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Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Brian Blueskye

Through a partnership of Palestinian director Sameh Zoabi and Search for Common Ground founder John Marks comes Under the Same Sun, set in the near future in Israel and Palestine.

The Palm Springs International Film Festival was the site of the film’s West Coast premiere on Saturday, Jan. 4, with both Marks and Zoabi on hand for a discussion of the movie. Before the film started, Marks addressed the audience.

“You might find this film to be a fantasy, but the idea is to understand this could happen with the right leadership,” said the founder of the nonprofit organization that seeks to end violent conflict.

A Palestinian businessman, Nizar (Ali Suliman), and an Israeli businessman, Shaul (Yossi Marshek), have a secret business meeting in France. Shaul owns a solar-power company and is pitching the idea of selling solar panels to Palestinians, due to the actual facts that Palestinians get the vast majority of their electricity from Israel, and that areas near Israeli settlements often don’t have electricity.

Shortly after the two men begin their business venture, Israeli and Palestinian press get wind of it—and both men face opposition from their families, friends and their fellow citizens.

The two men then take to social media in an attempt to change the situation. In a fictional series of events that follow, Israel and Palestine fall under the proposed two-state-solution—and there is eventually peace between the two countries, thanks in large part to the efforts of the two businessmen.

Yes, the film is a fairy tale, of sorts. It proposes the idea that good intentions and good business can change the world—even in an area with deep-rooted issues like the Middle East. However, this fairy tale does have some truth behind it: Social media has helped build the blueprints for change in other Middle Eastern countries, most notably Egypt. Perhaps such a thing could happen, but as they say: It’s only a movie.

Before the Q&A session, John Marks explained how the filming process shared similarities with the business relationship of the two lead characters in the film: It was a collaborative effort. Zoabi was not allowed into Israel, for example, so he led the scenes in Palestine, while another crew filmed on the Israeli side.

“We became experts in how to make a film in the Israeli and Palestinian territories,” Marks said.

Zoabi said he made an effort to show both perspectives in Under the Same Sun.

“Working with different crews was also part of the process for me, and I was always trying to push everyone to see the two sides of the story,” Zoabi said.

The Q&A session that followed the film was decidedly intense. The film received loud applause from the audience as the credits rolled—but not everyone was clapping. Some audience members sat with arms crossed, and even looked agitated; that agitation came through in some of the questions.

“I’m curious whether the propaganda changes to fact—so I’d like to know: What is propaganda, and what is real?” one woman angrily asked Marks and Zoabi regarding the assertion that some Palestinian areas near Israeli settlements don’t have electricity.

Marks, a Jewish-American, responded that the Jewish settlers in the West Bank often don’t allow nearby Palestinians to have electricity or running water in their villages. “It’s an occupation, and it’s arbitrary; they act in arbitrary fashion, and it’s usually due to security reasons. Occupation is never a good thing,” Marks said.

Another man heckled both Marks and Zoabi over their failure to explain why there is a wall between Israel and Palestine, and chided them for not offering details about the First Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israel which began in 1987. The filmmakers responded that the film was made for those who already know the basic history and reality of the conflict.

One woman criticized the filmmakers by telling them that there would never be peace due to the fact that Palestine does not acknowledge Israel’s existence.

However, not all audience members expressed such hopelessness. One man asked the Palestinian and the Jewish American a question I had myself: Can the peace depicted in Under the Same Sun realistically happen?

“A lot of people say that something needs to be done,” Zoabi said. “Well, we have the politicians controlling everything, and that voice that something could be done and should be done—I try to visualize that it could be a possibility. I’ve seen it happening … where individuals take matters into their own hands in Palestine and Israel. I think it will end up being like this soon, hopefully. Who does that? How do they do that? The film gives us an idea of that possibility.”

Under the Same Sun is a visionary film that presents a real possibility for change and a brighter future. Zoabi is an up-and-coming director who proved that he can pack an emotional and social message into a 75-minute film. We’ll likely see more of him in the future.

For more information, visit lamafilms.com/movie/under-the-same-sun, or www.sfcg.org/programmes/jerusalem/index.html.

The Coen Brothers have made films raging from dark-comedy works to Westerns—yet they all have a distinctive, specific Coen Brothers feel. Their latest, Inside Llewyn Davis, is loosely based on Dave Von Ronk, a Greenwich Village folk singer who tried—and failed—to captivate audiences in the early ‘60s.

The story begins in a café. After performing, Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is told by the owner that a “friend” is waiting for him outside. When he steps outside, he’s beaten up by a stranger. The struggling musician—his new record isn’t selling—sleeps on the couches of his friends, and he’s trying to come to terms with the suicide of a former collaborator and friend. He ponders returning to the Merchant Marines.

Inside Llewyn Davis has some of the dark humor typical in a Coen Brothers film, and the comedy relief is always perfectly timed to break the moments of intense heartbreak you feel for the struggling Llewyn.

The musical performances also make the film worthwhile. Isaac’s work is fantastic. (He performs solo and as a trio with Justin Timberlake and Adam Driver.) Other music performances come from the likes of Nancy Blake and Declan Bennett. The soundtrack for Inside Llewyn Davis is indeed worth remembering.

The Coen Brothers can do no wrong, it seems, when it comes to making good films that separate themselves from previous efforts. There is no doubt that this one is going to bring home some awards; in fact, the nominations have already been pouring in. 

Inside Llewyn Davis is now playing at the Camelot Theatres (2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs; 760-325-6565) and the Cinémas Palme d’Or (72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-779-0430).

In the 1990s, “third wave ska” brought the genre to new heights in terms of popularity—and San Diego’s Buck-O-Nine was one of the bands that enjoyed the ride.

On Friday, Jan. 17, the band will be making a return performance to The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert, after playing there about a year ago.

Ska—a Jamaican style of music that combines Caribbean elements with jazz and R&B—originated in the late 1950s. It found popularity in the United Kingdom in the late 1960s; in the late ’70s and early-to-mid ’80s, a second wave known as 2 Tone began with groups such as Madness, The Specials and The English Beat. During the ’90s, American bands created the third wave by combining it with a punk-rock sound.

Buck-O-Nine started in 1991 in San Diego; frontman Jon Pebsworth became involved after answering a newspaper ad looking for a singer. During a recent phone interview, he talked about his love for ska music at an early age.

“Ska music and punk rock were my two favorite styles of music,” he said. “When I was a really young kid in sixth-grade—when I was buying my own records with my own money that wasn’t my parents’ kind of music—it was all 2 Tone ska like The English Beat, Madness, The Selecter, and all that stuff. I got into punk rock when I was in junior high and high school.”

When he saw the ad the band put in the San Diego Reader looking for a singer, he knew he had found a place for himself. “It said, ‘Ska band looking for punk singer.’ I was like, ‘Fuck, dude! That’s the band for me right there.’ The rest is history.”

Pebsworth said punk and ska have a history of working well together.

“Both styles of music are high-energy. … The melding of punk and ska together (actually began in) the 2 Tone era, when you think about it. They took traditional ska from the late ’60s and early ’70s and infused it with the punk rock that was happening in the late ’70s and early ’80s. That second wave already has a lot of punk rock in it. They seem to go hand in hand.”

The early third wave also included bands such as the Voodoo Glow Skulls, the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and No Doubt, just to name a few. Buck-O-Nine released its debut album, Songs in the Key of Bree, in 1994. The band’s fourth album, Twenty-Eight Teeth, featured the song “My Town,” which made it to No. 32 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart. The band was a heavy favorite in San Diego’s music scene, and wound up on tour opening for The Specials.

Third-wave ska wound up becoming watered down, and eventually left the mainstream as quickly as it arrived. No Doubt eventually went toward a pop sound, while other third-wave bands went back into the underground.

“It was a trippy time,” Pebsworth said. “With bands like Green Day and The Offspring bringing actual punk rock to the more-popular culture, a lot of people were interested in … making records that had more broad appeal. I think it had a positive and negative effect. … It was definitely positive, because a lot of people got turned on to that music, but it was also a negative, because when you have something like that that’s generating money, and bands being signed to major labels, you’re going to see watered-down versions of these bands pop up. The media sort of turned it into a frat-boy, rock ’n’ roll house-party kind of music.”

Pebsworth said the band members currently refer to themselves as “semi-retired.” The band members have families, live in different cities, and have other commitments and even day jobs. Therefore, they play eight to 12 shows per year.

“Honestly, at this point, we don’t really make any money doing Buck-O-Nine,” he said. “We do it for the same reason when we first started: Because it’s fun as shit.”

Buck-O-Nine hasn’t recorded an album since 2007’s Sustain—and it appears fans will be waiting a while longer.

“We’d like to, and seem to think we will,” he said about a new album. “We talk about it every time we’re together. Unfortunately, nothing has really materialized in the way of songs or new ideas.”

So what keeps Buck-O-Nine fun for Pebsworth?

“Obviously, the most fun part is walking out onstage with the guys,” he said. “I also love the stuff that goes on after the shows. … When we get together, we’re still the best of friends, and we have a blast. Whether it’s hanging out at the club we’re playing at, going to a bar down the street, or buying beers at a 7-Eleven and going back to our hotel, just telling jokes and fucking around—that’s the most fun.”

Buck-O-Nine will play at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 17, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is $10 at the door; Machin’ and Spankshaft are also on the bill. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or track down the event page on Facebook.

Since Haunted Summer formed in 2012, the Los Angeles band has enjoyed virtual overnight success, including performances in famous Southern California venues like the El Rey Theatre. On Thursday, Jan. 16, the band will perform at another famous venue: Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace.

Haunted Summer starts with John and Bridgette Seasons. The longtime friends—now married—had played music together in other bands. Then came an opportunity that turned into their founding moment.

“There’s a venue out here in L.A. called the Echo. They basically enlisted us to put together a cover band covering Animal Collective,” said John Seasons. “Long story short, I asked Bridgette, and that collaboration led to love—and led to the band sticking around beyond that one show.”

John and Bridgette’s influences include Cocteau Twins, Björk, The Flaming Lips and Fleetwood Mac. Add in Bridgette’s theater background, and John’s exposure to all sorts of musical genres—his father is a jazz drummer—and the result is a unique sound that would place them somewhere within the “dream pop” genre.

“It just naturally came out,” said Bridgette Seasons about the band’s sound. “Last Thanksgiving (2012), we brought our instruments and just jammed. We wrote our first song, and we just sort of understood what we were playing at the time.”

Added John: “It was really organic. The album and songs we do in our set, we wrote in about a month. The next step was getting our music out there.”

They indeed started getting their music out there, opening for various national bands. They said their favorite live shows to date were with The Polyphonic Spree, a psychedelic pop group that features a chorus and orchestra.

“Tim DeLaughter of The Polyphonic Spree is the most wholesome guy,” said John Seasons.” Everyone in that band would come up to us after a show and see how we were doing. Everybody bought our merch, and it felt like a big family in that atmosphere.”

Added Bridgette: “That band tours with 16 people, and they’re all in a giant van staying in small hotels and having to take turns with the shower. You would think they’d be stressed out and mean, but they’re all really nice people.”

The Polyphonic Spree is just one of the acts with whom they’ve shared the stage. Others include Taken by Trees, Coeur de Pirate and Meiko, to name a few.

“We’ve been able to play with a lot of really different acts. It’s just been very viable for us,” said Bridgette Seasons.

Their EP, a five-track effort called Something in the Water, is an independent effort that has been posted on Bandcamp (hauntedsummer.bandcamp.com) and sold at Amoeba Records in Hollywood and San Francisco. They are now working on their full-length album.

Bridgette Seasons talked about what can be expected from their show at Pappy and Harriet’s.

“Usually when we perform, it’s (as) a two-piece,” she said. “The show at Pappy and Harriet’s will have a four-piece band. It’s very driving and drony, but really full, heartfelt and psychedelic. It wraps you up in a whole different world of sound.

“We’re really excited about that show. … The show might be a lot bigger than we thought. Robyn (Celia), one of the owners of Pappy and Harriet’s, was nice enough to give us that date. This will be our last hurrah before we head on a national tour.”

Haunted Summer will perform with Islands at 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 16, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown. Tickets are $8. For tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit pappyandharriets.com.

Now that the holidays are over, it’s time for a breather.

During the month of January, the Coachella Valley is experiencing a slowdown in the number of music events—so it’s all about quality over quantity. Thankfully, there’s plenty of quality.

The McCallum Theatre will host Shirley MacLaine at 7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 19. MacLaine will be speaking about her experiences in Hollywood, her private life and her spiritual journey. Tickets are $35 to $75. Jazz vocal artist Patti Austin will be performing at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 28. Austin, best known for her 1981 duet “Baby, Come to Me” with James Ingram, is a live delight. Tickets are $35 to $75. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 31, and Saturday, Feb. 1, Pink Martini will take the stage. The modern-day alternative lounge-music act has always had a feel good vibe and will definitely put on a fun show. Tickets are $35 to $95. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a solid schedule throughout the month. The Golden Boys will be performing at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 3. The supergroup includes three heartthrobs from the early days of pop: Frankie Avalon, Bobby Rydell and Fabian. They’ll be onstage together crooning each of their hits. For those who remember the heyday of these singers back in the ’50s, it will be a special night. Tickets are $29 to $59. And now for something completely different: At 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, Snoop Lion, aka Snoop Dogg, aka Snoop Doggy Dogg, will be performing in the Coachella Valley for the first time since his headlining slot with Dr. Dre at Coachella in 2012. It’s hard to predict what to expect from Snoop, since his recent conversion to Snoop Lion has also included a shift in sound. His most recent release, Reincarnated, is a reggae album; Snoop’s conversion to the Rastafarian religion was shown in the documentary with the same name. He was a no-show at a scheduled performance in Portland, Ore., a few months back, and he seems to be more open to being called Snoop Dogg again, so who knows what to expect? (He turned down an interview request from the Independent, for what it’s worth.) Tickets are $39 to $89. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 31, country-music star Martina McBride will close out the month in style. Her career goes all the way back to 1988, and she’s had quite a run ever since; she also has a new album slated for release in 2014. This should definitely be a treat for country-music fans. Tickets are $39 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa has a slower January compared to other recent months—but the resort’s schedule does feature an undeniable legend. At 9 p.m., Friday, Jan. 24, country legend Dolly Parton will bring her classics to the Agua Caliente. The “9-to-5” singer is still going strong and is inspiring younger generations after being covered by artists like the White Stripes. Tickets were $90 to $160, but the show is sold out. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a couple of great events worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 11, comedienne Kathleen Madigan will be performing. Thanks in part to her high-profile comedy specials, including Gone Madigan on Showtime, she’s become a huge success. Tickets are $20 to $40. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 25, Morris Day and the Time will be performing with Sheila E. Morris Day is a well-known cult hero thanks to his song “Jungle Love.” Day was also in Prince’s Purple Rain as Prince’s nemesis. Speaking of Prince: His former drummer, Sheila E, will also be performing. Tickets are $25 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com

Morongo Casino Resort Spa doesn’t have much going on in January, but the Cabazon resort will kick off the next month with Foreigner, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 1. While Mick Jones is the only remaining member, the band’s hits make them worth experiencing live. Also, for those of us who watch Aqua Teen Hunger Force, we know the powers of the “Foreigner Belt.” Tickets are $59 to $69. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s, meanwhile, has another great month of shows booked. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 9, Pappy’s will host the Bobby Nichols Band. The high-desert band is a hit with the local crowd, thanks to their smooth electronic instrumental grooves; it will be a perfect night to be in Pioneertown for dinner and a show. Admission is free. At 7:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 10, The Palominos (right) will be performing. The San Diego based honky-tonk band is helping keep the California country music sound alive. This show is free, too. After hosting the Weirdos in December, Pappy’s will be hosting another punk band at 9 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 19: Parquet Courts. Since forming in 2010 in Brooklyn, N.Y., the band has been a hit in the underground—and has even gained some attention from the mainstream music press. Tickets are $12. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza is unfortunately losing booking mastermind Brandon Henderson. The good news is he will be replaced by War Drum frontman Jack Kohler. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 9, The Hood will host its new Industry Night. DJ Bent will be spinning during the all-vinyl night. Attendance is free (21 and older). At 10 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 18, Flower Boy and Giselle Woo and the Night Owls will be playing. Attendance is again free (21 and older) The Independent wishes Brandon Henderson well in his new journey. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.thehoodbar.com.

We’re finally getting a better look at the Hard Rock Hotel’s entertainment plans. The hotel will now feature DJs every Friday and Saturday in the lobby from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m., and poolside from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Hard Rock Palm Springs, 150 S. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-325-9676; www.hrhpalmsprings.com.

Vicky’s of Santa Fe has some great music events to go hand in hand with the restaurant’s fine dining. Every Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 6:30 to 10 p.m., jazz musician Pat Rizzo performs with the All That Jazz Band. Every Tuesday, from 7 to 10 p.m., the restaurant features Michael Dees and Trio. Fans of swing music can enjoy Carolyn Martinez and Trio every Thursday from 6:30 to 10 p.m. John Stanley King performs every Sunday from 6 to 9 p.m. Vicky’s of Santa Fe, 45100 Club Drive, Indian Wells; 760-345-9770; www.vickysofsantafe.com.

The Ace Hotel has added a monthly event to its lineup in the Amigo Room. At 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 10, The Full House Band featuring Nena Anderson will perform “gypsy jazz,” Americana and Western swing. The event will be every second Friday of the month going forward. Attendance is free to those 21 and older.The Ace Hotel, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The newly opened Copa Room is hopping; the new spot has a lot to offer thanks to its old-school lounge appeal. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Jan. 3 and 4, the Copa will host Well-Strung (below), an all-male string quartet playing the works of artists from to Mozart to Vivaldi to … Lady Gaga? Yes, that’s right. Tickets are $25 to $35. Check the Copa’s website, as the folks there were adding a variety of shows to the lineup as we went to press.The Copa Room, 244 E. Amado Road, Palm Springs; 760-866-0021; www.coparoomtickets.com.

Zena Bender, in collaboration with the folks at Radio Free Joshua Tree, will be holding a second fundraiser at the Sky Village Swap Meet in Yucca Valley, at 4 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 8. The nonprofit radio station was founded by Teddy Quinn to serve as an outlet for Coachella Valley and high-desert musicians, poets and artists. The effort is worth your support. A suggested donation is $10. Sky Village Swap Meet, 7028 Theatre Road, Yucca Valley; www.radiofreejoshuatree.com.

Siouxzan Perry, a graphic designer and website developer, was the manager of Tura Satana, the lead actress in the 1965 B-Movie classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

“She passed away in 2011 on my birthday,” said Perry.

Perry was devastated by the loss of her client and close friend. At Perry’s home, Tura Satana is in every room in some way—paintings, photographs, film props, movie posters and even some of her personal items.

While Perry has always been open about the fact that she’s a lesbian, she was in no rush to date. She explained that past romances have included drama, ex-girlfriend issues, and other things she didn’t want to deal with.

Then Helen Macfarlane entered her life.

“I met Helen on Facebook through a friend. I do something called ‘LP of the day.’ I’ve been doing it for five years now: I put up an LP everyday that’s absolutely hideous, and I just let everybody go with it,” said Perry.

Macfarlane, a commissioned artist and language interpreter, felt immediately connected to Siouxzan after reading her Facebook page.

“We just started to have contact. I knew she was a real person, and it wasn’t a catfish situation,” said Macfarlane.

There was only one problem with their online romance: Macfarlane, a native of New Zealand, was living in Austria, and had been for 30 years.

Perry was hesitant at first to meet Macfarlane.

“Before I knew it, she came out to visit, and she fell in love with the desert—and with me! She went back, and it took about two years to make preparations to bring her here,” said Perry.

Then came June 2013, when U.S. Supreme Court rulings struck down much of the Defense of Marriage Act, and reversed Proposition 8 in California, again legalizing gay marriage here. Macfarlane was out of the country and in the process of returning to the United States when Perry called her with the news.

They decided it was time to make that leap themselves.

“We want to be married, not just because we love each other and we know that we want to be together, but also because it will help with Helen with getting her green card and getting sponsored so she can work here,” Perry said. “Right now, she’s here on a six-month visa, and everything is going through Austria. It’s a pain.”

They are having two weddings: They enjoyed a small ceremony on Dec. 26, and early in the new year, they will go all out with a Hawaiian-themed event, featuring Hawaiian food, Hawaiian music and tiki-related items.

Meanwhile, the gay-marriage rush has led to good times for local LGBT wedding planners and officiants.

Richard Cadieux of Palm Desert, known as the “Wedding Professor” (right), said that he couldn’t be happier with the boom in business. He said he’s performed more than 900 wedding ceremonies for couples both straight and LGBT over the past 13 years, and he’s enjoyed the increase in business since June.

“On Nov. 22, I did 27 (weddings) back to back in Palm Springs under the Marilyn statue,” said Cadieux. “In November, I did 47 total. In December, I did 18. Ever since July, my business went up 400 percent.”

Cadieux said many couples rushed to tie the knot before the year’s end.

“There’s a thrust of people who are beating the clock before Jan. 1 because of tax purposes—and there’s been pent-up excitement,” he said. “The first year, I know, is going to be the heaviest year; the second year will trail down, and the third year will tail off from there.”

Still, there is the potential for Palm Springs to become a gay-wedding hub, of sorts, Cadieux said.

“We hope as a tourist destination that people come from states where it’s too cold, even if (marriage there is) legal or not, and that we develop a tourist destination for weddings here,” said Cadieux.

Cadieux has noticed trends developing regarding LGBT wedding ceremonies—some of which have been surprising.

“The ones who are spending the most money are girls,” he said. “Recently, there were a couple of women from Long Beach who were taking over the Farrell Compound. It was probably a $40,000 wedding.”

The first wave of same-sex couples who are getting married has included many couples who are older and have been together longer—25 to 50 years or more, in many cases. The Rev. Lisa Phillian, of Rainbow Weddings—she prefers to be known as The Reverend Lisa—provided one example of an older couple she married earlier this year.

“There was a gentleman—his name was George,” she said. “… He came with his oxygen tank and his partner. We made a makeshift chapel in our living room and married them in front of it. A month after they were married, his husband, Kenny, called me and said George had died. I send out 150 Christmas cards each year, and six have called me this year to inform me that their partner has passed since their weddings.”

At the same time, The Reverend Lisa has witnessed more elaborate weddings that have included the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway and hot-air balloon rides in Temecula—and there was even one on a helicopter pad at a Beverly Hills hotel.

“What we try to promote to our clients is romance,” she said. “Every couple I have ever married has said they’re just doing it for the taxes, and it’s a piece of paper. Out of 150 couples, at least 125 of them have stood and cried, so it’s not just a piece of paper.”

Both Richard Cadieux and The Reverend Lisa offered some advice to couples considering taking the leap.

“A wedding is more than just flowers, cake, a venue and a reception,” said The Reverend Lisa. “Hire a good planner, and allow your event to be pleasant. Your day should be special—whether it’s small or large. … The right planner makes a difference. Also, do it in reverence. We sometimes jump at something because we’re afraid it’s going to leave. (Gay marriage) is not leaving this time.”

Richard Cadieux emphasized the importance of the wedding’s attendees.

“Talk to your partner about the guest list,” said Cadieux. “Get realistic so that feelings don’t get hurt. … I knew Harvey Milk when I was living in San Francisco, and he said, ‘Come out, come out, wherever you are!’ My experience is when there are a number of straight guests who have never been to a same-sex wedding, they see who we are. … If (people getting married) can invite some people who have not seen love in a same-sex marriage, it will affect their consciousness, and we will gain our rights across the country faster.”

Below: The Reverend Lisa: “I send out 150 Christmas cards each year, and six have called me this year to inform me that their partner has passed since their weddings.” Photo by Jehd Tienzo.

Dashiell Hammett is a name that’s familiar to fans of mystery novels; the prolific noir-era writer penned numerous renowned books, including several that became legendary big-screen successes.

Now Hammett is himself the subject of a novel. Hammett Unwritten, by Owen Fitzstephen (aka Gordon McAlpine), a Southern California resident, is a fictionalized account based on the late author’s life surrounding The Maltese Falcon.

The book starts out on New Year’s Eve 1959 in Long Island. At that time, it had been almost 30 years since Hammett had written a new story; he was in the midst of health issues he would not discuss. He is reviewing the obituary that he wrote for himself; we see how troubled he is over divorcing his first wife in San Francisco, and only keeping in contact with his children through support payments and the occasional phone call. Booze, smoking and women definitely had an impact on Hammett’s life.

“The Black Falcon Affair of 1922” in San Francisco is portrayed in the novel as a true story, even though the real Maltese Falcon is based on the Kniphausen Hawk (a centuries-old ceremonial pouring vessel). The mysterious statuette of a falcon with a jewel on it was said to offer the person who owned it various powers. It’s the sort of archeological artifact you’d expect to see in an Indiana Jones film. Hammett Unwritten depicts the story of the falcon as real, and suggests that Hammett was both blessed and cursed by it—and that the story itself consumed him.

As Hammett recalls his most infamous case—which also went on to be the subject of his masterpiece novel—he goes down memory lane after one of the scam artists he was involved with while cracking the original case arrives in his office. Other real-life people—including Lillian Hellman, with whom Hammett had a decades-long love affair—get worked into the plot as well. The book also has Hammett cracking his final case in the days after the House Un-American Activities Committee caught up with him and blacklisted him for his refusal to cooperate—something that really happened.

While Hammett Unwritten is well-written, the overly complex story is hard to follow at times. The book jumps around various eras of Hammett’s career, the numerous women with whom Hammett was involved, the characters related to The Maltese Falcon, and so on; at times, it’s hard to determine the era in which a particular scene is set. There are also bits and pieces of interviews that Hammett did throughout his career worked in, which muddles things even more.

Did having the mysterious falcon in his possession give the fictional Hammett the fortune and fame he enjoyed as a writer? When the fictional author gave away the falcon, did that lead to his string of bad luck? How much of this novel happened in real life, and how much of it is pure fiction? These are all questions you’ll be asking yourself after reading Hammett Unwritten.

Hammett Unwritten

By Owen Fitzstephen

Seventh Street,

160 pages, $13.95

If you’ve driven down Palm Drive in Desert Hot Springs recently, you may have seen a mural being painted on a wall of an animal hospital run by Save-a-Pet.

The mural features a mountain view—the type you’d expect see in Desert Hot Springs. There are windmills on the left side, and if you look closely on the right, near some palm trees, you’ll see the street sign for the “Spa Zone” of Desert Hot Springs—along with a roadrunner. Toward the front of it all is a German shepherd, a turtle (modeled after Dozer, a turtle that lives at the Save-a-Pet shelter), and an orange tabby cat.

The painter is mural artist John Coleman. Coleman moved to the Coachella Valley about two years ago from Reno, Nev., and this is his first local mural. He said he’s looking to do more.

Coleman said that he has painted around 150 murals, most of them at public schools in the Reno area.

“I took painting in high school, and took college courses,” said Coleman. “I’m mostly self-taught. I taught myself how to paint, taught myself how to run a sprayer, and taught myself how to paint with both hands.”

What made Coleman decide to paint murals?

“I guess I would say the expression,” he said. “I had a full-time job, and I decided to do a mural for a school after visiting some killer whales, which was the subject for the mural. When I was done, I decided I wanted to paint murals for a living—so I quit my job and started painting murals.”

However, he hadn’t found it easy to catch a break here in the desert—until recently. While the DogSpa Resort in Desert Hot Springs was being built, he was part of the painting crew. Dr. Paula Terifaj, a veterinarian and owner of the DogSpa Resort, noticed his artistic talent.

“I know some of the people at Save-a-Pet, and when they bought this building last year, everyone noticed this blank wall,” said Terifaj. “I knew them, and I knew the building, (and) John said he wanted to paint a mural on it. I just called them up and asked, ‘Would you like to work with an artist for a mural?’ They wanted to see his portfolio; I gave them a copy, and they took it to the board meeting. They unanimously wanted to do it.”

The mural, of course, is much more appealing than a blank wall—especially considering that graffiti is known to be a big problem in Desert Hot Springs. As a result, the reception for the mural has been warm, with not a bit of controversy like the hubbub created over the recently painted mural at Bar in downtown Palm Springs.

“The community has been great. People drive by and honk and wave, and they’ve stopped in to talk about it,” said Coleman. “It was approved by the city of Desert Hot Springs. The (Community) and Cultural Affairs council green-lighted it, passed it on to the city, and the city had no problem. Save-a-Pet provided some paint after I donated the mural. Vista Paint in Cathedral City bought most of the paint and donated it to us.”

When it comes to Save-a-Pet as an organization, Coleman has nothing but good things to say.

“I think they’re doing great things,” he said. “When I see the people working in the hospital, they’re very professional, and everything is clean. They’re very gentle with the animals. I think Save-a-Pet is great; they’re a no-kill shelter. They’re trying hard, and they have a lot of good people trying to get the dogs and cats adopted.”

At 4 foot 11 inches tall, Leslie Jordan is one of the shortest actors in Hollywood—but thanks in part to his Southern charm, he has a big presence in any production in which he finds himself.

Jordan will be performing his one man play Unwrapped: Southern Holiday Stories as the first ticketed show at the brand-new Copa Room in Palm Springs, from Thursday, Dec. 19, through Saturday, Dec. 21.

Born in 1955 in Memphis, Tenn., Jordan’s mother was 19 years old when he was born. His father, a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army, was killed in a plane crash when Jordan was only 11. He grew up in a deeply religious, conservative atmosphere, and he told his story of growing up as a tiny boy while being “the gayest man I know” in his autobiography, My Trip Down the Pink Carpet, which also became a one-man show.

While Jordan has had a successful career in Hollywood by any measure, he said during a recent interview that acting wasn’t his original career of choice.

“I had been around horses, and I wanted to be a jockey,” said Jordan. “I never became a jockey, and I was an exercise-rider. I went back to school; I got a degree (in theater), and thought while I was at the University of Tennessee, ‘You know, I gotta go somewhere,’ so I decided either L.A. or New York. I thought, ‘ I’ll start with a tan, so I’ll go out to L.A.’”

He came West to start an acting career in 1982.

“When I look back on it, I didn’t have doubts. I was so naïve about the whole thing,” he said. “I got off a bus near Hollywood and Vine. I had $1,200 sewn into my underpants by my mother because we didn’t even have ATMs back then, and I just sort of thought, ‘Here I am!’”

Jordan found work doing commercials and made his TV-show debut on an episode of The Fall Guy in 1986. In 1990, he starred in the campy comedy Ski Patrol with then-up-and-coming comedian George Lopez, as well as Martin Mull and Ray Walston. He has earned numerous roles in TV and film productions within a wide variety of genres—including a couple of horror films. He’s probably best known for his roles as Beverley Leslie on Will and Grace, and as Earl “Brother Boy” Ingram in Sordid Lives. More recently, he was on American Horror Story.

When asked how he chooses his roles, he said choice doesn’t come into play much.

“Honey, if they offer it to me, I do it,” he said. “I have to. There’s no plan, and there’s no, ‘Oh, am I attracted to this project?’ At my level, if it’s offered to me, I have to do it. I ain’t no Tom Cruise—but I’m a whole lot of fun. Sometimes I think I’m the biggest whore in Hollywood: 100 bucks a day and a square meal, and you’ve got me! Pay me the money, and I’ll be like an aging show pony.”

Jordan has also found success as a playwright. His first play, Hysterical Blindness and Other Southern Tragedies That Have Plagued my Life Thus Far, found success both off-Broadway and in Los Angeles.

“They call me a playwright, and I kinda think … I don’t write anything for anyone other than myself,” he said. “I (once) had a casting director who told my people, ‘Leslie is a very funny guy who comes in with the singers, and that’s going to be his career. He’s going to have a long and very storied career, but we don’t think at this point that he could carry a show.’ I thought, ‘You know what? He doesn’t think I can keep people enthralled for an hour or whatever; I’ll write my own play.’”

In a sense, Jordan said he wasn’t prepared for the success of Hysterical Blindness.

“I don’t think I was quite ready for that. The critics were pretty mean and hurt my feelings,” he said. “I thought, ‘I’m not a playwright! I just write things for me.’ They approached it as if it was a theater piece. I didn’t write anything again for 10 years. But that’s what attracted me. … I wanted to showcase myself for better TV and film roles.”

As for how Unwrapped came to be the Copa Room’s debut show: Dave Morgan, a local public-relations/events producer, suggested the show to Jordan after hearing his hilarious Christmas stories from his childhood.

“I told (Dave Morgan), ‘I don’t have a Christmas show!’ He said, ‘Yes, you do. I know a lot of your stories. I’ve heard them all over the years about how your daddy bought you a bride doll one Christmas, and that funny story about when you got a pony another Christmas.’ So we put together an amazing little Christmas show that’s just me telling stories about Christmas in the South, growing up with Christmas, and what Christmas was like. We’re going to keep it short, sweet—and I’m not going to ramble.”

Jordan doesn’t have any kids, and his identical twin sisters never married or had any kids. Therefore, Christmas these days is pretty quiet for him and his family members, he said.

“We’re a little family unit, with my mom, my sisters and me,” he said. “I take them everywhere I go. I took them to Barcelona one year, to Casablanca, and other various gay cruises—but there are no kids. Christmas is very quiet. Sometimes, we don’t even take off our pajamas, and we just lay around.”

Leslie Jordan performs Unwrapped: Southern Holiday Stories at 8 p.m., Thursday through Saturday, Dec. 19-21, at the Copa Room Palm Springs, 244 E. Amado Road. According to the Copa website, tickets are sold out. For more information, call 760-866-0021, or visit www.coparoomps.com.

The Purple Room at the Club Trinidad became a legendary place to have dinner and watch a performance in the 1960s, thanks in part to appearances by the Rat Pack.

After numerous changes over the years, the Purple Room is under brand-new management, and has gone through a complete makeover in an effort to return the classic venue to its glory days.

Who is in charge of the entertainment aspect of this ambitious effort? None other than Gary and Joan Gand, who handle booking for the venue, and themselves play Friday and Saturday nights at the Purple Room.

The Gand Band’s story starts long before the Gands' arrival here in Palm Springs—back in the city of Chicago.

“We met when we were 17 years old,” said Joan Gand. “Gary was a guitarist in my friend’s band, and I was the keyboardist in another blues band.”

Said Gary: “She was going out with the drummer. I was determined to steal her away from the drummer.”

Responded Joan: “We’ve been together and playing music ever since, and we won’t tell how many years that is.”

The Gands were part of the Chicago blues scene, playing in legendary clubs around Chicago and getting to know some of the well-known Windy City blues musicians.

“In Chicago, the blues for us as musicians was every day,” said Gary Gand. “You go to the liquor store, and you’d see Muddy Waters—he was a local guy. It wasn’t until the Rolling Stones came out later talking about how great Chicago blues was, the Chess (Records) sound and all that stuff, that we really thought it was special, and that wasn’t going on in the rest of the world.”

Blues music definitely runs deep in the Gand’s repertoire.

“It’s the emotion of (the blues),” Gary explained. “Blues is about the hardships that are in your life every day. (In) the great music, whether it’s blues, classical or country, there’s always a story of sorrow. You lost a woman; you lost your castle; you lost a war—there’s a whole religion built around that stuff.

Joan Gand credited a high school friend for introducing her to blues.

“I was taking jazz theory and messing around with improvisation,” she said. “A friend of mine who was two years older than me and had a blues band heard me playing in the music department at school. He said, ‘You should come play in my blues band!’ I said, ‘Well, I don’t know anything about blues,’ and he said, ‘You don’t have to; if you know jazz, jazz is based on blues.’ I went and played in his band, and ever since then, I’ve always been a fan of blues and that whole world. From a keyboardist’s perspective, it’s just great music to play, and I really enjoy it.”

The Gands later headed to Palm Springs, and played regularly at the late, lamented Blue Guitar.

“We ended up coming to Palm Springs because of the modernism thing going on,” said Joan Gand. “With the architecture preservation, all the amazing buildings in town, and the whole town of Palm Springs, we just fell in love with it from the architecture point of view. That’s a hobby of ours, and we collect modernism furniture—and, of course, that fits in with guitars from the era. All that design adds together with the music, so we got deeply involved in that.”

Their favorite local show thus far was put together by the Palm Springs Art Museum at the Bob Hope house.

“We played a fundraiser there, and when we were looking for an area to set up the band, we discovered this huge outdoor fireplace made out of concrete,” said Joan Gand. “They weren’t using it, and it was a warm night, and it actually looked like a giant stage. Imagine a fireplace that big—that a whole band could fit in there.”

Gary added: “When I went into the backyard, it was right off the patio. I said, ‘Oh, look, they got a stage right here.’ I was talking to the house manager, and I asked, ‘What’s that big pile of wood for?’ and he said, ‘That’s for the fireplace.’ I asked him, ‘Where’s that?’ and he said, ‘You’re standing in it.’ I asked, ‘Are you planning to use it tonight?’ He said, ‘No,’ and I said, ‘Great! Then we’ll set up in here in the fireplace.’ That was really fun.”

After playing fundraisers and home shows—one of which included Max Weinberg, Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band’s drummer—friends convinced them to seek a new local regular gig. However, it was not easy to do; they said there was not much variety in the local scene, and many venues wrapped up entertainment around 9 p.m.

After some residencies in various local places, they found the Purple Room last season.

“When we played here last year during the season, it was barely making it,” said Joan Gand. “It hadn’t been renovated in a long time; it had been reopened by new management who didn’t know what they needed to do to make it work. We have a lot of fans in Palm Springs, and they would come because there was nowhere to hear this music. It would be just packed in here, and when they tried to do other nights of music, no one would come, because (the other acts) didn’t have a following.”

Gary Gand shared a pet peeve that he and Joan share.

“It was a lot of track acts—people singing around with their computer,” said Gary Gand. “Our policy here is no tracks: It’s live musicians playing live music in front of a live audience. Everything that comes off the stage is someone playing a musical instrument. DJs are great for the late-night dance crowd, but that’s not a substitute for a live band playing music. We’re cool with (DJs), but what we’re not cool with is a guy crooning along to his laptop.”

When Tony Marchese and Mark Van Laanen, the owners of TRIO, took over management of the Purple Room over the summer—remodeling it and returning food service to the venue—they brought in the Gands to put together a great music program. They have put together residencies that include local band Machin’, jazz musician Michael Holmes, and Barry Minniefield, a singing chef who performs soul music. The Gands have a special musical lineup planned for Modernism Week in February, too.

As a result of the music, the food and the renovated venue, business has been pretty good since the October reopening.

“It’s been very well-received by the public,” said Marchese. “All the old groups are coming out again. For the past six weeks or so, it’s been awesome. We’re 40 percent above what we thought we were going to do.”

Joan Gand said they want to make sure the Purple Room stays true to its roots.

“The main point of everything is to preserve the traditions of live music and roots music,” she said. “If people don’t hear it performed live, it will be forgotten.”

The Purple Room, at the Club Trinidad at 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, is open from 3 p.m. to midnight, Sunday and Tuesday through Thursday; and 3 p.m. to 2 a.m., Friday and Saturday. Live music is featured every night. For more information, including a complete schedule, call 760-322-4422, or visit purpleroompalmsprings.com.