Coachella Valley Independent November 2023

Page 1



A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR Mailing address: 31855 Date Palm Drive, No. 3-263 Cathedral City, CA 92234 (760) 904-4208

Editor/Publisher Jimmy Boegle staff writerS Haleemon Anderson Kevin Fitzgerald coveR and feature design Dennis Wodzisz Director of Sales & Sponsorships Susan Uhrlass Contributors Charles Drabkin, Katie Finn, Bill Frost, Bonnie Gilgallon, Bob Grimm, ValerieJean (VJ) Hume, Clay Jones, Matt Jones, Matt King, Keith Knight, Kay Kudukis, Cat Makino, Brett Newton, Greg Niemann, Dan Perkins, Theresa Sama, Maria Sestito, Jen Sorenson, Robert Victor The Coachella Valley Independent print edition is published every month. All content is ©2023 and may not be published or reprinted in any form without the written permission of the publisher.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.

As we put the finishing touches on this, our 11th annual Pride Issue, I keep thinking back to June 26, 2015. It was a day I didn’t think I’d see in my lifetime: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples had the right to marry, and states had to recognize same-sex marriages from other states. Legal gay marriage was the law of the land— across our entire country. I joined hundreds of others that evening at Frances Stevens Park in downtown Palm Springs to celebrate. There was such joy. It seemed like the United States was truly inching toward a better, more loving, more equitable future. Instead, the country went in the opposite direction. Last year, the increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court threw out years of established law and precedent by reversing Roe v. Wade. Earlier this year, that same court ruled that businesses could legally discriminate (in a case, it turns out, that used various details that were completely made up). It’s possible that the victory we celebrated on June 26, 2015, could be reversed next. Meanwhile, Republican politicians have set their sights on specific segments of the LGBTQ+ community to use as scapegoats—including drag queens. While there’s no evidence ever cited that a drag queen at a public performance or library story time has ever harmed a child, Republican leaders across the country have riled up concerned citizens and urged them to harass library boards, all while pushing—and, in some cases, passing—legislation outlawing public dragqueen events. Even worse, bills targeting the trans community have become law in almost half of the states in the U.S. On Page 14, you’ll find my Q&A with Mike Thompson, the CEO of the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert. He recently returned to the Coachella Valley after a couple of years back in his home state of Oklahoma—and he told me something I can’t get out of my mind: “I talked to a number of trans people who are needing to get out of Oklahoma, because they no longer feel physically safe there because of the political rhetoric, and the social climate that has been informed by the political rhetoric, so they need an escape plan. We want to be a beacon of hope for people living in those communities to get here because of the safety that can be found here.” I am grateful to organizations like the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert, Greater Palm Springs Pride and many others that do good work to make sure the Coachella Valley, for the most part, is a place where LGBTQ+ people can feel safe—and a beacon of hope for people in places where, because of discrimination and political persecution, they don’t feel safe. As people gather to celebrate Greater Palm Springs Pride—our booth will be on Arenas Road, so come and say hello, if you’re there—we should all make sure we’re doing everything we can to get the United States heading back in the direction of a better, more loving, more equitable future. —Jimmy Boegle



 Arenas District

 La Crema Experience  DAP Health Wellness Pavilion

 The Recovery Oasis


 Children’s Garden  Youth Zone

 Hornitos Main Stage  KGAY 106.5/White Party Stage FR

 Pride Stage  Oscar's Stage





 Pride Parade  Downtown Festival & Food Booths

THURSDAY November 2

DJ Tatiana

Chichi Fuera

Giselle Woo & The Night Owls

FRIDAY November 3

Saturday November 4

in in

White Party DJ


White Party DJs


Sister Roma & Friends

­ Jai Rodriguez

DJ Mod Girl DJ Eric Ornelas DJ Galaxy


Barbara Barrett Attorney

November 5


Mareeka's Reventón Latino Drag Revue






Meet Francesca Amari, a THE #1 CHOICE badass local queen of cabaret COMFORT AIR



t started on the North Side of Chicago, at Lakeview High School. Frank was one year ahead of Marilyn; they married when she was 17. She went back to high school and kept their secret until she graduated. Marilyn wasn’t pregnant; instead, there was a bigger scandal: Frank Amari was Catholic. Marilyn Grossman was Jewish. Within nine years, they had six girls: Debbie, Laurie, Andrea, Terri, Francesca and Lynn. Dad was a computer programmer for the government, and Mom worked as a cataloguer there; that was after they moved from Chicago to Battle Creek, Mich. (population less than 40,000). Francesca was 4. Mom taught the girls Lennon Sisters-style harmony, and the Amari Sisters performed she went to the Battle Creek Enquirer as a copy around town. When it was playtime, they editor until United Way in Grand Rapids (pop. invented a game called “Library.” Yes, I asked. >350K!) hired her as their communications “One of us was the librarian and set up the assistant. She was the only Amari in town. books, and made check-out cards. The rest of Her 1984 was much better than Orwell’s. us went to the ‘library’ to check out books,” “It really altered the course (of my life), said Francesca Amari, laughing. The tight because I went from the United Way, to family unit also played games like Jeopardy! Planned Parenthood, to Grand Rapids Public and Password. During summers, they could Libraries doing PR, marketing and communichoose Wrigleyville with their grandparents, cations. Who knew nonprofits would become or to stay. Francesca went every year. She my passion?” loved the pulse of the big city. An apprentice directing program at Actors’ At school, being 5 or 6 wasn’t easy. The Theatre led to Burn This and the male lead, siblings were all well-liked; Laurie had been Ray. Also a handyman, Ray worked on Franexceptionally popular. cesca’s newly purchased house. They both “There were so many years of, ‘Aren’t you dated other people until one of those other an Amari? Aren’t you so-and-so’s sister?’” people broke Francesca’s heart. Ray picked up Francesca said. “I got on the homecoming the pieces. court, and I felt like, ‘I’m only here because Both were cast in Hal Prince’s Show Boat I’m an Amari and not because of me.’ I just revival. Meanwhile, sister Laurie and her had a real awareness of being an Amari girl.” By the time she was a junior in high school, husband hired a nanny for their kids—who then had a brain aneurysm. Francesca subbed she was desperate to be just Francesca, and in and was now living in the city where it hapapplied for a co-op—a half-day at school, and pened, the city of countless songs and theater, a half-day in the Sears credit department. By a city ranked the largest in America, 11th in senior year, she was rarely at school. the world. New York lit up all her synapses. College was chosen due to its distance: Crisis over, she auditioned and did an East It too far to stay home, but not too far. She Coast touring show, but there was also Ray, back called home a lot, frequently in tears—not in Grand Rapids saying please come home. In because she was unhappy, but because she 1995, she did, and in 1996, during a reading of missed them. Playing in her very own sandThe Love Letters of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert box suited her well. Browning, Ray got down on one knee mid-perMusic is her second love; writing was her formance and proposed. The following year, first, maybe because it was something of her theyPRICE said “I do” in front of 200-plus guests. own. She wrote short storiesEQUIPMENT and won conHIGHEST QUALITY BEST GUARANTEED YorkSUPPORT taught her that she never wanted tests. But she also did theater, and sang in EXTENSIVE WARRANTIES 24/7 New LOCAL a corporate job again. She freelanced in all chorus—and by college, music was it. the fields she loved. She did event planning Hard fact: Music theory is a requirement for the YWCA; performed with the Boogie to be a music major, so journalism andSAVE broad- UP TO Woogie Babies, a three-piece girl harmony casting won the college-major audition, but group; prepped and directed audiobooks; and music was her co-star. Non-school hours did theater. involved DJing at a student radio station, She unexpectedly fell in love with cabaret in talent shows andLENNOX co-hosting a campus TV talk SIGNATURE SERIES SYSTEM *SAVINGS MAY VARYby Barbara BrusNew YorkAND at aRESULTS performance show featuring herself, a male co-host and a sell. The art of cabaret turned up the spotlight puppet. inside A radio station from Petoskey (population 7 6 of0Francesca . 3 2 0to .full-blast. 5 8 0 “I0loved it. It CALL TODAY FORgotDETAILS! was so much fun. And I realized that’s how I <7K) called with a job. You’ve to be kidding co f o r t ashe c .said. c o“Im was as m a performer,” started investime, she thought. Less than 7,000 people? So off




Awarded Best AC Repair Company By Coachella Valley Independent

gating and taking master classes.” In 2006, Mid-Life! The Crisis Musical took her to Florida for 12 weeks, where she realized she was happy every single day. That wasn’t happening in her marriage. They divorced on their 10th anniversary. Dan Sajtar dated one of Francesca’s best friends in high school, and they reconnected on Facebook, no big deal. But then he rode his motorcycle from San Diego to a gig she was playing in Arizona. Big deal. Francesca’s told this magical, romantic story at a storytellers’ event; there’s a video. (Look it up. I’m short on space.) By 2010, she was living with him in San Diego, and soon she married “the last great love of my life.” Five years ago, Francesca’s sister Debbie was moved to a 24/7 facility with debilitating multiple sclerosis. Their beloved parents had long passed, and the sisters have scheduled group Zooms to make sure all Debbie’s needs are met, as well as Debbie’s husband’s. Each Amari has their own strengths; together, they are an unstoppable force. The premiere of her cabaret show You Make Me Laugh: A Love Song to Gilda Radner was in 2011 at the former Blame It on Midnight cabaret/restaurant on Tahquitz Canyon Way, so by the time they moved to Palm Springs, Francesca was established. In 2022, Gilda

Up to $1000 Off + Special Financing On A New HVAC System


Francesca Amari.

won Broadway World’s Palm Springs award for Best Streaming Concert/Cabaret, and this year, Francesca took home the Desert Theatre League’s Best Cabaret Performance-Professional award for Different Drum: The Music of Linda Ronstadt. Her Gilda show donates a portion of the proceeds to Gilda’s Club to fight ovarian cancer, and during the pandemic, she quietly purchased and delivered lunches to the medical staff at Desert Regional Medical Center. I know only because I called while she was doing it. It took 10 questions to get her to tell me. (Someone called me Oprah once. It wasn’t meant as a compliment.) She’s always been a girly-girl, but she’s a badass girly-girl, which means you should not mistake her for someone who’d hate to break a nail or have a thought. If you follow her on Facebook, you know she’s a terrific writer who leads with kindness. If you’ve heard her sing, you know she’s a very fun and talented vocalist. But if you’ve seen her do one of her cabaret shows? You just stood up with your fist in the air yelling to absolutely no one (but you’re really feeling it): “Francesca Amari is the queen of cabaret!” I’m right there with you. Learn more at






Cooler weather in the Coachella Valley means it’s time to get on the trails—and enjoy some great events


ornings and evenings are getting cooler here in the Coachella Valley—which means we can get back on the trails and safely enjoy them right here in our own paradise. “The CV never disappoints when you are looking for a hiking trail, and I have never met a trail I didn’t like,” said Kerry Hendrix, a friend and an avid Coachella Valley hiker for 15-plus years. Not long ago, Kerry and friends hiked the Pushawalla Palms Trail in the Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve (aka Coachella Valley Preserve). The loop is about 4.5 miles and is considered a moderately challenging route, according to All Trails. “The trail starts out from a parking area, across the ‘now dry’ riverbed, and up a small ridge,” Oasis—a perfect spot for a nice picnic lunch. Hendrix said. “When up this ridge, you Be sure to bring some food along with plenty continue to climb the ridgeline over the San of water, and always remember to pack in and Andreas Fault. After a mile or so along the pack out. This is one of the must-do hikes in ridge, you will see the Pushawalla Palms grove the Coachella Valley. that is fed from underground springs. As Always check the park website or the you come down the onto the ridge, you will Friends of the Desert Mountains open/closed follow the Hidden Horseshoe Trail through a trails page to make sure trails are open. It beautiful palm grove. This area can’t be seen might also be a good idea to check the weather from the ridge or from the road out to the and road conditions. The Thousand Palms preserve. It is a hidden gem, and it’s nice to be Oasis Preserve and with Whitewater Preserve, in the shade after the sunshine from the ridge. as of this writing, are closed due to storm This is not a trail you would want to do in the damage until further notice. heat of summer, but it’s lovely for the October Parking is allowed at the Pushawalla to April morning sun.” trailhead, just off the road outside of the I’ve been on this trail myself. After you visitor center. Most trails may be accessed make the gradual climb up the ridgeline over the fault line and continue along the top of the via the north and south gate of the main entrance, but some trails start at the visitor ridge, you will have 360-degree views of the center, which may be closed on some days. No Coachella Valley and surrounding mountains. dogs are allowed at the Thousand Palms Oasis After scrambling down the rocky ravine into Preserve. the canyon, you’ll reach the Pushawalla Palms Kerry said his favorite Coachella Valley trail is the North Lykken Trail in Palm Springs. “I love the challenge of the incline from behind the Palm Springs Art Museum and the trail running down the other side to Ramon Road,” Hendrix said. Another one of Kerry’s favorites is the Palm Desert Cross Trail. “This is a nice workout and can be completed in under an hour for that early morning wakeup or end-of-day stress release,” he said. Kerry went on to say: “If you are looking for the butt-buster, Painter’s Path and Bump and Grind provide great workouts, but these trails are usually pretty crowded.”

Avi Guerrero, Eric Flora and Kerry Hendrix enjoy a sunrise hike on the Cross Trail in Palm Desert. Photo courtesy of Avi Guerrero

Front Runners and Walkers, a local chapter of International Frontrunners, an informal network of LGBTQ running groups around the world committed to providing much-needed services to the diverse LGBTQ+ community. Since 2016, the Palm Springs Pride 5K Run and Walk has raised more than $150,000 for local charities, including the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert, the Transgender Health and Wellness Center, Brothers of the Desert, Safe Schools Desert Cities, and Greater Palm Springs Pride. The run and walk begins at West Chino

Drive at Belardo Road and meanders through the beautiful and historic Old Las Palmas neighborhood, once home to many Hollywood celebrities. The beautiful, mostly flat, 3.1-mile out-and-back course is on paved streets. There will be volunteers on the course to cheer you on and keep you moving in the right direction. To learn more, view the course map and register, visit I hope to see you out there. The weather is cooler now, so it is a perfect time to get out and get some good exercise—while having fun doing it.


The Cross Trail in Palm Desert. Avi Guerrero

he better weather brings more outdoor events, of course—and November starts off with a walk/run for a great cause. The Palm Springs Pride 5K Run and Walk will take place on Saturday, Nov. 4, from 8 to 11 a.m. Runners and walkers of all ages and abilities come together to raise funds for local LGBTQ+ organizations and promote inclusivity in our community and sports. This annual event is proudly hosted by the Palm Springs






by Haleemon anderson

hen Paul Carr, co-owner of The Best Bookstore in Palm Springs, discovered specific books had been deliberately turned backward—during Banned Books Week—he grabbed those titles from the shelves and created a special display. A recent release on George Floyd, Michelle Obama’s The Light We Carry and other books that had been “spined” were moved to a more prominent place. Maybe it had nothing to do with Banned Books Week (Oct. 1-7), he thought. “I’m hoping it’s a coincidence,” Carr said. Now, just weeks after that anonymous “protest,” Carr and his partner and co-owner, Sarah done and said, ‘Obviously we are not going to, Lacy, are engaging in a larger battle around in any way, engage in censorship.’” books. They’re not fighting a petty act of Requests to ban books, also known as bigotry this time—but a decision by one of challenges, are on pace to set a record for the largest book sellers in the country. the third straight year in 2023. According to Scholastic recently announced it will the American Libraries Association’s Office group children’s books with a focus on race, of Intellectual Freedom, 1,915 unique titles LGBTQ+ themes and other diversity-related were challenged from Jan. 1 to Aug. 31, a 20% topics during its book fairs for elementary increase from 2022. school children into a separate category Julie Warren, the library and public services known as the “Share Every Story, Celebrate manager for the city of Palm Springs, said these Every Voice” collection. The billion-dollar challenges tend to focus on already marginalized publisher issued a statement defending the groups. decision to place “LGBTQIA+ titles and books “Definitely we are seeing more and more that engage with the presence of racism in challenges to books, and they seem to be our country” into a segregated category— focused on people of color and members of the even though the decision allows schools to LGBTQ plus community,” she said. easily exclude them. However, there’s also been pushback Carr took to social media and issued this against these book challenges. Nyrza Castro, provocation: “(Best Bookstore) will do a book branch manager at the Desert Hot Springs fair for your school anywhere in SoCal.” He and Thousand Palms locations of the linked to an Oct. 17 NPR story regarding Scholastic’s decision—an admitted concession Riverside County Library System, said patrons to the book bans sweeping across the country. at her libraries wanted to make sure they were planning to highlight Banned Books Week. Best Bookstore’s offer includes staffing, “We’ve been getting a lot of calls requesting price matches and a pledge to provide not to ban books,” Castro said. any requested book. It’s a tall order for a For the week-long event, Castro’s team small, independent bookstore, but Carr is gathered every banned book they could find. inspired—and incensed. He called the action “We put them on display and took it a step by Scholastic “disgusting.” further: We added little shelf readers,” Castro “This is outrageous, and in fact, we will said. Those shelf readers provided detailed promote wider reading and deeper reading,” information about why each book was being he said. challenged, and where each book had been Scholastic, in its statement, claimed it challenged, as well as notes on why these had no choice, saying: “There is now enacted books should be read. or pending legislation in more than 30 U.S. “It was very successful. We kept putting states prohibiting certain kinds of books from books out because they kept getting checked being in schools—mostly LGBTQIA+ titles out,” Castro said. and books that engage with the presence of Castro said the most challenged book in the racism in our country.” Carr pushed back, country is a memoir called Gender Queer, by saying Scholastic is in a unique position to do Maia Kobabe. “We have it here in our library,” the right thing. she said. “They are this direct supplier to schools,” While some states are making it easier to he said. “So they found themselves on the ban books, California is going in the opposite front line of this, this war on reading, which direction. In September, Gov. Gavin Newsom is really a war against kids being allowed to signed a prohibition on the banning of books be anything other than white, heterosexual, Christian … and they had a choice. They could and educational materials in California schools. While signing Assembly Bill 1078, have done what every other publisher has

A Palm Springs bookstore pushes back against Scholastic’s decision to segregate diverse books at schools

When certain books dealing with diversity were “spined” at The Best Bookstore in Palm Springs, the owners created a special display highlighting the books. Haleemon Anderson

Newsom spoke about a “banning binge (and) cultural purge” happening across the country that is “criminalizing librarians and teachers.” The legislation came after a protracted battle that saw the Temecula Valley Unified School District board acquiesce after initially rejecting a curriculum for elementary schools that included a supplemental text mentioning slain San Francisco political figure Harvey Milk. The board initially voted 3-2 against adopting the curriculum—with some board members making disparaging remarks about Milk. After Newsom threatened to provide the texts to students via the state, and fine

the district for violating state law, the school board reversed course and approved the curriculum. While AB1078 protects California schools to some extent, Carr sees a loophole in Scholastic’s new business strategy he thinks independent bookstores can fill. “They’ve handed schools this permission to be bigots,” Carr said. “And my hope is that parents and librarians and, frankly, most school principals and administrators react to this by saying, ‘Well, if that’s Scholastic’s position, we’re going to find someone else to do our book fairs.’”









by Kevin Fitzgerald

n July 31, 2019, Dr. Conrado Bárzaga took over as chief executive officer of the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation. In the more than four years since, Bárzaga established himself as a respected leader in the Coachella Valley’s efforts to expand and equalize access to quality healthcare support for all valley residents. He often championed emergency responses to aid the area’s underserved migrant and lowincome populations. Less than a year into his tenure, the COVID-19 pandemic arrived, and Bárzaga did not hesitate to take a strong stance in support of recommended federal health guidelines. He led the district’s involvement in funding COVID-19 testing and vaccination writing, nobody’s talking. sites throughout the valley. As the country The Independent reached out to Bárzaga, grappled with both the pandemic and upheaval following the death of George Floyd, but he declined to comment at this time. The Independent emailed DHCD board director Bárzaga spoke out, saying racism was a public Leticia De Lara with an interview request, but health crisis. received no reply prior to this writing. When Despite his record of positive contributions asked for details, both DHCD communications to the Coachella Valley, on Sept. 19, the manager Dean and interim CEO Christensen DHCD board of directors announced a special said they couldn’t comment, because it meeting would be held the next day at their involved private personnel matters. office in Palm Desert. The agenda released for When Bárzaga’s removal became public, the meeting contained only one specific item both U.S. Rep. Dr. Raul Ruiz and Riverside of business: to convene to closed session for County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez spoke out a “Public Employee Performance Evaluation strongly. (Existing District Staff).” “I am shocked and dismayed to hear of During that meeting on Sept. 20, the board the sudden dismissal of Dr. Conrado Bárzaga immediately went into closed session—and adjourned immediately after the closed session as CEO of the Desert Healthcare District by the district’s board members,” Ruiz said in a was over. It wasn’t until Sept. 25 that DHCD statement. “Dr. Bárzaga has worked tirelessly spokesperson Will Dean released a statement for everyone in the Coachella Valley regardless announcing that Bárzaga was leaving his position, and chief administration officer Chris of income or zip code and has brought incredible success to the district’s mission. He Christensen would be named the interim CEO. and I have worked together in collaboration What transpired behind closed doors during with many organizations to protect our most the Sept. 20 special meeting? The Independent vulnerable residents during the pandemic, and asked Dean that question via email, and we because of this work, many lives were saved. received a reply from Christensen, which said, His leadership in this partnership gave the in part: “Regarding your request of details district national prominence for innovative of the vote: The report after closed session and effective healthcare delivery and health indicated that the board in closed session educational outreach for the most vulnerable voted 4-3, with directors (Leticia) De Lara, and hardest to reach communities. … His drive (Carmina) Zavala and (Kimberly) Barraza to serve the underserved is inspirational. We in opposition, to direct counsel to take have worked together tirelessly to improve the appropriate action concerning the confidential public’s health, reduce health disparities, and matter related to the CEO’s contract.” improve access to affordable quality care for That means that directors Les Zendle, everyone, especially for those that have been Arthur Schorr, Carole Rogers and Evett left out for too long. For all of these reasons, I PerezGil voted to approve the organization’s respectfully urge the board to reconsider.” attorney taking such “appropriate action”— From Perez came this statement: “This which led to Bárzaga’s dismissal. was very shocking to learn of this morning, On Sept. 29, KESQ News Channel 3 that Dr. Bárzaga, an experienced and capable reported that Bárzaga was paid a severance of administrator of the Desert Healthcare six month’s salary—almost $150,000—plus District, was suddenly removed from his about $34,000 in vacation and other pay. position. … It doesn’t appear that there KESQ noted the severance “is consistent with the terms of his last contract, which states that was any reason given for the change in Dr. Bárzaga’s employment with the Desert if released ‘without cause,’ he would be paid Healthcare District. We would have to gather the six months of severance pay.” information to make sure it was truly a matter So why was Bárzaga let go? As of this

Nobody will explain why the Desert Healthcare District fired its CEO, Dr. Conrado Bárzaga

of performance, and not on some unfair grounds. In my opinion, Dr Bárzaga was the best CEO and his positive impact on the district was noticeable. I am hoping the Desert Healthcare District Board will reverse this decision.” Ruiz and Perez are far from the only locals to speak out against Bárzaga’s removal. In public comments at the Sept. 26 DHCD board meeting, seven valley residents addressed the board regarding their displeasure. One speaker was Heather Vaikona, president and CEO of local nonprofit Lift to Rise. “Many of you know … I almost died in January. I had a bilateral pulmonary embolism. I was in the resuscitation unit at Eisenhower for 36 hours before I was in ICU for a week. The first counterpart colleague to come to my bedside when I was not OK and almost didn’t make it was Dr. Bárzaga. A year earlier, my stepdad committed suicide, and the same week, my aunt died. In the same week, my children’s ancestral home was hit by a tsunami. I couldn’t get out of bed. … I didn’t want to go anywhere. The first person who came and got me and took me to their house and cooked paella, while I laid in their backyard on their couch and didn’t want to talk to anybody, was Dr. Bárzaga.” She added: “Over the holiday break … we had 84 migrants that our dear friends at the Galilee Center and all the other shelters could not house. There was no room for them, and it was on Christmas Eve. Lift to Rise covered the expenses for all of those migrant families to stay in a hotel. But I had a pregnant woman in the backseat of my car. … Who came and was the first person who got the pregnant woman into the hospital at Desert Regional Medical so she could receive excellent care? It was Dr. Bárzaga.” Vaikona concluded by saying: “What has shifted in our culture in the last four years when Dr. Bárzaga was the CEO is that grantees and partners and community residents from all walks of life were treated with dignity and respect. … I want to say that we’re all paying attention, that we hope leadership will choose someone with integrity and compassion the way that Dr. Bárzaga had that for constituents of this district.” Greg Rodriguez, the deputy director of government affairs and community engagement for Riverside County’s Department of Housing and Workforce Solutions, worked frequently with Bárzaga. He told the board on Sept. 26 he was speaking strictly as a resident of Palm Springs and a

Dr. Conrado Bárzaga.

DHCD constituent. “To say that I’m saddened and shocked would be a real understatement by the actions that the board took,” Rodriguez said. “I, too, don’t know the particulars, per se, but I have been informed as to what some of the rationale might have been, and of allegations of undue influence or pushing an agenda. I don’t think it’s bad to push an agenda for testing and vaccinating under-privileged and underserved communities that literally saved lives. I don’t think it’s a bad agenda to push to decrease health disparities in the AfricanAmerican community in Palm Springs. I don’t think it’s pushing an agenda to highlight the behavioral health needs of a community, and addressing homelessness and housing. And I also don’t think it’s pushing an agenda by actually recognizing a group of community health workers. I’d also like to address some of what seems to be a narrative out there about Dr. Bárzaga steering money toward favored organizations of his. … Over these last 10 years, I don’t think this district has ever had a better CEO, and I would really encourage you to reconsider this opinion.” On Oct. 2, the DHCD announced the search for a new chief executive was under way.





Multiple births can have multiple complications.

We planned ahead for every single one of them. As if a high-risk twin pregnancy weren’t enough of a surprise, Megan Underwood’s babies came five weeks early. Fortunately, she and her wife Emily had the twins at Eisenhower Family Birth Center. Years in the planning, the Center is ready for any obstetric emergency. When the Underwoods checked in, they were escorted to the OB-ED, where Megan was prepped for an emergency C-section. After delivery, baby Evan was taken to the state-of-the-art Level II NICU. Emma soon joined him. Both infants were jaundiced, and Emma had trouble regulating her glucose, but Evan’s problems were more serious. He had a hard time breathing, nursing, and putting on weight. The The new moms were able to be with both the babies in conjoining private rooms. The newborns’ care was overseen by a neonatologist, and the NICU nurses taught their moms everything they needed to know about caring for preemies. Emma was able to go home after one week and Evan, after two. Today, the twins are thriving and are double the joy!

Learn more at






Reduce the stigma surrounding mental health by donating, talking—or both

By Maria Sestito

eenagers are suffering. So are young adults … and middle-aged adults and older adults, too. Anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation have increased. People are stressed, burned out and/or lonely. “We have had to acknowledge mental illness in ways like never before, especially after the pandemic,” said Palm Desert City Councilmember Karina Quintanilla ahead of the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) Coachella Valley Walk Oct. 14, just four days after World Mental Health Day. “The pandemic may be declared over, but we are all going to feel these effects for a long time.” Those effects have been worse for some, especially those in populations that have been historically underserved, under-resourced 20% of U.S. adults are living with a diagnosed and discriminated against. Mental health care mental illness, and about one in 25 are living isn’t easy to access. Even for those who have with a serious mental illness, according to health insurance and time, finding a provider the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and who takes your insurance and is accepting Prevention. Fewer than half of the adults new patients is a feat. (Yes, I know this from diagnosed with a disorder received treatment experience.) in 2021, according to NAMI. More than one It’s even more difficult for someone in the in five teens between ages 13 and 18 either middle of a stressful life event or a depressive has or has had a seriously debilitating mental episode. If, on top of all of these barriers, illness, according to the CDC. someone feels ashamed for seeking help due What’s promising is that younger people to the stigma regarding mental health— are more likely to open up about their issues. internal or external—they may never get it. For example, in one poll by the American That could be lethal. Psychiatric Association, “millennials were As a society, we’ve come a long way toward almost twice as likely as baby boomers to be reducing that stigma, but it can still be comfortable discussing their mental health.” dangerous to our livelihoods, reputations, It feels safe to assume that Gen Z, which social lives and self-esteem to share our includes current teenagers, are even better at struggles openly. this than millennials (ages 27-42) like myself. According to the American Psychiatric I’ve been in some type of counseling or Association, “Stigma often comes from therapy since 2019, mostly to address how lack of understanding or fear. Inaccurate or circumstances from childhood, sometimes misleading media representations of mental unbeknownst to me, have affected my adult illness contribute to both those factors. A life. At times, I’ve been warned about telling review of studies on stigma shows that while others that I’m in therapy—and at times, I the public may accept the medical or genetic took that warning to heart. Now, though, nature of a mental health disorder and the I’m so grateful I had this support system need for treatment, many people still have a and structure in place prior to the onset of negative view of those with mental illness.” the pandemic and before losing my oldest Stigma can make symptoms worse—and brother. I’m grateful to that past version recovery less likely. myself who chose to seek help. And I’m proud “The average delay between the onset of to share that I’m still in therapy, and honestly, mental illness symptoms and treatment is 11 I see it in the same way as going to the gym— years,” according to NAMI. Some people may it’s just routine maintenance. never receive treatment. My family of origin isn’t always supportive That stigma can be so debilitating that, in or understanding. They should be in therapy, their effort to encourage people to use their too, but they’re still holding on to that stigma. free counseling services, the Coachella Valley NAMI suggests nine ways we can all help Volunteers in Medicine and the Joslyn Center reduce stigma: are using the term “strategy” over the more • Talk openly about mental health. clinical-sounding “therapy.” • Educate yourself and others. One of the best ways to reduce stigma, and • Be conscious of language. gain understanding, is knowing someone with • Encourage equality between physical and a mental illness. If you don’t think you do, mental illness. you’re almost certainly incorrect. More than • Show compassion for those with mental

Niki Kottmann, NAMI Coachella Valley’s board secretary, introduces speakers during the organization’s annual walk at Civic Center Park in Palm Desert on Oct. 14. Maria Sestito

illness. • Choose empowerment over shame. • Be honest about treatment. • Let the media know when they’re being stigmatizing. • Don’t harbor self-stigma. It’s important to remember that mental illness—or anguish without a medical-health diagnosis—can happen to anyone. According to the CDC, the risk factors include adverse childhood experiences, such as trauma or a history of abuse; experiences related to other ongoing (chronic) medical conditions, such as cancer or diabetes; biological factors or chemical imbalances in the brain; using alcohol or drugs; and/or feelings of loneliness or isolation. At this year’s NAMI Coachella Valley Walk, three community members shared their mental-health diagnoses with the crowd gathered in front of the stage at Civic Center Park in Palm Desert. Each also talked about how connecting with NAMI helped them find peer support, learning resources and opportunities for growth. Their participation

gave them hope, empowered them and made them feel like they weren’t alone in their journeys. The message, as spoken by NAMI Coachella Valley board president Christine Thomstad: “Together, we know that mental health for all is more than just a possibility; it can be a reality.” Money raised through the walk helps fund support and recovery programs for those living with a diagnosis, support for family members and public awareness campaigns. NAMI Coachella Valley also holds free support groups (in-person and virtually). Other local organizations also have free or sliding-scale (a fee based on income) support groups, counseling and/or case management. Some of these include Riverside University Health System-Behavioral Health, Riverside Latino Commission, DAP Health, the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert Center, and Jewish Family Service of the Desert. For more information on NAMI Coachella Valley, visit






‘Auntie’ Pearl McCallum McManus was instrumental in creating the village of Palm Springs

by greg niemann

o woman has made more of a mark on Palm Springs than Pearl McCallum McManus, the last surviving child of John G. McCallum—who eventually developed much of her father’s land in the desert. While Nellie Coffman of the Desert Inn was enjoying widespread fame as the “founding matriarch” of modern Palm Springs, Pearl was in the process of resurrecting the neglected family estate. She would eventually become known for establishing the Oasis Hotel, and later the still-famous Tennis Club. Pearl was born in 1879, the second daughter of John and Emily McCallum. At age 5, she and her older sister, May, and three brothers, John- small amounts of land after that. Pearl had little else but that land in 1914, ny, Wallace and Harry, came to settle Palm Valwhen she met and married Austin G. McMaley (what her father called the area that would nus, a former owner of a men’s clothing store become Palm Springs) with their parents. who was working in real estate in South PasShe then spent much of her youth living adena. It took a while for the well-groomed in the family’s Los Angeles house on West Irish city boy from New Jersey to adapt to the Adams Boulevard. There, she attended Marldesert, but he and Pearl set up a real estate borough Finishing School for young ladies. business, Pioneer Properties, in Palm Springs. She remained in Los Angeles to help her ailing Pearl became president, and Austin was the mother and became a teacher. secretary. They lived in the old McCallum adobe and spent their summers at the McMaStarting over in Palm Springs nus home in Pasadena. Pearl spent much of her By 1909, her father—the first permanent life re-acquiring Palm Springs land formerly non-Native American resident of Palm owned by her father and at one time was the Springs—had been dead for 12 years; the town’s largest individual property owner. long drought in the area was over; and Pearl and her now-invalid mother had returned to The Oasis Hotel Palm Springs. In 1924, Pearl and Austin began construction Thanks to the lack of water and indifferent of the village’s newest hotel, on McCallum hired help, much of their ranch had reverted property across the road from the Desert Inn. to the desert it had originally been. Only a few They hired Lloyd Wright, the then-estranged grape vines and apricot trees, with a half-acre son of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright, to of orange trees, were left. The income from design the Oasis Hotel, which opened in 1925. that meager yield at first sustained Pearl and It was a Modern/Art Deco building made her mother, but there were times when Pearl of solid concrete using an innovative slipform and her mother were so broke that Nellie Cofftechnique. Its most distinctive feature was a man sent them food. 40-foot tower which provided access to upper Over the next few years, Pearl found herself floors and a rooftop terrace. Years later, actress in the middle of water disputes between the Loretta Young had the uppermost room named Palm Springs settlers, water agencies, local tribes and what many, including Pearl, referred after her, as she claimed it was her favorite place in Palm Springs due to the view. to as meddlesome government agents. The Oasis Hotel featured a 90-foot dining Having already lost her brothers, Pearl lost room and guest rooms surrounding a fountain. her sister, May Forline, who had been weakIt was still standing until the major downtown ened by a typhoid attack when she was a girl. renovations of the last decade. Today, a corner When May realized she was dying, she asked of the longest-standing hotel in Palm Springs Pearl to take care of her daughter, Marjorie can be seen in a small courtyard behind 121 S. Forline. “Auntie Pearl” and Marjorie became Palm Canyon Drive; a plaque on the sidewalk inseparable for the next 30-plus years. commemorates the hotel. In 1914, her mother, Emily, died, and Pearl Of all her projects, the one that made her assumed control of all the McCallum holdproudest was the Tennis Club. It started with ings—primarily the land, between 5,000 and tennis courts for some of her English visitors. 6,000 acres, that her father had bought from When completed, they were considered to the railroad for $2.50 an acre. One of her first be among the finest courts in the world. The transactions was to sell a parcel of land, part club’s famous oval swimming pool, under two of her father’s original 80 acres, for $500. graceful palms which formed a “v,” became Remembering her father’s admonitions to a much-photographed model for resorts for hang on to the land, she only reluctantly sold

Austin and Pearl McCallum McManus. Courtesy of the Palm Springs Historical Society

decades. Pearl traveled widely and brought back ideas from Europe for her designs. She recalled a monastery on the Amalfi cliffs in Italy for the terrace and clubhouse of the Tennis Club, and hired well-known designer/architect Paul Williams of Los Angeles, the first Black member of the American Institute of Architects, to make her ideas become reality. The dining room featured one wall of rugged stone replete with a waterfall. Today, the Tennis Club and Spencer’s, the accompanying restaurant, is owned by Harold Matzner. There are currently 11 tennis courts, five spas and three swimming pools, with one- and two-bedroom units in the resort destination. Pearl was a sophisticate and a socialite, and she loved entertaining guests and celebrities from around the world. She was active in much of the social activities of the desert, and she made the Tennis Club facilities available for free for charitable events. She was a charter member of both the Desert Riders and the Palm Springs Polo Club. To some, if “Auntie Pearl” wasn’t involved, it wasn’t a significant event.

Austin McManus and the first City Council

Austin McManus served on the first City Council when Palm Springs was incorporated on April 20, 1938. He died in 1955 and was buried in the Welwood Murray Cemetery in Palm Springs. A few years later, in 1959, chartered buses

brought people in from Los Angeles to the Desert Inn to help celebrate Pearl’s 80th birthday party. While she could be frugal for herself, Pearl became a tireless benefactor, giving back much to the city she helped found. She donated to all sorts of charities, schools and the arts. She also established scholarships that put a recipient all the way through college. She gave so much to the Palm Springs Woman’s Club, including land, that the first meeting in November each year is now known as Pearl McManus Day. She also donated land to the Boy Scouts and the Chamber of Commerce. Pearl McCallum McManus died on July 24, 1966, and was buried beside her husband in the Welwood Murray Cemetery. After her death, the McCallum Foundation was responsible for millions of dollars of civic improvements and educational projects. The beautiful airport fountain built with her financial assistance was named in her honor. The name McCallum is so prevalent in the Coachella Valley due to her work more than her father’s efforts. It is on buildings, parks and schools and the large performing arts theater in Palm Desert—because “Auntie Pearl’ picked up the pieces, eventually thrived, and gave back to the village she loved. Sources for this article include The McCallum Saga: The Story of the Founding of Palm Springs by Katherine Ainsworth (Palm Springs Desert Museum, 1973); and Palm Springs, The First 100 Years by Mayor Frank M. Bogert (Palm Springs Heritage Association, 1983).






The month features the Leonid meteor

Planets and Bright Stars in Evening Mid-Twilight shower—and chances to view the two For November, 2023

brightest planets simultaneously

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



By Robert Victor

he four giant planets are visible after nightfall—two bright, and two requiring optical aid. Jupiter, Uranus and the Pleiades pull all-nighters on Nov. 2, 13 and 22, while November also sees Jupiter-Saturn’s 20-year cycle of divorce and reconciliation; the two brightest planets, Venus and Jupiter, in the sky together this month (and early December) for the last time until a year from now; and a head-on collision with Earth and some cometary particles. At dusk, Jupiter, of magnitude -2.9 to -2.8, gleams low, north of east at the start of month, and climbing higher through the east as the month progresses. At opposition to the sun on night of Nov. 2-3, Jupiter is up all night: low, north of east at dusk; high in the south in middle of night; and low, north of west at dawn. Saturn, of magnitude +0.7 to +0.8, glows well up in the southeast to south at dusk. Its rings at the start of and Iota in Cetus. November are tipped 10.5° from edgewise, Planets at dawn: Venus, faded since its giving us a better view than we’ll have again September peak, is still impressive at magniuntil the spring of 2027. tude -4.4 to -4.2. Magnified by a telescope, the Ranking next in brightness after Jupiter receding planet appears in gibbous phase, 55% at dusk, there’s a virtual tie between three to 67%, while shrinking from 22” to 17” (arcseczero-magnitude stars: Arcturus, sinking in onds) across. Watch Venus move east against E the west to west-northwest and disappearing the background stars by 1.1° to 1.2° per day, early in the month; Vega, very high in the passing 1.1° south of third-magnitude Gamma west-northwest; and Capella, rising in the far in Virgo on Nov. 17—with a telescope at high northeast. power resolving Gamma into a striking, equal Late in the month, Mercury, near magnitude pair now 3.7 arcseconds apart. -0.5, emerges in the southwest to outrank these The annual Leonid meteor shower reaches stars, but it hugs the horizon in evening twiits normal peak of only 15 meteors per hour light, so use binoculars. Mars is not visible at all, under ideal conditions just before morning passing behind the sun’s disk Nov. 17-18. twilight begins on Nov. 18. In addition this year, Other bright stars visible at dusk include there’s a possible enhancement of 10-15 brightAltair and Deneb, completing the Summer er-than-average meteors per hour, predicted Triangle with Vega; Fomalhaut, Mouth of the to be visible from the Western U.S. on Nov. 21 Southern Fish, below or to the lower left of Sataround 4 a.m., from a trail of debris released urn; and Aldebaran, eye of Taurus and follower by the Leonids’ source, Comet Tempel-Tuttle, of the Pleiades, rising in the east-northeast late during its visit in 1767. The comet is in a retin month. rograde orbit, which means its particles enter Jupiter and Saturn are 70° apart in the eveEarth’s atmosphere from the direction of Leo at ning sky on Nov. 1, moving to 66° apart on Nov. a very high speed, 44 miles per second. 30. The gap between the two giant planets is Venus passes 4.2° north of Spica on Nov. temporarily closing until a minimum separation 29. Jupiter, after its opposition on the night of of 61° on Feb. 5, 2024. Nov. 2-3, drops out of the morning twilight sky Try finding the two faint outer planets: Urawithin three weeks, but you can still observe nus, at opposition on Nov. 13, retrogrades 1.2° it every morning this month, just by looking this month, staying 11°-14° to the lower left of earlier. Ranking next in brightness after Venus Jupiter and within 2.3° of 4.3 magnitude Delta and Jupiter is Sirius, the Dog Star, in the in Aries, the brightest star between Jupiter south-southwest to southwest at dawn, followand the Pleiades. An easy binocular target, the ing Orion across the sky. 5.6-magnitude planet passes 2.15° south of View these two brightest planets simultaDelta Ari on the nights of Nov. 9 and 10. neously. From the Coachella Valley, Venus and Neptune, at magnitude 7.8, some 25° to 24° Jupiter are 132° apart on Nov. 1, when they’re east (to the left or upper left) of Saturn, is more 23° above opposite horizons 1.7 hours before of a challenge. Past its September opposition, sunrise; 150° apart on Nov. 15, when they’re Neptune slows its retrograde, creeping from 15° above opposite horizons 2.4 hours before 1.3° to 1.6° west-southwest of the 5.5-magnisunrise; and 168° apart on Nov. 30, when tude star 20 of Pisces, end of the handle of a they’re 6° above opposite horizons 2.9 hours compact dipper-shaped asterism of six stars of before sunrise. From an ideal place where no magnitude 4.4 to 5.9 fitting within a binocular landscape features block your view, you’d be field 5 1/4° across. Look for this “Neptune’s able to see both planets at once until Dec. 10, Dipper” asterism between the Circlet of Pisces when they’re 180° apart, and Venus will rise

November's evening sky chart. ROBERT D. MILLER


Aldebaran Arcturus

1 Deneb

8 15 Jupiter 22






Saturn 8 15 22 29 Mercury 29 22 Antares


Evening mid-twilight occurs when just before Jupiter sets. After that, your next the Sun is 9 below the horizon. chance toNov. catch Venus andafter Jupiter in the night 1: 41 minutes sunset. sky together15: will42begin in" about a year, when " " 30:just 42 above " " opposite " they’ll appear horizons soon after nightfall on Nov. 4, 2024. Before dawn, watch the waning moon pass by these stars and bright planets in the belt of the zodiac: On Nov. 1, Elnath, northern horn of Taurus, the Bull; on Nov. 3, Pollux and Castor, Twins of Gemini; on Nov. 4, the Beehive cluster in Cancer; on Nov. 6, Regulus, heart of Leo, the Lion; on Nov. 9, Venus (don’t miss it!); on Nov. 11, Spica; on Nov. 27, the full moon is between Pleiades and Aldebaran; on Nov. 28, Elnath; on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, Pollux and Castor. In the evening sky, watch the waxing moon pass by these stars and bright planets: On Nov. 14, Mercury (very low—look early, with binoculars); on Nov. 19 and 20, Saturn; on Nov. 24 and 25, Jupiter; on Nov. 26, Pleiades; on Nov. 27, Aldebaran and Elnath (past full and waning); on


Stereographic Projection Nov. 28, Elnath. Map by Robert D. Miller The Astronomical Society of the Desert will host a star party on Saturday, Nov. 11, at Sawmill Trailhead, a site in the Santa Rosa Mountains at elevation 4,000 feet; and on Saturday, Nov. 18, at the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument Visitor Center. For dates and times of these and other star parties, and maps and directions to the two sites, visit The Abrams Planetarium Sky Calendar is available by subscription from 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. He enjoys being outdoors sharing the beauty of the night sky and other wonders of nature.




hen Mike Thompson became the executive director of what’s now called the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert in 2014, he inherited an organization in turmoil. Critics said the organization was too male-focused, and didn’t do enough for younger people. Despite staff turnover, the nonprofit had outgrown its space in the Sun Center (at 611 S. Palm Canyon Drive), and the announcement of a new home for the Center the year before wound up being embarrassingly premature. Thompson and his board went to work— and transformed the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert. Among other initiatives, that new home eventually became a reality: In 2016, the Center moved into its own McDonald/ Wright Building at 1301 N. Palm Canyon Drive. The organization expanded its programs and staff, emphasizing outreach into the younger, more-Latinx eastern Coachella Valley—culminating in the opening of a second physical location in Coachella in 2021. During the pandemic shutdowns, the Center switched to all-virtual programming and outreach, while renovating the building to greatly expand the Scott Hines Behavioral Clinic, and dealing with unprecedented need at Community Food Bank at the Center, where the organization serves hundreds of people every Thursday on Belardo Road. Today, five of the 12 board members listed on the Center’s website use she/her/ hers pronouns, and the staff listing is as diverse as it’s ever been. Thompson left the Center in February 2021 to move to Tulsa, Okla., with his

A chat with Mike Thompson, the new (and former) CEO of the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert By Jimmy Boegle partner (now his husband), Ron Brady, to be closer to their families, especially Thompson’s mother. Board co-chair Mary Sue Allen stepped in as interim executive director until the Center hired a new CEO, Rob Wheeler, in July 2021. Wheeler had spent 22 years at the New York LGBT Community Center, primarily as deputy executive director and chief operating officer—but just 18 months later, in January 2023, Wheeler stepped down without explanation. Board member Don Zuidema stepped in as interim CEO, as the Center began a national search for a new leader. That search came to an end on May 23, when the Center announced its new CEO was actually not that new at all: Mike Thompson would be returning to the job in July. Thompson is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. His pre-Palm Springs resume includes a stint as acting president and chief operating officer of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and four years as executive director of Equality Utah. In early 2022, he became the chief impact officer for CenterLink, an international network of LGBTQ centers. I recently sat down with Mike Thompson to discuss his return, the Center’s future, and more. (Full disclosure: The Independent has been a media partner of the Center for more than a decade, and my husband and I are personal supporters of the Center.) The Q&A has been edited for style, space and clarity.

Welcome back. So … how did this happen? What was the process that led to you coming back? It started with a belated birthday call from Ted Briggs, the co-chair of the board. We kind of had a longstanding agreement to not talk about the work of the Center. So the call was, “Oh, happy belated birthday. How’s life?” Because of my work with CenterLink, I was clearly aware of the position opening, and because I’d maintained relationships at the Center, I was aware. I made a casual comment that, “Oh, it’s been sad to see the Center go through what it’s gone through the last couple of years.” Then I said, “I can’t help but wonder sometimes what it would be like to be back.” And he’s like, “Oh, well, maybe you should think about that.” There was no intentionality behind it. … So I said, “I’ll talk to Ron, and we will explore this.” We knew we wanted to be back at some point. It had always been, “as long as Mom is here, we will be here (in Oklahoma).” Weeks before that, she’d had a stroke. … After rehab was an attempt at assisted living, which wasn’t the right choice. It became a situation of grieving her while she’s still here. We knew we were on the memory care road, and knew that she was going to be in good care. It felt like (I had) permission to then actually really consider this—and so that’s how it started. You’ve been back since July. Yeah. Full time since August; July was kind of wading back in.

What’s it been like? To use our relationship as an example: You come in; we sit down, it feels like I saw you three months ago, or three weeks ago. So there’s a familiarity that’s made the transition easy, but at the same time, it’s a very different community. It’s a very different time. There are different people who I work with—not everybody, but many new people. So it’s this weird mix of old and new, simultaneously. Talk to me a little bit about the new part—specifically about the community. How has the community here changed since February 2021? I’m going to compare it to coming into this position in 2014. In 2014, it was a green field. A lot of people weren’t even aware that there was a Center, and for those who were aware, we didn’t have the breadth of programming that we have now. Later, we had this pandemic where people were told to isolate, stay put, physical distance, social distance. We encountered that in ’20 and ’21. (Our message was) physical distance, yes, but not social distance. We’ve got to maintain connection to create community, and we have to be careful about isolation, because isolation is dangerous. Those of us who have lived in the closet know how dangerous it is. We we’re still overcoming some of that—with people wanting to connect, yet not quite feeling comfortable. So we’re up against some conditioning, right? … How do we create connection points when the familiar no longer



works for people? We have some different challenges now. When you left in early 2021, the Center was still finishing the new clinic downstairs (on the second floor), and renovating the offices and rooms here on the third floor. Has the physical expansion of the clinic allowed the Center to serve more patients? Yeah, we went from 750 square feet with four clinician offices, to 2,800 square feet with 10 clinician offices and two group-therapy spaces. That square footage alone talks to the need in the community for behavioral health support. The fact that it still takes six weeks to get a clinician appointment says that even that doesn’t suffice. How long was the wait before? It varies, but it’s been as long as a few months out. Referring partners are in the same position. The changes in physical space have allowed us to serve a lot more people— not only in actual clients served from the community, but also more clinical trainees coming through, because we’re a clinical internship program, so we train professionals who are working toward their licensure hours. We create space for them, and give them the experience of working in an LGBTQ+ space and understanding the sensitivity of needs of members of our community. So when he, she or they are in their own practice or in a different therapeutic environment, they’ll understand the uniqueness of a trans person’s issues versus a cisgender person, or a queeridentifying person versus someone who’s not had a queer-lived experience. The Center’s space in Coachella finally opened (in 2021). You’d been working on it for years. What kind of impact is it having in the eastern Coachella Valley? The fact that we just had our seventh annual East Coachella Valley Pride event speaks to the community support of LGBTQ-identifying people in the eastern portion of the valley. We’re doing work in schools, and we’ve got partners with Planned Parenthood and Alianza (Coachella Valley), and we’re a drop-in site for folks after school. We’ve got a trans and queer clothing closet. It’s been really phenomenal. Thanks to the generosity of Jeff Weyant and Marty Massiello, who are big donors to the work of the Center Coachella, we’re hiring our first program director for Coachella and are thrilled that Miguel Navarro is now coming back to the Center to hold that position. The fact that we now will have four full-time people working in that office is significant—two of whom were interns. Marty and Jeff were underwriters of the initial internship program, because we wanted to identify young leaders in the community to then do the work in the community.

It’s been publicly announced that food, could we be doing to address food there’s going to be a new facility for the insecurity? There could be something we could Community Food Bank at the Center at learn. some point soon, in part because the demand has been sky-high. Talk about What steps are you taking to answer that a little bit. those questions? We have been fortunate to be in our current Well, one is starting to just ask the question. location since prior to my arrival, but that is a This is stepping outside of the specific month-to-month lease situation, which is not question, but I want the Center to be more of ideal for any organization. There’s been a talk a data-driven organization. When we met in over the years about needing something more 2014 … we could almost take a build-it-andsecure. While I can’t say the where or when, they-will-come approach. There’s a lot of great I can say I am in data through HARC active, encouraging (Health Assessment conversations, and it and Research for looks like early in the right? I watched it change Communities), year, we will have a There’s stuff (involving new, larger location data) that FIND Food in the spring of ’22, with a longer-term Bank is doing. But I’m lease for this Food interested in when Texas and Florida really Bank program. doing a more in-depth It’s (difficult) assessment within our were playing with, and for many people own community, so that to understand we can determine what I mean literally playing the depth and the those real needs are now breadth of food that we’ve got a good with, policy targeting insecurity in our baseline. That’s a longercommunity—and I’m term strategy, and I’m trans people. Those not sure that people already in conversations understand exactly with our board about states started passing what food insecurity how we might conduct is. It’s not necessarily that, and what data this legislation that being unhoused. It’s we might look to be not necessarily being getting back, and (how then became models hungry, although we would) then let our those folks in those future programming be for other conservative situations are food informed by that. insecure—but it places. expands beyond Working for that. Food insecurity CenterLink, you is not knowing for received insight into certain that in the LGBTQ+ centers next two weeks, across the country. you’re going to be able to afford food. There With some exceptions, Palm Springs are a lot of people in our community who are being one of the biggest, LGBTQ+ at risk of being food insecure. So I personally, community centers in some cities had as well as this organization, are committed been fading away and dying. How are to this Food Bank program, because our LGBTQ+ centers across the country are community needs us to be. doing today, overall? Are they making a comeback due to the political climate? How many people is the Food Bank It’s certainly a challenging time for centers in assisting each week? some communities. There are some centers About 250 to 260 households per week—and that are facing threats of violence, and that’s households, and there are varying physical threats against staff and visitors, numbers of people within each household. which makes it a challenge for organizations to operate in a community. That is very real, Do you have a goal in mind for how many and like you said, we’re privileged in this households the Food Bank can be serving community not to have that experience. this time next year? At CenterLink, when I was there, we had I don’t yet, because a lot of that is based on 328 member centers, so that’s a pretty vibrant the capacity within the site. We’re a little membership base. Many of those centers are restricted now, and that’s 1,600 square feet volunteer-run in communities where they that we’re operating out of currently. just needed a place for people to convene and What I’m also interested in is not just the create connections. You have that all the way distribution of food, but as an organization up to the Los Angeles LGBT Center, which and as a community, really understanding is the largest (LGBTQ+) organization in the food insecurity. What are the contributing world, and then many of us in between. … factors? What, besides the distribution of (Challenges are) based on the uniqueness

—Mike Thompson

of each community, and how willing a community is to invest in their center. Again, fortunately, we’ve got a very affluent community here that’s willing to invest in the work of the Center. For me to have that experience (with CenterLink), my biggest takeaway is we’ve got to make sure that the partnership between our governing body and management of the organization, so the board and staff, are really in partnership and understand our roles so we don’t put the organization at risk. There’s this idea of intergenerational equity: Don’t sacrifice today for the future, but don’t sacrifice the future for today. How do we hold that delicate balance in the way that we do our work? But also, those conservative communities I’ve referenced need communities like ours, because some of those centers are helping their folks plan exit strategies. I talked to a number of trans people who are needing to get out of Oklahoma, because they no longer feel physically safe there because of the political rhetoric, and the social climate that has been informed by the political rhetoric, so they need an escape plan. We want to be a beacon of hope for people living in those communities to get here because of the safety that can be found here. How has that anger, that hatred, that vitriol toward the L, the G, the B and especially the T communities changed since you first set foot in the Center’s former location in 2014? It’s gotten worse. Not for me; I’m a whitepassing, brown, cisgender male. Thanks to the layers of privilege that I experience as I walk through any given day, I don’t feel threatened. I feel safe. Yet there are those in our community who don’t. I watched it change in the spring of ’22, when Texas and Florida were playing with, and I mean literally playing with, policy targeting trans people. Those states started passing this legislation that then became models for other conservative places. … It’s frightening that it could turn so quickly. What can those of us living in relative privilege do to help? One, be aware of our privilege and understand that those who don’t experience (such privilege) need us to stand alongside them and speak out, be engaged, and make sure that we’re creating safe places. Where do you see the Center in five years, or 10 years? Considering our mission is helping LGBTQ people along their way, is that my hope is in five years, 10 years and beyond that, we’re still responsive. I’d like to think that culturally, we will shift in a way that the needs are less lifethreatening and more life-serving. But either way, whatever the need is, I hope we’re there to support that.



It's time for Greater Palm Springs Pride,

which means all sorts of events like live music, drag shows and … wrestling? That’s right! On Saturday, Nov. 4, Oscar’s Palm Springs will convert from a live music venue into a wrestling arena for the first Pride of the Desert Wrestling Tournament. The event is being hosted by Pollo Del Mar, the drag/professional wrestling personality of Paul Pratt, of the National Wrestling Alliance, and will feature two hours of LGBTQ+ and drag wrestling. Four “Triple-Threat” matches will result in four winners facing off in a “Fatal 4-Way,” and the winner will take home the first Pride of the Desert Wrestling crown. “I am really the only person who’s gone from the world of drag into the world of professional wrestling, and I’m the only person in the United States who really does the kind of character that I do, and that has offered me so many opportunities,” Pratt said during a recent phone interview. “I’ve worked all across the country doing LGBT-themed events, as well as mainstream professional wrestling. I work for the National Wrestling Alliance, which is the oldest existing and continuously promoting professional wrestling organization in the United States. It’s based and steeped in tradition, and I play something completely different in that programming.” A previous collaboration with Oscar’s led Pratt to bring the event to Palm Springs. “Having worked with all of these LGBTQ scenes, specifically shows, I really wanted the opportunity to utilize the platform I’ve been given over the last eight years in wrestling to bring something that had a flavor uniquely my own,” Pratt said. “Oscar’s presented me that opportunity. I worked with them a while back, and we did an event with the original members of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, and I was the host of that event. During the course of that, the management team of Oscar’s, specifically Dan Gore, and I talked about the prospect of doing wrestling at a future date—and here we are.” Pratt is excited to be presenting the tournament during Greater Palm Springs Pride. “Prior to working in the professional-wrestling industry, I have hosted pride events all over California,” said Pratt. “… One of the things I wanted to do is offer something that was unique and special and still focused toward the queer community, because we’re using LGBTQ+ professional wrestlers for this event. It’s not

just another dance party—and I love dance parties. I love drag shows, obviously, but I know that on a weekend like a pride event, there’ll be so many of those options, and this gives people something they can see that’s different, but still focused on our community.” Those who think that drag and wrestling don’t go together would be surprised to learn how much they have in common. “The elements of professional wrestling that I love the most are the things I love most about drag, really. It’s the drama, the theatricality, the larger-than-life persona, the glamorous costuming and the outrageousness of it,” Pratt said. “There’s a tongue-in-cheek element of professional wrestling, and there is certainly that soap-opera element of it that makes everything so big. The love for wrestling came before I was even exposed to drag, so at a very young age of 19, I actually did my first pro-wrestling shows.” However, Pratt’s feelings about his sexuality kept him from giving himself fully to the artform. “It did not work out at that time, because I wasn’t comfortable with myself,” he said. “I was not comfortable being a gay man, and I hadn’t accepted that fact yet. I wasn’t open, and I was so fearful of being discovered in a world where I felt I wouldn’t be accepted that it really tainted my opportunities, and it tainted my ability to effectively play a character. It certainly limited the ability I had to connect with my colleagues and co-workers over the shared passion of wrestling.” Once Pratt fully embraced his sexuality, he headed into the world of drag—which helped him rekindle a relationship with wrestling and create Pollo Del Mar. “I held on to my dreams long enough that a lot of the world was able to catch up to me,” Pratt said. “Wrestling has changed—not as much as I would like it to, but it has changed; our fan base has changed; and one of the most challenging elements of doing professional wrestling is finding a character that’s unique and memorable and hasn’t been done to death. My character, in the world of professional wrestling, is a fresh take on something that’s pretty traditional, and it’s working. … This is a chance for me to really represent our community and do what I love, which is wrestling … and open the door hopefully to people down the road, who, growing up now, will have something available to them in terms of representation and visibility that I never had.” Our conversation shifted to the topic of the drag bans that spread across the United States in 2023. Pratt said he was preparing for a pay-per-view event when he learned about Tennessee’s law aiming to restrict drag shows in public (which has since been blocked by the courts). “The whole drag-ban thing really became oddly personal to



me,” Pratt said. “The company I work for, the National Wrestling Alliance, our television tapings are in Nashville, which is centered in the whole heart of where the drag bans were originating from. It was very scary to me to think about while this lifelong dream was finally coming to fruition. I was in an extremely prominent storyline—a romantic storyline, believe it or not—and then this drag ban passed while I was on tour with them. We were getting ready for our pay-per-view event, and it impacted me so emotionally. … We were celebrating (the pay-per-view event) beforehand, and I ended up leaving that setting and going to my room and crying and praying. It sounds odd, but I was just like, ‘There’s nothing I can do about this.’ It was so impactful for me.” Pratt has seen Pollo Del Mar receive an abundance of love from the wrestling world and beyond, he said, and he hopes to continue changing the perception of drag. “I do not think that my portrayal is going to change the bigger picture,” he said. “One by one, there are fans I’m encountering who have had a set opinion of what it means to be drag, what it means to be LGBTQ, and what it means to have those things converge in the world of professional wrestling. They’re

watching my work, and it’s changing their perception. They are shocked, in many cases, that they actually like my character, and they like my work. More specifically, they are shocked that somebody who they thought was brought in to be a token and window dressing is as knowledgeable and passionate about pro wrestling as I am. I think that on a small scale, I am making some headway with individuals.” The Pride of the Desert Wrestling Tournament’s roster of wrestlers will be “fully representative across the spectrum of the LGBTQ+ community, so it’s going to be extremely racially diverse, ethnically diverse, and gender diverse,” Pratt said. “I’m working actively to make sure that we have a lot of representation there for people to hopefully see themselves in the ring. I think it’s really important that people have something that they can identify with.” The Pride of the Desert Wrestling tournament will take place at 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 4, at Oscar’s Palm Springs, 125 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way. Tickets start at $20, with a food/drink minimum of $25, and attendees are asked to arrive by 2 p.m. For tickets or more information, visit

Pollo Del Mar in the ring with a more conventionally attired opponent. Photos courtesy of the National Wrestling Alliance


It makes sense that, during Greater Palm Springs Pride, one of the most poignant musicals dealing with LGBTQ+ themes is being produced by a Coachella Valley


Michele said she hopes to honor the iconic role. “My mom, actually, at 5 years old, found me in the closet kissing other 5-year-old girls, so I never had to come out. It was just, ‘Well, that’s Christine, for you,’” Michele said. “I never dated women until a little more than a year ago. I had a really bad experience and didn’t think I could ever trust a woman again, and then another woman came into my life and changed that. I’ve dated men my whole life, but it’s just different with a woman. “Maureen is bisexual; she likes men, and she likes women—and she also likes to be the center of attention. … I think by the end of the show, it’ll hit differently with me. Right now, I’m still just kind of in shock mode that I’m playing my first dream role, and it’s really exciting and overwhelming. I feel like I have to be absolutely perfect, but I know that there’s no such thing.” Michele, a frequent Coachella Valley performer as a solo artist and with her cover band Christine and the Lost Keys, said she also relates to other themes from Rent. “This musical deals with starving artists who are just trying to get by—and that’s pretty much what I am,” Michele said. “I’m literally a starving musician still trying to figure it out. I just got back from New York; I was in a musical-theater workshop for two weeks, and I come back, and I’m like, ‘What am I going to do with my life now?’ I want to teach, because all I know is music and theater, and I just love it. “(The characters in Rent) are starving artists just trying to get by, and struggling with addiction—I’m also 11 years sober. I just really relate to the addiction and the starving artists and being a performer and just trying to get by.” During her stay in New York, among performing lessons and workshops, she got some special help for Rent. “One of the cast members of the 2006 Broadway production of Rent, Telly Leung, was there teaching a masterclass,” Michele said. “At the time I was playing Joanne, and I was like, ‘What advice do you have for someone playing this role?’ He did tell me that you need to bring your personal life into it as well. I remember one of the (teachers), when we were coming up to sing our songs, would say, ‘Never start an audition with a sad song. You don’t want to give your trauma away for free.’ Playing Maureen, some of it is a bit traumatic, stuff that I’ve experienced in lesbian relationships. I was planning to bring what happened to me into the role of Joanne, and now I’m playing a different role, so I’m still taking that advice. Even though you’re not playing yourself, you still have to bring a part of yourself into this character, to make it real, to make it believable.”

theater company. Rent is being performed by the Palm Canyon Theatre in Palm Springs, from Oct. 27 until Nov. 12. The musical, which focuses on a group of struggling New York artists, deals with themes of sexuality and the AIDS epidemic. Rent’s popularity has grown tremendously since the inception of the musical (which debuted on Broadway in 1996) and the film adaptation (2005)—and the themes are as potent as ever due to the current political climate. “I’ve been a fan of Rent for two decades now,” said Christine Michele, who is set to play the role of Maureen Johnson, during a recent phone interview. “I saw it in 2005, for the first time, in the movie theater, and I fell in love with the music, the concept—just everything about it. A year later, when I went to New York, I saw it on Broadway, and a few years ago, it came to the McCallum Theatre, and my mom took me for my birthday. It’s been a dream musical of mine to be in for as long as I’ve loved it, so when Palm Canyon announced that they were doing a production of it, I knew right away that I had to try out. This is actually my first time doing a show with Palm Canyon, and I’ve been doing theater for two decades now, so it’ll be new and exciting.” Michele is ecstatic to be playing Maureen. “I’m a bisexual woman, and I’m playing a bisexual woman,” she said. However, she was originally set to play the role of Joanne Jefferson. “They are two very different characters,” Michele said. “Maureen is very outgoing and wants to be the center of attention and is a bisexual woman, and is kind of insecure, whereas Joanne is a lawyer, and she’s a lesbian, and she knows what she wants and is in love with Maureen. … I’m loving getting to know everybody else in the cast, and just playing with the character and bringing my own spin on the character.” Michele explained how she handled moving from one role to the other. “I had just got off-book for Joanne, and I was really excited, too, because playing Joanne was definitely a challenge for me,” Michele said. “It’s a different kind of role for me, and I honestly had to take a different approach. Either way, I was going to be happy with whatever role I was going to play. … This was maybe three days before our first rehearsal, so I’m like, ‘Oh my god, I have to learn a whole new role when I just finished learning a different one,’ but I’ve done this before, so it wasn’t a big deal.” When we spoke to Michele, she was almost off-book (had her role memorized) with the character of Maureen. “Once you don’t have a book in your hand, you can really start playing with your character,” she said. “I had known that I was going to be in the show since May, so if I would have known then, I would have been off-book by now. … I’m still trying to learn how to put my personal self in this role as well.” Christine Michele and April Mejia, who is playing Joanne, during rehearsal.

Rent will be performed at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Oct. 27, through Sunday, Nov. 12, at the Palm Canyon Theatre, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. (There is no show Friday, Nov. 3.) Tickets are $38 for adults; $34 for seniors; and $17 for students, plus fees. Group discounts are available. For tickets or more information, visit





The Palm Springs Opera Guild celebrates 55 years of bringing the Coachella Valley culture


by Charles drabkin

or 55 years, the Palm Springs Opera Guild has been bringing the art form to the Coachella Valley through its Opera in the Park program, as well as special events for members and guests throughout the season at homes, the Rancho Mirage Library and PS Underground. The nonprofit is also committed to reaching students and fostering the next generation of opera lovers and performers by introducing them to the magic of musical storytelling. “Kids don’t necessarily need to learn opera, but it exposes them to another artistic discipline and widens their worldview,” said Jeffery Roberts, the Opera Guild board president. The Opera in the Schools program brings live operatic music to the Palm Springs and Desert Sands unified school districts. Each May, in Vienna, Paris, Amsterdam, Rome, New York, 35-minute interactive assemblies teach more Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Fe. Notable than 25,000 youth in grades K-12 about classingers who have come through the compesical music, language and how opera impacts tition include Sondra Radvanovsky, Angela the world. These programs foster the idea that Meade, Charles Castronovo, Lauren Michelle, opera is not just for the elite—but a universal Angel Blue and Amber Wagner. The event will expression which everyone should experience. surely attract some major up-and-coming talTo that end, the Opera Guild is working to ent, with more than $35,000 in scholarships to reach the diverse communities of the desert. be awarded this year. The winner will be fea“Although English, German, French and tured in a recital at the Rancho Mirage Public Italian operas constitute the ‘big four’ of the Library on March 13, 2024. opera world, this year, in partnership with Of course, Opera in the Park is the guild’s the Rancho Mirage Public Library, the guild is most beloved program. This free concert draws hosting a performance of zarzuela, operetta tourists and locals to Sunrise Park in Palm from Spain,” Roberts said. Springs. Roberts encourages everyone to mark Before the world shut down due to the their calendars to come on April 7, 2024. COVID-19 pandemic, the guild introduced its “This is the Opera Guild’s chance to present OPERAtunity program, a free, 14-day summer a concert that the entire community can enjoy, educational program for students from ninth with world-class singers in a beautiful downgrade through the age of 21. Industry profestown setting,” he said. sionals, composers, singers, librettists and an Guests are encouraged to bring a picnic accompanist came together with valley choral and a camp chair or blanket and enjoy the students to explore the art of opera, with performances. A limited amount of seating in students working one-on-one with the prothe “Café d’Opera” is available and can be purfessionals, practicing breath support, diction, chased by calling 760-325-6107. practice/time management, stage presence and I asked Roberts what motivates him. both historical context and modern develop“Art is essential for a stable society,” he said. ments in opera. OPERAtunity culminated in a “We are grateful for the opportunity to bring final showcase, with students performing both opera to this community.” solo and ensemble pieces. The guild is hoping to restart the program next summer. For more information, visit But before that, the Palm Springs Opera Guild has plenty going on. On Wednesday, Nov. 15, the guild will hold its Season Opening Party at Temple Isaiah (332 W. Alejo Road, in Palm Springs). It’s an evening filled with music, food, drinks and fun—as well as a great chance to learn more about the guild and enjoy an evening of opera. The event is free for guild members, and $85 for nonmembers. On Saturday, Dec. 2, the guild will hold the 40th Annual Vocal Competition, which brings together eight finalists from universities and performing-arts institutions around the Southwest for an evening of performances judged by The Opera in the Schools program brings live opera panel of experts. Winners from past compeatic music to the Palm Springs and Desert Sands unified school districts. titions are singing with companies worldwide,

November 16 - 19, 2023

Experience Amazing Art! Come experience stunning lakeside setting, best in class artists, top shelf bars, Napa Valley wines, the finest in local culinary delights, Live Entertainment. #1 Fine Art & Craft Event in the Nation 2022 & 2023 – Greg Lawler Art Fair Source Book

Winner! - Favorite Outdoor Art Festival

– Southwest Art Magazine Reader’s Choice Award 2023

#4 Fine Art & Design Show

La Quinta Art Celebration SPRING 2023 – Sunshine Artist Best 200 Art Show Awards 2023


Premier Sponsor






The ONE-PS ‘Lip Sync Battle’ features Coachella Valley leaders performing for good causes


magine local luminaries onstage, performing show-stopping song and dance numbers—for all the world to see! That’s exactly what will be happening at 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 12, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center. It’s called Lip Sync Battle! Members of Palm Springs organizations including the police and fire departments, Greater Palm Springs Pride, DAP Health, the Palm Springs Unified School district and others will compete in a performance battle to raise money for Palm Springs Parks and Recreation’s youth engagement programs and ONE-PS’ new-neighborhood development program. “It’s everything from dark music to During a recent phone interview with bubblegum pop,” she said. “There are a couple Shann Carr, the event’s emcee and producer, (of songs) that are as bubblegum as you could she explained how the event came to be. get, and one that’s spicy enough to probably “I produced a Lip Sync Battle maybe five raise some eyebrows.” times at the Cultural Center around 2014Carr explained why the event is benefitting 2015,” Carr said. “It wasn’t all organized, and both Palm Springs Parks and Recreation’s I wasn’t part of something (larger). I just youth engagement programs and ONE-PS’ made people do it for fun.” new-neighborhood development program. The Lip Sync Battle idea resurfaced when “City events rely so much on Parks and Rec, Carr was thinking about possible events that so we wanted to be able to give back to Parks truly put the fun in fundraiser. and Rec,” she said. “One of the things they’re “I have been a representative for the ONEtrying more and more to do is create youth PS neighborhoods organization for seven engagement programs, so 50% of proceeds or eight years, and they were looking for a will go to Parks and Rec youth engagement second fundraiser,” Carr said. “I’ve curated programs, in hopes of finding more things their Modernism home tour for the last five for the younger people and families who or six years, so they asked me what else I’d are moving to town to do. The other half done before, and I’m like, ‘I did this lip sync will benefit ONE-PS itself, but there’s a new a long time ago,’ and they were like, ‘That part called neighborhood development and sounds fun’—so we went for it.” support.” Went for it, they did—and even Carr Carr said ONE-PS is working to bring is a bit overwhelmed by the number of neighborhood residents together. participants. “I live in Demuth Park, and I have not really “I like to do things kind of big—but this been able to engage my neighborhood in doing turned out pretty big,” Carr said. things as a neighborhood,” Carr said. “Last Ten local organizations will be represented year, I put on Art in the Park in the Dark in by either a solo performer, a duo or a larger Demuth Park. … That was the first time I really group. Some examples include news anchor saw neighbors out, and I met people I didn’t Kitty Alvarado representing the Palm Springs know lived in the ’hood. I feel like if ONE-PS is Fire Department, Justin Lawler representing going to be a thing, and they’re going to put in the Palm Springs Police Department, and new neighborhoods, I think it’s cool to support Mike Thompson and Lex Ortega representing those neighborhoods with a few dollars. If they the LGBTQ Community of the Desert. need to have a little coffee gathering for all the “We lost a bunch of contestants at the very neighbors, we can help them do a mailing and beginning because people said yes, and then send a postcard to all their neighbors saying, they chickened out, or their lives became very ‘Hey, we’re getting together.’” busy, which is happening to all of us,” Carr While Carr was hesitant to share too said. “Every single one of us is overwhelmed much about what people can expect from the already with the season. I moved to town in performances, she did say the Lip Sync Battle ’98, and everybody used to say, ‘You can roll features two performers returning from her a tumbleweed down the main street, and previous series at the Cultural Center. you won’t hit anybody,’ and it was boarded “I work a lot in the volunteer-coordinators up, and there was nothing to do—and now sector, so people either run from me when there’s so much to do.” The range of music featured in the Lip Sync they see me coming, or they’re so excited to Battle will offer moments for every music fan, find out what batshit thing I want them to do next,” Carr said. “Mike Thompson, who is the Carr said.

Lip Sync Battle producer and emcee Shann Carr: “Most of the judges have some entertainment experience, and most of these contestants are not performers in any way. These are desk nerds—but they’re spicy desk nerds.”

executive director at the LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert, was in the Lip Sync Battle last time. … He was new in town, and it was a great way to meet people. Lex Ortega, who at the time worked at DAP (Health), now works at the LGBTQ Center with Mike Thompson. They were competitors last time, and they are a duo this time.” The Lip Sync Battle also features 11 judges from various community organizations. Some of the more artistic judges are even taking a performer under their figurative wing, and using their background in entertainment to mentor and assist. Judges include entertainers like Keisha D and drag queen Tommi Rose, as well as Jeannie Kays of the Palm Springs Library and Tamara Hedges of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter. (Full disclosure: The Independent’s Jimmy Boegle is also a judge, but he is doing no mentoring, given his complete lack of performing talent.) “Seven of the judges are coaching a contestant, so they get one rehearsal, and

they get 20 minutes alone in the theater together with the stage crew to play the music and talk about what kind of visuals and stuff (they’ll use), and then they … can have a coffee or a beer with the judge. “Most of the judges have some entertainment experience, and most of these contestants are not performers in any way. These are desk nerds—but they’re spicy desk nerds. We’ve got a cop, two school teachers and a principal, a bunch of executive directors. I’m really excited that they’re getting a little bit of coaching, and being the bossy old lesbian that I am, I’m certainly going to get my few words of coaching in as they do it, too.” The ONE-PS Lip Sync Battle will take place at 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 12, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets start at $40, with group discounts. For tickets and more information, visit



McCallum Theatre and Pappy + Harriet’s Present

Ruben & Clay

Emo Orchestra Thu, November 9, 7pm

Sat, November 18, 8pm

Presented through the generosity of Cary Lowe & Allan Ames

McCallum Theatre Education Presents

Palm Desert Choreography Festival Celebrating the Artists of Today, Nurturing the Artists of Tomorrow! Sat, November 11, 7pm Featuring Professional Companies Sun, November 12, 4pm Featuring Pre-Professional Companies

Les Misérables

Tue-Thu, November 28-30, 7pm Fri, December 1, 8pm Sat, December 2, 2pm & 8pm Sun, December 3, 2pm & 7:30pm

Live-to-Film Concert North American Tour

Seth MacFarlane & Liz Gillies “We Wish You The Merriest”

Whose Live Anyway?

Tom Papa


Tue, November 14, 7pm

Featuring Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops, Jeff B. Davis, and Joel Murray Fri, November 17, 8pm

TM ©1986 CMOL

Featuring Hawthorne Heights

Twenty Years – One Night

Tue, December 5, 7pm

2024 Comedy Tour Sun, February 25, 8pm

Presented through the generosity of Deanna Daneri

Order online ONLY at

Order tickets by phone



Follow us




‘Whose Live Anyway?’ brings interactive improv from the longrunning TV show to the McCallum


or most of the last 35 years, British and American TV audiences have been entertained by a set of lovable, creative goofballs through a series of improvisational acting games on Whose Line Is It Anyway? When the show isn’t in production, some of those aforementioned goofballs head out on tour with a stage show—and Whose Live Anyway? is headed for the McCallum Theatre on Friday, Nov. 17, featuring Whose Line mainstay Ryan Stiles, frequent guest stars Greg Proops and Jeff B. Davis, and actor Joel Murray. During a recent phone interview with Greg Proops, he explained how the stage show is to England and play, and France and San similar to, yet different from, the television Francisco and whatnot. After I finish with the show. guys, I’m going to go to San Francisco and do “Well, it’s a lot more interactive,” Proops a week at the Punch Line for New Year’s, and said. “We bring people out of the audience to then probably go to England and Paris and do do bits with us. We bring up people, and we the podcast. We try to stay busy.” sing to them, and we bring people up onstage Proops has enjoyed a long and fruitful for ‘Sound Effects’ and ‘Moving People’ (two career since he decided to become an frequently performed improv games). We entertainer. also take suggestions from the audience. The “I didn’t want to do anything else,” Proops TV show is a lot like watching us do improv said. “I don’t have any skills. I can’t type or through a pane of glass, whereas when you anything, and I hate meetings. I worked in an see us live, we’re all in your face—and you office, and it’s horrible. It was do-or-die, kind have to be ready to come up onstage and of, and I got really lucky, and it’s allowed me participate. There’s no sitting back, especially to go around the world.” if you’re in the front. Sometimes people sit Proops said he’s grateful that Whose Line is in the front, and they’re like, ‘Oh my God, I still going in 2023. didn’t realize you’re going to talk to me’—so “I’m lucky enough that Ryan (Stiles) wants you better wear something you like.” to tour,” Proops said. “Ryan and I have been Proops has been involved with Whose Line on the road together for over 20 years, and since its run on British TV, and although he the TV show has been on for 30-something loves the screen format, he prefers the show’s years, and we have a new season coming out. stage format. We shot it before the strike. There’s nothing “I’ve been on the show for 30 years, and else I’d really rather do.” we’ve been doing it that way on TV since Proops said he’s built deep relationships, I joined in 1989, but this one’s more fun,” both onstage and off, with his fellow Whose Proops said. “There’s no buzzer, no producer Line performers. and all that, so we really have a little more “It’s been everything to me,” Proops said. freedom to do what we like. We really come “I’ve known these guys for so long, and we’ve out and hit the stage running, and we really worked together for ages and ages. Joel has try to get a standing ovation every night.” been in the group since 2012; he’s the new Improvisational acting is a skill, and guy, so that’ll give you an idea of the kind staying sharp while crafting scenes without of continuity we have. When one of us can’t any script requires a lot of work. do it, we have Drew Carey or Gary Anthony “We play a lot, so we’re in pretty good Williams or Dave Foley or Chip Esten sit in. form,” Proops said. “We just got off the road We have an extended family, and we’ve known after two weeks, and then we had a couple all of them for years, too, so it’s just been days off, and now we’re back on the road for great. I could complain—but why?” a week, and then we have a day off, and then Proops has also had a rather successful we’re back on the road for two weeks. We’re career as a voice actor. always working.” “I’m doing Nightmare Before Christmas And even when Whose Live is on a break, (a movie in which Proops voices several Proops keeps busy, performing standup characters) at the Hollywood Bowl during comedy and recording his podcast, The Halloween time,” he said. “That’s live with Smartest Man in the World. a full orchestra, Danny Elfman, Catherine “I love being on the road, and when I’m O’Hara and the whole enchilada. It’s our 30th not on the road with the guys, I go out on anniversary, and we’re doing it live again at the road with my wife,” he said. “We go


Joel Murray, Ryan Stiles, Greg Proops and Jeff B. Davis, the cast of Whose Live Anyway?

the Hollywood Bowl. We do it every year at different venues; last year, we did London, Tokyo and New York. That’s an unbelievable thrill. As much as I love the (Whose Line) guys, I really love doing that show, because you get to sing with a whole orchestra. When the music starts playing, I almost burst into tears. It’s so loud and fabulous, and it’s a giant undertaking. There are hundreds of us on stage, so it’s great.” I asked Proops if he could pick just one form of entertainment if he had to. The answer: “No.” “I’ve been lucky. I was Bob the Builder for a long time, and then I’ve been on all the Star Wars stuff like Clone Wars, Resistance and all the video games,” said Proops. “I did that a million years ago for George Lucas. I don’t think I could pick one thing; I really like doing all of it. I have a podcast with my wife, and we also do a film club. We’re showing The Innocents on Halloween night here in Los Angeles; we show a movie every month here in L.A. I get up first and do a podcast, and then we share the picture. We show a lot of French movies, and classics like Sleuth and Cabaret and A Hard Day’s Night.”

For Proops, however, it all comes back to improv—and the skills it has helped him develop. “Doing improv really helps me do everything,” Proops said. “It helps you do standup and podcasts and everything, because I’m not that worried about what’s going to happen. I have confidence in making a mistake and incorporating it in. Leonard Cohen said, ‘Forget your perfect world; cracks are where the light shines through,’ so I’m always looking for a mistake to make everything better. I have a new standup album that I recorded last year in San Francisco for New Year’s, and I improvised that mostly, too. “I’m comfortable onstage. The stage is my safe place—and the world is where I feel nervous and scared. On the stage, I have control.” Whose Live Anyway? will take place at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $45 to $85. For tickets and more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.







The first Palm Springs Food and Wine Festival is packed with foodie star power




THE THANKSGIVING PLAY is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals on behalf of Samuel French, Inc. | Dezart Performs is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit.

by Cat Makino

he first Palm Springs Food and Wine Festival, taking place Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 11 and 12, will bring lovers of fine food and wine together with more than a dozen celebrated chefs, bites from numerous local restaurants, and tastings by 50 of California’s outstanding wineries. “Palm Springs has the hip, trendy and bohemian chef-owned restaurants that will be highlighted in this event,” said Jeff Hocker, the executive producer of the festival. “We’ll be introducing some amazing foods from chef-owned restaurants, such as the Pink Cabana, SO.PA, the Colony Club, Workshop and others in the valley. Also, we’re bringing in some of the coolest musicians that will perform in very chill areas KCBS Radio and a popular podcaster, will be while sipping fine boutique wines and eating one of the celebrity hosts. Born in London, samples of unique and inspired cuisine.” he has lived in the U.S. for 30 years, and Celebrity chefs scheduled to participate now resides in San Francisco. include Susan Feniger, Martin Yan, Top Chef “My love for food started in 1989 with alum Joe Sasto and Brown Sugar Kitchen’s a food-writing assignment for the BBC,” Tanya Holland, among others. he said. “Food for me was something more Andrew Warner, corporate chef at Tommy than to stay alive; it has been my passion. Bahama, talked about some of the cuisine The food culinary community is my tribe.” he’ll be presenting, including ahi tuna tacos, Mayclem said he’s happy to participate, in bite-sized key lime pie samples, and some part, because some of the festival proceeds famous Tommy Bahama mai tais. He’ll be will go to support the Culinary Institute of demonstrating the preparation of aguachile America, providing scholarships for the next bluefin tuna with pears, pineapple, cilantro generation of chefs. The CIA, DAP Health and and fresh citrus juices. Les Dames d’Escoffier are listed as the charity “People always compare us to chain restaubeneficiaries. rants,” he said. “But people don’t realize our “This is dear to my heart,” Mayclem said. food is made from scratch. We use fresh pro“… The festival is in its infancy, but like a duce, seafood and seasonal ingredients, and good wine, it will age well.” use regional dishes to create our menus.” Different tastes have always excited WarThe Palm Springs Food and Wine Festival will ner. “My Japanese grandmother moved to take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, Nov. Oregon after she got married, and introduced 11; and noon to 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 12, at the me to different tastes and foods,” he said. Palm Springs Stadium Pavilion, 1901 E. Baristo “Since then, I’ve always loved to try and expeRoad. Single-day general admission is $110. For rience new things.” tickets and a complete list of participants, visit To match the food, domestic and national wineries will be offering some of their best wines, including organic vintages. Numerous wine experts will also take part, including Geoff Labitzke. He’s only one of 414 Masters of Wine alive, according to the Institute of Masters of Wine. Shelley Lindgren, a best-selling author and leading authority on Italian wines, will be on hand. Lindgren has earned the James Beard Award for Outstanding Wine Program, and has even been knighted by the Italian government, receiving the Cavaliere dell’Ordine Della Stella Italia designation. Also present will be astronaut Jose Hernández, who recently received the 2016 National Hispanic Hero Award, presented by the United States Hispanic Leadership Institute; he now owns Tierra Luna Winery. Liam Mayclem, “The Foodie Chap” on Andrew Warner, corporate chef at Tommy Bahama.







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.








Call us today to schedule a complimentary consultation and get acquainted with an independent, Fee-Only financial planning & investment management firm located here in the Coachella Valley. Allow us to show you the benefits that result from a financial plan tailored to helping you achieve your goals.

Awarded Best AC Repair Company By Coachella Valley Independent Up to $1000 Off + Special Financing On A New HVAC System HIGHEST QUALITY EQUIPMENT EXTENSIVE WARRANTIES

COMPASS ROSE FINANCIAL PLANNING 760-322-5200 • 333 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 112-A • Palm Springs, CA 92262













A trip to Mexican Wine Bootcamp in Baja was eye-opening—and beyond impressive




’m always a little surprised when customers come into the shop asking for “local wines.” Take a short drive down Interstate 10, and you’ll see that not much grows out in those sand dunes. For a long time, my suggestion was a bottle of wine from Santa Barbara. A scenic 230mile drive northwest will land you in the Sta. Rita Hills or Santa Maria, where you can taste Country Club and Cook Street beautiful chardonnay, pinot noir and syrah. Up until recently, my perception was that was as De sert “local” as you were going to get. Some of you are thinking, Palm “But wait! What about Temecula?!” My answer is this: As far as I know, Temecula wines are not sold outside of Temecula. And I 760-340-5959 have yet to taste anything from Temecula Day two was focused on the international (aside from one winery called Vindemia) that influence on winemaking in Mexico and the is worth the drive. avant garde natural style of wines being made So, Santa Barbara was my recommendation across the country. until I discovered the “other” 230-miles-away We began our day at Adobe Guadalupe, wine region. I’m talking about the Valle de one of the early pioneers of wines in Baja, Guadalupe in Baja, Mexico. Yes, Mexican wine. with a stunning 60-acre estate. The winery, I’m fresh off another trip to this amazing tasting room, villas and gardens feel like valley, where I spent three days with fellow you’re in a Spanish colonial fairy tale from sommeliers from around the country, along the 16th century. This was a more intimate with winemakers and principals from not only tasting, highlighting the winemakers that have the Valle, but from all over Mexico. It was come from all over the world to make wine called Mexican Wine Bootcamp, and I can’t in Mexico, like Camillo Magoni from Italy, think of a more appropriate name for the Agostina Astegiano from Argentina, Taylor 12-hour-long days spent tasting hundreds of Grant from California, Christoph Gärtner from wines, touring beautiful properties, and eating Switzerland, and the Lurton family, owners of some of the best food I’ve ever tasted. Grand Cru Classe, Chateau Brane-Cantenac, I know, poor me. from Margaux in Bordeaux, France. These are On day one, our group met in San Diego just a few of the winemakers who have left and boarded a motor coach headed for the their wine homeland to explore and cultivate San Ysidro border crossing into Tijuana. the burgeoning Mexican wine culture. In the past, when I’ve driven down myself, From there, it was off to the new Mercado I’ve used the Tecate port of entry, which is at Bruma Winery to taste the natural, or as much simpler if you’re headed there from the it’s sometimes called, “minimal intervention” Coachella Valley. Either way, crossing into wines. These are wines that are typically Mexico couldn’t be easier. Coming back over lower in alcohol, wild-yeast fermented, and the border into the U.S. … well, that’s a whole organically or biodynamically farmed, with different ballgame. fun and off-beat labels. Best described as wine We arrived at Hilo Negro winery around where nothing is added and nothing is taken 3 p.m. to a sparkling-wine reception in their away, these wines are not exactly traditional beautiful and modern tasting room. We in their flavor profile—but they are crisp and sampled dozens of delicious bubbles from vibrant, and paired beautifully with the fresh, the wineries of Symmetria, Bruma and al pastor tacos we were served. Tresparauno in Baja, and Vinaltura, Casa Vegil Lulu Martinez is the winemaker for Bruma and San Juanito from Queretaro. (along with a host of several other wines like Once our palate was warmed up, we headed Palafox and Casa Jipi) and is widely considered up the hill to the restaurant at Hilo Negro for the most important female winemaker in dinner and a tasting session with one of Baja’s Mexico. She cut her teeth working as part most iconic winemakers, Daniel Lonnberg. of the winemaking team at none other than Originally from Santiago, Chile, where he Chateau Brane-Cantenac in Bordeaux, where was the winemaker for Concha y Toro, Daniel she met Henri Lurton. He expressed a desire relocated to Baja after working a few harvests. to make wine in Mexico and knew Lulu was He now is the wine consultant for more than a the perfect fit to become his winemaker in the half-dozen wineries in Baja, as well as his own Valle de Guadalupe. label called Vinsur. We toured the winery and grounds at Bruma It was after 11 p.m. when we got back to the (an absolute must-visit!), and then it was off hotel to crash—before starting all over again at to enjoy dinner al fresco in their wine garden, 9 a.m. Drinking for a living is tough work. tucked away in the vineyards.

Katie Finn (second from right) and colleagues at Mexican Wine Bootcamp.

Hear me when I tell you: The food and the gracious hospitality in Mexico is unparalleled. Unequivocally, the best meals of my life have been in the Valle. The culture is warm, and the people are beyond welcoming and kind. The dinner at Bruma, under the soft glow of string lights in the oak trees, was unforgettable. Fresh, handmade pasta, wood-fired pizza and recently picked garden vegetables were just a glimpse of what the night had in store. Once again, it was close to midnight when my head hit the pillow—only to get up a few hours later and do it all again! The third and final day of “bootcamp” started with a seminar at the Museum of the Vine and Wine, where we discussed the future of wine production in Mexico, and how to best present these gorgeous offerings to American wine lovers. I tasted wines from all over central and northern Mexico; I was completely blown away by the cabernet sauvignon and syrah of Guanajuato. I fell in love with the red blends from Queretaro and Aguascalientes, and the stunning, high-elevation (7,000 feet!) malbec from Coahuila. The remainder of the day was spent at

the remote winery of Solar Fortun, which featured tiny boutique producers that make less than 3,000 cases per year, followed by an evening at Casa Magoni winery, which showcased the larger operations that are more well-known. Dinner was a traditional whole hog asado with all the fixings. If you’ve never seen this South American style of cooking— where the animal is flayed open, hung on an iron cross, and slow-roasted over an open fire—it’s shocking and amazing all at the same time. This awesome group of wine aficionados spent our last night together sitting around fire pits, eating like royalty, and polishing off the last of the wines. The Valle de Guadalupe is a magical place for lovers of wine, food and hospitality. Don’t underestimate the wines of Mexico. Just like Napa’s wines 40 years ago, they just keep getting better and better! Katie Finn is a certified sommelier and certified specialist of wine with two decades in the wine industry. She can be reached at katiefinnwine@






Old-school arcades, craft beer and amazing ciders are San Diego highlights



By brett newton


n my last column, I chronicled the first part of my beer journey during a recent week in San Diego. Here’s the exciting conclusion! Around the halfway point in my journey, I found I was walking more from place to place: If my destination was within a mile, I’d walk. The reasons for this were many—the weather was gorgeous; there are the obvious health reasons; and it allowed me to justify the things I was to Country Club and Cook Street consume after said walks. De sert One of these long walks occurred one evening after morePalm half-pints at Burgeon at the Arbor in Little Italy. I wanted to check up on Lost Abbey Brewing after an announcement that their brewery taproom in San Marcos (the original with 760-340-5959 Brettanomyces yeast. This 8% alcohol by location of Stone Brewing) would no longer volume beer is very dry, with hints of tropical be a Lost Abbey location. This made me fruit, baking spice and a malt backbone with a curious about the state of their beers and nice, biscuit character. This was a weirdly nice their downtown location called The Church, a accompaniment to the Mexicali-style hot dog mere 1.2 miles away from Burgeon. I ordered from the stand in the patio area. After a brisk walk in the cool night—past My fears of Lost Abbey’s quality slipping were Petco Park, where people were pouring out entirely unfounded, thankfully. from that evening’s Padres game—I found One of the biggest surprises didn’t involve The Church. The location was an actual beer at all. I am a gamer from way back, and Mexican Presbyterian church built in 1906, I deeply miss the days of arcades like the one relocated and renovated in 2015. Behind the that used to be in the Palm Desert Town Center. taps are two imported Italian religious statues (Anyone else have nostalgia for Yellow Brick and a unique stained-glass window featuring Road?) Arcades now often have machines that Lost Abbey’s Celtic cross logo. In the middle give you tickets and resemble kiddie casinos are two long communal wooden tables more than a place to drop in tokens and enjoy. flanked by booths with benches resembling Aero Club Bar was a gem that looked unpolished pews. I’ve recently enjoyed a few nice lagers from the frontage road beside Interstate 5 in from them, but I was wondering how the Little Italy, but inside was a dark, “divey” bar “old hits” were tasting. My eyes lit up when that featured pool tables, air hockey and an I spotted Carnevale, their saison fermented arcade room with a dozen pinball machines,

San Diego’s Aero Club Bar features an impressive arcade. Brett Newton

and eight or so cabinets of varied games. I fell in love. On top of that, they had an impressive liquor selection. This was nice, because their tap list was relatively mediocre. I settled on a pour of E.H. Taylor Rye, loaded up a card to play games in the next room, and commenced gaming. Some highlights include the 60th Anniversary James Bond pinball machine, which had the feel of the older, mechanical machines; a dual-seater Mario Kart cabinet; a Golden Axe II cabinet, a traditional beat-em-up game that makes meeting new people incredibly easy if they join in on one of the four sets of controls; and a cabinet that contained hundreds of games one could call up, from ’70s arcade classics to ’90s Super Nintendo and Super Famicom titles. The latter machine is where I found Gladiator and Arkanoid, two incredibly nostalgic titles I would play at the convenience store down the road when I was a young lad in Yonkers, N.Y. During the two nights I was there, I played until my wrists and forearms were sore, and enjoyed pints of Golden State’s Mighty Dry cider. I will definitely go back when I can. On my final evening in San Diego, my good friend James and I walked down University Avenue in North Park from his house to a meeting that was set up with Lara Worm, owner of Bivouac Ciderworks. They reached out to me when they read my recent column on ciders—but I was going to visit anyway, because of how good the two ciders I tried were. Lara was an excellent host, allowing us to try all the incredible ciders on tap as well as some brandy cocktails; feeding us some

delicious chicken schnitzel and a really nice meatball dish; and giving us a tour of the 5,000-plus-square-foot cider house being built, complete with an open drinking space, walk-up coffee bar, larger tank space in back, tasting bar, guest kitchen and speakeasy for the aforementioned cocktails. James and I were impressed, not only because of the incredible quality of the ciders (Lara emphasized how she is battling the common misconception that ciders are sickly sweet—dry ciders are indeed best!), but because of her interesting background as a former U.S. assistant attorney in Washington, D.C., and San Diego before she opened Bivouac. We then bade Lara farewell and walked down to Rip Current Brewing‘s taproom for a nightcap pint of their bock. I returned, slowly, to the desert the next day, first stopping to hike at the Blue Sky Ecological Preserve, nestled in between Lake Poway and Lake Ramona, and then at Burgeon Beer Company’s main location in Carlsbad, to stock up on some of my favorite beers for myself and friends. I felt very sad to leave, as I usually do, but I was glad to be home with my new experiences to keep me company. San Diego is a neverending place of interest and wonder to me, and I hope to move there one day. But at the moment, I am home—and home isn’t that bad. 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







We have biscuits and gravy for brunch, followed by Korean fried chicken for dinner By Jimmy Boegle



Opens November 17!

WHAT Biscuits and gravy WHERE Lay’ Vince, 540 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs HOW MUCH $5 CONTACT 760-534-7362; WHY It’s a delicious bargain. I’ve been hearing and seeing rave after rave about Lay’ Vince, the tiny restaurant in the former Frankinbun space on Indian Canyon Drive that has three identities. In the morning, it’s a breakfast space, offering up a limited menu of inexpensive treats like biscuits and gravy, crème brulee French toast, a breakfast burrito of the day, eggs, sausage, etc. At lunch, the offerings switch to tacos, a shrimp ceviche tostada, a bean-and-cheese burrito, a daily lunch special and so on. After the daily (except Sunday) 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. hours, it becomes a privatedining/special-dinners space—with all of the fare lovingly prepared by chef Jon Merchain. I knew all of this when I walked in to get brunch to-go on a recent Saturday. I didn’t know I’d be walking into utter chaos—and I mean that in the best way possible. The chaos doesn’t come from being busy; I was the only customer on my recent visit. It comes from the fact that Lay’ Vince is not just a restaurant—it’s also a place where you can by fresh vegetables, farm-fresh eggs, various packaged food items and more. Behind the counter, Merchain is busy preparing all the food, with prep items stacked seemingly everywhere. It’s beyond charming—and the food is beyond tasty. We sampled various items, including the breakfast burrito of the day (with sausage and an added egg, $7.50), that crème brulee French toast ($5) and the biscuits and gravy ($5). As I write this, it’s been four days since my Lay’ Vince visit—and I am still thinking about the biscuits and gravy. It was the best version of this dish I’ve had in years, with great sausage, savory gravy and a nice layered biscuit. And for $5? Not only is it fantastic; it’s a delicious bargain.

WHAT Soy garlic chicken WHERE BeeCh, Please, 67555 E. Palm Canyon Drive, No. A-105, Cathedral City HOW MUCH $23.99 CONTACT 760-202-0144; WHY It’s a flavor bomb. Regular readers of Charles Drabkin’s Restaurant News Bites column know that Umami Seoul, a beloved Korean restaurant in Cathedral City, went through some changes over the summer. The owning family’s daughter took over operations, changed the menu to focus more on Korean fried chicken and beer—and smooshed together the words “beer” and “chicken” to invent a cheeky new restaurant name, BeeCh, Please. While I am on the figurative fence about some of these changes, I can say that all of the food we had on our recent dinner visit was excellent—especially the Korean fried chicken. The menu includes a variety of fare, including a dozen or so appetizers, ramen options (try the curry one!) and some Korean specialties, but the fried chicken is the star of the figurative show. The chicken, cut into bite-sized pieces, is fried (with some small cylindrical rice cakes) in one of several sauces; we tried both the soy garlic and “fire” options. The entrée also comes with salad, rice and pickled radish cubes. If you want to eat a bit healthier, you can also substitute in grilled chicken—but where’s the fun in that? Both varieties were splendid. They can dial down the sweetness a notch or two on the soy garlic sauce, as far as I am concerned, and they could make the “fire” sauce a bit spicier—but I still enjoyed them immensely. The salad, which was delivered before the entrée, provided a nice contrast to the chicken, while the picked radish cubes were effective palate-cleansers. One bit of advice: If you’re really craving crispiness, dine in rather than getting takeout. We got most of the fire chicken to-go, and it inevitably softened in the box—although it didn’t affect the tastiness. Yes, the name Beech, Please, is a bit cheeky—but the food is seriously good.




Restaurant NEWS BITES By charles drabkin IF YOU’RE GOING OUT FOR THANKSGIVING, PLAN AHEAD During my first Thanksgiving in the Coachella Valley, after I’d hosted at my Seattle home for many years, I decided to go out for dinner. My best friend from Seattle flew in; I booked a table at the now-defunct Bernie’s Supper Club; and we had a lovely time—even though there was a clown, in full face, having dinner there. (I have a phobia, OK?) Please remember that this is a tourist community, meaning many restaurants will be open on Thanksgiving—but time slots, particularly for larger parties, tend to fill up quickly. In other words, make your reservations now. The same goes for Christmas Eve. (It feels silly to mention that so early, but I would be remiss in not reminding you.) IN BRIEF Relatively new to Yucca Valley: Snakebite Roadhouse, at 55405 Twentynine Palms Highway, offers interesting bar food, including a basket of chicharrónes, sandwiches, pasta and steaks. The website is still under construction, so find their page on Facebook for the latest information. … Desert Bakery is now open at 14201 Palm Drive, No. 108, in Desert Hot Springs, featuring a variety of Mexican breads and pastries. Again, find their page on Facebook for more information. … New to Palm Springs: Play Lounge, at 2825 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, has board games to play while you enjoy coffee, beer, wine and a full menu of sandwiches, nibbles and breakfast items. This is a great place to hang out with friends, have some snacks and while away the hours! Learn more at … The sad news: RuBerry Salsa has closed its brick-and-mortar location in Palm Desert. The good news: Fans of their street and fusion tacos can still get your faves, including chicken with wasabi ginger slaw, behind Hair of the Dog Pub, at 555 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Check out for updates. … Chef Lance Velasquez, of Biscuit and Counter fame, has been announced as the new executive chef at the soon-to-open Alice B, at 1122 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, in Palm Springs. The restaurant is opening as part of Living Out, the new LGBTQ 55+ community, and will be open to the public. Keep your fingers crossed for an opening in late November, but delays are the name of the game in the Palm Springs restaurant community. Sign up for the newsletter and keep up to date at … There is some activity at the old home of New York Company, at 1260 S. Palm Canyon Drive, with a possible name: Cipolline Osteria. I have a call in to the building owners, who also own El Mirasol and are listed on the Alcoholic Beverage Control website as having applied to transfer the liquor license. I’ll share more details when I get them. … Canopy Wine Lounge—owned by Noah Mamet, President Obama’s former ambassador to Argentina, and vintner Alejandro Bulgheroni—is set to open soon at 175 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, and will feature wines from across the globe. Maybe this is your chance to sip some rosé with Michelle, Sasha and Malia! Actually, probably not; as you may recall, President Obama was more of a beer drinker. … Tea N Tea has opened at 77940 Country Club Drive, #7-2, in Palm Desert, with boba, kombucha, protein shakes and, of course, tea. A rotating selection of sweet treats is also on offer. It’s a great place to go if you need a little pick-me-up. There is no website or social media presence we could find, so head to Yelp maybe? … Goody’s Family Restaurant, a Coachella Valley mini-chain, has opened a fifth location at 75046 Gerald Ford Drive, in Palm Desert, with all-day breakfasts and a delicious club sandwich. Learn more at … In news regarding a chain that is definitely not mini: Denny’s has opened a new location at 42455 Washington St., in Palm Desert. Another is also being constructed in Cathedral City, at Vista Chino and Landau Boulevard. Details at … DRST Club, at 78075 Main St., No. 105, in La Quinta, is new and offering vintage-inspired recipes like mint and pimento lamb, or land and sea with lobster and veal. The concept is based on the 1930s architecture of the building—they’re leaning into the super club aesthetic. See the full menu … Also new to La Quinta: Kiki’s, at 46660 Washington St., a design-focused Italian restaurant with pizzas, pastas and interesting-looking entrees. Check out the full menu at kikislaquinta. com. … Camden Cellars Wine Bar, at 49990 Jefferson St., No. 110, is new and bringing wine tasting and small bites to Indio. Try the CV flatbread with local dates and prosciutto, or the oyster po’boy. Learn more at Got a hot tip? Let me know:

Reservations recommended. Call 760-779-5000 Open Thursday through Tuesday 71680 Highway 111 #F, Rancho Mirage (Next to Hilton Garden Inn)




The Desert Candlelight Concerts bring local talent to the Mary Pickford Theater The Venue Report: KISS, JO Dee Messina, Pia ZadorA—and More! 35 Local indie-pop trio Koka brings the catchy melodies on debut EP ‘4EVER’ 38 The Lucky 13: Get to know two amazing drag queens—one a veteran (literally), the other a newbie




Pappy & Harriet’s and the McCallum Theatre unite to present Emo Orchestra




should you buy or sell now!

Events 2023

don’t roll the dice

with such an important decision! Call Kevin Stern

760-250-1977 Owner/Broker/ DRE 01376548

20+ years in greater palm springs

February 15-25, 2024 On Sale Now

Architecture Tours by Modernism Week October through May Tickets at Major


Civic Presenting




Nov 2

2023 HUMP! Film Festival

Nov 3

Agua Caliente Cultural Plaza & Museum Opening

Nov 3–5

Palm Springs Pride Weekend

Nov 3-4

Arenas District Block Party: KGAY 106.5 & White Party Global

Nov 4

HRC Palm Springs Garden Party

Nov 4

Palm Springs Pride 5K Run & Walk 2023

Nov 5

Palm Springs Pride Parade @ 10 AM

Nov 8

Michael Childers' One Night Only

Nov 11

Brothers of the Desert Annual Wellness Summit

Nov 11

Palm Springs Veterans Day Parade 2023

Nov 12

EQCA Equality Awards Palm Springs

Nov 11-12

Palm Springs Food & Wine Festival

Nov 17-19

McCormick's 75th Palm Springs Exotic Car Auction

Nov 19

The L-Fund Annual Golf Tournament 2023

Nov 20

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Nov 24-26

The Cher Show @ The McCallum

Dec 2

31st Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade

Subscribe to the Oasis Insiders Newsletter or visit our Day-By Day Events Calendar


Sponsors as of October 19, 2023. Photo by Monica Orozco.






Pappy & Harriet’s and the McCallum Theatre unite to present Emo Orchestra

By matt king


t’s rare for music genres as different as emo and orchestra to be combined. It’s even rarer for music venues as different as Pappy and Harriet’s and the McCallum Theatre to team up—but both of these rarities will occur when the aptly titled Emo Orchestra event takes place on Thursday, Nov. 9, at the McCallum. Hawthorne Heights, an emo-music staple, will be joined by a live orchestra to perform Hawthorne Heights songs alongside other emo relationship and got through the deal points of how to make it work, because this is something classics. I recently talked to the co-owners of they had never really done, where they’re Pappy & Harriet’s, JB Moresco and Lisa Elin, working with another promoter. A lot of times, via Zoom about the collaboration. they’ll rent out the theater for an event, but “The opportunity for Emo Orchestra really this is actually a true partnership, where we drove the newfound relationship with Mitch both said, ‘Hey, we both believe in this concept Gershenfeld (president, CEO and artistic and this band.’” director) and the McCallum,” Moresco said. While it’s unusual for emo and orchestras to “We had done a successful show with the agent join forces, it’s not unheard of. My Chemical of Hawthorne Heights. … It was a Tuesday in Romance and their hit album The Black Parade October, and Pappy’s is one of those places come to mind—and some of those songs where a lot of bands can sell out a Friday or will surely will find their way into the Emo Saturday night in the 350-cap indoor room, Orchestra show. Elin said the goal is to make but to sell out a Tuesday is a pretty big deal.” attendees happy. Moresco, Elin and their team had heard “It’s so obvious to some degree,” Elin said. great things about the members of Hawthorne “In a time now where we’ve come out of the Heights from someone on staff, and those great pandemic, a lot of people haven’t socialized, things all turned out to be true, they said. and I think a lot of people have kind of “Our in-house electrician is actually really forgotten what it’s like to be in a collective good buddies with a big music guy who’s based space. There’s a lot of worry and fear in the in Ohio, and JT Woodruff from Hawthorne Heights is sort of (that guy’s) right-hand man,” world around everything that we deal with every day, from climate change to politics— Moresco said. “He’s telling me, prior to this, and this is a way that people really kind of get ‘My buddy’s always saying how great a guy their ya’s out. They come and they scream, JT is,’ and he was completely right about all and they cry, and they lose their minds. They those things. He’s a super, super amazing guy, sing every word, and it really is a way where and you don’t really get that all the time in we’ve seen people come back together and the music space these days. Any opportunity emotionally enjoy each other. It’s emotional to work with them going forward, we were enjoyment on a hyper level—because that’s super receptive to, and (the band’s agent, what emo is about.” Ben Mench-Thurlow) came with this sort of Presenting emo rock in a theater that hosts brief, saying, ‘Hey, we’re putting something grand stage shows may seem like an odd fit, interesting together, and we’re looking at but Elin said there are a lot of similarities 1,000- to 2,000-cap theaters.’” between the two worlds. Those who know Pappy & Harriet’s “I grew up going to Broadway shows, and understand it is not a traditional venue; it’s a doing something like this in a theater setting small, intimate indoor club, with a larger stage is very exciting,” Elin said. “I’ve seen every outside complemented by desert dirt and the Broadway show from Snow White to The beautiful night sky. Still, Pappy’s received the Who’s Tommy, and when you see a rock opera request for the theater show. on Broadway in a theater like that, you see “I was like, ‘Oh man, this is really, really how much it actually works together. There’s cool, but we wouldn’t be able to do seating,’” also a lot of showmanship involved with how Moresco said. “I had been kind of following JT runs the shows. He’s very much like a this theater in Palm Desert, so I said, ‘What storyteller, and he takes you on a trip. For us, if I reached out to this theater? Take a look the challenge is now just finding that audience at this theater; do you think this would (at the McCallum), because I don’t think people work there?’ He’s like, ‘Oh, that’s exactly the are looking at it the same way. People think kind of space that we’re doing most of these that’s where they would go and see something shows in.’ I reached out to the theater and that generally speaks to an older demographic, got put in contact with Mitch. We hit off on a

Emo Orchestra featuring Hawthorne Heights.

and we’re trying to draw in a younger demographic and be like, ‘You can go to your emo night, but put on your best goth clothing. You have a velvet seat for this one; you don’t have to stand on floorboards and dirt. You can actually go and get dressed up and make it a real experience.’” Moresco said it was important to Woodruff and Mench-Thurlow for a pair of tickets to be available for less than $100, and the tickets for the McCallum show start at $48 each, or $96 for a pair. “The irony there is that those tickets have actually been the softest (selling) of all the tickets,” Moresco said. “The most expensive tickets closest to the front are the ones that are all gone. It’s very interesting how people are spending money on music right now. It seems like if you’re into the show, you’re going to get the best ticket, and the price is really not an objective.” Moresco and Elin hope this collaboration will lead to more partnerships among desert

venues and beyond. “This is a very unique kind of show, and if we can have some success here on this one, I think there’ll be future opportunities,” Moresco said. “In our perfect world, it would be a scenario where it’s a band that works both at a jewel box-type seated theater, and in a standing-room-only outdoor 1,000-cap space, and it could be a Friday night down there, and a Saturday night at Pappy’s, or vice versa. … This is our first time really co-promoting something outside of the actual venue, but we certainly would be open to any opportunity, because for us, it’s all about putting good music where it’s accessible to people—and people can’t always get up to Pappy and Harriet’s.” Emo Orchestra featuring Hawthorne Heights will take place at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 9, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $48 to $78. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit




MULTISENSORY MUSIC The Desert Candlelight Concerts bring local talent to the Mary Pickford Theater



by Cat Makino

one-of-a-kind musical experience, where the warm glow from flickering candles creates a mesmerizing ambience. This is how Denise Welch, co-owner of Desert Candlelight Concerts, described these performances, which have enchanted audiences around the world—and they’re coming to the historic Mary Pickford Theater in Cathedral City, held monthly through March. Welch said 2,000 candles will illuminate shows featuring performers in genres from classical, to jazz, to contemporary and even world music. Audiences can “relax from your busy work schedule, and enjoy the sounds under the spell of the soothing music of the extraordinary will be local Will Donato, a smooth jazz talents of local artists,” Welch said, “These composer, alto saxophonist and recording concerts bring the community together. artist, whose song “Infinite Soul” reached No. They’re reasonably priced, where you can 1 on the Billboard Smooth Jazz Airplay chart meet locals and walk away. They’re also in in 2019. the middle of the week, so you won’t miss Other scheduled performers include out on weekend events.” Sergio Villegas, born in Santiago, Chile, and Welch said the venue, the Mary Pickford regarded as one of the world’s top multiTheater, is also special. instrumentalist studio musicians; Frank “Since it’s not owned by a (big chain), the DiSalvo, who sings numbers from the era outside is like the good-old movie theaters of Frank Sinatra and his contemporaries; in New York with the sign outside,” Welch and singer Leslie Page, described as having said. “It’s beautiful to walk into. It has two one of the finest and most adaptable voices, stories, which again gives you the feeling of and dubbed by producers as the “one take being in that old-time movie theater. You can wonder.’” just sit back and relax on large, comfortable seats and enjoy the multisensory musical The Desert Candlelight Concerts take experience.” place at 6 p.m. on various dates, at Mary The Wednesday, Nov. 15, performer will be Pickford Is D’Place, 36850 Pickfair St., in renowned violinist and multi-instrumentalist Cathedral City. Tickets are $45 to $65. For Jeremie Levi Samson, a local who has been tickets or more information, visit www. touring the world since he was 16 years old, with more than 2,500 performances in Europe, the United States, Asia and Mexico. “I will take the audience on a musical journey across the world, through the prism of my own experiences,” he said. “These experiences include meeting and playing with a lot of musicians, learning their traditional music in a friendly, family atmosphere, and getting to know the local people.” Born in Paris to a musical family, he started playing the piano at the age of 2, and found the violin at age 7. He attended the Conservatory of Saint Maur and the Lille Conservatory, where he won a gold medal and a development prize with honors. He trained under musical greats including Bernard Wacheux and Radu Blidar, as well as noted jazz artists. “I have always been guided by my passion for music, learning by my life experiences, meeting others and sharing my music,” Samson said. “After all, isn’t life and music all about love and relationships?” The performer on Wednesday, Dec. 13, Jeremie Levi Samson will perform on Nov. 15.

Billy Stritch

Elvis: The Early Years

November 3 – 4

November 5 (760) 322-4422

Nov. 12 REFUNDS & EXCHANGES: All sales are final. There are no refunds, transfers or exchanges. Tickets are only valid through or Purple Room. No third party tickets will be honored.

Carole J. Bufford November 10 – 11

Judy’s Old-Fashioned Christmas

Marvelous Marilyn Maye

November 17, 18, 19, 24, 25

Nov. 26 Dec. 3, 10, 17

Thanksgiving Dinner



Tues-Wed-Thurs 4 - 6 PM




ROSE MALLETT Jazz legend sings the music of Holiday, Vaughn, Ellington.


CHARLES HERRERA, DARCI DANIELS & MICHAEL HOLMES Swinging to the music of the Rat Pack Era



Sass, sex & songs – One of the desert’s most popular performers

1900 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, CA (Inside Club Trinidad Resort)



The Venue REPORT NOVEMber 2023 By matt king

The Lettermen



Creating vibrant community by helping LGBTQ+ people along their way.


Happy November! Here’s to cooler temperatures—and a fantastic selection of Coachella Valley events. At Acrisure Arena, Firebirds hockey is back, alongside sports, music and more! At 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 1, the legendary makeup-wearing glam-rock force Kiss adds a Palm Desert date to their never-ending farewell tour. Tickets start at $124.75 if you wanna “Rock and Roll All Nite.” Enjoy another farewell tour, this time from Argentine singer and composer Leo Dan, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 4. Celebrate 60 years of Nueva Ola (Latin American new wave) with tickets starting at $65. Tickets are moving fast to see viral sensation Pentatonix perform a capella versions of Christmas hits at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 14. Tickets start at $39.50. At 6 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17, bring out the kids to see Disney Junior Live on Tour: Costume Palooza, featuring singing, dancing, acrobatics and a huge costume dance party. Tickets start at $29.95. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 18, Regional Mexican quintet Fuerza Regida, from San Bernardino, will visit our local arena. Tickets as of this writing start at $200. Acrisure Arena, 75702 Varner Road, Palm Desert; 888-695-8778; www. The McCallum Theatre is back in full swing this month. At 6 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 8, Michael Childers is presenting One Night Only—Las Vegas: The Golden Age 1950-1970, an evening of Broadway and Hollywood performers donating their time and talents to perform. Tickets start at $85, and the proceeds will go to the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center. The Palm Desert Choreography Festival returns again this year, happening at 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11, and 4 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 12. The Saturday date will feature performances by professional dance companies, while the Sunday date will feature pre-professional companies. Tickets start at $20. At 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 19, 1960s harmonizers The Lettermen head

to the Coachella Valley. Tickets start at $35. McCallum favorite Jeffrey Siegel returns for Keyboard Conversations at 7 p.m., Monday, Nov. 20, this time focusing on the music of Chopin and Liszt. Tickets start at $25. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; Fantasy Springs is featuring music—and a powwow. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 4, get your classic rock fix with BachmanTurner Overdrive. Tickets start at $59. Grammy Award-nominated country star Jo Dee Messina visits the desert on her Heads Carolina, Tails California tour, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11. Tickets start at $39. Immerse yourself in Native American culture at the 40th annual Cabazon Indio Powwow, starting at 5 p.m., Friday, Nov. 24; and 11 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 25, and Sunday, Nov. 26. Admission is free. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 30, Latin singer/songwriter Natalia LaFourcade will perform in Indio. Tickets start at $59. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; Spotlight 29 Casino is hosting two group music events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11, get a double dose of Latin tunes with Sonora Santanera and Sonora de Charlie Alvarez. Tickets start at $35. If you’re missing the music from, say, 30 years ago, the I Love the ’90s tour has got you covered. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17, Vanilla Ice, Rob Base, Tone Loc and Color Me Badd will perform. Tickets start at $35. You must be 21 or older to attend Spotlight 29 shows. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www. Morongo Casino has music aplenty! At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 3, Latin act El Coyote Y Su Banda will light up the high desert. Tickets start at $83. CeeLo Green, the unique voice behind hits like “Crazy” and “Fuck You,” will perform an intimate show at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 10. Tickets are $25. Tickets are almost gone to see iconic performer Dionne Warwick’s special Morongo show at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17. Available tickets started at $107 as of this writing. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 18, Taiwanese singer Michelle Pan will visit the valley. Tickets start at $68. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www. Agua Caliente in Rancho Mirage features some hot entertainment. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 3, enjoy a triple-threat of fantastic voices continued on page 36






Local indie-pop trio Koka brings the catchy melodies on debut EP ‘4EVER’

By matt king


aving some of the first songs you ever create go viral on streaming services can be both a blessing—and a curse. Local indie-pop group Koka knows this well. Their first release, “Baby’s Breath,” now has tens of thousands of Spotify streams—even though band members remember the track as “shitty” and think their earlier works are “not good.” were focusing on writing catchier melodies. For Maybe the band—Edith Aldaz on vocals, a lot of the songs on the EP, we went through Sebastian Camacho on bass and Ubaldo “Uba” three or four different versions of melodies Norzagaray on guitar and synthesizer—is until we actually chose one. It was the same being too self-critical. After all, the band has thing with the lyric process. We really focused had fans since its beginning, in 2018. After on trying to make this as enjoyable, easy to growing as artists, songwriters and producers listen to and catchy as possible.” through a few singles, the band was slated to For nearly two years, Koka went through a finally release its debut EP, 4EVER, on Oct. 26. process of trial and error, crafting more than If catchy synth-riffs, dance-y beats and 20 songs to find the sound and direction for beautiful, reverb-soaked vocals are your jam, then you’ll love 4EVER. The five-song project (I 4EVER. “I tell these guys all the time that, for me was able to hear four of the songs in advance) personally, all five songs are very strong,” includes sunshine pop sounds on “Flight,” Norzagaray said. “We’ve been working on them while “Fantasies” is a dark, sweaty club banger. for so long, and I can still listen to them and “Is This the Day” has a groove that sounds enjoy them and not get tired of them.” like it was plucked straight from the local ‘80s Added Camacho: “Before—not that we radio station, and “Strung” mixes video-game would hate the songs—but we would listen to synth with operatic, soothing vocals. them and just not really feel anything. It would During a recent Zoom interview, the band be like, ‘All right; it’s finished, and it sounds members explained how they focused in on like that song we wrote before,’ I think with crafting 4EVER. these ones, no matter what version we heard, “I remember after we played the Indio we felt like it kept getting better. We’ve been Tamale Festival in 2021, the next day, I was playing them live … but the final version we driving back to my dorm at school in L.A., and have, no one’s heard those versions. They’re I was on a phone call with Uba,” Camacho said. different, and we’ve changed certain lyrics or “All we were talking about was our previous specific melodies, or have certain outros and music, because we realized that the song intros or bridges. People were liking it live, so that people mainly liked had specific factors we can’t wait to see what they’re going to say about it—and we incorporated those specific when it comes out.” things into the new music. We used to think Of course, the songwriting process has to that putting a bunch of instruments on one eventually come to an end. song would make it better, so with this whole “We can sit here for another three years and project, we stripped it back and limited what just keep working on them,” Camacho said. we put on. We just mainly focused on synths, “There’s always going to be something we can catchy vocals and having really good-sounding change, but I think all music has an expiration drum machines.” date when you’re working on it, and it has to One of the songs mentioned on that phone be released. Otherwise, it’s going to stay this call was “Muchacho de Los Ojos Tristes,” a thing that you’re always working on.” song Koka covered and released in August of 4EVER shows Koka’s progression as a that year. band—and that can be credited, in part, to the “I was like, ‘When we play that at shows … fact that every step of the songwriting process that’s what they enjoy the most,’ and I know was fully collaborative. it has a lot to do with the fact that it’s a catchy “We all took part in writing the lyrics, and classic song—but I think we did a good unlike in the past,” Aldaz said. “We’ve been job of Koka-fying it and making our version,” more collaborative on that, and we’ve also Camacho said. been more collaborative on writing the vocal Added Norzagaray: “That song brought us melodies. It really shows what we can all put together in terms of how we wanted to move into the project. It’s not just like, ‘Uba does this forward with our new music. That song is very part, and Sebastian does this’; all of us meet synth-heavy and has great melodies, so we


together and show all our thoughts. It helped to move the theme of the EP, because I wanted the theme to show someone’s progression of life, with them going through the struggle, them going through their mistakes, then learning from them and overcoming what comes after.” The darkwave vibes of aforementioned sweaty club-banger “Fantasies” are a tad different from previous Koka songs. “Around 2021, the shit we were making was darker, for some reason,” Camacho said. “We were trying to make a song for It Came From the Desert, Vol. 1, and then all of the stuff we were making was dark. I think it comes from a lot of the influence that we have from ’80s music. I was listening to a lot of New Order and Boy Harsher, and I knew we wanted to experiment more with drum machines and synths and synth bass, and it just kind of came naturally. … There was a point where we were like, ‘All right, it’s there; we may or may not use it,’ but it was one of the songs we kept coming back to. Every little thing we added, it just kept getting better and better.” (Full disclosure: I was the person who put together It Came From the Desert, Vol. 1.) The band members said they’ve noticed their music is better when they collaborate. “When it comes to sharing ideas, we’re all very open, and at the end of the day, it comes to what’s best for the song,” Camacho said. “I’ll tell you right now, I’ve mentioned so many

dogshit ideas, but I feel like if the three of us keep throwing stuff to the wall, something’s going to stick. … If there are specific ideas that I’m iffy about, and one of us is like, ‘I’m very confident about this; trust me on this,’ then we go ahead.” One example of this is “No Quiero Llorar,” the first song Koka wrote for 4EVER (and the only song on the EP not mentioned earlier). “I didn’t like it, actually,” Camacho said. “I scrapped it within a year, and thought it was just whatever, but Uba really liked it and wanted to work on it and have it on the project. I was like, ‘All right, I trust this guy,’ and if he says he sees something in it, then sure, we’ll work on it. It’s still here, and it’s going to be released. It’s sounding really, really good.” Camacho reflected back on earlier Koka releases, and said the comparison between those songs and the new EP is “night and day.” “All the songs, even the last thing we released, that was us working our way around GarageBand and Logic and learning how to make songs and learning how to play instruments—and now it’s all led up to this,” said Camacho. “We feel like we have a very solid project, and we can’t wait for people to listen to it. This feels like we just started Koka yesterday, and this is our first song we’re going to release.” For more information, visit koka10 or



We’re Doing Business with PRIDE in the Coachella Valley. Our 250 members support equality – and they support you! See what our members have to offer at

Affiliate Chamber


The Venue REPORT continued from page 34 from Frankie Avalon, Fabian and Lou Christie. Tickets start at $30. Top-selling recording artist, songwriter, actor and author Tony Orlando will share his talents on The Show stage at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 10. Tickets start at $25. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11, the original Jersey boy himself, Frankie Valli, heads to town with the Four Seasons. Tickets start at $85. It’s been more than four decades since British post-punkers Echo and the Bunnymen began, and now they’ll head to the 760 at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17, for a special local performance. Tickets start at $25. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 25, get into the holiday spirit with electric violinist Lindsey Stirling and the Snow Waltz tour. Tickets start at $65. Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; Agua Caliente in Palm Springs offers blues, jazz and laughs, as always. Desert Blues Revival Wednesdays bring the fiery guitar of Laurie Morvan Band (Nov. 1), the Chicago blues of The Gand Band (Nov. 8), a benefit for a local synagogue in the form of Jews Do the Blues (Nov. 15), Palm Desert rockers Crimson Crow (Nov. 22) and the country blues of Emily Rose and the Rounders (Nov. 29). Shows are at 7 p.m., and tickets start at $10 to $25, available at eventspalmsprings. com. Jazzville Thursdays intend to soothe the soul with sounds from the pianist-led Yuko Mabuchi Trio (Nov. 2), the dynamic vocal presence of Allan Harris and His Soul Jazz Quintet (Nov. 9), vintage jazz from U.K.-born Alex Mendham and His Orchestra (Nov. 16), and a Sweet Soul Christmas by Greg Adams and East Bay Soul (Nov. 30). Shows take place at 7 p.m., and tickets start at $15, available at Caliente Comedy Fridays feature a double serving of Rene Vaca (with 8 and 10 p.m. shows on Nov. 3), Shapel Lacey (Nov. 10), Rachel Wolfson (Nov. 17) and the LGBTQ Showcase hosted by Shann Carr (Nov. 24). Shows are at 8 p.m. unless otherwise noted, and tickets start at $19.99, available at www.eventspalmsprings. com. Agua Caliente Casino Palm Springs, 401

Drive-By Truckers

E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 888-999-1995; Pappy and Harriet’s mixes cold desert nights with some sizzling shows. Alt-country rockers Drive-By Truckers are setting up camp in Pioneertown for HeAthens Homecoming West, a weekend of performances happening Friday, Nov. 3, through Sunday, Nov. 5. Tickets are $50. At 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 7, the indoor Pappy’s stage gets soulful with performances by Thee Sinseers and The Altons. Tickets start at $40. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 8, enjoy an Emo Orchestra pre-party with Hawthorne Heights performing a DJ set before heading to the McCallum Theatre the next evening. Tickets start at $25. Enjoy two days of Jerry Garcia tributes from Jerry’s Middle Finger, happening at 8:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17, and Saturday, Nov. 18. Tickets are $26, or $46 for both days. At 9 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 26, American singer-songwriter, model and actress Sky Ferreira heads to Pappy’s. Tickets start at $40. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-228-2222; Oscar’s in Palm Springs some drag shows and intimate concerts for Greater Palm Springs Pride and beyond. At 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 2, celebrate PS Pride ’80s style with ultimate theater queen Paige Turner. Remaining tickets are $35. Only a few tickets remain for the 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. performances on Friday, Nov. 3, featuring drag celebrity Varla Jean Merman and the fun of Deven Green and Handsome Ned. Tickets start at $29.95. At 7 p.m., Monday, Nov. 6, enjoy an evening with Broadway performer and movie star Pia Zadora. Tickets start at $39.95. Pay tribute to soft-rock legends on Carpenters Tribute Night at 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 10. Tickets start at $34.95. At 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11, Tony Award-winner Debbie Gravitte brings her sassy style and swinging arrangements to Palm Springs. Tickets start at $34.95. Oscar’s Palm Springs, 125 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs; 760325-1188; The Purple Room features multiple opportunities to catch great performers. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Nov. 3 and 4, renowned pianist and singer Billy Stritch shares songs and stories. Tickets start at $55. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Nov. 10 and 11, vintage pop and cabaret performer Carole J. Bufford will grace the stage. Tickets start at $40. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Nov. 17 and 18; and 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 19, Purple Room favorite Marilyn Maye will sing the paint off the walls. Tickets start at $79. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.



3 Restaurants Unlimited Flavors

Proudly Supporting and Serving Our Community 760-320-1501 760-325-8490 760-202-4499


Streaming at




What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live? I regret never seeing Prince. A true musical genius.

NAME Mario Monreal, aka Miss Cherry Superstar MORE INFO In a town full of fantastic drag queens and kings, it can be hard for new performers to work their way into the limelight. However, this is not been the case for Miss Cherry Superstar, the drag personality of Mario Monreal. In the last few months, Miss Cherry Superstar has danced, sang and impressed audiences all over the valley, landing a spot in Vanity’s Drag Star Challenge All Stars at One Eleven Bar in Cathedral City. Every Sunday through December, the contestants will compete to move on to the next round, with the winner crowned “The Ultimate All Star.” For more info, visit For more on Miss Cherry Superstar, visit www.instagram. com/misscherrysuperstar.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure? Parodies, like dirty and nasty parodies that could never be played over the air.

What was the first concert you attended? The first solo-artist concert I attended was in August in Las Vegas, and it was Greta Van Fleet!

What’s your favorite music venue? The Wiltern in Los Angeles. It’s small enough to enjoy bands, with no bad seats in the house.

What was the first album you owned? The first album I bought with my own money was during my freshman year of high school. I begged my parents to take me to the store to buy Lemonade by Beyoncé.



Get to know two amazing drag queens—one a veteran (literally), the other a relative newbie by matt king

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head? “We stand side by side ’til the storms of life pass us by. Light my life, warm my heart. Say tonight will be just the start,” “Caught Up in the Rapture” by Anita Baker. I absolutely love that song. NAME Timothy McIntosh, aka Marina Mac MORE INFO To be a drag queen, you’ve got to be tough—but few local queens are as tough as Marina Mac, the drag personality of former Marine Timothy McIntosh. Apart from mastering the things that make drag queens fantastic, like comedy and dancing talent, Marina Mac stands out with truly exceptional makeup skills. You can catch Marina Mac at 9 p.m., every first and third Saturday, at One Eleven Bar in Cathedral City. For more info, visit For more on Marina Mac, visit redmac27.

What band or artist changed your life? Jim Morrison of The Doors. He proved that you don’t have to have an amazing voice to show art. He was a musical poet. I have a terrible voice, but I remind myself of Jim when I do musical theater. I own it; the audience will catch on. You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking? Michael Jackson: “If you could start over, would you change anything?”

What was the first album you owned? Madonna, Something to Remember.

What song would you like played at your funeral? I don’t want a song, nor a funeral. I want people to party and celebrate the love and friendship we had. Dance music should be playing.

What bands are you listening to right now? I’m listening to Kylie Minogue’s Tension album. Everyone should be listening to it.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time? Madonna, Confessions on a Dance Floor. This album is brilliant, start to finish.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get? I’m not sure if everyone loves it, but I just can’t get into mumble rap.

What song should everyone listen to right now? “All Your’n” by Tyler Childers, because I said so. It’s lovely.

What was the first concert you attended? Disturbed, Music as a Weapon Tour, in 2002.

What bands are you listening to right now? Right now, I’ve really been on Greta Van Fleet and Olivia Rodrigo, and I’m still riding my Beyoncé high.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get? I truly, truly would love to understand screamo music. I can totally see the technique in the voice, but I wish I understood the vibes. What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live? Because I fulfilled my dream of seeing Beyoncé this year in September, I would probably now kill to see someone like Diana Ross perform crazy hits one last time. What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure? I am a huge musical theater head, so anything that is belt-y, gaudy or straight up a show— I’m there. What’s your favorite music venue? To be honest, I’ve always noticed my favorite memories or experiences come from local venues! What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head? “They stare ’cause they know I’m the I-T-GI-R-L. You know I am that girl!” “IT GIRL” by Aliyah’s Interlude has been on repeat for weeks, because I need to feel the rush of it all! What band or artist changed your life? The one and only queen Bey (Beyoncé) really taught me to embrace that fierce, feminine and always-funny and funky sides of myself. Her dedication and passion for the art, truly in every way, as well as her versatility and her want for growth in this industry are truly game-changing. You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking? That’s a tough one. There are so many things I could ask, but the one thing I would need to know is, Rihanna: WHERE IS THE ALBUM? WHERE HAS IT BEEN?! WE NEED THIS ALBUM! What song would you like played at your funeral? “Vienna” by Billy Joel. It always helps me slow down. Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time? It will most likely be Renaissance by Beyoncé. This past year, not a single song has been skipped, unfavorited or anything. I can sing, rap and speak every word or verse, live or studio version. It has truly given me a new light. What song should everyone listen to right now? “Pearls” by Jessie Ware. We stan the girls who make music for the fun and camp of it all! Music is about expression and letting everything go!




“TV Without Hesitation”— some abrupt endings. By Matt Jones

36. ___ Lanka Wayne 31. Pointer finger 38. Vow at an altar 4. Rod who wrote the 35. “For what reason?” 39. Measure from an 1974 No. 1 1 hit 37. German white wine annual checkup, “Seasons in the Sun” 40. Exch. purchase Across perhaps 5. Bread that often 41. Reason for OT 1. Cinema showing 40. Unemotional one contains molasses 43. Relatively tame (but 5. Antibacterial body 42. Singer-songwriter 6. Part of IHOP dizzying) Disneyland wash brand Frizzell 7. The Night of the Hunter ride 9. Push a product 44. Like 39, 49, 59, you get screenwriter James 45. Forensic letters 13. Actor Stonestreet the idea 8. Superman archvillain 46. Arcade game with 14. Heavenly figure 47. It may be signaled Luthor fast-moving arrows 16. Ash, for one with a whistle 9. Walked with confidence that (gasp) turned 25 17. Message that you 48. German connecting 10. Edwardian or this year, for short missed an entire state word that’s, like, the Elizabethan, e.g. 48. Fencing weapon at your door while out height of a human? 11. Cariou who played 49. Airport runway for a stroll? 50. Captain Kangaroo Sweeney Todd on surface 20. Familial-sounding player Bob Broadway 51. Breakfast sandwich U.K. trip-hop group 52. 2009 movie with a 12. Something to stand meat that once enlisted DJ 2022 sequel on 54. Electra Woman and Shadow, Thom Yorke, 53. Scientist’s workplace 15. Put a tag on ___ Girl (’70s series) and Mike D 54. Chef’s cutting gadget 18. Native to a particular 55. Promises to pay, for 21. UT campus 56. Near an open flame region short 22. Tagline intoned gruffly or eating holes in my 19. Word fragment (abbr.) 56. Short trip in many Halloween sweater, probably? 22. “Notorious” SCOTUS 57. Lyric verse horror movie trailers 63. Thor’s father member of the 2010s 58. Drag accessory 25. Had regrets 64. Accumulated, as a bill 23. Remote control 59. Key above Caps Lock 29. Where purple 65. Rug stat battery size 60. Minecraft resource dinosaurs are ground 66. Simon of Hot Fuzz 24. “Have a sample” 61. X, on a clock into powder? 67. Largemouth fish 25. Head out from the 62. Fedora, e.g. 32. Poi-making need 68. Coin with a Lincoln airport 33. Writer Roxane of the profile 26. Rescue financially © 2023 Matt Jones short story collection 27. 2022 World Cup Difficult Women Down winner (abbr.) Find the answers in 34. A Prayer for Owen ___ 1. Not so many 28. Homer Simpson grunt the “About” section at (John Irving novel) 2. Savings plan option 30. Submit, as an! 35. Place on a scale 3. Word before Jon or absentee ballot



Celebrate with us!

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.