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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Music and More

Brian Stokes Mitchell in Stepping Out

Tony Award-winner Brian Stokes Mitchell returns to the McCallum stage for Stepping Out for College of the Desert, an enchanting evening of music in support of the College of the Desert Foundation. 8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 18. $65 to $125. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-773-2561; mccallumtheatre.com.

Cabaret 88: Billy Stritch

The award-winning composer, arranger, vocalist and jazz pianist breathes new life into the Great American Songbook, while bringing an easy sense of humor and showmanship to his performances. 6 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 17. $88. Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

An Evening With Christine Ebersole

Christine Ebersole has captivated audiences throughout her performing career, from the Broadway stage to TV series and films. 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 21. $60 to $75. Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

Gardens on El Paseo Concert Series

Sip some wine, sway to the music and drink in the scenery. A reception begins at 5:15 p.m. followed by a live musical performance from 6 to 7 p.m. on Saturday. Each week features a different artist and benefits a charity. Feb. 7: Heatwave, benefiting the Eisenhower Medical Center. Feb. 14: Terry Wollman, benefiting VNA. Feb. 21: Zen Robbi, benefiting the Palm Desert High School Foundation. Feb. 28: John Stanley King Band, benefiting the YMCA of the Desert. $12; includes two glasses of wine and refreshments. The Gardens on El Paseo, 73545 El Paseo, Palm Desert. 760-862-1990; www.thegardensonelpaseo.com/events.

The Heart of a Gypsy Troubadour

This intimate and personal look inside a life well lived is written and performed by Richard Byford. 4 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 3. $15. Tolerance Education Center, 35147 Landy Lane, Rancho Mirage. 760-328-8252; toleranceeducationcenter.org.

Jazzoo Concert Series: Jazzy Romance for Your Valentine

Join friends and members of The Living Desert community. Featuring vocalist Carol Bach-Y-Rita, this promises to be a great afternoon of jazz for lovers and friends. 4:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 8. $45; Living Desert members $35. The Living Desert, 47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert. 760-346-5694, ext. 2166; www.livingdesert.org.

Shows at the Indian Wells Theater

Enjoy the songs of Elvis, Frank and Neil Diamond in American Trilogy, at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 6; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 8. Bethany Owen performs her one-woman show at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 14. A tribute to the Beach Boys takes place at 7 p.m., Friday, Feb. 27. A tribute to The Beatles occurs at 7 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 28. $40; Feb. 8 matinee $30. Indian Wells Theater, 37500 Cook St., Palm Desert. 760-341-6909; pdc.csusb.edu/eventsTheater.html.

The USO Variety Show

The USO has been entertaining troops worldwide in times of peace and war for more 70 years. Now, the Bob Hope USO needs you to laugh, enjoy and have some fun remembering the good ol’ times. Join us for a live nostalgic tribute to Bob Hope and his band of Hollywood celebs; enjoy free tours of the museum pre- or post-show time. 2 p.m., Thursday, Feb. 19. $55 to $75. Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs. 760-778-6262; palmspringsvacationtravel.com.

Special Events

Canada/Snowbird Fest 2015: Party On

Party On with Dennis Lambert, an award-winning singer/songwriter/producer. Other guest stars include Red Robinson, famous Canadian disc jockey and voiceover artist; Bethany Owen, celebrity impressionist; and Peter Beckett of Player. The festival and resource fair takes place 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 28; and 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Sunday, March 1; $8. The entertainers perform at Party On from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. and 8 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 28; $45 to $55. University of California at Riverside—Palm Desert, 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive, Palm Desert. 760-202-4007; www.bettekingproductions.com.

Frank Sinatra Celebrity Invitational

Come to “Frank’s Little Party in the Desert!” Two fabulous days of golf and three nights of parties join auctions and world-class entertainment. Various times Thursday, Feb. 19, through Saturday, Feb. 21. Prices vary. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino’s Eagle Falls Golf Course, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio. 760-674-8447; www.franksinatragolf.org.

Gourmet Food Truck Event

Try food trucks for lunch featuring burgers, barbecue, tacos, California cuisine, sushi and dessert. Outdoor seating is available, or bring a blanket. Dabble in the local farmers’ market; listen to music provided by The Coachella Valley Art Scene; enjoy a beer garden with some of the best craft beers from La Quinta Brewing Company and Coachella Valley Brewing Company. 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., the first Sunday of the month. Free. Cathedral City Civic Center Plaza, 68700 Avenue Lalo Guerrero, Cathedral City. Thecoachellavalleyartscene.com.

International Bear Convergence 2015

The four-day event for bears and their admirers includes themed pool parties at the Renaissance Hotel, as well as parties at bars and clubs, excursions and other events. Various times Thursday, Feb. 12, through Sunday, Feb. 15. Prices vary; walk-in registration $175. Renaissance Palm Springs, 888 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs. 760-537-0891; Ibc-ps.com.

New Balance Palm Springs Half Marathon, Half Marathon Relay and 5k

This Southern California favorite features courses through some of the most famous neighborhoods in Palm Springs. Everyone is allowed to finish, and there is no cut-off time. 7 a.m., Sunday, Feb. 8. Registration prices vary. Ruth Hardy Park, 700 Tamarisk Lane, Palm Springs. Kleinclarksports.com/Half-Marathon.

Riverside County Fair and National Date Festival

The county fair includes a nightly musical pageant, entertainment, monster truck and BMX shows, camel and ostrich races, date and produce displays, arts and crafts, carnival rides and great fair food. Concerts included with fair admission. 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Friday, Feb. 13, through Sunday, Feb. 22; carnival open until midnight on weekends. Prices vary. Riverside County Fairgrounds, 82503 Highway 111, Indio. 800-811-FAIR; www.datefest.org.

Tour De Palm Springs Bike Event

The event is designed to raise money for local nonprofit organizations. Palm Springs’ famous weather, gorgeous scenery and thousands of bike-riders make the Tour de Palm Springs a fundraising event like no other. 6:30 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 14. Registration prices vary. Starts in downtown Palm Springs on North Palm Canyon Drive. 760-674-4700; www.tourdepalmsprings.com.

Visual Arts

Art Under the Umbrellas

The event presents a diverse collection of 80 talented artists exhibiting their original creations along Old Town La Quinta’s picturesque Main Street. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 7 and 14. Free. Old Town La Quinta, Main Street, La Quinta. 760-564-1244; lqaf.com.

Desert Art Festival

This event features numerous artists presenting their original work in all mediums of two- and three-dimensional fine art, including paintings in acrylic, oils and watercolors, photography, etchings, sculpture in clay, glass, metal, stone and wood. Each artist will be present to meet with the public and discuss their work. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Friday through Sunday, Feb. 13-15. Free. Frances Stevens Park, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 818-813-4478; westcoastartists.com.

Paint Nite: Fall Bloom

In about two hours, while you’re sipping on a cocktail, artists will guide you so that you come up with your own unique masterpiece at the end of the night. Everything you will need is provided: canvas, paints, brushes and even a smock. 7 p.m., Monday, Feb. 2, $45. Pizzeria Villagio Italian Kitchen, 37029 Cook St., Palm Desert. 760-567-4761; www.paintnite.com.

Submit your free arts listings at calendar.artsoasis.org. The listings presented above were all posted on the ArtsOasis calendar, and formatted/edited by Coachella Valley Independent staff. The Independent recommends calling to confirm all events information presented here.

Published in Local Fun

Those who have been in the desert less than 15 years or so don’t remember when the anniversary of Roe v. Wade prompted anti-abortion and pro-choice counter-demonstrations along a major intersection in Palm Desert every year. Or the 1992 Desert Lights for Choice candlelight vigil along Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, when pro-choice supporters lined up three deep from Tahquitz Canyon Way to Alejo Road. Or the besieged abortion clinic in Palm Desert where local activists walked women through shouting protesters and helped keep the doors open.

Many of us have become blasé about the right to decide for oneself whether and when to birth a child. Some 42 years after the Supreme Court decision in Roe, it seems unthinkable that the constitutional right to own your own body, including whether to end an unwanted or problem pregnancy, could be revoked. Statistics indicate that about 50 percent of women will at some point in their lives experience an unwanted pregnancy, and one in three American women will have an abortion by age 45.

I was 17, single and pregnant, before Roe. I was given three choices: Go into a home for unwed mothers and get rid of the baby; go to a sanitarium and get my head shrunk; or marry the man involved, leave him immediately, and then be allowed to come home. I chose the head-shrinking and gave the baby up for adoption.

My experience was not unique. In high school, some girls “went to visit their aunt” for a while, unable to stay in school if pregnant. Many of my girlfriends got married quickly after getting pregnant. Some had illegal abortions. Some opted for adoption and spent their lives wondering, as I did, whether the decision had really been the right one for the child.

After Roe, I once again found myself facing the choice of ending an unwanted pregnancy, based on failed contraception. That time—already divorced and raising twins on my own—I opted to terminate the pregnancy. I have never doubted that it was the right decision for me at the time.

I was reminded of all that at the screening of a movie, Obvious Child, presented by Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, the Desert Stonewall Democrats and the Tolerance Education Center in Rancho Mirage on this year’s Roe anniversary. About 60 people saw this movie, which follows a feisty young woman struggling with how to deal with an unplanned, unexpected and unwanted pregnancy.

Before the film, Elizabeth Romero, local director of community and public relations for Planned Parenthood, introduced the co-sponsors. Ruth Debra, president of Desert Stonewall, unexpectedly walked up on the stage, took the mic—and spoke publicly for the first time about her own experience with illegal abortion.

It was a heartfelt and intensely personal statement. “No one should EVER have to go through what I did,” she said.

The film is not going to win any Oscars, and some in the audience were uncomfortable with the coarse language. However, it does explore how difficult it can be to decide whether to have an abortion, and shows the kind of support any woman needs while going through the experience. I admit to tears when the young woman in the film finally tells her mother, who then shares her own story of an abortion at 17.

I finally told my mother when I realized she had begun advocating for pro-choice policies and would be able to understand. She confided to me, before her recent death, that her greatest regret was that she didn’t take a stand vis-à-vis my father so that I might not have needed to give up my first-born son. (My son and I were happily reunited about 10 years ago—but not all such stories end well.)

Life is complicated. Pro-choice advocates need to acknowledge that there are too many unwanted pregnancies, and that what is being aborted is, in fact, living human tissue. We all need to support comprehensive sex education in the schools, and men need to educate boys about their role in all of this. Contraception and prevention are not exclusively the responsibility of women, but gestating that fetus is.

Anti-abortion advocates need to recognize that if abortion is once again made illegal, it won’t stop abortion—it will just take us back to when women resorted to any means necessary to address the problem, and all too often died as a result. How “pro-life” can you be if you’re willing to sacrifice women’s lives?

Republican leaders, after their recent takeover of Congress, have talked about the need to prove they can govern, not just oppose, and to appeal to women voters, especially in light of Gallup’s findings that in every category—single women, married women, divorced women—the political gender gap is real and persistent. Yet one of the first things the House did was try to push through the so-called Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would criminalize abortion after 20 weeks—regardless of reason (assuming a woman should have to give a reason). They also wanted to reclassify what constitutes rape as an exception, a move that went too far even for Republican female members of the House, who pointed out the vote “could threaten the party’s efforts to reach out to women and young people” who clearly do not support such restrictions.

Pregnancy is not a punishment, whether it happens to an underage young woman preyed upon by an older man, or a prostitute, or a young wife expected to push out a baby per year, or an older woman who cannot afford another child, or one who got pregnant because she didn’t insist on contraception, or a woman wanting to escape an abusive relationship, or one who finds out her wanted fetus has catastrophic deficiencies and that a continued pregnancy may mean she can never again have children—or for any other reason particular to each woman’s life.

If you don’t support abortion, don’t choose to have one. But if you are one of the many women who has made that difficult choice or supported another in that choice, heed the words of Katha Pollitt, a feminist activist and writer, who recently wrote: “Why are we so afraid to talk about it—or to acknowledge that our lives would have been so much less than we hoped for without it? Why are we pressured to feel that we should regret our choice, and that there's something wrong with us if we don't?”

In a new play, Out of Silence, produced by the 1 in 3 Campaign, one character says, “I, too, had an abortion that I do not regret. Sometimes I think that I should feel remorse or shame, but I don't. Still, I don't talk about it with anyone."

Own your own history. Share your stories. You’ve done nothing to be ashamed of.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Know Your Neighbors

In the wake of the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s “Torture Report” on the “enhanced interrogation techniques” used by the Central Intelligence Agency in the wake of Sept. 11, I was reminded that I once had the privilege of meeting one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” at an event in San Diego sponsored by Survivors of Torture International.

I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t remember his name. However, I’ll never forget his story.

That lost boy of Sudan trekked barefoot almost 1,000 miles with his young sister to escape to a refugee camp after their parents had been slaughtered. He was then kidnapped and forced to soldier under horrendous and torturous conditions until he was rescued. He was only 10 when that journey began.

It’s challenging to even think about torture at a time of year when celebrations are focused on peace, love and giving. It seems so foreign to our real lives. But here in the Coachella Valley and surrounding areas, we have survivors of torture as our neighbors. This is a time for celebrating their bravery, determination and sheer will to live.

Even those who defend the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” generally acknowledge that torture is a bad thing; their position is that the United States didn’t really torture, because we were acting based on (questionable) legal approval from the Justice Department regarding actions that those within the George W. Bush administration wanted to be able to take without fear of future prosecution.

Apologists, like Republican strategist Karl Rove, say that waterboarding—the way we did it—couldn’t have been torture, because we raised the detainees’ feet so water wouldn’t automatically go into the lungs, and therefore, they wouldn’t really drown. That argument is logically flawed. The purpose of waterboarding is to frighten someone enough, with what feels like the immediate sensation of drowning, to get them to talk. Duh!

Based on dictionary definitions, the Geneva Convention and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to which we are a signatory (and which we helped write), “torture” is when you deliberately inflict physical or psychological pain—done on behalf of or with the consent of a nation-state, or acting in an official capacity—on someone under your control and unable to defend against what you’re doing. The purpose is to get from the one you’re torturing—or perhaps a third party (“Tell us, or we’ll rape and kill your child right in front of you!”)—information or a confession.

Article 3 of the Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Being Subjected to Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, signed by President Reagan and finally ratified by Congress in 1994, says that “no state [nation] may permit or tolerate torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” and “exceptional circumstances such as a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency may not be invoked as a justification of torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” (Emphasis added.)

Forget the political argument about whether “actionable intelligence” was obtained through the use of torture, because even the head of the CIA says that’s basically “unknowable.” The legally slippery area we relied upon is that terrorists, since they are neither nation-states nor acting under orders from legitimate government officials, don’t appear to be specifically covered by the prohibitions on torture. So it’s OK for us to torture them?

Can we all at least agree there’s a difference between what is legal and what is moral, and that one does not require the other? I’m sure that during the Holocaust, Germans convinced themselves they were acting within their view of what was legal to do during a war, yet we can’t possibly hold as moral the action of incarcerating, starving and killing people in concentration camps. Even outside the realm of torture, what is legal is not necessarily moral—think of Jim Crow segregation laws in the South, or legal prohibitions against equal treatment regarding who may marry.

Those of our elected representatives who wanted to keep the “Torture Report” secret say it will harm our image around the world and instigate retaliation against Americans. Besides, say the torture defenders, we’ve already known about all this (see Abu Ghraib), so why bring it up again? Other excuses: It must be just politics. It’s somebody’s agenda to shame the previous administration. We just did what everybody has always done. Or, per former Vice President Dick Cheney, it flat-out was not torture, and even if it was, “I would do it again in a minute!”

As a nation, we pride ourselves on modeling the behaviors we encourage others to emulate, and it’s repulsive to focus on what human beings are capable of inflicting upon one another. Our moral standing as a nation will surely take a big hit, but at least we can celebrate our willingness to expose the ugly underbelly of policies and recommit to never again using such tactics. 

Speaking of “Never again!”: We have a local resource that deserves more notice: The Tolerance Education Center in Rancho Mirage. According to Director Melisse Banwer, we have about 80 Holocaust survivors living here in the Coachella Valley. These people are a direct resource for us regarding the horrors of torture, and a reminder that we must never let the systematic destruction of human rights or genocide happen again. The center provides access to history and memorabilia, educational materials and programs for students and adults, special exhibits, and free movies that are good entertainment with a positive message.

For that Lost Boy of Sudan, and for our neighbors, we have an obligation to commit to “Never again!” And this time, we need to mean it.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Know Your Neighbors