Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Brian Blueskye

Over the summer, a former Jewish temple in Desert Hot Springs was converted into the Desert Hot Springs Community Health Center.

The building on Pierson Boulevard had been purchased by the now-nearly bankrupt city of Desert Hot Springs in 2008 and was condemned, partially torn down, and eventually sold to the nonprofit Borrego Community Health Foundation at a tremendous loss before its revival. (Meanwhile, a brand-new building behind the Vons grocery store on Palm Drive, which was constructed by the city to be a health-care clinic, sits unoccupied.)

Despite the controversies and boondoggles, Borrego has managed to bring much-needed health-care services to Desert Hot Springs, and the clinic has been well-received by citizens of Desert Hot Springs (including myself) since the October opening.

“We’ve been seeing that the community was hungry for what we offer,” said clinic site manager Sergio Ruiz. “Little by little, people are finding out that we are here, and we are seeing more and more patients as time goes on.

“… We’re here to serve, and when people come into our clinic, one of the things I’ve heard most often is that it’s an experience, because (we are) typically seen as the clinic for the uninsured. We are that, and we are here to serve (the uninsured), but they don’t expect to see as beautiful of a facility—and great service as well.”

The services offered by Borrego at the Desert Hot Springs location, beyond primary care, are extensive: in-house specialty care, physicals, immunizations, diabetes care, hypertension care, pediatrics, some gynecology services, and urgent care. The new building replaces a much-smaller clinic that had operated for several years in DHS.

Borrego assists clients who are without the ability to pay by offering sliding-scale fees and helping people without health insurance find health-care coverage through government programs for which they may qualify.

“As a federally qualified health care facility, we have the ability to offer government-sponsored programs,” Ruiz said. “We have a position here within the clinic that we call the ‘care coordinator specialist,’ and that person … has the knowledge to enroll people in different government-sponsored programs. That’s what we aim to do, but as a last resort, we offer a sliding fee. It’s a program for the noninsured or underinsured; the minimum payment right now for that would be $30, and that depends on income and (the number of) members of the household 18 years old and below. What people don’t realize about us is that $30 includes most labs, also.”

Ruiz said that some people don’t realize there’s often help available.

“The reality is most people qualify for something, and we try to place them in government sponsored programs, depending on what the visit is for,” Ruiz said.

Borrego offers services that most community health centers don’t have the resources to provide, Ruiz noted. However, the clinic—located in a city that has long been underserved by medical professionals—does face a challenge.

“One of the areas where we fall short is that we can take care of most things that are primary care; however, when the need arises to refer to specialty care, that’s where we encounter bumps in the road, because people (may not) have insurance. That’s why we place an emphasis on getting people on to government-sponsored programs. For the common cold and cough, we can take care of that here; however, when we need to refer to specialists, that becomes out of pocket for the noninsured.”

When it comes down to the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare), Ruiz sees it as a good thing for both consumers and the health-care system.

“It will mean more people qualifying to receive services,” he said. “For some people, it’s sort of a scary time because of paperwork and so forth. What we have done here is sent people to specialized training to enroll people … through Covered California.

“I think, in general, the population will be better served if they enroll in these programs. I feel that the number of people receiving what we offer is going to increase dramatically.”

The Desert Hot Springs Community Health Center, at 66675 Pierson Blvd. in Desert Hot Springs, is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; and 8 a.m. to noon, Saturday and Sunday. For more information, call 760-676-5240, or visit (although the clinic’s physical address on the website had not been updated as of this posting).

If you’re familiar with the Los Angeles music scene of the ‘80s, or you’ve ever watched an episode of Celebrity Rehab on VH1, you know who Bob Forrest is.

The Thelonious Monster frontman is the subject of Bob and the Monster, a documentary just released on home video which details Forrest’s years as a drug-user, his recovery, and his transition to becoming a drug counselor.

The documentary features interviews with an A-list of musicians including Gwen Stefani of No Doubt, Keith Morris of Black Flag and the Circle Jerks, Angelo Moore of Fishbone, Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stephen Perkins of Jane’s Addiction, and the members of Thelonious Monster, as well as a chat with Forrest’s Celebrity Rehab partner, Dr. Drew Pinsky. They all help tell the story of someone who has been to hell and back.

The documentary starts off by examining Forrest’s childhood in Palm Springs. He says he questioned why all of his sisters were much older than him, and why his parents were older than most; he eventually discovered a sad and shocking truth. After his father passed away, the family went from middle class to poverty, moving to a trailer park.

Forrest would go on to form Thelonious Monster, and become a creative genius compared to both John Lennon and Bob Dylan. Forrest quickly attracted attention from record companies and played some famous (and at times infamous) shows in Los Angeles with the likes of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone, Jane’s Addiction and many other acts.

Of course, Forrest’s drug addiction is a major topic of the film. He talks about how Top Jimmy (James Paul Koncek) of Top Jimmy and the Rhythm Pigs took him on his first ride—via a shared needle. The tales of Forrest’s addiction are downright horrifying; so are the various bits of footage showing him arguing with band members over the years. The film shows how other members of the band also struggled with their own addictions, and the number of times Forrest went to rehab.

A moment that illustrates just how serious Forrest’s heroin addiction had become occurred at Pinkpop in 1993, when Forrest—clearly under the influence—gave an insane performance, climbing up scaffolding, rolling around on the stage, and talking madly in an after-show interview. Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse, there’s a story about how he shared a needle with a guy who told Forrest he was HIV-positive. Forrest shares the needle with him anyway, after boiling it in dish detergent.

When Forrest finally decided to get clean, he started volunteering for an organization that assisted musicians with addiction problems. He became dedicated to the cause of recovery, and eventually became the Chemical Dependency Program director at Las Encinitas Hospital. He later started the now-defunct Hollywood Recovery Services.

While he’s a believer in recovery programs, he’s frustrated with the profit-driven health-care system which treats addicts with yet more drugs, as well as the politics behind the health-care system related to the treatment of addiction.

While the topic of a musician’s addiction has become a clichéd documentary subject, Bob Forrest’s story is indeed quite remarkable. He has been able to turn a huge negative into a positive and is obviously knowledgeable on the subject of addiction. Forrest’s reputation of giving out his cell-phone number and being called at all hours by those in need shows just how devoted he is as a drug counselor.

Bob and the Monster is now available on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as various online and on-demand sources.

Eccentricity can either be a gift—or a curse. For Cass McCombs, it’s thankfully a gift, as he proves on his latest album, Big Wheel and Others (Domino).

McCombs, who turned down an interview request from the Independent, has now turned in seven albums that have been generally well-received by critics and indie-music fans.

The album starts out with an audio clip from the 1969 documentary Sean, about a 4-year-old, Sean Farrell, who was raised in the San Francisco counterculture and was already a marijuana-user at that age. There are also two other audio clips of Farrell on the album. These odd inclusions prove that if you’re expecting rhyme, reason or a specific formula on a Cass McCombs album, forget it: He’s all over the place.

The first proper song, “Big Wheel,” is an Americana-meets-rock song about trucks, trucker life, bulldozers and other rigs. He proclaims: “What does it mean to be a man? How you going to tell me who I am?”

No track sounds the same, and the album becomes a hot mess of various genres, from country to jazz to psychedelic folk to rock. “Angel Blood” has the feel of a Gram Parsons song. “Morning Star” sounds like something you’d expect from Syd Barrett or Nick Drake. “The Burning of the Temple, 2012” feels like a Nick Cave song. By the time you reach the album’s halfway point with “It Means a Lot to Know You Care,” which feels like a guitar-jazz-instrumental you’d hear in some bistro, you may feel like you’ve been listening to an iTunes compilation by a magazine. 

The second half starts off with a beautiful, mellow song called “Dealing.” Two tracks later, “Satan Is My Toy” offers rock with a saxophone in the background. How much more bizarre can it get? The answer: Much more bizarre.

“Brighter!” is a track featuring Karen Black, the actress known for films such as Five Easy Pieces, Airport 1975 and Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses. While Black sadly passed away from cancer in August, she sounds very much alive on “Brighter!” which reminds of a ’70s country song. Her voice is top-notch.

As the 22-track album closes with “Unearthed,” which feels like a home-recorded psychedelic folk anthem, you may be left wondering what you just listened to. While audiophiles and open-minded music lovers will no doubt embrace this album, Big Wheel and Others is not what most people expect from a single album by a single artist. However, McCombs has been successful with this scatter-shot approach—and he should definitely be applauded for it.

Cass McCombs performs at 9 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $15. For more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit

Season is finally here! As you make plans for Thanksgiving and prepare for the other big holidays just around the corner, you should also plan on attending some of these great shows.

The McCallum Theatre has an amazing variety of events booked solid through the month. One show that definitely won’t disappoint music-lovers is an appearance by Crosby, Stills and Nash’s Graham Nash at 8 p.m., Monday, Nov. 18. While he may be best known for his work with Stephen Stills and David Crosby, he’s had a long and successful solo career; his 1971 solo debut album, Songs for Beginners, was critically acclaimed and reached No. 15 on the Billboard albums chart. Tickets are $35 to $75. Herb Alpert will also be stopping by the McCallum, at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 22, along with his wife, singer Lani Hall. The jazz trumpeter, known primarily for his years with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, was a pioneer in jazz because he mixed Latin, funk, pop and R&B styles into his sound. While jazz has been on the decline with audiences over the years, Alpert is still going strong. Tickets are $35 to $75. The Kingston Trio will be appearing at 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 24. Before folk music became political in the 1960s, putting the genre on the path to a major revival, The Kingston Trio was paving the way for that revival. One downside: The original three members are long gone from the group, so the trio continues in a “third phase” with collaborators who worked with the original lineup or were otherwise affiliated with the trio. That shouldn’t stop you from going to see them and taking in some of the songs that inspired the folk revival of the 1960s. Tickets are $25 to $45. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787;

Aaron LewisAgua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is hosting some big events, too. Theresa Caputo, aka the “Long Island Medium,” will be there at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 15. What can be expected from Caputo? Well, it’s a safe bet that she’ll be communicating with the spirits and talking directly with their living relatives in attendance. Tickets for the event were $60 to $100, but we received word just before our deadline that the show is sold out. (I do NOT suggest shouting out a request for “Freebird” to her.) The following night, Neil Sedaka will take the stage; the “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” crooner will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. Sedaka was a pop icon before the British Invasion and rock ’n’ roll took America by storm. He’s still a success today; he’s been involved with American Idol and had his first big-hit album in two decades in 2007 with The Definitive Collection. Tickets are $50 to $75. For those who remember the band Staind from the infamous nu-metal era: Aaron Lewis, the frontman of the band, will be there at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 30. Lewis became a hit after he did a live duet at Korn’s Family Values Tour in 1999 with Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit of a song Lewis penned called “Outside.” He turned in solo acoustic performances in the later part of the last decade and has now transitioned to country music while Staind is on hiatus. Fun fact: In July 2012, Lewis had a bitter feud with Carrie Underwood after she released her song “Last Name,” which he said “made her sound like a complete whore.” Whoa! Tickets for the event are $25 to $55. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

The Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has two big music events booked this month. Modern R&B superstar Ne-Yo will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. The three-time Grammy Award-winning artist is currently touring behind his latest album, R.E.D., an acronym for Realizing Every Dream. He has crossed over into pop and dance-pop; his recent single with Sia Furler, “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself),” was well-received and even included a successful music video—in an era when the music video isn’t appreciated much any more. Tickets are $49 to $109. Burt Bacharach will follow in Ne-Yo’s footsteps a week later, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23. Like Sedaka, Bacharach was part of the pop scene that came before the British Invasion and rock ’n’ roll, but he always stood out because of his unique songwriting. With 73 Top 40 hits in the U.S., Bacharach has also won Grammys, Academy Awards and pretty much every other award a singer-songwriter can win. Tickets are $29 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000;

Spotlight 29 Casino has a light music schedule for the month of November; however, the resort’s Free Friday Concert Series kicks off with a Johnny Cash tribute by Rusty Evans at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 15. Admission is free. Also, the venue will be hosting The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience: Moonwalker at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9. With a live band and a cast of singers, the show is a must-see for Michael Jackson fans. Tickets are $15. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566;

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has just one big scheduled November event: The Cabazon resort will host comedian and TV host Craig Ferguson for a standup performance at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8. Ferguson has established himself as the host of The Late Late Show and is a possible replacement for David Letterman if The Late Show host ever decides to step down. We’re dying to know: Will Ferguson bring along his robotic skeleton sidekick? Tickets are $55 to $65. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499;

Pappy and Harriet’s has booked Cass McCombs for a gig at 9 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 12. McCombs blends folk, rock, blues, country and several other different styles into one big, awesome mess. He’s toured with the likes of Band of Horses and Cat Power—and he’s definitely someone you should see live at least once. Tickets are $15. (Read my review of his latest album at The following evening, at 8 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 13, Bill Callahan will take the stage. The underground rock artist, who has also performed under the moniker of Smog, continues to push the boundaries of simplicity in songwriting; it’s said that he can repeat the same chord progression throughout the entire song. He’s another musician who has tried his hand in writing, releasing a novel, Letters to Emma Bowlcut, in 2010. Tickets are $15. After an appearance earlier this year at The Date Shed, Reverend Horton Heat will be playing Pappy and Harriet’s at 8 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 24. The Texas trio and warriors of the road never disappoint and always put on a great show. I saw them on the same night as the 2009 Academy Awards when they played the House of Blues, right down the street from the awards ceremony and Vanity Fair after-party; the show was packed despite the traffic and all the Oscars craziness. They’re truly one of the hardest-working independent bands in the business today. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

The ExpendablesThe Date Shed hosts The Expendables at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. No, this group does not include Sylvester Stallone, the Governator or any of those guys; it’s the Santa Cruz surf-rock band that mixes reggae and punk. The resulting sound is similar to that of Sublime. Tickets are $15. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699;

The Hood Bar and Pizza continues to get some great bands thanks in part to their booking genius, Brandon Henderson. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, the Palm Desert venue hosts a retro-themed show going back to the big-band and rockabilly eras featuring Vicky Tafoya and the Big Beat, the Jennifer Keith Quintet and the Deadbeat Daddies; the show will include a pinup contest. Admission at the door is $10. Guttermouth plays at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 16. Guttermouth’s shockingly humorous and offensive lyrics reportedly got them booted from the 2004 Warped Tour; you never know what to expect from the Huntington Beach group. Antics aside, they’re a great punk band that shouldn’t be underestimated. Admission to the 21-and-over show is $10 at the door. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220;

Azul Tapas Inspired Lounge and Patio features a November party that is not to miss—Bella Da Ball’s Star Dedication. It will take place at 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, in front of Azul, followed by an all-star concert at 7:30 p.m. with food and drink specials. Performers such as Allison Annalora, Doug Graham, Keisha D, Marina Mac and others are all scheduled to perform. Admission is free, and the full menu is available, but reservations are suggested. Azul Tapas Inspired Lounge and Patio, 369 N. Palm Canyon, Palm Springs; 760-325-5533;

The Hard Rock Hotel is open for business and moving forward with events. The hotel will kick off an entertainment series titled The Edge at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, with repeats on Friday and Saturday the following two weekends. The Edge is variety show that brings together actors from the screen and the stage in a production of rock classics, similar to Rock of Ages and other Broadway productions that include classic rock and stage performance. November’s show is titled “Top Rock.” Tickets for the event are $45. Hard Rock Hotel, 150 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs;

Neil Sedaka

The Stroke Recovery Center in Palm Springs is truly an exceptional place when you consider that it has around 300 clients—and the services it provides are often free.

The Stroke Recovery Center, at 2800 E. Alejo Road, runs on grants, the kindness of donors and money raised through fundraisers. The organization is holding its biggest fundraiser, the 34th Winter Wonderland Ball, on Saturday, Nov. 23, at the Westin Mission Hills Resort.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke states that 700,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke each year.

“It’s the leading cause of a handicap for adults,” said Beverly Greer, the CEO of the Stroke Recovery Center. “The most recent statistics say that one in four families has someone who has suffered a stroke.”

The key to a recovery after a serious stroke is rehabilitation. Even with rehab, there’s no cure or full recovery, but it helps people gain back language skills and independence-related tasks such as dressing and bathing.

“What we have found over the years is that if you continue working with rehab, you really find you can improve, particularly the ability to take control of your life and your activities of daily living,” Greer said. “We can actually get people out of their wheelchairs. They don’t see the doctor or go to the E.R. as often, and they don’t fall as often.”

Many insurance providers, including Medicare, only provide 30 days of rehabilitation, at the most. That’s often not enough for a stroke victim.

“It really comes down to the original Medicare regulations that were put in place during the 1960s,” Greer said. “Stroke isn’t the only thing that has this problem. What Medicare looked at was if you can document improvement in mobility, muscle strength and the elements that are quantifiable. We were not able to do that for strokes past the 90-day level. Therefore, the reimbursement via Medicare was stopped. This is very typical of nursing homes and different types of rehabilitation.”

What does this mean to stroke victims? “Unless you have a lot of means and deep pockets, you really don’t have a lot of options open to you to continue rehabilitation.”

The Stroke Recovery Center provides a variety of rehabilitation programs such as physical therapy, speech therapy, recreational therapy, and healthy meals to clients and caregivers, often at a cost of only $4. During a tour of the facility, Greer pointed out a space on the courtyard patio that will eventually be the site of a new physical-therapy and exercise room. It will be double the size of the current one, which is limited in space and generally packed with clients receiving physical therapy and using exercise machines.

“We say that we see miracles every day, and we really do. It’s absolutely amazing,” she said. “We’ve had numerous people come in, in wheelchairs, and start walking. We see people who have lost their ability to speak for 5 to 10 years start speaking again. We see people coming in with post-stroke depression, which is very common, being able to laugh again and feel good about themselves. It’s a very upbeat environment and a strong community of people here.”

The center does all of this with a budget of around just $1 million annually.

“We have to raise every cent of it,” Greer said. “We have very generous donors and a number of foundations and granting organizations that have funded us for years. We’re always looking for new avenues of support. Because we’re an older organization, a lot of our donors who were with us for the full 35 years are no longer with us, because they started when they were older folks and retired. We’re looking to build a new generation of donors and hope that people understand when they see what we do here, what a good thing it is, and they’ll continue with their support.”

The Winter Wonderland Ball is the center’s main event. This year, the center will honor board member Harvey Gerber and his wife, Angie; local philanthropist Donna MacMillan; and Javed Siddiqi, of the Primary Stroke Center at Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs. Wayne Foster Entertainment will be providing the live music.

“It’s our big do of the year,” Greer said. “It’s always a big kickoff for the season here in Palm Springs. This year is going to be absolutely spectacular, because we have wonderful honorees.”

The Stroke Recovery Center’s Winter Wonderland Ball starts at 6 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23, at the Westin Mission Hills Resort, 71333 Dinah Shore Drive, in Rancho Mirage. For more information or reservations, call James Martinez at 760-323-7676, ext. 112, or visit

The LGBT community celebrated on June 26 when the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on United States v. Windsor struck down Section 3 of the federal Defense of Marriage Act—and Hollingsworth v. Perry overturned California’s Proposition 8 and therefore allowed LGBT couples here to get married.

These were historic decisions for LGBT Californians—but they’ve been a long time coming, and the fight for marriage equality continues in the majority of the United States.

On June 28, 1969, in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City, the fight for gay rights began in earnest when the Stonewall Inn was raided by police. As officers loaded some of the patrons into the patrol wagon, the crowd began to sing “We Shall Overcome.” When a scuffle between a woman in handcuffs and four police officers broke out, the crowd began to fight back. What’s believed to be the first gay pride march took place in New York City one year to the day later in 1970.

While LGBT activists took up a public fight, a lot of ordinary people who weren’t out of the closet were facing their own personal battles. A handful of these people in our LGBT community recently spoke to the Coachella Valley Independent about some of the hardships they faced, as well as some of the sacrifices they have made—and continue to make.

Ron Wallen

Ron Wallen, of Palm Springs, celebrated his 80th birthday in September. His husband and partner of 58 years, Tom Carrollo, passed away in 2011 after a battle with leukemia.

They met in New York City at a time when same-sex relationships were rare and not discussed openly.

“We were ‘properly introduced,’ which even then seemed quaint,” Wallen said. “My best friend had a boyfriend who was in charge of my coming out. I was not allowed to go with anybody he didn’t approve of. He introduced me to Tom. (Tom) was one of his previous one-nighters, and Tom was very curious of what being gay was, because it was bothering him at the time.”

Ron Wallen with a portrait of his late husband, Tom Carrollo.“We were introduced, and we ‘courted’ for 3 weeks. I thought he was a slouch, and he thought I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. At the end of the three weeks, we decided: Screw all those things—and that was it. We met every night in a park until 2 or 3 in the morning, and then I had to get up and go to work, and then go to school at night. I didn’t get much sleep.”

Wallen said there were places for the LGBT community to go back then—but there were potential consequences.

“There were bars that you could to go to,” Wallen said. “There were dance places where it was nothing more than the police coming to get their ‘stipend’ to keep the bar going. There would be cute little things like the lights would flicker, and then you had to run around and find the first girl you could find instead of dancing with a boy, or vice versa for the girls, or sit down very quickly at a table and stare. Even though they were coming in for their bribes, they still didn’t want to see things.”

During the early years of his relationship with Carrollo, Wallen was drafted into military service.

“They got me kicking and screaming, two years—and they got me for an extra week somehow,” he said. “They were backed up on paperwork.

“I was drafted in December 1956, and by that time, we had been together about three years. I had to write to him through friends. I was stationed in Germany and had to write him all kinds of coded things. I couldn’t pour out my love and all those things. I hated military service. Lots of people said, ‘Well, why in the hell are you going?’ My point was that if Joe Jones, who just married Marge Jones, has to go, then why in the hell shouldn’t I? Just because I got together with a boy instead of a girl, I just felt that it wouldn’t have been right to bug out on (the basis) of being gay—which, of course, was quite easily done back then.”

While Wallen was in the military, Carrollo was settling in California; that’s where they both wanted to be, Wallen explained. When Wallen was discharged, he also moved to the Los Angeles area, where they both eventually worked in a document-reproduction facility—where Wallen was required to have a security clearance.

“Obviously, when you produce things that are secret, and because of my job where I had to go anywhere in the plant, I had to have a security clearance as the assistant controller,” he said. “I used to help the sales manager with his budget every three months because he was so fucking stupid. I also paid the commissions and got sick and tired of paying unearned advances every single month, but these people knew what they were doing. I knew that Tom knew how to sell, so I blackmailed the sales manager into hiring him.

“You weren’t supposed to be gay and have a security clearance. Anybody knew you were gay … bye-bye security clearance and bye-bye job. Tom would have to sit and listen to all the fag jokes with all the other 25 people in the sales department and go, ‘Ha, ha, ha,’ even though he wanted to punch them out.”

Wallen said co-workers eventually figured out that they were together, and there was a level of acceptance.

“We were their fags. How we got away with it? I’ll never know, but we did,” he said. “I suppose the people who were monitoring the clearance knew we were sharing a home and must have known, or the company should have told them.”

The year 1978 was a particularly ugly time in California, as Anita Bryant and others promoted the Briggs Initiative, which would have had any LGBT citizen, and even some supporters of the LGBT community, fired from positions in public schools. Both Wallen and Carrollo were politically active and fought against it.

Wallen said the movement went well beyond teachers.

“We were the nucleus for an organization called the Whitman-Radcliffe Foundation,” he said. “… One of the things that floored me was at one point, they said they were going to defrock anybody who required a state license, period. A hairdresser they were going to defrock, because (hairdressers) had to have a state license. It never got to that; everyone remembered the teacher thing, but it really was a state-licensure thing.”

Trying to get people involved in the fight presented a challenge.

“We asked our friends in San Diego to give us money, and they said no and were afraid,” Wallen said. “We would tell people, ‘It’s your license were trying to preserve,’ and they were that afraid. The climate was such that smart people, if they really thought about it, were so paranoid that they wouldn’t even give us cash.”

In the 1980s, Carrollo suffered a severe heart attack and was no longer able to work, so the couple decided to relocate to Mexico. In the 1990s, they moved to Florida, and eventually settled in Indio. They bought a home together, and were living on investments and their Social Security income.

When California allowed gay marriage in the state for the first time in 2008, they were one of the first couples to be legally married. But until June of this year, thanks to the Defense of Marriage Act, the federal government did not recognize these marriages.

After Tom’s death in 2011, Wallen found himself in a stressful situation, because he was unable to get Tom’s Social Security survivor benefits. He was forced to do a short sale of the home they once shared together.

Wallen found himself testifying before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee on the impact of DOMA on American families, at the request of Sen. Dianne Feinstein.

“It was a very bad time in my life,” Wallen said. “Because it was a very bad time in my life, it was great, because it got me out of myself. Dianne Feinstein asked (pro-gay-marriage group) Freedom to Marry to send me to Washington for the hearing. Tom had died a month prior to that. I was like, ‘It couldn’t have happened at a worse time.’ Now I think it couldn’t have happened at a better time.”

On the day that Wallen spoke to the Independent, he found out he would finally be getting the survivor benefits going back to when Tom died in 2011.

“When I first applied back then, I was doing it because I was being a bitch. I was doing it to make a point. Sometimes, when you do a thing for a good reason—then some good reason comes back.”

Jim McDivitt

Jim McDivitt,Jim McDivitt, of Palm Springs, is usually the life of the party. The 73-year-old has an outgoing personality and a fantastic sense of humor. When I approached him about being interviewed, his response was: “Oh, do I have some stories to tell you!”

While growing up in Deport, Texas, McDivitt realized his attraction to men at an early age.

“During my childhood, sexual orientation was never an issue. I never tried to hide anything—but I just didn’t do anything about it,” he remembered. “Once I got into adolescence, I was scared to do anything, because I was supposed to be interested in girls, and I wasn’t. I used to get Playboy magazine, and I’d flip through it and look at the jokes, but I’d never look at the naked women. I was more interested in getting a copy of National Geographic.”

During his college years at the University of North Texas, he saw firsthand what the social implications were for being openly gay.

“I had to go back home during spring break, and this kid came through on his Vespa scooter from Mississippi. He had been kicked out his house for being gay by his father,” McDivitt said. “He was basically on the road and living off the kindness of strangers. I asked him, ‘Would you like to come home with me?’ So we went. My mother didn’t quite know what was going on. We stayed in the guest room on twin beds—nothing out of the ordinary.”

McDivitt’s father eventually discovered some materials in the traveler’s suitcase and confronted Jim. The traveler was sent on his way that evening by Jim’s parents. Jim later returned to the University of North Texas, and his mother came to visit him.

“She says, ‘I have a surprise for you,’ and it was my aunt, who had flown in from Florida. She said, ‘Get your things. You’re moving away from these people. It’s all these people’s fault; you’re in the wrong crowd!’” he said. “It was like an intervention; you couldn’t be gay. My father told me, ‘You’ll never amount to anything but a shoe salesman.’ My mother had already called an old friend of the family, a doctor, who she felt she could confide in, and my parents actually thought I was mentally ill. I think my mother would have had them do a frontal lobotomy on me if that would have made me straight, because it was like I brought shame to the family.”

McDivitt faced the military draft after his family found out about his sexual orientation, and he decided to voluntarily enlist in the U.S. Air Force. He lied during the recruitment process when asked about being a homosexual.

“It was good and it was bad in a way,” he said about his military service.

“No, I could not be myself. But I was a very unmotivated, undisciplined, lazy person. Being in the military? You get in there and clean the urinals or do 25 pushups. I started doing what I was told to do. It was good, and it even got my family to think I was doing the right thing, turning my back on that evil lifestyle and serving my country.”

He was stationed in Scotland during his military service.

“I had a top-secret clearance, because my job was copying Soviet chats through Morse code,” he said. “They read a letter that I wrote to my ex-roommate who was also in the Air Force; the only thing I said was, ‘There’s the cutest guy in the barracks. He’s half-Italian and half-Irish.’ Well, that was all that it took. They read that and questioned me: ‘Did you write this? Are you homosexual? Have you had sex with anybody?’ So as luck would have it, I got an honorable discharge (due to an) inability to adjust to military life.”

He returned to the University of North Texas, and eventually moved to San Francisco, where he found a job at a bank. He also took part in the first gay parade in San Francisco.

“That parade was the first time I didn’t mind people seeing me on the street celebrating who I was,” he said. “It was just a little parade, and we didn’t have the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence marching with us back then or anything like that. Back to Monday morning at work, I’m pink and sunburned. People said, ‘Oh, you got some sun this weekend. Where’d you go?’ I said, ‘Oh, some friends and I went to the beach.’ I couldn’t say I went to the gay parade; I just couldn’t.”

He later became a victim of workplace discrimination.

“There was a bank robbery, an inside job,” he said. “I would let people into the safe-deposit boxes and inside the vault. There was another door inside the vault that went into another room, and that’s where all the money for the bank was; I didn’t have a key to that. What happened was at about 4:30 in the afternoon on a Friday—the bank closed at 5—this woman comes in and wants to withdraw about $5,000 in cash. In those days, on Friday afternoon, you counted all your money at about 2, and from about 3 on, business was (delayed until) Monday. She wanted that money; she (says she’s) going to Reno to gamble—she wanted her money, and she wanted it now. They opened the safe to get her the money, and there was no money in there.

“This kid who’s a bank teller and a co-worker, who worked in the mailroom, had gotten together and devised this plan. The teller didn’t twirl the dial on the safe. He goes in, takes a black garbage bag, dumps all the money in the safe, puts it in the trash can, and puts trash papers on the top. He said he was going to take it down to the basement, where the guy from the mailroom put it in a canvas bag and put it next to the mailbox, where a third person would come and grab it.”

When McDivitt discovered the bag and brought it to the attention of the bank manager and the authorities, the culprits confessed. However, McDivitt’s military discharge became a subject of interest to the investigators.

“They asked me why I got out before four years of service. I told them, ‘Well, they found out I was gay.’ They didn’t question me any further,” he said. “The two guys confessed, and neither of them got jail time. A week later, the bank called me up and said, ‘We really appreciate your help in recovering the money.’ They gave me a $100 bonus for finding the money—and then a two-week notice. They said, ‘We’ll let you write a letter of resignation so it looks better.’

“They did that so I couldn’t file for unemployment.”

Dorian and Kim Kieler

Kim and Dorian Kieler.Dorian and Kim Kieler reside in a small apartment in Palm Springs. They have been together for about seven years and were married in Canada.

Like many retirees, they are part-time residents in the valley; they return to British Columbia for part of the year, by necessity. Due to Dorian’s health and problems with arthritis, she’s not able to tolerate the cold and wet weather in British Columbia during the fall and winter months. Kim is a Canadian citizen, and Dorian is an American citizen.

Dorian grew up in Indiana. When her mother found out Dorian was attracted to women, her mother was not accepting—and went to extremes to free Dorian of her same-sex attraction.

“My earliest memory of hearing about being gay or lesbian was through the church,” she said. They said you were going to hell; you were probably not better than some sort of criminal. When I was growing up, it was still a mental illness to be gay.

“When my parents found out I had leanings that way, they admitted me to a psychiatric hospital, where they told me I could have shock treatments to cure me of my gayness. In the hospital, I distinctly remember becoming straight, and then about a day after I got out of the hospital, I got real gay again.”

Dorian’s understanding of her sexuality came with the women’s liberation movement during the 1960s and 1970s.

“The bar scene and all—I missed all of that,” she said. “For me, coming out was like (being) in women’s studies in college, the NOW Movement, and the Women Take Back the Night movement. (Accepting) myself as a gay and coming to love myself made me naturally interested in women’s issues back then … but I didn’t live ‘out.’”

Dorian said that she lost a job as a psychiatric nurse for being a lesbian in the 1990s—and she pointed out that some Americans still face similar discrimination today.

“They didn’t want me working with adolescents,” she explained. “In many states, that’s still the same thing. I could walk into any state outside of California—for instance, a hospital in St. Louis. I might not be so OK if I’m out. I might not get raises; I might not get promoted. It’s still there, and it’s a really big deal still. In 2013, it’s still happening. I wouldn’t want to know what it would be like to be gay in this day and age and go to Tupelo, Miss., to try to find myself a nursing job.”

Meanwhile, Kim grew up in Northern British Columbia in a small town where being gay wasn’t really talked about—although it didn’t seem like a huge issue.

“It’s interesting: I can’t remember anybody in high school being openly gay,” she said. “It was a redneck little town; no one would come out or acknowledge it. Then in university, I started to run into a few gay people, and I think it was then I started to figure out I might be gay, too. (Canada) is more progressive. Legally, our prime minister, Pierre Trudeau, in 1968, before it was even a social issue, took homosexuality off the criminal books. People weren’t even talking about gay issues then.”

While Canada as a whole has been quicker to accept gay marriage and LGBT people in general, Kim knows firsthand that Canada is not free of discrimination.

“For most of my working life, people didn’t come out,” Kim said. “Part of it was just the social stigma. There was always that sense of shame or something. You never came out to the straight folks, and I never really came out to my family until after quite a while. I came out in the ‘90s at work, and at that time, I was a manager. I was the first gay manager to come out where I worked. That was pretty much it for my career at that time. My first boss was great and had no problem with it. When he left, the next guy who came in had a problem with women—and he really had a problem with gay women. He was out to have my position eliminated, and he was going to go after me. He did it by reorganizing. They restructured my job and got rid of all the female staff under me.”

Kim said that her family still doesn’t acknowledge the fact that she’s a lesbian.

“I have 300 Baptist relatives back in Alberta. They’re in a really small town,” she said. “My one cousin will leave the room if I’m in there. She has a really hard time trying to talk to me, and I always talk to her about what Dorian and I are doing just to make her uncomfortable. In some ways, I’m denied my whole family, who are all supportive of each other; if you’re gay, you’re not welcome in that support system.”

On a happier note, Dorian’s family has been quite supportive of the couple. In fact, Dorian joked that the biggest picture in a relative’s house is of Kim.

Even today, Dorian and Kim face difficulties whenever they cross the U.S.-Canada border.

“We got married in Canada, and because it’s not legally recognized down here, we’ve had to maintain two homes,” Kim said. “We’ve had to cross the border separately. If we say we’re married at the border, they assume I’m coming down here to live, and they’ll ban me for five years. The same with Dorian; they’ll ban her for five years. We have to take two separate vehicles to cross the border,” Kim said.

Dorian added: “What happens is I drive the RV, and we have the Smart car on the back of it. About three miles from the border … we unhook the car, and Kim drives it. The car is registered in Canada, and the RV is registered in America. We cross the border separately, and then three miles down the road, we hook up again and go on our way,” Dorian said.

They said the fact Kim can only stay in the U.S. for a limited time causes problems for them both.

“There was a point once where it was getting time for me to have to leave, and Dorian was running into medical problems,” Kim said. “She might have needed surgery, and I couldn’t be here with her, because I had to get out of the States. So the fact that DOMA has been repealed is an enormous difference for us both.

“I just turned in my papers for permanent-resident status. Imagine what would happen if Dorian were to get sick and I would have to leave—it’s barbaric!”

Allison Annalora

Allison Annalora with Bill Brockman (top) and Ron Campbell (left).Allison Annalora shares a Palm Springs apartment with her boyfriend, Ron Campbell. She’s a fairly well-known figure within the LGBT community, because she’s been very open about the fact that she’s transgendered. In fact, on the day of her chat with the Independent, she had just gotten home after being interviewed for a local radio show.

Her ex-boyfriend from her previous life as a gay man, Bill Brockman, was also present.

Annalora, formerly known as Larry Miller, recently completed her three-year transition from man to woman. Her life as Larry Miller was 55 years of torture, she said. She tried to make the transition in the 1970s and stopped. In January 2008, she attempted suicide by sitting in her car in the garage of the home she was sharing with Brockman.

She said she eventually turned off the ignition and decided to stop living a life that wasn’t hers.

“My life has pretty much settled into a mainstream lifestyle,” she said. “I met Ron on a straight dating site and portrayed myself as a woman, because I am. One of the things I made very clear to myself when I transitioned in 2009 was I was going to be really upfront about my being transsexual, which is the reason why I didn’t transition back in 1974 when I started the first time. Back in 1974, you had to go ‘stealth,’ as we called it. You had to just move away, forget all the people you knew before you transitioned, and then forget the past—and hope that no one ever figures it out. That was one of the reasons why I backed out of it, because I wasn’t sure I could do that. I also knew back in 1974 that being open about it wasn’t an option.”

Annalora said it was not easy at first when she started seeing Campbell.

“We contacted each other, and he lived in Huntington Beach at the time, born and raised there. When we were talking, he said, ‘Well, we really hit it off; I really like who you are. We really have a lot in common, and I think we should get together.’ I said, ‘I have something to tell you,’ and when I told him, he said, ‘Whoa! I didn’t see that coming,’ because he had seen my pictures, Facebook, and all that other stuff.

“He said, ‘You know what? I like you; I appreciate your honesty, and why don’t we just hang out and see what happens?’ So we dated long-distance for two years. The first year, he didn’t introduce me to any of his friends or any of his family, because he wanted to make sure this was what we both wanted before we took it to the next level.”

After that year, Annalora made it clear to Ron that their relationship needed to be taken to that next level. Ron therefore told his friends and family, and she has since gotten close to Ron’s sister, his married daughter, his son, and other members of his family.

For Annalora, the three-year transition wasn’t easy. It was full of procedures to remove facial hair, a trachea shave to reduce the size of her Adam’s apple, breast-augmentation surgery, and gender-reassignment surgery. She also faced legal hurdles to change her name and gender.

“The most difficult thing for me really was the psychologist, the weekly appointments, and all that other stuff,” Annalora said. “… It took me four years to clear my beard (using electrolysis), and I just recently had laser resurfacing to get rid of the scarring. It’s a very long, very expensive process. It can be very frustrating.

“The other part of the transition that I didn’t enjoy was the one year you have to live as your true gender without reassignment surgery,” she said. “It made it difficult to start a relationship, because you’re in this gray area. I was very nervous when I had to use the public restroom. I have never once had anybody react to me negatively in the women’s restroom, but there is that fear that someone is going to figure it out and make a scene.”

She also stated that the cost of gender-reassignment surgery is out of reach for a lot of people. Annalora’s surgery was paid for by Brockman, who had received an inheritance.

“What’s aggravating to me is that the medical community has now made this a medical condition, yet medical insurance won’t cover it,” Annalora said. “We found out the IRS will let me write off my gender-reassignment surgery, but not my trachea shave or my breast-augmentation surgery. Who would want to have gender-reassignment surgery and not do the other?”

Brockman said he was upset that many of his and Annalora’s friends within the gay community were not accepting of Annalora’s change.

“Some of our gay friends will say to me in private every once in a while, ‘Gosh! I really miss Larry.’ I’m going, ‘You what? This is the same person—the same soul, the same brain, the same heart, and that comment really makes no sense to me.’ She was no different before than she is now,” Bill said.

“Except that I’m blonde, wear makeup, and I have breasts,” Annalora added with a laugh.

Annalora said she’s come to accept that many people in the LGBT community have problems with the ‘T’ part.

“How could they possibly understand it if it’s not something they’re experiencing?” she said. “I can’t know what it’s like to be African American; I will never know, because I’m not.

“But I learned a long time ago that what’s really missing here is the compassion. We don’t need to understand; what we need to be is compassionate and support people. I find it very fascinating in the gay community that they want compassion, understanding, acceptance and all the same rights as the heterosexual community, yet they’re prejudiced against (transgendered people) and say, ‘I don’t understand why they have to do that. Why don’t they just dress up and get it out of their system?’ I say to them, ‘You’re expecting heterosexuals who don’t understand what it’s like to be gay to understand you, yet you’re not willing to give acceptance to another group?'

“We need to start practicing what we preach.”

Moving Forward

While June’s U.S. Supreme Court decisions show how far gay rights have come since Stonewall, the struggles that these five area residents continue to have illustrate that there’s still a long way to go.

Wallen said the difficulties he and others faced should not be forgotten—and that young people need to stay engaged.

“In 10 years, maybe 15, they’re not going to understand what in the hell this was all about,” he said. “It’s very easy to say you can’t legislate how people feel, and I agree. If you reinforce the way people feel with unjust laws that make those people right … the bigots will just keep going on convincing other people. As soon as the government says it’s not right or legal to have inequality, that’s a very important step toward people’s thought processes. … It’s up to the younger people now, if only they’ll get off their asses and vote.”

McDivitt said times have definitely changed for the better.

“The young people today are very lucky, and they don’t have any idea,” he said. “When President Obama said something in his inaugural address about equality including the LGBT community, I almost cried, considering (President Ronald) Reagan wouldn’t even mention AIDS. It’s been a struggle, but looking back, I’ve had it pretty good. I’d like to see more education about homosexuality. Parents who are accepting of their gay children are now more common because of that. If many of the older people like me wouldn’t have educated the straight population, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Kim and Dorian Kieler feel similarly.

“I feel that the thoughtful young ones among us know about history, and know there have been some big dues paid,” Dorian said. “Those drag queens at Stonewall? I owe them all the gratitude in the world, and many others such as Billie Jean King. … I love this freedom that young people have to explore, and that it’s OK without carrying shame in a relationship, because that can destroy a relationship from the start,” Dorian said.

Kim added: “Some of the young kids won’t understand what they’ve been given; we’re probably the generation who’s going to be most grateful, because we went from one end of it to the other.”

Annalora said the day may never come when everyone is accepting of LGBT people.

“There are some people out there who are never going to accept anything and are prejudiced against people because of the color of their skin, their ethnic background, their country of origin—and you can’t change those people,” she said. “But there are so many more people in the world who just don’t know any better. People don’t like change. … I never really believed we would have gotten as far as we have today.”

Irene Soderberg is a larger-than-life figure within the LGBT community. She’s a comedienne, a singer and an actress.

She’s suffered from health problems in recent years, but she’s back and better than ever. She’s performing at the Stonewall Equality Concert, which will kick off Palm Springs Pride on Friday, Nov. 1, at the “Forever Marilyn” statue at Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way.

A child of Finnish immigrants, Soderberg grew up in New York state.

“Even as a kid, I was always singing. We worked from the time we were 8 years old … in the fields, hard labor—people would say it would be slave labor now, but that’s all we knew. We worked from February to November every year, picking all the fruits and berries. We also worked in a cannery.”

While Soderberg has varied talents, she’s especially passionate about singing.

“I knew that singing was always my life,” she said. “When I was in fifth-grade, I was a soloist in the chorus, and all the rest of the chorus girls were sixth-graders,” she said during a recent phone interview from her home in West Hollywood. “… It was so interesting that I had a big challenge in college, and I turned away from music and quit school. I was devastated by the music director. I started bartending, moved to Hawaii, and I started belting it out behind the bar—and that’s how I got started singing again. I got an Equity contract singing behind the bar at Hamburger Mary’s in Waikiki. I got back to it just like that.”

That singing led to her appearing in a production of Godspell at the San Jose (Calif.) Repertory Theatre, a gig that she said led to the unleashing of her “inner drag queen.”

“I would get these clothes, take them, cut them up and turn them into a new outfit. We would watch Saturday movies, and I would put on a different outfit to go with every movie that would play on Saturday afternoon,” she said. “I just loved the costuming, and many people don’t know this, but I make my costumes. Drag queens approach me now and say, ‘Make my clothes!’ I say, ‘If you got the money, honey, it’s possible!’”

After moving to San Francisco, Soderberg won a Mae West look-alike contest.

“I was working on a show at the same time called Men Behind Bars, and I was playing a fairy godmother,” she remembered. “I made my entrance onto the stage from a wire 40 feet above the stage. While we were rehearsing, they said there was a Mae West look-alike contest, and ‘that you should enter.’ I made my own outfits and everything, so I said, ‘Sure, why not?’ People always said I could do Mae West better than anyone. Lily Tomlin was a judge.”

She said she managed to make the entire audience laugh with her comedy and acting talents; in fact, she said she managed to win the contest before she even sang her own parody of a song from the 1920s, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” 

After five surgeries in four years, she had to take a break and cut back on live appearances. She also deals with other health issues on a daily basis.

“I’m HIV-positive,” she said. “I got HIV from my ex-husband in San Francisco. I’ve been HIV-positive for about 24 years. Most people don’t know that I’m HIV-positive. I’m speaking out now, because it’s important people get inspiration and validation from whatever source they can, and who better than to give reassurance, comfort and inspiration than a fairy godmother?”

She is now returning to doing what she does best—entertaining people, making them laugh, and sharing her song parodies with audiences. She has started performing regularly at Azul/Alibi in downtown Palm Springs.

“I really respect the owner, George Kessinger,” she said. “He actually built that place. He is really kind of a man after my own heart, because my father built our house. I think the whole place is wonderful; the staff is very professional, and I can’t say enough kind, wonderful things about how great they are.”

She has recorded five albums and is currently working on a sixth.

“One has to work within one’s own budget, and the music business has changed dramatically over the years,” she said. “I recorded my first CD in 1999, and I actually was at Palm Springs Pride in 1999 selling CDs. It was so wonderful, because I sang, and people were lined up to buy my CD. My song parodies are the reason I’m booked all over the country. I can mix up beautiful songs with being funny, which makes it irresistible to people.”

While Soderberg has performed at gay-pride celebrations around the country—including much bigger celebrations—she said Palm Springs Pride is an especially wonderful event.

“First of all, it’s the last one of the year,” she said. “It also has this charm to it. I sang in San Francisco for a half-million people at gay pride; that’s a far cry from Palm Springs gay pride, but the energy of Palm Springs and the genuineness—you can’t find that anywhere else. It is just so intimate, and it’s a celebration, especially with marriage equality this year. It’s so exciting.”

The Stonewall Equality Concert takes place from 6 to 10 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1, at the "Forever Marilyn" statue, at the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs. Other scheduled performers include the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus, DJ Corey D spinning a retro ’80s mix, Doug Strahm and Arro Verse. Admission is free. Visit for more information.

The young-adult book genre is dominated by romantic stories featuring vampires or high school life (or, sometimes, both).

Local author David Rothmiller is definitely bucking the trend. His recent book, Curious Shorts: A Creepy Collection of Terrible Tales, feels like a throwback to the days of Alvin Schwartz’s renowned Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark.

Rothmiller’s Curious Shorts has some very creepy tales indeed, including one called “Something’s Eating Sara.” It made me want to throw my Frappuccino away as I read it. The story is about a junior high school girl who also happens to be a hypochondriac. She is convinced that she is sick; her mother and the school nurse don’t believe her, since she has faked illnesses before. When she becomes very ill, the story takes a bizarre, disgusting twist that will make you question each and every processed food that you eat for at least a couple of days.

Another compelling terrible tale is “The Thing in Jamie’s Room,” about a boy with a dirty room. His family can’t stand the disgusting odor; meanwhile, Jamie starts believing something is actually living in his room, and his parents decide it’s time to force him to clean it. What happens next is both disgusting and funny.

“Waaz” offers a warning about getting too involved in electronics or video games. When a girl named Heather and her brother discover a device called “Waaz,” they find it is hard to put down. Do you play the game, or does the game play you … or perhaps consume you?

There are 13 (of course) unlucky tales in this book. Many have unpredictable twists and turns, or supernatural effects with a Twilight Zone twist. “Sagiri’s Gift” is a story about a Japanese woman who has a fateful encounter with an elderly man. “Growing Pains” is told from the point of view of a character who believes his brother is a werewolf. “The Legend of the Headless Indian Princess” is set in Minnesota and tells the story of the title—and the effect the legend, or the spirit, has on the town.

While Curious Shorts is certainly no Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, it does have many positive qualities and offers a haunting read to those in the young-adult market. Each of the tales—which alternate between disturbing, disgusting, haunting, suspenseful and horrifying—is smartly written and unique. Rothmiller—a local filmmaker, videographer and author—has produced a great collection of horror stories written for young adults who are sick of vampires and high school divas. With Halloween just around the corner, this is definitely a treat.

Curious Shorts: A Creepy Collection of Terrible Tales, by David Rothmiller (Trick Dog/Lulu), 185 pages, $20.48

Palm Springs is known for its large, vibrant gay population—and, therefore, for gay tourism as well.

Enter Desert Adventures, and its new Gay Icons of Palm Springs Tour.

Headquartered in Palm Desert, Desert Adventures offers a variety of local Jeep tours to the San Andreas Fault, Joshua Tree and the Indian Canyons. One of Desert Adventures’ guides, Bob Gross of Rancho Mirage, had the idea for the new tour.

“The company was looking to expand our outreach and make sure both locals and visitors knew our tours were fun and available to be led by gay guides like myself or another guide, Carlos Salas,” said Gross, who joined the company about two years ago after retiring from AT&T. “As for the Icons Tour, specifically, things get kind of slow for us during the summer due to the heat, so I went to my boss and said I'd like to create a city tour that included some of the rich gay history of the city, from its earliest days right through the present, including some of the famous gay and lesbian residents and icons of the community who lived here. He said, ‘Have at it,’ so I spent July and August doing the research and creating a tour that I hope will be interesting and fun.”

The first stop is the site where Lois Kellogg, a Chicago socialite rumored to be a lesbian, arrived in Palm Springs in 1914 or so and built a large home that once occupied an area which now includes a Rite Aid store. The home had a Moroccan-Persian-style exterior and a large swimming pool, as well as a stable and guest quarters. That particular block of Palm Canyon Drive at the end of the downtown strip now looks completely different, and one has to wonder what the large home would have looked like there.

The tour also goes through the Warm Sands area. It was a family-friendly area during the ’50s and ’60s, before disintegrating into a high-crime area in the 1970s, and then being revived as a gay-resort area. Howard Hughes once owned El Mirasol Villas; it later became what’s believed to be Palm Springs’ first gay resort, in 1976. Close by is the Vista Grande—the first clothing-optional gay resort, which opened in 1984.

The tour stops at two of the homes that Liberace owned. The home on Kaweah Road has a sign that reads “Plazza de Liberace.” A miniature piano and piano stool serves as the mailbox for the home. Another former home on Belardo Road, where Liberace died in 1987, is currently being renovated to restore it to the state it was in when Liberace purchased it. It was said during the tour that Liberace had a large candelabra on the home, as well as a gate with a big “L” and a music note on it. While those markings are gone, and the home currently is a construction zone, it’s located behind Our Lady of Solitude, the church that was shown in the funeral scene in Behind the Candelabra.

The Gay Icons of Palm Springs Tour is available through Desert Adventures for $59 and runs about 90 minutes. For tour reservations or questions, call 760-324-5337 or visit

Many bands meld politics with their music. However, no one does it quite like Jello Biafra.

The former Dead Kennedys frontman is coming to Palm Desert for a post-Coachella encore at The Hood Bar and Pizza on Friday, Nov. 8, with his band, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine.

Dead Kennedys formed in 1978 in San Francisco as part of the hardcore punk scene that was sweeping America. When Dead Kennedys guitarist East Bay Ray put out a newspaper advertisement for band mates, Jello Biafra (vocals), Klaus Flouride (bass) and Ted, aka Bruce Slesinger (drums), joined together and took the hardcore punk scene by the horns thanks to their psychedelic, surf-guitar-infused sound, and Biafra’s political satire-based lyrics. Songs such as “Holiday in Cambodia,” “California Über Alles,” “Too Drunk to Fuck” and “Police Truck” became their most recognizable anthems. The band released its albums on its own label, Alternative Tentacles; Jello Biafra presides over the label to this day.

The band quickly drew the attention of police in San Francisco and other cities—as well as, most notably, Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center. When the band put out the album Frankenchrist in 1985, the Dead Kennedys members found themselves in a world of trouble over the H.R. Giger-designed poster insert showing rows of penises and vulvae. They were charged with distributing harmful material to minors and faced a criminal trial. While the trial ended in an acquittal, the controversy and the ever-changing punk scene led to a breakup in 1986.

Biafra’s fascination with music and politics came in part from his parents, who encouraged him to take an interest in current events as well as music. During a recent phone interview, he said his music was a product of the times in which he grew up.

“In a way, even the music that didn’t have political lyrics back then scared people. Even liking … the harder-edged, garage-rock side of rock ’n’ roll, or even the Beatles—or long hair, for that matter—was all kind of an outlaw act, and therefore, political,” Biafra said. “It was a real struggle, though, to find music that rocked as hard as I like it (and that’s) a tad overt with political lyrics instead of the same old sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll with a little Satan thrown in.”

Biafra said his parents’ tastes in music led to his diverse tastes.

“My parents were mainly classical-music listeners. At that point, they were still listening to a fair amount of folk music, too—Pete Seeger, Joan Baez … Gateway Singers, who were a local group back there that they saw perform live a lot. My dad had this Japanese kabuki record with kabuki musicians. By the time I was a teenage pothead listening to Hawkwind, among other things, I dug that kabuki record out of his collection and thought it was really cool. It had some of the same driving feel to it. My pothead friends agreed. I traded (my father) an Erik Satie album to get the kabuki record.”

After the Dead Kennedys split, Biafra stayed active in music while he also made spoken-word appearances. He made records with Mojo Nixon, D.O.A., The Melvins, and his previous band, Lard. However, he didn’t return to material that was as hard-hitting until he formed his current band, the Guantanamo School of Medicine.

“It was never my intention to not ever have another band. I just kept getting derailed on good and bad adventures. When I saw the Stooges on Iggy Pop’s 60th birthday, I thought, ‘Oh shit! I’m turning 50 next year. I’d better get this band thing together one of these days.’ So I finally had a deadline.”

Since forming in 2008, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine have put out two albums and toured the world—including an appearance at Coachella in April.

The band’s most recent album, White People and the Damage Done, released in April, includes a song called “The Brown Lipstick Parade” that references some of the Tipper Gore/PMRC fiasco.

“I got the term ‘brown lipstick’ from Frank Zappa when he testified at that Senate hearing that Al Gore had arranged for his own wife to investigate evil music—you know, how Ozzy makes you kill yourself, AC/DC causes crime to increase, and later on, if you listen to political hip-hop written by African Americans, you might turn into some kind of gang-banger or something. One of the things Zappa said in a prepared statement to those pompous senators was, ‘No one looks good in brown lipstick.’”

“What he meant was the way things are done from City Hall to Washington: People get themselves elected—or should I say selected—not to do anything for the voters or the public good, but to prove themselves to be as corrupt as possible, as quickly as possible, and put on as much brown lipstick as possible, so when they leave Congress or the Pentagon or whatever, they can get on corporate boards of directors and rake in millions of dollars through lobbyists.”

When it comes to Tipper Gore, he expressed an amusing point of view.

“Let’s put it this way: I think Tipper Gore had more to do with costing her husband the 2000 election than anything Ralph Nader or the Green Party would have hoped to have done. Where was the youth support for Al Gore in 2000?”

While Biafra has earned success and praise from the punk-rock community, he isn’t without critics. Punk-rockers with a libertarian ethos, as well as foes of the punk-rock ethos in general, have chided Biafra for being a hypocrite, in part because he makes money from his political works.

“They’re people who have their heads firmly up their asses and never bothered to research any fact, that’s for damn sure,” he said. “It’s not as though I’m rolling in mountains of money. I’ve never made a dime off Alternative Tentacles, either, and I think in any society where the mass media continues to be corporatized, censored and dumbed down, it’s that more important for the artist to speak out and tell people what’s really going on. For some reason, because I’m a musician, I shouldn’t speak out on anything besides shop talk on the punk-rock scene? That sounds as boring as talking to anarchists about anarchy all night long.”

Biafra made it clear that he is no fan of libertarianism and its influence on punk rock.

“As far as I’m concerned, Libertarians are Republicans who smoke pot. I have a very different attitude about what they do—not just about guns, but also about taxes,” he said. “I don’t think taxes should go down; I think they should go up, especially on people who have made so much money that they can’t figure out what to do with it all.

“Drug addiction causes enough problems in the world, but the far worse addiction is wealth. The only way to put wealth addicts into rehab is to follow the suggestion of the California Green Party and enact a maximum wage. The first six figures are free—OK, I’ll compromise—the first seven figures, and then it’s payback time.”

And speaking of the Green Party, of which Biafra is a member: He offered the 1992 election as a history lesson when asked if the country will ever see a third-party president.

“It depends on which kind of party it is,” he said. “I mean, the closest in this lifetime was clear off the scale, Tea Party, right-wing, and that was Ross Perot. He got something like 15 percent of the vote (actually 18.9 percent) when Clinton defeated daddy Bush in 1992. Michael Moore made the point later: How disillusioned are Americans with their lack of choice in the electoral process if that many millions of people voted for someone they knew was crazy?”

He’s also no fan of former U.S. Rep. Ron Paul.

“He’s good on pot and good on pulling the military out of our stupid wars. Beyond that, he should just go back to being some exhibit of a crackpot under glass who looks way too much like E.T.’s grandfather. Some of his comments about race, a woman’s right to choose … and taking an issue with the Civil Rights Act—he strikes me as far-religious-right and quite possibly a white supremacist.”

While fans have hoped for a Dead Kennedys reunion that includes Jello Biafra, it’s unlikely to happen. Biafra fought a bitter legal battle with some of his former band mates, who have since began performing again under the Dead Kennedys name. They’ve gone through a cycle of replacements for Biafra, one of whom was Brandon Cruz, a former child actor (The Courtship of Eddie’s Father). Currently, Ron “Skip” Greer is the lead vocalist.

While bad blood remains, Biafra does agree with East Bay Ray’s position on royalties and online streaming companies such as Spotify and Pandora.

“I know Ray is kind of on a crusade against file-sharing, and he’s not very good at communicating his point of view to the public,” Biafra said. “I probably agree with him to some degree that … (it’s not) cool for Google to be running ads on illegal file-sharing sites. As an independent artist and especially an independent label, I’m experiencing firsthand when people would rather file-share than support an underground independent artist, and buy the album or song. Of course, our crashed economy feeds into this, because people want to listen to music and have something to cheer them up when they don’t have any money. … Sharing major-label files is no big deal to me, because (the big labels) go so far out of the way to rip off their artists that I don’t really feel like the art itself is being ripped off.

“For a smaller, independent artists and labels like myself and some of the others, it’s very different. We have had several really good bands break up prematurely on Alternative Tentacles, because they couldn’t make a go of things. … Eventually, people decide, ‘I just can’t do this any more,’ especially when they have a family to feed. What happens when you lose some of the stuff when it’s really good?”

When it comes to political action, Biafra encouraged people to become engaged.

“People should show up and vote, especially in local elections, because that’s where people can really make the most difference,” he said. “It really matters who’s mayor, who’s sheriff, who’s on the school board, who the county commissioners and who the city council members are. They are the ones who decide how to spend our money that gets taken in taxes. Do we need to build a shelter for the homeless people? Or do we put up another golf course? Things like that—those things are important and have direct impact on our lives.”

Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine performs with Death Hymn Number 9, You Know Who and Fatso Jetson at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8, at The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. Admission is $10, and there are no presales. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or find the event’s page on Facebook.