened at 82868 Miles Ave., in Indio. If you’ve been to the Palm Springs location, you know what a delight the crepes are. This new location offers a similar menu plus fries and indoor seating. Get details at … If you are craving gelato while wandering El Paseo, the new La Dolce Piccola Gelateria, at 73255 El Paseo, in Palm Desert, is here to help. The menu changes often and is not on the website, so head by the shop to see what is in season; that website is … Sushi on the Run has opened in the former home of To Go Sushi, at 40101 Monterey Ave., in Rancho Mirage. This is primarily a grab-and-go place with a small amount of countertop seating. They have a variety of sushi, bento boxes and rice bowls; find them on Yelp to learn more. … Weenie Roadhouse, at 35400 Date Palm Drive, in Cathedral City, has quietly closed, and a sign for K-Pop Foodz Korean Street Food has already appeared on the door. With a projected opening in the first week of May, K-Pop Foodz will offer mandu (dumplings), kimbap (Korean sushi rolls), ramen and other noodle and rice dishes. It is owned by the same people who own Palm Desert’s K-Pop Pink Store; visit for updates. … Chef Jon Merchain of Lay’ Vince has opened a restaurant inside the Fireside Lounge, at 696 S. Oleander Road, in Palm Springs. Ray’s Trays serves breakfast from 8 to 11 a.m., sandwiches all day long, and a prix-fixe dinner that includes a choice of protein, two sides and dessert for just $35. The Fireside Lounge is a dive bar in all the best senses of the word. Watch Merchain Catering on Facebook for the latest information. …. El Tacolgado has moved into the former home of Clamatos, at 231 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, in Palm Springs. This place is owned by the same people who own El Patio, so they know how to run a restaurant. Visit for the latest information. … The space that formally housed the Modernism Museum in Palm Springs has a new tenant: Alana Bar + Tapas, at 370 N. Palm Canyon Drive. Visit for more information. … Olive A’Sudden, an olive oil and vinegar retailer, has closed its Palm Springs location, but the Palm Desert store, at 72270 Highway 111, remains open; … The owners of Il Giardino, at 333 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, have listed the restaurant for sale so they can move back to Italy. Rosario and Theresa, you will be missed! In the meantime, go enjoy some of their meatballs; … Chez Pierre Bistro, at 74040 Highway 111, in Palm Desert, is also listed for sale; … Finally, here’s some news about a restaurant that’s not for sale: Matt Irby, owner of the Play Lounge, at 2825 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, in Palm Springs, tells me that despite a very generous job offer from a former employer, he can’t bear to leave our little community! He is in the process of making improvements and renovations; learn more at Do you have a hot tip or news to share? Reach out:




As the city of Indio continues to pour money and effort into revitalizing downtown, new businesses and events are popping up that celebrate arts, culture and community—and one of the latest additions is Rocks & Records.

Rocks & Records sells … well, rocks and records. Music fans hoping to add to their vinyl collection, or perhaps start one, can browse the shelves filled with used and new selections, while

mineral enthusiasts can view beautiful fossils, crystals, jewelry—and even edible chocolate rocks! While the pairing seems odd, fans of both records and rocks have been in the store since it opened in early February, often after grabbing coffee from Encore Coffee/Little Street Music Hall, or before heading to shop vintage clothing and oddities at Urban Donkey, or after grabbing a bite at Indio Taphouse or Gabino’s Creperie.

During a recent phone interview with store owners Cristina and Holger Nagel, they talked about how the idea to combine these passions came from a recurring garage sale during the pandemic.

“Both of those—the crystals and fossils and vinyl records—have really been a hobby of mine for many, many years, since I was a teenager,” Holger said. “My wife, Cristina, also loves music, we both do, and she has a nice record collection. A few years ago, during COVID, at our house in Lake Arrowhead, we opened up the garage for a garage sale specializing in vinyl records and the fossils and crystals, and a lot of people came.”

Added Cristina: “It was totally fun, because during COVID, everything was weird, and we made our garage super-cool,” Cristina said. “… We met neighbors who we would have never met before. It was just super-cool, and we made it cute.”

Plans for the business began to form after seeing the looks on people’s faces when they found their “holy grail” records.

“It was fun to see people, their excitement, when they found that record they’ve been looking for, for a long time,” Holger said. “It’s something that continues right now with Rocks & Records in Indio. It’s the excitement of the people when they find the music that they love.”

Cristina said that finding their business’ home in Indio “supernaturally happened.”

“I grew up in Palm Desert, and I actually went to Indio High School and left the desert when I was 20,” she said. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think of coming back to the desert. Holger and I met in Los Angeles, and then we got married and had a family, and then we kind of settled down in Lake

Arrowhead. Circumstances with life and stuff brought us back down to the desert, so it’s weird that we’re here.

“Holger—coming from Germany—he loves the desert, and I had to fall in love with it again. We were just walking down Miles Avenue; back in the day, when I went to high school, Miles was fun. There was a Sears and cool vintage thrift stores back in the day; Yellow Mart was always there, and it was just a fun place to go—and then it got really kind of creepy. We were just walking down the street, and we saw the ‘for rent’ sign. Holger called the guy up, and the guy’s like, ‘It’s yours.’ We had no idea that Indio was actively pursuing a resurgence. It was just wildly amazing.”

Not only are Indio city officials getting people into the vacant buildings on Miles Avenue; security and police officers are often seen patrolling the block during events, and on normal days, too, offering assistance to anyone who may need it.

“Everybody in Indio … they’re amazing, and they’re very into what’s happening, and very helpful,” Cristina said. “You feel like you’re a part of a big community that all wants everyone to succeed, and so you feel ridiculously supported in a good way. … It’s a way different vibe from Palm Springs, and I don’t think that’s the vibe that they’re going for. Indio really has more of a locals and community vibe, and even an element of family, which is sweet, because we see a lot of dads and their daughters at the record store. Everybody’s very, very respectful.”

Holger shared a bit of info about the store’s selection.

“The majority of our records are vintage records. We have bought vinyl collections from people who have accumulated them over many years, and took care of their record collection,” Holger said. “We buy their collections, and we go through them and clean them and display them out on the floor. That way, people are really able to find the record they’ve been looking for, for such a long time. We also have brand-new and still-sealed records.

“One of the things that we do as a family is we go up to the state of Wyoming, and we go fossil hunting. Many of the fossils in our store,

Indio’s new Rocks & Records store combines vinyl and fossils—with an emphasis on community

especially the fish fossils, we went and hunted in Wyoming by going to stone quarries and chiseling them out of the stone quarry wall.”

Live music is happening at both ends of the block, with Little Street Music Hall on one end, and Indio’s new Center Stage on the other. Rocks & Records is neatly located between AMP (Academy of Musical Performance), a youth music program, and Music House Indio, a musical-instrument store. Both Holger and Cristina are all about local music, and they said they’re planning to carry physical copies of music from local bands and artists.

“We just ordered more store shelving for the records, and that is where our new local music section is going to be,” Holger said. “That’s going to be vinyl records and also CDs, because we’ve heard from some of the local bands that it’s kind of difficult to get a vinyl record made. For the local bands only, we’re going to have vinyl records and CDs.”

Rocks & Records also stands out by fostering

a personal and inviting environment for families and conversation—as well as a love for all things music and rocks.

“It’s nice that it’s sustaining and making money, but the primary motivation is really the sheer joy of music,” Cristina said. “We are, I believe, less expensive on many of the records; that’s what everybody tells us, and that’s kind of cool, because it’s a bummer when you can’t afford records. … Also, I think it’s kind of cute that my husband and I do it together. Our son helps us; he’s 19; he loves music, and he and his dad go to punk shows together. We have that family element, and actually, we love listening to people’s stories. … It’s not just Amazon, ‘Click, I bought it’; it’s an experience, kind of like going to a bookstore or a library where you hang out and enjoy.”

Rocks & Records is located at 82753 Miles Ave., in Indio. For more information, visit rocksandrecords. com or

Rocks & Records, which opened in February, is one of the latest cultural additions to Miles Avenue in Indio. Matt King



As 1990s kids have aged, it’s only right that ’90s music has become the new classic music. Turn on a “classic rock” radio station, and in between ’60s and ’70s staples from Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and the Beatles, you’ll hear ’90s classics from bands like Pearl Jam, Tool and more. Local tribute-concert venues like The Rock Yard have gone from Pink Floyd and The Who cover bands with older crowds, to Foo Fighters and Beastie Boys tributes with younger audiences. In the

desert, the ’90s are certainly in. Now, one new local band is performing all ’90s covers—and is inviting the community to sing along with them.

Each Smashing Muffins performance is a love letter to some of the best hits of the 1990s, from Nirvana to Stone Temple Pilots. They share this love through their monthly “Grunge Night” residency at Snake Bite Roadhouse in Yucca Valley. Every third Thursday of the month, the band performs grunge covers alongside attendees who sign up. The next edition of this live-band karaoke will take place on May 16. Signups to sing start at 7:30 p.m., and music starts at 8 p.m.

Pauline Pisano (vocals, guitar and keyboards), Stone Clement (lead guitar) and Greg Quinn (bass) recently sat down for a Zoom interview. (Drummer Matthew John Julliet couldn’t make it.) The band members explained how Smashing Muffins came together, fittingly, while performing a ’90s cover onstage.

“Stone and I met, and we were trying to start another band, and things just didn’t work out,” Quinn said. “… We went to a party/openmic situation, and we decided to play one of the songs we had been playing with this other band, but we didn’t have a singer. We just invited anybody who wanted to come up and sing to play with us—and Pauline came up. We just really had a great time playing ‘Man in the Box’ by Alice in Chains, and a bond formed between all of us.”

Pisano said she’d been dreaming of an opportunity to spontaneously sing with a band.

“I actually went to an open mic to just listen, and all of a sudden, Greg turns around and says, ‘Hey, Pauline, do you know “Man in the Box?”’ Which, of course, I do,” Pisano said. “I feel like I’ve been dreaming of this opportunity since I’ve been 17 years old. He called me up, and we did ‘Man in the Box,’ and then it all kind of started from there.”

The Grunge Night concept is simple: People sign up to sing one of the songs in the band’s 20-plus-song set, and then hop onstage when it’s time for that number.

“I feel like the music and the issues that we’re talking about now in this nation, in this

moment, are very relevant to the work and the art that was being spoken about in the ’90s,” Pisano said. “There is a consciousness around this material that’s really calling a lot of people in, and that’s why I’m also really excited about the live-band karaoke stuff that we’ve been doing, because it’s just expanding this larger conversation. I think about collective identitybuilding and who we are, so I feel it’s great to be in this community and doing that work.”

A feel-good energy is in the air during Grunge Night—despite the genre’s oftendepressing themes.

“There’s a positive feeling to it, which is kind of weird, because a lot of the songs are about pretty dark stuff,” Clement said. “I think the vocal harmonies especially, that’s what a lot of people connect with. In the desert here … with the stoner-rock thing, some of the emotion, there’s an impersonal feeling to it sometimes, because it’s just this wall of sound, and you’re just supposed to be all stoned and hypnotized by it. It’s great, and I was one of those people for a long time, but there’s a human aspect to the songs that Layne Staley sang, or Eddie Vedder. There’s a certain human aspect that I think has been lacking (in music), and that is refreshing for people, and I like to think that’s part of what people are connecting with, with us.”

Not only is the Grunge Night audience able to re-live the ’90s for one night; the Smashing Muffins themselves can reminisce.

“I think we all get to be teenagers again, and I feel like we lift that up in shows,” Pisano said. “There’s something about that, and there’s something about people meeting people with that framework, when you activate those memories in that way. There’s a humanizing element, because all of our (inner) teenagers get to be re-awakened, and we just get to celebrate this music that we all love.”

Letting anyone come up and sing can be nerve-racking for both the singer and the band—especially when considering the gravelly and powerful voices of the grunge era.

“I’ll say that I was actually really surprised at how many people stepped up and killed it,” Quinn said. “We did have a lot of local musicians show up—ringers, as we call them—

Smashing Muffins host live-band karaoke featuring ’90s music at Yucca Valley’s Snake Bite Roadhouse

to support us, and it was great. They did a great job, and everybody had fun, which is really the most important thing. They’ve been really supportive, beyond what we can even imagine.”

Pisano hopes the Smashing Muffins’ presence as a ’90s cover band in the desert will inspire local musicians to tap into some grunge sensibilities.

“I wonder about song form,” she said. “It’s a very interesting song form—so will song form in Joshua Tree change a little bit, and be influenced by people singing the ’90s music, since a lot of artists are coming and hanging out with us? Also, when you unlock … this inner freedom from when you’re a teenager, how does that affect the writing? I think it could, and it’s an honor to be a part of it to

really shift the collective conscious writing that’s happening in this area, and just to see the amount of people activated.”

Quinn said ’90s music is indeed their generation’s classic rock.

“For me, this is my childhood,” Quinn said. “It wasn’t Led Zeppelin and the Rolling Stones and all that—it was the ’90s. This is what was playing when I was coming into life and starting to enjoy life and enjoy music and feel it.”

Smashing Muffins will perform Grunge Night at 8 p.m., Thursday, May 16, and every third Thursday, at Snake Bite Roadhouse, 55405 Twentynine Palms Hwy, in Yucca Valley. Signups start at 7:30 p.m. For more information, visit

Pauline Pisano, Greg Quinn and Stone Clement (with Matthew John Julliet, not pictured) are Smashing Muffins. Billy Folsom



Palm Springs is home to a vibrant community of drag performers who use unhinged comedy and pop classics to entertain desert audiences. Meanwhile, a goth and alternative scene— featuring DJs, bands and emo-night performances—is growing, and it now includes a weekly alternative drag show.

Creatures of the Night is hosted at Bart Lounge every Wednesday, featuring a rotating cast of

drag performers who trade the glitz and glamour of typical Palm Springs drag for heavier music, ghoulish costumes—and lots of blood.

During a recent phone interview with drag queen Natasha Backwards, she explained how Creatures of the Night began thanks to a collaboration with local DJ/promoter duo Luna Negra and their goth nights.

“The first one we originally threw was back in 2019, before COVID hit,” Backwards said. “This was when Luna Negra just started doing their shows at the Alibi in downtown Palm Springs, which is a venue that doesn’t exist anymore. We were supposed to have a second show, but then COVID hit, and they wanted us to go digital. When that was brought up to my attention, I was like, ‘I’m good for that one.’

“A year ago … we partnered up with Luna Negra’s goth night again to do a drag show, and that hit really well. We had more than 200 people in the room that night. Since then, we decided that we wanted to try to keep it going, being more of a weekly or even biweekly thing. We got in contact with the owners of Bart, and they let us have the space every Wednesday night.”

Backwards felt that creating this alternative drag show was important for many reasons— including bringing a younger generation into the world of drag.

“When I first started getting into the drag scene, I tried getting myself out into other plac-

es in Palm Springs,” Backwards said. “I’m not trying to say that they didn’t accept me; everyone’s super-sweet and very welcoming, but I never really got invited to do any of their shows, just because of my style. I felt like I didn’t really fit in with the other talented artists out here, so that kind of inspired me to round up more of these alternative girls and ghouls and creatures to just start doing our own thing. Since then, we’ve had other queens and monsters come out from the shadows who I’ve never seen before. It is a younger crowd at our shows, but I really like it, because the younger generation is going to be the future one day.”

Backwards said the shows go beyond just being darker and bloodier than typical drag.

“The alternative factor is that we’re not really the super-polished drag artists who you normally see on RuPaul’s Drag Race or whatever,” Backwards said. “Some of us are still starting off fresh, and we are here helping give that platform in Palm Springs. There are not really many places out here that help the newer, younger artists grow.”

That said, Creatures of the Night does specialize in gruesome makeup, piercings and leather.

“We’re different in the style that we have with our hair and makeup, down to the way we dress, and even our music choices that we choose to lip sync to and the way we perform,” Backwards said. “There’ll be a bit more fake

The new Creatures of the Night show takes place every Wednesday at Bart Lounge

blood … whereas normally, that’s something you think of just for October.”

Each show has a theme, from “Powerpuff Ghouls” to 4/20 to The Simpsons.

“We are trying to keep it to more of a theme, just so that way, we reach particular audiences,” Backwards said. “That way, it catches the attention of groups of people who we don’t normally get each time, and I’ve noticed that having themes does bring in new faces.”

Drag performers including Miss Cherry Superstar, Sapphire, Bellamy Cain and Natasha Backwards herself have been mainstays at the Creatures shows, but the event also has a revolving cast.

“We’ve had a drag king perform with us before … as well as Obsidienne Obsurd, which we had last week in our show,” Backwards said. “They just moved out here from up north, from San Francisco, and they’re now living in Joshua Tree. They just reached out to us, and since then, we’ve been having them in our shows whenever they could be part of it.”

Backwards expressed hope that her events will inspire more people to fall in love with performing.

“If there’s anyone reading this, and they come across this article, and they on the inside feel like they want to one day maybe either perform for us or just get into the scene, definitely come check out our shows,” Backwards said. “Don’t be afraid to talk to any of us. The performers there would just love to get to know you and, in the future, have you at our shows.”

Creatures of the Night has been a fine addition to the growing string of events catered to fans of all things alternative, ranging from Luna Negra’s goth nights and darkwave concerts, to emo night events at Bart Lounge and Pretty Faces Nightclub. Backwards hopes that anyone who subscribes to the alternative aesthetic comes to experience their drag shows.

“Whenever I see someone dressing in a more alternative style, I always say, ‘Hey, come check us out, because I feel like we will cater to your liking,’” Backwards said. “If it’s an older crowd, younger crowd, it doesn’t matter. I will always just try to get the word out—and I will say if you like blood, guts and whores, this is the place to be.”

Creatures of the Night takes place at 9:30 p.m., every Wednesday, at Bart Lounge, 67555 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Cathedral City. Admission is free, but you must be 21+ to attend. For more information, visit creaturesofthenightaltdragshow.

The Venue REPORT

May 2024

Los Rieleros del Norte

Happy May! Will you have fun experiencing what the valley’s entertainment scene has to offer this month? You may

Acrisure Arena features music—and muscles! At 8 p.m., Friday, May 3, Colombian singer and global star Feid will head to Palm Desert. Tickets start at $44.99. At 7 p.m., Tuesday, May 14, alt-pop phenom Melanie Martinez explores the musical stages of her alter ego “Cry Baby,” with opening performances from Beach Bunny and Men I Trust. Tickets start at $95. More desert wrestling will take place at 7 p.m., Thursday, May 30, as AEW (All Elite Wrestling) Collision will suplex, chokeslam and elbow-drop all over the arena. Tickets start at $26. Acrisure Arena, 75702 Varner Road, Palm Desert; 888-695-8778; www.

The McCallum Theatre’s relatively few May events still provide a ton of entertainment. College of the Desert is presenting Guys and Dolls, a musical comedy spanning New York, from the heart of Times Square to the sewers! You can catch the production at 8 p.m., Friday, May 3; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, May 4; and 2 p.m., Sunday, May 5. Tickets start at $38. At 8 p.m., Monday, May 6, Bianca Del Rio, known as the “Joan Rivers of the Drag World,” will pull out all the stops for a comedy night to remember. Tickets start at $49.50. At 2 p.m., Saturday, May 11, Tutti Frutti Productions invites families out to the McCallum for The Boy Who Cried Wolf, a funny and enchanting version of the famous story. Tickets are $15. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760340-2787;

Fantasy Springs brings laughs and Latin jams. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 4, Los Rieleros del Norte will turn Indio into a norteño dance floor. Available tickets start at $39. Saturday Night Live alum Pete Davidson brings his erratic standup comedy to town

The Creatures of the Night pose after their The Simpsons-themed show: Sapphire, Bellamy Cain, Natasha Backwards (top), MizzBee Hiven and Miss Cherry Superstar.
continued on PAGE 28

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at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 11. Tickets start at $69. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 25, comedian Jeff Dunham and his group of zany puppets will grace the Fantasy Springs stage for ventriloquist mayhem! Tickets start at $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a string of fun May shows. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 3, boy band 98° and special guest All 4 One will heat things up in Coachella. Tickets start at $50. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 4, comedian and actor Mark Normand will bring the laughs. Tickets start at $35. 1990s band Blues Traveler will travel all the way to Coachella to jam at 8 p.m., Friday, May 10 Tickets start at $35. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 11, Argentine-Mexican singer-songwriter Amanda Miguel will present an evening filled with music and culture. Tickets start at $25. At 7 p.m., Friday, May 31, pay tribute to the ’70s pop icons with Bee Gees Gold. Tickets start at $10. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566;

Morongo Casino is providing regional Mexican music—and raging laughter! At 9 p.m., Friday, May 3, Mi Banda el Mexicano De Casimiro and Arkangel R-15 will offer a double-dose of Latin tunes. Tickets start at $59. At 9 p.m., Friday, May 31, funnyman Nick Swardson heads to Cabazon. Tickets start at $39. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499;

Agua Caliente in Rancho Mirage features a stacked lineup! Comedy superstar Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias will call the desert home for a weekend, as he’s set to bring his topnotch comedy at 8 p.m., Friday, May 3, Saturday, May 4, and Sunday, May 5 Tickets start at $85. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 10, alternative-rock-indie force SIlversun Pickups return to The Show. Tickets start at $40. 1980s British post-punkers The

The Venue REPORT

Psychedelic Furs head to town at 8 p.m., Friday, May 17. Tickets start at $25. At 6 p.m., Saturday, May 18, reminisce with 80’s Rock Tribute Fest, featuring Rok Brigade (a Def Leppard tribute band), Completely Unchained (a Van Halen tribute band) and DSB (a Journey tribute band). Tickets are $30. Comedian and podcast host Andrew Schulz will head to the Coachella Valley at 8 p.m., Friday, May 24. Tickets start at $75. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 25, comedy and sitcom staple Ray Romano brings an East Coast flavor to the West Coast. Tickets start at $50. Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

At Agua Caliente in Palm Springs, the residencies roll on—and are joined by some big-name comedy shows! Desert Blues Revival Wednesdays bring blues-guitar dynamo Jessica Kaczmarek and her band (May 1), local favorites The Gand Band doing “Beatles and Beyond” (May 8), the American roots of Nathan James Band (May 15), a dynamic duo performance of passionate blues by Shea Walsh and Hope Diamond (May 22) and rocker Tony Saxon Sr. (May 29). Shows are at 7 p.m., and tickets start at $10 to $15, available at Carousel Thursdays feature a low-end throwdown with a Double Bass Battle featuring Lakshmi Ramirez and Marquis Howell (May 2), a trip back 70 years with The Dickens 1950’s Western Swing Show (May 9), the return of pop vocal group sensation M-PACT (May 16), an era-encompassing experience from Ashley Anne and the Carnations (May 23) and a slice of New Orleans sounds from Big Butter Jazz Band (May 30). Shows take place at 7 p.m., and tickets start at $15, available at And now for the laughs: At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 11, writer, comedian and actor Damon Wayans Jr. brings his comedy to the Cascade Lounge. Tickets start at $40. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May

25, Caroline Rhea will perform an evening of her standup. Tickets start at $40. Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs, 401 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 888-999-1995; www.

Pappy & Harriet’s is exploding with great concerts this month; here are some highlights. At 7 p.m., Sunday, May 5, pop and alt rock trio X Ambassadors are set to perform. Tickets start at $29.50. Electronic goth-rockers Placebo will spend two nights under the desert sky, with shows at 7 p.m., Wednesday, May 8, and Thursday, May 9. Tickets start at $69.50. A member of Bauhaus and Love and Rockets, David J will perform a solo set in Pioneertown at 9:30 p.m., Saturday, May 11. Tickets start at $35. At 9:30 p.m., Friday, May 17, rock outfit Spooky Mansion will electrify the desert. Tickets start at $18, or $15 for a four-pack. Raw, explosive, full-throttle rock will heat up the Pioneertown Palace at 9:30 p.m., Friday, May 31 via a performance from Starcrawler. Tickets start at $15. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-228-2222; www.

Oscar’s in Palm Springs features a busy May. At 7 p.m., Friday, May 3, local performer Charles Brown will mix Broadway and pop for an evening of laughs and music. Tickets start at $30. Drag performer and RuPaul alum Tammie Brown celebrates 25 years of performing with a night of hysteria and songs at 7 p.m., Friday, May 10. Tickets start at $35. At 7 p.m., Saturday, May 11, enjoy a double-dose of Broadway in Palm Springs with Nic and Desi, two Broadway vets who will present “Broadway to Hollywood.” Tickets start at $39.95. At 7 p.m., Thursday, May 16, Jack Donahue will perform an evening of cabaret songs. Tickets start at $35. Most shows include a dinner reservation and a food/drink minimum. Oscar’s Palm Springs, 125 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs; 760-325-1188;

Tickets are moving fast for the final month of shows at the Purple Room before the venue’s summer hiatus! At 8 p.m., Friday, May 3, jazz and blues vocal sensation Niki Haris heads to Palm Springs. Tickets start at $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 4, awardwinning vocalist Janis Mann will perform the songs of Burt Bacharach. Tickets start at $45. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 24, and Saturday, May 25, Tony Award nominee Ann Hampton Callaway will explore timeless classics and original material during two Coachella Valley nights of song. Tickets start at $60. All tickets include dinner reservations two hours before showtime. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-3224422;

28 \\ COACHELLA VALLEY INDEPENDENT MAY 2024 CV continued from page 26
David J
It’s easy. Repair drips and leaks. A leak as small as the tip of a pen can waste more than 200 gallons per day.
MAY 2024 29 CV 84160 Avenue 48 Coachella, CA 92236 442-256-3627 Get ready for Festival Season with Deals and Promotions Special Events Online Orderin & Deliver Food Tr ck Vendors ATMs on Site Pre-Packaged Flower Pre-Rolls Edibles Topicals & Tinctures Cartridges & Disposables Beverages Accessories & Apparel Closest Dispensary to the Festival C10-0000084-LIC


LUCKY 13 the

Get to know the frontmen of two newer local bands

GROUP Hollow Crown


The hardcore/metalcore scene is on the rise in the Coachella Valley—with some bands releasing intensely creative songs. Hollow Crown started their musical journey a little more than a year ago and have already gone through a whirlwind of change. Frontman Alexander Peralez has remained in the group since their debut single “Spineless” and is continuing the heavy-metal force on latest single “Simulation Cycles.” The intense, fourminute track features speedy riffs, breakneck

drumming and intense, visceral vocals from Peralez. For more information, visit instagram. com/hollowcrownsocal.

What was the first concert you attended?

A hardcore backyard show in north Indio when I was 13 years old.

What was the first album you owned?

The Devil Wears Prada, Plagues

What bands are you listening to right now?

Dream On, Dreamer; Northlane; and The Plot in You.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

I actually can’t answer that, because I find a good rhythm or sound in all music.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Probably Beartooth.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

To be honest, I don’t know how to answer.

What’s your favorite music venue?

My favorite music venue would have to be the Viper Room in Hollywood, with, by far, the easiest sound guys to work with.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“I don’t see anything wrong with a little bump

and grind” (from “Bump n’ Grind” by R. Kelly). I don’t know why I’ve been saying that shit.

What band or artist changed your life?

I think it would have to be Slipknot. The vocals of Corey (Taylor) gave me inspiration, because to a lot of people, they’re not perfect, but to me, they were.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking? I would ask Ozzy how he felt about metalcore music.

What song would you like played at your funeral? At my funeral, I would like “(Sittin’ on) the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time? Discoveries by Northlane.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Simulation Cycles” by Hollow Crown.

NAME Jose Antonio Martinez

GROUP The Divines

MORE INFO A band performing somber songs of love lost, and love gained, has been wowing local fans. The Divines are that band, and thanks to frontman Jose Antonio Martinez and his soulful vocal delivery, the musicians have carved out a serious fan base in a relatively short time. Singles “Swan Dive” and “Candy to My Ears” showcase a beautiful mix of ’60s soul and indie psychedelia that is sure to grow and evolve alongside the band—since half of the members are still in high school. Learn more at

What was the first concert you attended?

ROAR at The Roxy in Los Angeles when I was 15.

What was the first album you owned? The Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd.

What bands are you listening to right now? Caifanes, and Pink Floyd.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

I don’t personally get the hype over Taylor Swift.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

I would’ve loved to see Pescado Rabioso live to experience the most influential musician in Latin rock history, Luis Alberto Spinetta.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I like some of the Peso Pluma songs. What the hell does he know about cameras?

What’s your favorite music venue? Little Street Music Hall in Indio.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Listen close and don’t be stoned / I’ll be here in the morning / ’Cause I’m just floating,” “Alison” by Slowdive.

What band or artist changed your life? Jeff Buckley is my biggest influence when it comes to my songwriting.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

I would ask Syd Barrett what his favorite album of all time was.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Lover, You Should’ve Come Over,” Jeff Buckley.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time? Pet Sounds, The Beach Boys.

What song should everyone listen to right now? “This Strange Effect,” The Kinks.



“Sounds Like a Deal”— onomatopoetic justice.



___ and the Real Girl

Other, en español

Social media message that a percussive offBroadway show is getting a movie deal?

merged with Minolta in 2003

Nab some showy jewelry from jail?

Brigadoon lyricist Alan Jay ___

Mononymous Irish singer

Seattle setting, briefly

Like lost files

Talking bear filmturned-TV show

Analgesic’s targets

“Pale” drinks

Trash talk about a doctor handing out phony cold remedies?

“You’ve Got a Friend ___”

Bear up there

Bellybutton type

PFC superiors

Call it ___


Frobe who played Goldfinger

Curt agreements

Novel storyline

Architect Saarinen

Cadbury egg filler

5. Corner fastener

6. Like Penn, vis-a-vis Teller

Jai ___ (fast-moving game)

Newspaper sales no.

Item on a list

Longtime Maine senator Olympia

Quick-drying coat

Agamemnon’s father (and Electra’s grandfather)

1970s funkmeister Collins

It might give you the chills

Cavaliers, on the scoreboard

___ Groove (1985 hip-hop movie)

TV debut of 1980

___ Miserables

Science guy Bill

Josh of Frozen II

Tempo of a play’s dialogue



Mississippi River explorer Hernando

Discharge, as perspiration, scientifically speaking


that gave us

definitely not popsicle-stick jokes

Branch of a family tree, maybe

Sign, as a contract

Curling surface

Quote as reference

Not dull

© 2024 Matt Jones

the answers in the “About” section at!

Across 1. Design details 6. Savoir-faire 10. Hunk of marble 14. Danger signal 15. Inter
16. Intl.
alliance 17.
23. Palindromic magazine title 24. Toyota’s luxury division 25. “Carte”
“mode” preceder 28. Moldova’s landmass 32. “Gangnam Style” performer 33. Computer music format 35. Company that
Down 1. “Fifth Avenue” store 2.
22. Michigan congresswoman Rashida 25. Guitarist’s hookup 26. ___ Nas X 27. It’s
29. Rashomon
Kurosawa 30.
49. Tundra
55. Papa
Brainy 57. Docking station? 58.
59. Right
60. Busy 61.

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