Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Brian Blueskye

There is no question that the city of Desert Hot Springs is in financial trouble: The city is facing a deficit of $6 million or more.

However, bankruptcy is off the table, as far as the newly elected mayor, Adam Sanchez, is concerned.

Sanchez was elected to the DHS City Council in 2011, and ran for mayor against incumbent Yvonne Parks in 2013. Sanchez won by the narrowest of margins—12 votes.

During a recent interview with the Independent, Sanchez discussed the economic issues that Desert Hot Springs faces, as well as his plans for the city, and his first month in office.

“It feels like it’s been a year,” Sanchez said. “I think the obvious reason why is because one day after the election, we’re told by the mayor, the city manager and finance director that we have a deficit of $6.9 million. Hearing that right after the election, it’s enough to make you stop in your shoes and start thinking about where this started going wrong—and (why) didn’t anybody notice it? Since then, it’s been basically a quick roller-coaster ride, going down. Being on a roller coaster going down, you’re holding on. The last month has been holding on and trying to figure out how to go about reducing the deficit, because we know we have to be at a balanced budget by June 30.”

In a recent interview with The New York Times, Sanchez attributed much of the deficit to Desert Hot Springs’ police force and city employees, along with their pension plans. While many American cities that have gone through financial stresses have placed the blame on city employees and their pensions, Sanchez said it’s a bit more complex than that when it comes to Desert Hot Springs. However, in a city of 27,000 people, there are no questions that some of the city’s salary figures are mindboggling—and smell of possible corruption.

“I think the biggest concern came when they did the numbers on the police department: They were working the regular shifts, but also double shifts,” Sanchez said. “The detectives were working overtime constantly. Most of the detectives worked during the day, but the crimes happen at night, so why pull them out again? When they did the breakdown on it, they were averaging $200,000 a year per police officer. A study came back and showed that we were the 20th-highest in the state for paid employees.”

Sanchez said other employees within city government were also taking advantage of a flawed system.

“We had a city manager making $217,000 as part of his salary, and then $900 a month for a car allowance,” Sanchez said. “When you look across the state and cities similar to ours, the city manager is making anywhere from $140,000 to $160,000. On top of that, the police chief’s salary went up, too. … All of a sudden, you have a police chief who could be making close to $190,000.”

Sanchez said that while he was on the City Council under Parks’ leadership, he was hesitant to vote for any of the city budgets without transparency and full disclosure.

“With the prior administration, when they did the audits, a lot of this was kept private from us. … In the two years I was on the City Council, I was never asked to sit down with the auditors and look over their reports; none of us were. The only ones who were that I’m aware of were the mayor and city manager. A lot of us were left out of the loop from the entire process.”

Sanchez didn’t list that as the only issue; he said he’s learning a lot from an audit, still taking place, that Sanchez ordered after he took office.

“Within the police department alone, they had their own budget analyst who was working with the police chief and city manager, and the city had its own finance director. We had two different analysts, and they weren’t communicating with each other.”

Sanchez has pledged that there will be more transparency under his administration.

“We’re trying to put together a system where the city manager, the finance director, the mayor and the whole council will act as one finance committee. Before, it was the mayor and the mayor pro-tems that did it along with the city manager, so the City Council was left out. … Everybody needs to be communicating, and we can’t afford to be overspending.”

Of course, more business development in Desert Hot Springs could help the city avoid future budget problems.

“Right now, Two Bunch Palms resort wants to do a major expansion. … They want to create a whole new spa area, a new dining area, and add additional condos. They want to invest a tremendous amount of money and expand the resort to where we can showcase our health and wellness. In the next year and a half, that’s what we’re going to be working on with them.”

Speaking of health and wellness: Those are words Sanchez uses repeatedly, as he believes health and wellness can lead to economic opportunities for the city, and well-being for the city’s population. He spoke with pride about the city’s new health-and-wellness center and the programs it offers.

“What you need to have is programming directed toward creating a healthy family,” he said. “To have a healthy family, you have to make sure the kids are seeing the doctor. At the same time, you have to make sure the family is well-educated in health needs. A lot of it is education and preventive medicine. Why can’t we find ways to take advantage of that? All of a sudden, now you’re building a community around health and wellness, so we can get away from what we hear now, which is violence, more crime, and a city government that can’t keep its budget balanced.”

Sanchez said that if he gets his way, Desert Hot Springs will keep its police department, and there will be no cuts to education. The painful 22 percent cut in pay for the police department and other city employees will hopefully help save the city’s budget going forward, he said.

On the subject of his narrow win over Yvonne Parks, Sanchez talked about how he refused to believe he’d lost on election night, when preliminary results appeared to show Yvonne Parks had been re-elected.

“People were telling me the election was really over,” he said. The number (of votes I was behind) had dropped so quickly, from 97 to 24 on the second day after the election, and people were saying, ‘Oh my gosh; it’s not over yet.’ On the third day after the election, at about 2 p.m., they posted the results and had me up by 12.”

Sanchez said he was the youngest of three children to a single mother, and he grew up in the Boy Scouts, learning the value of public service at an early age. He also has a degree in recreation management.

“For me, it’s almost like the best time to be here in Desert Hot Springs, building this health-and-wellness initiative that I want to build, to change the overall image of the community to being a positive place for families to live, and for us to be proud of the fact we have the great hot mineral waters, the best-tasting drinking water—and now we have a government in the city that’s engaged and involved to where we care about one another,” he said.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014 15:30

The Lucky 13: Mark Knapp, of Ozzmania

Ozzmania is a local band that pays tribute to the music of Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath. At 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 7, they’ll be performing a free show at The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., in Indio; Dirt—which performs the music of Alice in Chains—is also on the bill. For more information on Ozzmania, visit, or; for details on The Date Shed, head to Mark Knapp, Ozzmania’s Zakk Wylde (or, in other words, guitarist), was kind enough, apparently during the morning hours, to answer The Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

Deep Purple in Tucson, Ariz. Let’s just say it was a long time ago.

What was the first album you owned?

Wow… I wish I could remember. I think it might have been Kool and the Gang.

What bands are you listening to right now?


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

Justin Bieber and pop—or is that poop?

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

Original Van Halen.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Anything metal.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Anyplace metal.

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

At the moment, since I mentioned Kool and the Gang, it's “Jungle Boogie.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Ted Nugent. The second I heard "Stranglehold," my life in music started. I knew I was going to learn to play guitar, and will most likely die with one in my hands.

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

It’s way too early in the morning for that question …

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Iron Maiden, “Die With Your Boots On.”

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Van Halen,Van Halen.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Whatever inspires them!

Jane Lee Hooker is not your average blues band.

The New York-based, all-women band features members of Nashville Pussy, Helldorado and Futurex—and they’re bringing their music to Pappy and Harriet’s on Saturday, Feb. 1.

The members of Jane Lee Hooker are Tracy Almazan, aka High Top Tracy (formerly of Nashville Pussy and Helldorado); Tina Gorin, aka T-Bone (formerly of Helldorado and Bad Wizard); Melissa Houston, aka Cool Whip (sister of semi-local musician JP Houston); Hail Mary, aka Mary Zadroga (formerly of Wives and Futurex); and Dana Danger, aka Dana Athens.

During a recent phone interview, both Almazan and Gorin said it seemed inevitable that they would share the same stage again.

“Tracy and I were in Helldorado together in the late ’90s,” said Gorin. “We both played guitar in the five-piece band that was very heavy and guitar-driven. We bonded way back then, and we’re great friends, too. We knew one day that we’d find ourselves back to playing together.”

Added Almazan: “This is the first time I’m in a band where everybody is really on the top of their game on their instruments. I get to play with people who are really at the highest level of playing. That’s so much fun, and I’ve never really had that before.”

The band has not put out an album and has gigged mostly around New York City, meaning many music-lovers have not yet been exposed to Jane Lee Hooker. The band’s sound offers a harder-edged version of the blues and Southern rock for which both Helldorado and Nashville Pussy have been known. The sound is aggressive—and not traditional by any means.

“I’ve always loved the blues and all kinds of other music that weren’t necessarily blazingly loud and harder,” said Gorin. “The bands that we were in were extremely loud rock bands. When you go through all that, and years of tours with that kind of attitude, even when you go back to playing the blues … we have it in our blood to turn it up very loud.”

Added Almazan: “I think that Tina and I have a great love of guitars and blues music. We decided to just play blues tunes together. When you put all these people in the same room who have all these different influences, this is what came out. It’s been really great. It’s got the blues-guitar playing I love, and the aggression that I love from hardcore and punk music. It’s kind of everything I like rolled into one band.”

Gorin shared a story about a conference gig the band played in Austin, Texas.

“Somebody from Texas at the conference in Austin said to us after we finished playing, ‘You guys are so New York!’ I was so surprised and said, ‘That’s how we sound? New York?’ I guess it’s the attack, or there’s the anger or aggression that you see in New York. I didn’t realize we were that heavy.”

When many people think of women in rock who play on the aggressive side, it’s the “Riot Grrrl” scene of the early to late ’90s that comes to mind, led Kathleen Hanna and her band Bikini Kill, and the band Hole.

Gorin and Almazan were not fans.

“I loathed and hated it. I was never more lost than in that time, and I still don’t like that stuff,” Gorin said. “It was like I was expected to be so happy for them and be like, ‘Yeah, you’re waving the flag for me!’ No, I don’t like that kind of music.”

Almazan was in a band called Wives during Riot Grrrl’s popularity.

“We were really lucky we were never really grouped in with any of them, because we played so well,” Almazan said. “Instead of opening up for Riot Grrrl kind of bands, we were opening for 7 Seconds and more established male punk bands who showed us an enormous amount of respect because of our playing.”

Jane Lee Hooker should see its fan base grow as the band gets exposed to new potential fans; the band is playing three California dates with The Bluebonnets.

When I told them about the rural Pioneertown location and atmosphere of Pappy and Harriet’s, Gorin and Almazan both expressed excitement.

“I can’t wait!” said Gorin. “That’s how I picture us being really happy—onstage in a club like that. We’re from Manhattan, which is distractions everywhere, and I just want to play in a honky-tonk.”

Added Almazan, with a laugh: “We may not come back to New York. We might just stay there.”

Jane Lee Hooker plays with The Bluebonnets at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Admission is free. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit

A lot of great bands have come out of San Diego’s music scene—and one of the latest is reggae group Tribal Seeds, performing Saturday, Feb. 1, at The Date Shed.

The band—consisting of Steven Rene Jacobo (lead guitar and vocals), Victor Navarro (bass), E.N. Young (keyboards and vocals), Tony-Ray Jacobo (keyboards and vocals) and Carlos Verdugo (drums)—formally came together in 2005. During a recent phone interview before a show in Fresno, Tony-Ray explained that he and Steven, his brother, were raised on reggae music; in fact, Tony-Ray’s first album purchase was Born Jamericans’ Kids From Foreign.

“It started with me and my brother in 2003,” said Tony-Ray. “We were both in high school at the time, and we were just jamming in our garage. We wanted to take it seriously after a while, and we wanted to do it as a career. We decided to find band members who had the same mindset. We had some who came and went, but we finally got a solid group of guys who believe this is their passion, and this is their love.”

Tony-Ray said San Diego was a perfect place for them to form as a band.

“I think we were blessed to have grown up where we did,” said Tony-Ray. “There’s a strong reggae environment, the whole beach environment, and it just seemed to fit very well; reggae music seems to thrive there. We’re blessed to be from San Diego.”

Since 2005, the band has released three full-length albums; the most recent album, released in 2009, The Harvest, debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard reggae charts. They have shared the stage with some heavy hitters in the music industry, including as Gregg Allman; Earth, Wind and Fire; The Wailers; and their musical heroes, Steel Pulse. They have also toured extensively around the world and in the U.S.

Reggae music can be a challenging genre for an American band. While many American groups have given reggae a go, some of the most successful eventually incorporated pop or punk sounds, as Sublime did. However, the members of Tribal Seeds stay fairly true to reggae, and even embrace the spirituality element of the music, rooted in Rastafarianism, the religion that many reggae musicians follow.

“A lot of it is Bible teachings and Rastafarian teachings,” said Tony-Ray. “It’s just something that was in the music we heard while growing up, so we wanted to continue that message. It just seemed natural to us, so the spiritual element for us has been there from the beginning.”

While Rastafarianism may be best known (and is often parodied) for its embrace of marijuana, it’s also known—and criticized—for ultra-traditional views of women, the practice of polygamy, and homophobia. Around 2004, the “Stop Murder Music” campaign was enacted by a group of gay activists who opposed the violent messages in some reggae music; in 2007, a number of reggae artists signed an agreement to fight homophobia.

“I’m totally open-minded to however a person wants to live their life,” said Tony-Ray. “If they’re a good person, it makes them happy, and they’re not hurting anyone else, that’s all good with me. There are a lot of older people teaching the close-minded thing. I think times are changing … even in the Catholic Church with the new pope. It’s all about how we’re trying to live—good positive things.”

Fans who have been waiting since 2009 for a new album won’t have to wait much longer.

“We’re actually close to finishing up our latest album that we hope to release really soon,” said Tony-Ray. “We’re really excited about it. I know it’s been a long time since our last full-length album, and that our fans are anxious—and we’re just as anxious. We’ve got a lot of good artists featured on this one.”

I couldn’t help but ask what the backstage ritual was before a Tribal Seeds show. Not surprisingly, it involves some smoke.

“A lot of the guys like the green. They like to get a little buzz going just to have fun on stage and enjoy it,” Tony-Ray said.

Tribal Seeds performs with Through the Roots, Mystic Roots and Wakane at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1, at The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., in Indio. Tickets to the all-ages event are $15 to $21. For more information, call 760-775-6699, or visit

Dance for Life Palm Springs, a benefit for the AIDS Assistance Program, should be a spectacular show at the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Annenberg Theater on Friday, Jan. 17—but on Tuesday night (Jan. 14), one of the participating dance companies stopped by the Dance Dimensions studio in Palm Desert to offer local ballet students a workshop.

The workshop, put on by Las Vegas’ Nevada Ballet Theatre, was part of Dance for Life’s community outreach program, which offers students at local schools and dance studios a chance to work with professionals in the industry. Dance for Life is also holding free performances around the community—and even has planned a flash-mob performance at an undisclosed location.

“This is sort of an extension of Dance for Life,” said James Canfield, artistic director of the Nevada Ballet Theatre. “Any outreach and awareness that you can bring into a community enriches that community. It gives these kids an opportunity to work with professionals who are in this profession. It’s really about awareness, because funding in schools is stretched and limited—and the arts is one of the first things they drop, yet it’s been proven arts can increase self-esteem, discipline and focus. It can do things to help kids in a different way of learning.”

Olivia Frary, a 14-year-old from Palm Desert who is a ballet student at Dance Dimensions, was excited about the opportunity to take part in the workshop.

“I think it’s really awesome that we have the opportunity to work with them,” Frary said. “It’s a really great experience and something I’ll always remember—when the Nevada Ballet Theatre came to our dance studio in Palm Desert, California. It’s really important for dancers to see other dancers all the time, so you always have something to look up to, and someone to have as a role model.”

As the students of Dance Dimensions warmed up on balance bars on one side of the room, the Nevada Ballet Theatre warmed up on the other. Students showed signs of nervousness or intimidation—until one of the staff members encouraged them to mix it up with the pros.

To start the workshop, Canfield walked around and sized up all of the students as he introduced himself. He immediately asked, “What are the requirements to be a good dancer?”

Turns out he had already given the answers to them during a short warm-up exercise—and some of the students had already forgotten. “Coordination and balance,” he said.

Canfield’s calm teaching method reminded of a Zen master. He adjusted students’ posture positions, had them work on dance steps and cracked the occasional ballet-related joke.

“What’s your favorite children’s book?” he asked some of the students. “Snow White,” one of them answered.

“Without the dwarves? I see how it is,” Canfield joked.

When one student said The Giving Tree, Canfield acted elated, and said it was the answer he was seeking, explaining that the 1964 Shel Silverstein book offers a lesson that applies to ballet: You give your body to the art until your body cannot physically give any more.

Canfield stressed to the students that ballet goes beyond dancing; it also takes personality and emotion. Oliva Frary said that fact makes her love the art of ballet.

“It’s a really great way to express emotions, feelings, unique qualities and different ideas through movement without having to say any words,” Frary said.

By the end of the workshop, most of the students were tired; many of the students were not used to performing as long and as hard as they had. But despite the fatigue, they seemed happy: It was surely an experience that many of them will long remember.

Dance for Life, a benefit for the AIDS Assistance Program, takes place at the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Annenberg Theater, 101 Museum Drive, in Palm Springs, at 7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 17. Tickets are $95. Performers are scheduled to include Giordano Dance Chicago, ENTITY Dance Company, Tap Sounds Underground and Los Angeles Ballet, in addition to the Nevada Ballet Theatre. For more information, call 760-325-8481, or visit

When Throw Rag frontman Sean Wheeler and Circle Jerks/Weirdos multi-instrumentalist Zander Schloss came together to record their debut album, Walk Thee Invisible, in 2011, the two icons of the punk-rock scene showed off a lighter side.

More music is coming from them, too: Amid several tours and appearances at festivals such as Punk Rock Bowling and the Muddy Roots Festival, the locals have recorded a new album that’s due out sometime this year.

Not too long ago, they played their first show together after a short break, at Schmidy’s Tavern in Palm Desert. While Zander Schloss had played a high-energy show with the Weirdos at Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown the week prior, it had been awhile since Sean and Zander had played a local show together. They are quite a sight to see: Schloss strums away on his 12-string acoustic guitar while Wheeler sings. It’s just them—with no bassist, and no drummer. The dialogue between Wheeler and Schloss is comical, as they call out their friends in the audience, tell amusing stories, and chat about anything—say, for example, the boots and clothing they are wearing.

The climax of their acoustic driven show is their song “Retablo,” which they can perform in several different ways—as an extended audience sing-along, or with added dialogue. During a show last year at the Ace Hotel, Wheeler led the audience in a conga line outside of the Amigo Room, out around the pool, and back in again—all while Schloss played the instrumental part.

Wheeler once lived a wild rock ’n’ roll lifestyle, and Schloss has years of experience with successful bands like the Circle Jerks, Thelonious Monster and others. In other words: It’s good to see the two musicians now having fun; after all, they’ve paid their dues—and then some.

“It’s more of an emotional outlet,” Schloss said about their partnership. “It’s also a great outlet for us to relax and have fun. We enjoy each other’s company without all the personalities of a band. It’s really nice to just have a couple of guys: It’s economical; it’s fun; and we let each other do what we do. Sean does something I can’t do, and I do something he can’t do.”

Added Wheeler: “We’re like wonder twins.”

While Walk Thee Invisible was an independent release, Schloss said they are currently looking for some distribution help for their next album, which is already completed and mastered.

“It’s better than the first record—which is saying a lot, because I love the first record,” Schloss said. “This record is much more soulful. We have different influences, and along the way, it’s become apparent to me what a great soul singer he is. We’re thinking he’s a soul man, so there’s more soul on the record.”

Both Schloss and Wheeler said that when it comes to songwriting, they try to share personal stuff to which people can relate.

“If you tell them a truth—good or bad—and you’re sincere, I think it transcends whatever comes through,” Wheeler said. “It’s mostly personal experiences. I’m trying to think if there are any songs I’ve written that aren’t directly related to someone I know. You have to be honest—or people’s bullshit detectors go off.”

Added Schloss: “If you tap into the spirit, and people are into the spirit, they’ll connect. There are a lot of people who aren’t open to the spirit, and we have to say to ourselves, ‘Well, it’s OK; they’re celebrating their life in a different way. This is the way we celebrate our lives.’”

They’re looking to a lot in 2014, they said: The new album; their first trip to Brazil, right before the World Cup takes place in that country this summer; and more touring. Their unorthodox, anything-goes touring style includes festivals, bars, opening slots for other bands, and gigs in small towns.

“We got together right around the time the economy crashed,” Schloss said. “We’ve actually been thriving. Economically, it’s great, because the travel (for just two) is less expensive. We can go to places where other bands can’t go. We went to Alaska with Flogging Molly … and we went up there a week before to play saloons. We actually took a ferry up the inland passage to Skagway, and took the train that used to take people out to the Yukon during the gold rush. We went into the rainforest and hiked up a glacier.

“Now, what bands can do that kind of shit? I’ve been touring with bands for 30 years, and I’ve never had richer experiences than I’ve had with this duo.”

For more information, visit, or

There was not much evidence that Snoop Lion, aka Snoop Dogg, aka Snoopzilla, was serious about going reggae (as part of his 2012 conversion to Rastafarianism) when he performed at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Saturday, Jan. 11.

His first local performance since Coachella 2012 (when he played with Dr. Dre) was supposed to start at 8 p.m.; however, the show didn’t start until 8:45. Thankfully, what followed was well worth the wait: Snoop showed the enthusiastic crowd that he was still on top of his game.

After a lengthy intro performed by his full band and DJ, Snoop finally took the stage. He soon launched into “California Gurls,” performing his parts in the Katy Perry song. After getting the crowd dancing and grooving to “I’m Fly” and “Ups and Downs,” he transitioned into the classic material for which he’s best known.

The crowd gave him a loud reception when he went into “The Next Episode” from Dr. Dre’s 2001. “Gin and Juice,” one of Snoop’s biggest hits, easily received the crowd participation demanded by Snoop. Of course, no Snoop performance is complete without “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None),” which had his costumed mascot “Nasty Dogg” dancing around and stroking a long, furry appendage. (When Snoop finished the song, he told Nasty Dogg to “put it away.”)

The show’s biggest highlight was his tribute to Notorious B.I.G. with a cover of “Hypnotize,” followed by a tribute to 2Pac with “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted.” Considering Snoop’s involvement in the East Coast-West Coast feuds in the ‘90s that resulted in the murders of both Notorious B.I.G. and 2Pac, it was a touching tribute.

After a cover of House of Pain’s “Jump Around” (which, of course, Snoop ended on the line “I’m smacking the ho”), it was time for “Drop It Like It’s Hot.” I swore that I heard him say “pocket like it’s hot” from his recent Hot Pockets commercial once or twice.

Following the classic “Who Am I (What’s My Name?),” Snoop said it was time for one last song before he took off. After performing “Young, Wild and Free,” Snoop ended the show by saying, “I can’t go out like that” and screamed: “SMOKE WEED, MOTHAFUCKAS!” He then made his exit, waving to the crowd as Bob Marley’s “Jammin’” played.

After more than two decades in the rapidly changing rap game, Snoop still puts on an energetic and highly entertaining show that fans both young and old can love. Nothing from his recent reggae album Reincarnated showed up in the set list—although every other part of his career was represented—and he wasn’t decked out in Rastafarian garb like he was during some performances last year. It seems Snoop can’t escape his hip-hop roots, no matter how hard he tries: While he expermients with other genres of music, those roots always seem to find him again.

The late Gore Vidal was a lot of things—playwright, screenwriter, novelist, man of letters, historian and political commentator. Nicholas Wrathall’s documentary Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia gives a look at all those facets of the late author’s life in detail.

All of three of the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s screenings of The United States of Amnesia sold out. During the Thursday, Jan. 9, screening at the Palm Canyon Theatre, there was not an empty seat in the house. After nine months on the film-festival circuit now, The United States of Amnesia deserves a wider release.

Another publication’s review of the film stated that there were many surprises in the film; however, fans who have read both of Vidal’s autobiographies—–Palimpsest and Point to Point Navigation—won’t find many surprises. His feuds with William F. Buckley, his split with John F. Kennedy over foreign policy, and his arguments with Truman Capote and Norman Mailer are all well-documented.

The 89-minute film, showing Vidal throughout his life, is a detailed production.

“The documentary was five or six years in the making,” Wrathall said during a recent phone interview. “I always found him to be a very inspiring writer. I was very interested him as an intellectual—someone who was outspoken against the general media’s representation of things.”

The documentary starts shortly after the 2003 death of Vidal’s longtime companion, Howard Austen. Vidal is seen visiting the resting place of Howard in a cemetery in Washington D.C.; it’s also where he would be buried next to Austen after his death in 2012, at the age of 86.

The story of his childhood follows. Vidal was born into a life of privilege. His father, Eugene Vidal, was in the aeronautics industry, and tried create a line of planes that were easy to fly. His mother, Nina Gore, was an alcoholic. Vidal was later raised by his grandparents, Nina Belle and Thomas Gore, a Democratic U.S. senator from Oklahoma who was also blind.

“He had a difficult time as a child,” Wrathall said. “His parents divorced when he was very young; his mother was drinking a lot; his father was absent a lot because he was working in the airline industry, so for much of his childhood, he was brought up by his grandparents. As a child, his main influence was his grandparents. His grandfather was a quite famous senator; as a blind man, (his grandfather) put himself through law school. He opposed America’s entry into both world wars, and was very outspoken.”

While Vidal was born into the American establishment, he eventually spoke out against it. In the film, he is seen telling a group of people standing in an unemployment line during his failed U.S. Senate run in California in 1982: “It’s socialism for the rich, and free enterprise for the poor.”

Vidal was known for his staunch left-wing political views, anti-war activism and intense criticism of President George W. Bush. However, Vidal said he believed he was a conservative in the old sense of the word.

“I wouldn’t call him a conservative,” Wrathall said. “I’d say if anything, maybe you could say republican with a small ‘R,’ meaning a republican in the old sense of the word. He believed in the republic in America; he believed America should be focused more on taking care of its own and not expanding and empire-building. He didn’t believe in getting involved in Central America, and he didn’t believe in getting involved in the Middle East. I think he was anti-imperialism, and he was one of the first to coin the phrase ‘American empire.’”

Wrathall talked to Christopher Hitchens about Vidal shortly before Hitchens’ death in 2011. Hitchens is also seen in the film attending a release party for Point to Point Navigation in 2006.

“Gore was sort of a mentor to Hitchens,” Wrathall said. “They were once friends, and then, of course, they had a falling out. Right before they had a falling out, Hitchens made sort of an abrupt right turn into support for the Iraq War, which Gore saw as a real abomination and a traitor to his roots. He cut him off and didn’t want to speak to him again after that point. When I filmed that footage of the release of Point to Point, Hitchens was there in the room at the reception, and Gore sort of brushed him off.”

After the death of Austen in 2003, Vidal had to leave the mountaintop villa they shared in Ravello, Italy, because he was becoming more immobile. He returned to America and settled in Los Angeles, and some have said that the last years of his life were his best politically, as he took on the Bush administration and educated the public about what he saw as the end of our habeas corpus rights via the Patriot Act.

Vidal is shown in his old age being asked about what kind of legacy he wanted to leave behind. He answers very slowly: “I could care less.” That’s fitting for a man who said a long time ago, “Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.”

Wrathall, on the other hand, does care how Vidal is remembered.

“Gore was an incredible intellectual and a very multifaceted person, given he wrote novels, screenplays essays and plays,” Wrathall said. “He was a provocateur, pointing out the problems of the world and being brave enough to speak the truth. I don’t think that many people are willing to do that, and he did it all his life. Many of the things he’s shown in the film saying in the ’50s, ‘60s and ‘70s are still very current. He was very much ahead of his time.”

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If you’ve ever been to Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, you’ve probably noticed their security man, Big Dave Johnson. He’s also the bassist for Shawn Mafia and the 10 Cent Thrills. While Big Dave doesn’t tolerate nonsense of any kind at a Pappy’s show, he’s actually quite friendly—and many of the regular patrons always chat him up. Speaking of chatting: Big Dave was kind enough to recently answer The Lucky 13. For more information on Pappy and Harriet’s, visit; for more on Shawn Mafia and the 10 Cent Thrills, head on over to

What was the first concert you attended?

Monsters of Rock in Karlsruhe, Germany in 1984. I remember it well. Mötley Crue was the opener, (followed by) Accept, Gary Moore, Dio, Ozzy Osbourne, Van Halen—and AC/DC was the headliner. The crowd was crazy! It’s one of my favorite memories, even though I got into a fight over a girl.

What was the first album you owned?

The first album I owned wasn’t even an album—it was an 8-track that I got from Kmart, The Knack’s Get the Knack with “My Sharona.” That song was huge when it came out.

What bands are you listening to right now?

The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Ramones, Roger Barrett, some Black Sabbath, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, The Doors, The Weirdos, and Glen Campbell. I also have this ’60s garage-band psychedelic album that a friend of mine gave me. It’s all interesting and sets the mood for me when I’m nostalgic, getting to working, or when I want to relax and let my mind go. Throw in some David Bowie or the Stooges, too—oh, and James Brown! That’s the ticket!

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

I get it all. I can see why people like jazz, blues, funk, punk, hip-hop, country, indie rock, etc. I like them for what they are, but the best music for me is still that ’60s and ’70s rock ’n’ roll.

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

If I had my choice right now, it would be Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett. However, if it’s a band that’s current, the Creepy Creeps were a blast. I could see them again and again!

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall.

What’s your favorite music venue?

I’m going to say Pappy and Harriet’s, for obvious reasons.

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

“Look out, mama, there’s a white boat coming up the river,” from “Powderfinger,” by Neil Young; and, “Padding around on the ground. He'll be found when you're around,” from “Lucifer Sam,” by Pink Floyd.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Two Lane Blacktop, and Brett Balaban. He is like a jukebox, and it’s been so much fun playing music with him over the years—10 years this year, in fact. He’s taught me about writing and keeping music fun.

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

Syd Barrett: “What was your inspiration for The Piper at the Gates of Dawn?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Blister in the Sun” by Violent Femmes.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Pink Floyd, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Again, “Blister in the Sun,” Violent Femmes. (Scroll down to hear it.)

A semi-local film made its world debut on Saturday, Jan. 4, as part of the Palm Springs International Film Festival—and 3 Nights in the Desert may very well go beyond the festival circuit, thanks in large part to its strong cast.

Three friends—Travis (Wes Bentley, The Hunger Games), Anna (Amber Tamblyn, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) and Barry (Vincent Piazza, Boardwalk Empire)—were once in a band together. Their birthdays are all within three days, and after not seeing each other for years, they decide to meet in the desert at Travis' home for their 30th birthdays. Travis meets Barry at the train station; on the drive to Travis’ home, Barry expresses discomfort about the fact that Anna will be coming.

Anna and Barry seem to have moved on after the band’s breakup. Barry is married and a tax attorney in Seattle; Anna is enjoying a successful music career as a dream-pop artist. Then there’s Travis—living in a makeshift house in the middle of the desert.

A specific event in their past haunts all three of them. Travis has a big scar on his neck and a limp; Anna and Barry discuss how Anna did all she could for Travis—only giving a hint about what really happened.

After a bonfire discussion (that includes a lot of masturbation talk), Barry and Anna find themselves being led to a cave by Travis. Travis claims that when you enter the dark cave, all of your desires will come true. Anna goes in first and comes out frightened. Barry enters next, and emerges basically unaffected.

After a moment in which the three former bandmates sing one of their songs together, the film becomes a deep, dark roller-coaster ride down memory lane. All is revealed about what tore them apart—and Travis’ real reasons for bringing them together.

3 Nights in the Desert is an intense psychological drama. Thanks in part to deep dialogue, the film never gets dull or falls flat during its 90-minute runtime.

During the post-screening Q&A session, director Gabriel Cowan, screenwriter Adam Chanzit and Piazza talked about filming 3 Nights in the high desert, near Lancaster. Amber Tamblyn—who was snowed in and could not make it to Palm Springs—also took part in the Q&A via Skype from New York.

Chanzit said he felt the desert was the perfect place for the story.

“I like the remoteness of the desert,” Chanzit said. “I really wanted these characters to exist kind of outside of time and space. … I really like the idea of them being isolated.”

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