Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

When the McCallum Theatre announced its 2013-2014 season in the spring, the first show on the calendar was the Second Annual Family Fun Day, featuring the Popovich Comedy Pet Theater, on Sunday, Oct. 13.

But as of today, Family Fun Day is the fourth show on the calendar.

“When you get offered Bill Maher, but he can only do a show in September, we’re going to do it,” says Jeffrey Norman, the McCallum’s director of communications and public affairs.

That Bill Maher performance—on Saturday, Sept. 28—is one of a dozen new shows that was announced by the McCallum today. Single tickets for some of those early-season shows—including the Maher show ($55 to $95)—will go on sale next Thursday, Aug. 1, with the rest of the single tickets available on Tuesday, Sept. 17.

Other new shows announced today include Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers featuring Edie Brickell (Wednesday, Oct. 9, $65 to $125; on sale Aug. 1), Graham Nash (Thursday, Nov. 21, $35 to $75; on sale Aug. 1), and the legendary Lily Tomlin (Friday, March 21, 2014, $55 to $95; on sale Sept. 17).

Tickets for four previously announced shows will also go on sale Aug. 1: the aforementioned Family Fun Day ($7 to $15); the premiere of Alton Brown Live! (Friday, Oct. 18, $25 to $75); Frida, the Musical (Friday, Oct. 25; $29 to $79); and Vince Gill (Saturday, Nov. 2, $45 to $75).

And the season, even now, is not yet complete: Norman says that up to a half-dozen shows, and maybe even a few more, could be added before all is said and done. He describes the process of putting together the season as a “big jigsaw puzzle”—a puzzle which is primarily completed by the McCallum’s president and CEO, Mitch Gershenfeld.

“What we try to do is put together a very strong season (early) so we can send out our subscription brochure around April or so,” explains Norman. That means first booking things like Broadway musicals, plays, dance performances and tribute shows that can be scheduled well in advance.

But many artists these days, Norman says, are booking tours and deciding on show dates at the last minute. “All of a sudden, we’ll get a call from a booker. They’ll say, ‘Bill Maher is interested in coming.’ We’re interested if we can find a date and pay the fee.”

Sometimes, that means starting the McCallum season well before snowbirds and tourists have returned. But these days, that’s less of a concern, Norman says.

“Last year, we had Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers on Aug. 29,” Norman says. “It was a little bit of a risk, but we sold out. We’re noticing that increasingly, there’s a significant year-round community here, and they want to be entertained as much as the snowbirds do.”

Norman says he’s really looking forward to Diana Krall’s appearance on Friday, April 11, 2014 ($75 to $125). He says he saw her perform a couple of times at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, where he worked for two decades before moving to the McCallum at the start of this year.

“We had two theaters, and she’d played in the 2,800-seat theater. She then tried out a new show in our 500-seat theater,” he remembers. “It was a quirky show—just a beautiful night of her at the piano.”

He says he’s also looking forward to the performance by Maher.

“You just never know what he’s going to say,” Norman says.

For tickets and more information, including an up-to-date schedule, visit

On rare occasions, you’ll see Brian Wanzek make a public appearance—and while Brian is a handsome and charming fellow, his alter ego, Bella da Ball, is the bigger star—so big, in fact, that she’ll be getting her own star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars later this year.

Bella can be found all over the place—for starters, at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club on Monday nights, where she hosts both Sissy Bingo and Trivia Night; and at Azul/Alibi on Tuesday nights, where she hosts her Cabaret Variety Dinner Revue. And at 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 1, you can find her and her amazing legs under the amazing legs of “Forever Marilyn,” where she’ll be hosting the Forever Marilyn Palm Springs Look-Alike Contest, as part of the weekly downtown Palm Springs Villagefest.

If interested in entering the contest—in categories including pets, Miss Junior Marilyn, Ms./Mrs. Marilyn, and Drag Marilyn—register by Tuesday, July 30, at Of course, it’s free to watch the goings-on.

We recently asked Bella, who hails from a little town in Southern Minnesota, to endure The Lucky 13; here are her responses.

What was the first concert you attended?

Several county and state fair concerts, but Barry Manilow sticks out in my mind.

What was the first album you owned?

Village People.

What bands are you listening to right now?

SiriusXM radio, with a focus on Studio 54 disco, Elvis, and Broadway.

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


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

Benny Goodman.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I love to dance, swing, and spin the skirt.

What’s your favorite music venue?

So many: Annenberg (Theater at the Palm SpringsArt Museum) and McCallum (Theatre), and I can’t wait for the new Rancho Mirage Performing Arts Center at the high school.

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

The big-band song “In the Mood.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Big band and polka bands from my young years—watching my parents dance, celebrating anniversaries and community events with family and friends.

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

RuPaul: What’s your secret to looking so fab and trim?

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Lookin’ for a City” by Happy Goodman Family.

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


What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Baby I’m a Star,” by Tina Turner. (Scroll down to hear it.)

What: The Red Wine Braised Short Ribs

Where: The 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro, 73101 Highway 111, Palm Desert

How much: $21

Contact: 760-837-9600;

Why: It’s forkably good.

While many folks, locals and nonlocals alike, snivel about summer in the Coachella Valley, I kind of like this time of year.

The roads are less crowded. The (very) occasional rains are nice. And the dining deals at many restaurants can’t be beat.

One such restaurant that’s offering some ganga deals is the 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro, which has been around for a few years in Palm Desert along that stretch of 111 that runs parallel to El Paseo. (There are also 3rd Corner restaurants in San Diego and Encinitas.) We learned about these great deals when we visited there on a recent Friday, and saw all sorts of prices in red on the menu. Turns out those prices are for their “summer happy hour” (aka whenever 3rd Corner’s doors are open this time of year)—and those prices are a buck or two or four cheaper than the normal (i.e. in-season) prices.


Our meal was lovely from start to finish—but the highlight, by far, was the red-wine-braised short ribs. The dish is pretty gosh-darned simple, really: There were cooked-to-perfection fingerling potatoes and broccolini pieces below and around sauce and meat.

But simple, of course, can be great—and these ribs were indeed great. The fine folks at 3rd Corner provided us with a knife, but it went unused, as the meat was so tender, so juicy, and so fantastically braised that a fork was all we needed. My only complaint, really, is a compliment, of sorts: I wish there’d have been some more of that red-wine sauce, as it was quite delicious, and the chunk o’ rib meat was quite … meaty.

The kicker: Turns out the short ribs aren’t discounted for the summer happy hour: They’re $21, whether it’s July or March. And you know what? I don’t care. I’ll pay $21 for these delicious short ribs any time.

The 100 or so community judges were watching the sixth of 22 entries in the LGBT Community Center of the Desert’s “In a Center Minute” Commercial-Making Contest.

Shortly after that sixth commercial started playing, the judges knew they were watching something special. In fact, when the commercial finished, the audience broke into a spontaneous round of applause.

The commercial—which would go on to take top honors in the contest’s student category—was made by College of the Desert student Daniel Meyers. Using dry-erase drawings, the commercial tells the story of Aaron, an 18-year-old who discovers he is gay as he is dealing with the death of his father. He goes on to find low-cost grief counseling and a community of friendship at the Center.

Meyers’ commercial, simply put, was amazing. (It’s the first commercial embedded below. Go ahead and stop reading, and scroll down to watch it; come back here when you’re done. Seriously. Go watch it.)

Impressive, huh?

The contest was the brainchild of Shann Carr, the Center’s outgoing volunteer coordinator. (Carr—a friend of the Independent—is returning to her stand-up comedy career full-time.) She joined her “Secret Meeting Volunteers” (disclosure: I sat in on some of those early “secret meetings”) to put on the contest as a gift to the Center.

When all was said and done, the contest received six entries from students, and 16 from the general public. Around 100 community members arrived at the Desert Regional Medical Center’s Sinatra Auditorium on Monday, July 15, to serve as judges at the aforementioned screening; two days later, many of the contestants and other community members were invited to the Sinatra Auditorium for a screening and the announcement of the winners.

While Meyers ran away with the win in the student contest, the mother-and-son team of Katy and Sam Wilkerson took top honors in the general-population category. Their impressive documentary-style commercial features clips of volunteers and members discussing the various services provided at the Center. (It’s the second clip embedded below.) This isn’t the first time that the Wilkerson family has made figurative waves with video cameras: Their short film The Pride of Palm Springs, about the inclusion of the Palm Springs High School marching band in the local pride parade, recently impressed audiences at the Palm Springs International Shortfest.

The two winners received $1,000, thanks to sponsorship by Hunters, Snowden Construction, the Coachella Valley Independent (yep, that’s us), The NestEggg Group, Southern Wine and Spirits, and Ripe N’ This World.

The second-place finishers—Cindy Kendall in the general-population category, and Cheri Smith (the daughter of a Center volunteer and also a College of the Desert student) in the student category—received $250.

All of the entries can be viewed at The Center will use the entries at public events and for fundraising. They may also be submitted to local media as public-service announcements.

Katy and Sam Wilkerson signed up for the contest after someone at the Shortfest told them about it, Katy says.

“We thought it would be fun, and kind of up our alley,” she says.

However, the Wilkersons’ winning submission almost didn’t come to fruition. Sam's father and Katy’s husband, Steven, passed away rather suddenly during the contest period, on June 25. Despite the shock, Sam and Katy decided to press on.

“My husband would have wanted us to do this, and we decided to go on with it,” Katy says. “He was in the room with us the night we won.”

Understandably, the Wilkersons got a late start on filming: Katy says the day before the submission deadline, Sam went to the Center and did his filming after they talked to friends who were familiar with the Center. He then edited the footage—and had just enough good stuff to flesh out the documentary-style commercial.

“It all just flowed,” Katy says.

In the end, the commercial was just the latest honor for the family Wilkerson, which has been into films since Sam, now 20 years old, bought his first camera with birthday and Christmas money at the age of 10.

Sam was unable to attend the awards screening on Wednesday, July 17, because he was on a film shoot in the Los Angeles area. He’s now working as a pro in L.A. after learning film-and-editing ropes at Palm Springs High School.

And as for the commercial that left the audience cheering: A visibly shy Daniel Meyers told the audience on Wednesday that he based the character of Aaron on his own life. However, there is one big difference.

Unlike Aaron, he didn’t discover the Center until a bit later in life. He told the audience that he wishes he’d learned about it sooner.

Below: Daniel Meyers, the student-category winner, poses with LGBT Center volunteer coordinator Shann Carr; and Katy Wilkerson, the mom in the mom-son team that won in the general-population category, poses with Carr. Photos courtesy of the Center.

Daniel Meyers, the student-category winner, poses with LGBT Center volunteer coordinator Shann Carr. Photo courtesy of the Center.

Katy Wilkerson, the mom in the mom-son team that won in the general-population category, poses with Shann Carr. Photo courtesy of the Center.

PS Underground Offers Surprises, Delights to Adventurous Foodies

So this is how it works: You go to the PS Underground webpage, and you request a reservation for a dinner event being held on a certain date. The event is called, say, “Spectrum: An Evening of Culinary Theater.”

You disclose any dietary restrictions, and say whether any members of your party are nondrinkers. If your reservation is confirmed, you pay, in the case of “Spectrum,” $89, plus tax, per person.

You don’t know the location (other than it is somewhere local) for “Spectrum.” You don’t know what’s being served. And you don’t even know what in the world “Spectrum” means.

Shortly before the event, you’ll get an email revealing the location, time and perhaps a hint about the theme, so you can dress up appropriately.

If such a culinary adventure sounds intriguing, then you should check out PS Underground.

PS Underground is the brainchild of Michael Fietsam and David Horgen. The local foodies, both of whom have backgrounds in the restaurant biz, say PS Underground got its start thanks to the dinner parties the couple would hold at their home. The more parties they had, the more popular they became.

“People (friends of friends) were coming to our house we didn’t even know,” Fietsam says. “We figured out that obviously, something was missing in the desert. There was a niche, and we thought: Why not turn our love and passion (for food) into a business?”

Thus, PS Underground was born. The first event was held last November. “A Taste of Autumn” was held in a 1960s-era artist bungalow, and appetizers were served outside, near a fire pit and sculptures. Dinner was served inside next to … a Jacuzzi?

“It was a blend of elegance and kitsch!” says the PS Underground website.

Four other events have followed, including “Last Dinner on the Titanic,” held in April on the 101st anniversary of the last meal aboard the doomed ship. Fietsam says that he and David try to appeal to all of the senses, and for the “Last Dinner,” not only did they re-create the menu of the Titanic’s final meal; they made the dining room look as much as possible like the room the first-class passengers on the Titanic would have found. They put up pictures from the voyage. They played newsreels about the ship’s maiden voyage. They worked with a local producer on a 15-minute video to play at the dinner. They even researched how the food was served to passengers.

“We wanted our diners transported into that experience,” Fietsam says.

Due to an increase in demand, “Spectrum”—PS Underground’s fifth event—was grown into four nights spread over two weekends. The first two nights happened on July 12 and 13, with the second two occurring on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 2 and 3.

Guests at the first two “Spectrum” nights were asked to keep quiet about the details until the second two nights have come and gone. So, I asked Fietsam: Can you offer any hints on what attendees can expect?

“The location we’ve chosen is quite unique. It’s not a place people would expect for a dinner party,” he says. In fact, he says that attendees are on “pins and needles” during the cocktail portion of the evening, wondering how, exactly, the night is going to work out.

If you’re interested in attending “Spectrum,” or any PS Underground event, early reservations are advised, because Michael and David cap the attendance at 30 to keep the dinner-party vibe intact.

To join the club, get information on future events, look at pictures and menus from previous events, or make reservations for one of the final two “Spectrum” nights, visit You can also follow PS Underground on Facebook.

Level 2 Again Goes Gay

For years, it was an LGBT bar known as Sidewinders. Then it became an LGBT bar called Elevation. Then it was turned into Level 2, a … straight bar? (Gay folks were welcome, but the bar’s owners tried to orient the venue toward a more-general crowd. So, we’ll stick with the term “straight bar,” even though it’s kinda stupid and not wholly accurate.)

Well, whatever it was before, make no mistake: Level 2, at 67555 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Cathedral City, is again a gay bar. (But, of course, straight folks are welcome.)

New owners took control in June, and Level 2 celebrated its grand reopening (not that it ever closed, but still …) the first week of July. You’ll find a comfy atmosphere, a cool balcony (too bad it doesn’t overlook something more appealing than Highway 111 and the parking lot) and drag shows hosted by Marina Mac every Saturday at 9.

Want more info? Call 760-328-6834, or track down the bar on Facebook.

Figue Offers Cooking Classes, Recipes

If you like cooking food, and enjoy learning about food, you’ll want to take the following steps:

1. Point your browser toward

2. Click on “blog.”

3. Click on “Italian Cooking Class.”

4. Enjoy the information, history and full freakin’ recipes for watermelon and tomato salad; guazzetto of wild salmon, mussels and shrimp; and pistachio, polenta and olive oil cake.


This is what I am hoping is the first in a series of notes and recipes from Figue chef François de Mélogue’s cooking classes to be posted on the website for Figure Mediterranean, 47474 Washington St. in La Quinta. These are from the class in June—and it turns out that TOMORROW, at noon, Saturday, July 20, Mélogue will be offering a French cooking class. The cost is $75, and the 2 1/2-hour event includes a three-course lunch.

“Like” Figue on Facebook for more information on future classes and other special events. And watch that Figue blog for more yummy recipes and information … we hope! Call 760-698-9040 for more info.

In Brief

Brushfire Grille and 911 Saloon, which was located at 1260 S. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, has closed. … Welcome to the dark days for Coachella Valley foodies: Summer closures at many beloved eateries are in full force. Be sure to call ahead or sniff around on Facebook before heading to your favorite restaurant.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013 16:30

The Lucky 13: Two Twelve's Chuck Baum

Chuck Baum, 50, is the guitarist for local classic-rock group Two Twelve. By day, the New York native is a senior account rep for Lamar Advertising. Catch the quartet—which promises “one of the best shows in the valley” at—at 9 p.m., Friday, July 12, at Schmidy’s Tavern, 72286 Highway 111, No. J-3, in Palm Desert. There’s no cover. Call the venue at 760-837-3800, or visit for more show and venue information; check the aforementioned band website or track ’em down on Facebook for other upcoming Two Twelve gigs.

What was the first concert you attended?

Kiss, in Detroit.

What was the first album you owned?

Elton John; I forgot the name (of the album).

hat bands are you listening to right now?

Led Zeppelin, Jeff Beck, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Van Halen, etc.

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

Gang rap.

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

Led Zeppelin.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?


What’s your favorite music venue?

Alpine Valley, an outside amphitheater (in East Troy, Wis.).

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

“It’s a small world after all.” Now you are all singing it!

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Jeff Beck. I was able to play with him in Vegas.

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

Jimmy Page: “Would you be my personal guitar teacher?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Freebird.” How else am I going to keep them there?

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

Boston, self-titled.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

"(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party)!," Beastie Boys. (Scroll down to hear it.)

A scam attempt can affect you or a loved one at any time.

That’s the lesson I learned a couple a weeks ago—and fortunately, my family and I were lucky to apparently escape unscathed.

My mom, who lives in Reno, Nev., was checking email at her computer on Tuesday, June 25, when she received a phone call. A man who said he was calling on behalf of Microsoft, via a company called Techhart Solutions, gave her bad news: Her computer was sending error messages, apparently as a result of a malicious computer virus. To “prove” this, he directed my mother to a log that, she says, seemed to show that her computer was indeed sending error messages. The man said it was crucial that he help her fix the computer—for a fee, of course. My mom then gave her Discover-card number.

I am not sure exactly what else happened; Mom can’t remember all the details, as she was quite upset at the time: She’d just gotten home from taking her beloved miniature schnauzer to the animal hospital because he was, among other things, puking up blood. (The dog’s fine now, by the way.)

My mom’s pretty darned smart, and had she been in her right mind, she probably would not have bought the story given to her by the caller. Thankfully, my mother soon realized that something didn’t seem right, so she called me. I told her to immediately unplug her computer from the Internet (in case the fraudulent Techhart/“Microsoft” rep had done something malicious to her PC), and to call Discover and dispute the charge from Techhart. She called the credit-card company before the charge went through, thankfully; the card was then deactivated.

Later that day, I Googled Techhart Solutions, as well as the phone number the fraudsters had given my mom (866-529-9245). There are numerous online reports from folks who had the exact same thing happen to them, with the exact same M.O.

The story doesn’t end there. Presumably because my mom’s credit card was declined, Techhart began calling her several times a day; she ignored the calls. After several days of this, she received a message on her answering machine from Techhart, saying that she needed to call them back regarding an urgent matter.

So I called them. A man with a thick accent answered.

“Hi, my name’s Jimmy Boegle, and I’m calling on behalf of my mom. You left her a message earlier today.”

“Oh, yes,” the man responded. “We’re her computer techs, and we want to make sure that her computer’s OK.”

When I informed the man that Mom did not need a computer tech, and that they’d lied to her about all sorts of things, he hung up. I tried calling back a couple of times from the same phone; there was no response. Therefore, I called from a different phone (my Palm Springs business line), and he answered.

“Hi. This is Jimmy Boegle. I think we were just cut off …”


While my mom seems to have escaped unscathed—I had a couple of tech-savy friends check my mom’s PC, and it appears OK—not everyone has been so lucky, as those aforementioned Google searches prove.

Therefore, my mom and I decided to file a complaint with the state Attorney General. After all, one of the jobs of the state AG is to protect Nevadans like my mom from fraud, and warn them of fraud attempts. Well, long story short: Unless the fraud attempt has to do with mortgage or foreclosure scams, the Nevada AG won’t take a complaint. When you call, an automated phone-system recording actually encourages callers “to proceed through other avenues, such as the Better Business Bureau … or small claims court.”

I am kind of happy that I, personally, live in California right now, where I could have at least filed a complaint, had the incident happened here.

I also filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC rep didn’t ask about anything beyond the most basic details of the case; basically, he took my information and my mom’s information before giving me a case number. (Oh, and one more thing: He gave me the number for the Nevada attorney general’s office—the number with the aforementioned automated phone-system recording—and encouraged me to file a state complaint, too. Sigh.)

We all need to be smart in these days of the Internet—and we need to keep an eye out for our loved ones, too, just in case Techhart Solutions or the other fraudsters of the world come calling.

For Jerry Hernandez, his love of film became a lifelong passion when he saw Steven Spielberg’s E.T. as a teenager.

“After walking away from the film, and (after) experiencing various emotions over those two hours, I saw that there was more to film than just pictures and images,” Hernandez says. “I wanted to direct, and create that magic and that stirring of emotions of an audience.”

However, directing was not in the cards for Hernandez, an Indio resident who has instead worked in teaching and human resources after spending much of his teen years working in theaters and video stores. But cinema is still very much a passion for Hernandez (who says he has around 1,500 films in his collection)—and he’s taken that passion to the Indio Performing Arts Center, where he’s curating a Saturday-night classic-film series that will run into October.

The weekly IPACinema series kicks off at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 20, with the United Kingdom version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Other films in the series include Amadeus: The Director’s Cut, a newly discovered version of the complete Metropolis, and The Goonies. The plan is for the series to run through October, when it will conclude with a series of horror-film double features. (The complete schedule can be found at

IPAC—a department store turned theater turned charter school turned entertainment complex—is, in one sense, a perfect place for a classic-movie series, seeing as it features big screens, stadium seating and a bar serving beer and wine. Hernandez discovered this, he says, when he saw a performance of Always … Patsy Cline at IPAC. He started talking to IPAC executive director David Clinton-Reid about the possibility of a cinema series—and it finally came to fruition this year.

Of all the films he’s booked for the series thus far, Hernandez cites Metropolis as the crown jewel. The 1927 silent Fritz Lang classic originally premiered at 2 1/2 hours long, but about an hour of the film was cut from the movie shortly thereafter, and was presumed lost. However, a version of the original print was discovered in the archives of the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 2008, and after a heavy restoration, a “complete” version of the film was released in 2010. That’s the version IPAC will screen at 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 3.

While Hernandez’s passion for film has driven him to turn IPACinema into reality, the journey has not all been smooth sailing. One of the biggest challenges: IPAC does not own a proper movie projector, so Hernandez needs to rent one for each week’s screening. He’s counting on ticket sales and perhaps sponsorships to pay for that projector each week.

“I want to have every seat in the house full,” says Hernandez about the 127-seat theater where IPACinema will take place.

That’s an incredibly ambitious goal, especially since the series is taking place during the slow season in an area where foot traffic is rare to nonexistent. However, Hernandez is optimistic that he can make the film series a success.

“This series is about movies as they’re meant to be seen—on the silver screen,” Hernandez says.

IPACinema takes place at either 7 or 8 p.m., every Saturday, from June 20 through Oct. 26, at the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo St., in Indio. Tickets are $6, or $5 for children and seniors. For a complete schedule and more information, visit

What: The fish tacos

Where: El Ranchito Taco Shop, 34580 Monterey Ave., No. 103, Palm Desert

How much: $2.49

Contact: 760-320-9182;

Why: The sauce, the crispiness and the price.

The first-ever Indy Endorsement was published on Nov. 1 of last year. The subject of our effusive praise: the fish tacos at Shanghai Reds.

Now, more than eight months later, we’re celebrating another Indy Endorsement first: For the first time, we’re endorsing essentially the same item (fish tacos) at a second restaurant.

One may have a reasonable expectation of getting a great fish taco at a local mini-chain that has “fish” in its name, as is the case of Shanghai Reds and its parent restaurant, Fisherman’s Market and Grill. However, one does not necessarily expect to get a great fish taco in a gigantic industrial-area Palm Desert strip mall that’s anchored by a freakin’ Walmart.

Yet that’s exactly what we found at El Ranchito Taco Shop. We wandered before a weekday Costco run—and were shocked to see every table in the smallish restaurant full. At 11 a.m. On a Friday. In the summer.

Fortunately, someone was leaving as we got in line to order, so the significant other nabbed the table while I stayed in line. I ordered several tacos, some chips, and an order of huevos rancheros ($5.25). An aside: El Ranchito serves breakfast all day, as all breakfast-serving restaurants should. Bless you, El Ranchito!

All of our food was tasty—but the fish taco, as you probably guessed from the fish-taco banter above, offered the best bites of the bunch. The cod was crispy and not overly oily; the white sauce was tangy and smooth; the cabbage and tomatoes were fresh and crisp. It was truly a pleasant surprise—and helped explain why El Ranchito was so damned busy at 11 a.m. on a Friday.

So, you may be wondering: Is the fish taco at El Ranchito as good as the one at Shanghai Reds? All things considered, yes: While the tortilla is far better with the Shanghai Reds taco (it’s thick and delicious, while the El Ranchito taco is wrapped in two average-tasting tortillas), the price is far better with the El Ranchito taco: It’s $1.46 less than the fish taco at Shanghai Reds.

And, unlike the Shanghai Reds taco, it’s available nearby before or after a Costco run.

Rebecca Clark, 56, as you’ll see below, loves Barbra Streisand—and the Brooklyn, N.Y., native does a pretty good tribute to the Funny Girl, too. Catch her tribute show, Hello Gorgeous!, at 8 p.m., Friday, July 26, at Azul Tapas Lounge, 369 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; tickets are $15 (with full menu options), or $40 with a dinner prix fixe. (You can see Clark as Babs below, preparing for a recent show at the Teatro Tapia in San Juan, Puerto Rico.) However, you don’t have to wait until then to see Clark in action: She’ll be singing songs by Streisand, Shirley Bassey and other great divas at Azul this Friday, July 5, at 8 p.m. For more information, call 760-325-5533, or visit

What was the first concert you attended?

Diana Ross, when I was 11 years old.

What was the first album you owned?

Frankie Avalon.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Lady Antebellum.

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

Adele. I like a few of her songs, but I’m not really into her stuff.

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

Barbra Streisand.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

West Side Story.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Melvyn’s Restaurant at the Ingleside Inn in Palm Springs, on Sundays.

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

“(Theme From) Valley of the Dolls,” by Dionne Warwick.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Barbra Streisand. She tells a story through her music with passion.

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

I would ask Barbra Streisand (if I could) be her understudy when she is ready to retire. I am just as good of a singer as she is.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Time,” by the Alan Parsons Project.

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

The soundtrack to movie Somewhere in Time, by John Barry, and the soundtrack to Funny Girl, by Barbra Streisand.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Blake Shelton, “Boys ’Round Here.” (Scroll down to hear it.)