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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

This Pride, the lesbians in Palm Springs have scheduled tons of fun!

But first, a little background.

The first official “Dyke March” event in the United States was part of the 1993 LGBT March on Washington, D.C. It boasted around 20,000 lesbians—and the women who marched got inspired and energized. Later that year, New York and San Francisco had their first Dyke Marches, and today, they’re held in various places, including Palm Springs.

By the way, try not to get hung up on the fact that this was started by and continues to be led by women who are proud to call themselves “dykes.” This event is designed for all women-loving-women, and every kind of human who loves women is welcome! And dogs, too!

I was lucky enough to be at the ’93 marches in Washington and San Francisco. There were markers and paints and big poster boards to make your own signs. I remember wandering around the National Mall, looking at the signs other women were making, and then plopping down in the grass to make my own. 

This brings us to today. Over the last few years, the lesbian community in Palm Springs has made great headway in organizing their own business and entertainment opportunities. The now-4-year-old Dyke March, for example, has grown from a mini-march into two days of events. This year, it all starts with a picnic, rally and march during Greater Palm Springs Pride, on Saturday, Nov. 3, from noon to 4 p.m., at Frances Stevens Park. That’s between Indian Canyon and Palm Canyon drives at Alejo Road. Bring a blanket, and stake your claim on the grass for a picnic with simple, catered lunches available for $5 (cash only). You can also bring your own feast—and make everyone else jealous! Sprawl out in the dreamy sunshine to enjoy an afternoon of women’s music, dance, speeches and comedy—with me as the emcee. There will be shade tents and some chairs and tables, in case you’re not the sprawling-out-on-the-grass type!

Also at the park: Lighting up the dance floor will be young DJ Ash, from Los Angeles, spinning so you can tea-dance your hearts out. A local favorite dance teacher, Jan Alden, will even teach a couple of country-Western line-dance lessons. This is a kid-friendly day, so plan to bring the whole family, as there will be fun and games … and face painting! Joanne Thompson will lead a drum circle, so bring your instruments, too.

Between music and raffles, you’ll hear brief yet brilliant speakers, including spoken word from Nalani Hernandez-Melo, a founder of the Wyld Womxn Collective. Also on the schedule: a melodious tease from Sweet Baby J’ai as she lures you to the Sunday Lesbo Expo Launch Party. (More on that in a bit.) Leslie Price, a lead nurse practitioner at Planned Parenthood, will share insights on women’s health, and the ever-powerful orator Kate Kendell, who led the National Center for Lesbian Rights for more than 20 years, will rally a bit of energy as we’re about to march. Finally, there will be a few words from Bella Barkow, a producer of Lezathlon, the largest and intentionally most ridiculous lesbian sporting event in the world! (We’re hoping to convince her to bring one of their lesbian “field days” here to Palm Springs next year.) 

The short march to the Pride Festival area will step off from Frances Stevens Park at 4 p.m.

Later that night, you can dance the night away at the L-Fund’s annual Women's Pride Dance in the ballroom at Hotel Zoso, at 150 S. Indian Canyon Drive, with DJ T-LA Storm. Tickets are $20 in advance at www.l-fund.org, or $30 at the door. All are welcome!

On Sunday, women can show up—first come, first served—to watch the Pride parade from the patio of the not-quite-reopened Alibi Room, at 369 N. Palm Canyon Drive. Drinks and catered eats will be available for purchase. When the parade has passed, stick around on the patio for a free drag king show with emcee Jesse Jones and the Inland Empire Kings: King Phantom, King Caux and Sir Labia.

The headliners and big names can be found after the parade inside at the Lesbo Expo Launch Party, from 1 to 4 p.m. This ticketed event includes awards, music, comedy, a taco bar and beer, all for $30. The superstar show features acclaimed comedian/emcee Marga Gomez from San Francisco, and a short concert with Sweet Baby J'ai and her Women in Jazz All-Stars from Los Angeles.

Kate Kendell will receive the Legacy Award; other honorees include Susan Unger, the project director at Get Tested Coachella Valley; Lucy and Gail, producers of the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival; and Michelle Castillo, co-founder of Wyld Womxn Collective. A special Palm Springs City Council resolution will also be presented by Councilwoman Lisa Middleton to Lynn Segerblom, a co-creator of the original pride flag. The whole event will serve as an introduction by the Palm Springs Dyke March Steering Committee to the planned day-long Lesbo Expo, slated for Pride in 2019.

As a young comedian, waiting on the National Mall at the first Dyke March in ’93, I was intimidated by the strong emotions voiced on many of the signs. I finally drew flowers and peace signs around the words, “Issue-Free Dyke!” Through the whole parade, lesbians yelled back at me: “No such thing!”

For more information, visit www.facebook.com/psdykemarch.

Published in Local Fun

A chicken and an egg are in bed next to each other; both are smoking cigarettes. The egg turns to the chicken and says, “So, we now know the answer to that question.”

I have tons of these. But if you would prefer comedy that’s actually, well, funny, consider the Out for Laughs comedy series, coming to the Camelot Theatres each Thursday in February.

Shann Carr, a self-appointed “gay man’s lesbian” (and, full disclosure, a friend of the Independent), is co-producing the series. Each show will have a headliner, multiple entertainers and a different beneficiary.

“I have been doing a series of shows for over 30 years called ‘Out for Laughs,’” Carr told me during our recent chat. “Sometimes I do videos or film; this year in Palm Springs, I am doing a short run of live shows. Every week, there will be at least four acts. Most times, it’s three comedians and a magician. (Co-producer) Max Mitchell and I will host, and the magician (McHugh and Co.) will come and help with the transitions.”

Palm Springs is an easy place to hold these LGBT-themed shows, since Carr has lived in the city for 20 years. How did she wind up living in Palm Springs?

“I have been an out comedian since I was 19,” she said. “Palm Springs was that place in a gay bubble and has that resort mentality. And where else could a lesbian like me afford a house with a pool? It’s a great place! My house is making (me) money, and even (my) dog is doing commercials. Everyone is working!”

Carr said it was important to her for the series of shows to give back to the community.

“Pretty much everything I do, I give something to charity. It’s just a part of how I am made,” she said. “I have worked with these charities in some way, and I just try to spread the support around. … As a gay comic, I do not experience great amounts of wealth, but (the series) does my heart good. Fifteen percent of each ticket will go to the selected charity for the night.”

As for those headliners and charities:

• On Feb. 1, the headliner is groundbreaking trans comedian Ian Harvie; his show will benefit the Transgender Community Coalition. He has opened for Margaret Cho, has a one-hour special called May the Best Cock Win and has been on the award-winning show Transparent.

• Feb. 8 brings Alec Mapa; his show is benefiting Sanctuary Palm Springs. Called “hilarious” by Ellen Degeneres, Mapa recently was featured in his own Showtime special, focusing on the adoption travails that he and his husband have endured. Mapa gets around: He’s been part of RuPaul’s Drag Race, A Very Sordid Wedding and all sorts of other movies and television shows, including two Logo specials.

• Erin Foley will perform on the day after Valentine’s Day, Feb. 15; her show will benefit the Joy Silver campaign for the District 28 State Senate seat. Foley has been on Conan and her own Comedy Central special; she hosts the podcast Sports Without Balls, which has helped make her one of the most sought-after women in comedy.

• Concluding the series on Feb. 22 will be Jimmy James; his show benefits the LGBT Community Center of the Desert. He is an award-winning vocal impressionist with an amazing voice. He does Judy, Cher, Adele, Barbra, Elvis and so many others. He even does a duet … but it’s just him, doing two voices.

“It always freaks people out when I do it,” James told me during a recent phone interview. “Cher is one of my favorites; she changes the molecular structure of the room.”

James has a long history of performing in Palm Springs, he said.

“There are other places you can go that have so many tribute artists, impersonators and performers that I just don’t feel special,” he said. “I used to come to (Arenas Road bar) Streetbar on the last Tuesdays of the month to practice and see what worked and what didn’t. There was no judgment for me. It gave me the chance to develop so many things like Lana Del Rey and Adele. There’s a lot of vetting I have to do for each show. I love new artists and their music, but I work out of the Great American Songbook, too.

“This February will mark 35 years of performing. I started when I was 2,” James continued with a chuckle. “I have learned what my audiences want. … There is even an audience who doesn’t know I do this; they know me for my hit (song) ‘Fashionista,’ which is being played all the time, everywhere.”

The Out for Laughs comedy series takes place every Thursday in February at 7 p.m. at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets for each show are $25 in advance, or $30 at the door. For tickets or more information, visit out4laughs.eventbrite.com.

Published in Comedy

Five of the Coachella Valley's top bartenders met Thursday night, Nov. 17, at the Purple Palm Restaurant at the Colony Palms Hotel to battle for the first Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship.

The event was one of the highlights of the Coachella Valley Independent's first Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, which ends tonight (Saturday, Nov. 19). 

One week before the event, the five contestants met at the Purple Palm for a draw to determine the order in which they would compete, and which of the five sponsor liquors they would use. The sponsor—Pacific Wine and Spirits of California—is donating $500 to each of Cocktail Week's charity beneficiaries: The LGBT Community Center of the Desert's Community Food Bank, and the Desert AIDS Project's Food Pantry.

Fernando Gonzalez of Cuistot Restaurant (using Nolet's Silver Dry Gin), Kevin Helvie of Chill Bar Palm Springs and Scorpion Room (using Crown Royal Vanilla), Sherman Chan of TRIO Restaurant (using Bulleit Bourbon), Michael Phillips of FIX a Dessert House (using Ketel One Oranj) and Joey Tapia of The New York Company Restaurant (using Captain Morgan White Rum) made tastes of their drinks for all attendees, who then each turned in a ballot with their favorite cocktail circled. Then the competition began in earnest, with each bartender mixing full-size drinks for each judge live while bantering with host Shann Carr.

The judges were Jonathan Heath of F10 Creative, Darrell Tucci of the Desert AIDS Project, Mike Thompson of the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, and Brad Fuhr of Gay Desert Guide.

After all of the drinks were made and tasted, and the results tabulated, Shann Carr announced the winners: Joey Tapia of the New York Company Restaurant won the Audience Choice Award, while Trio's Sherman Chan won the Championship.

Below is a gallery of photos by Independent photographer Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Snapshot

Palm Springs has long been the home of an active, visible, engaged and fairly organized gay male community.

As for lesbians … not so much.

Enter the Dyke March. Now in its second year, the Palm Springs Dyke March will begin with speakers and entertainment at 4 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5, at Frances Stevens Park, located at 555 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs. Around 5:30, the crowd will be led by a drum line down Palm Canyon Drive, through the Pride Festival and to the Arenas Road stage, where Kate Kendell, the leader of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, will speak. She’ll be followed onstage by amazing lesbian rocker Jennifer Corday.

Shann Carr, a local comedian and newish real-estate agent, is a member of the Dyke March’s steering community.

“The dyke march has a long, big, fat fucking history. It was started originally as a protest of invisibility,” Carr said. “It remains more of a protest movement than a pride march. I think no dyke march has ever gotten a permit before.”

While dyke marches have taken place in cities across the world for many decades, the Palm Springs Dyke March is a new thing. Carr said the fact that there is now a dyke march here shows that the local lesbian community is, thankfully, finally beginning to come together.

“Palm Springs’ lesbian community has never really escalated into a highly active social community,” Carr said. “But in the last couple of years, little pods of people are starting to gain momentum.”

As another example of this momentum, Carr pointed to the new and growing nonprofit The L-Fund, which offers financial assistance to local lesbians in need. President and founding member Barbara Carpenter will be one of the pre-march speakers at Francis Stevens Park, along with Gail Christian, one of the producers of the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz Festival; and Janet Malachowsky, an associate vice president with The Relationship Group at Morgan Stanley, who not long ago served as the president of the board of the Desert Business Association, the valley’s LGBT business group. (Full disclosure: The author of this article is the current president of the DBA.)

Beyond the great speakers, what can Dyke March attendees expect?

“I suspect that at the rally site, it’ll be mostly lesbian,” Carr said. “That is who the march is named after—dykes, people who are proud dykes or lesbians who are not hung up on that word. That’s who will be there.”

That’s not to say that men and straight women won’t be welcome, Carr said. In fact, she said that she hopes men and straight women will show up in support. (Carr’s suggested chant for march supporters: “Go, dykes, go!”)

As the march heads through the Pride Festival and to the Arenas Road stage, the crowd will become much more diverse, and Carr said this is a very good thing.

“On Arenas, I hope everybody’s there, because Kate Kendell is such an amazing speaker,” Carr said.

After Kendell speaks and Jennifer Corday rocks, attendees can walk a couple hundred feet to the Hard Rock Hotel for the L-Fund Women’s Pride Dance, which will take place from 7 p.m. to midnight. DJ T-LA STORM will spin; tickets are $20 in advance at www.l-fund.org, or $30 at the door.

Carr—who said she’s always identified with the word “dyke”—said it’s fantastic that the local lesbian community is starting to make legitimate, tangible efforts to organize.

“In any community that is under-seen and, in our case, under-organized … it’s important to focus on what you want and how to get it,” she said.

For more information on the Palm Springs Dyke March, visit PSPride.org or www.facebook.com/psdykemarch.

Published in Local Fun

This weekend, downtown Palm Springs is being taken over by Pride.

It’s been an amazing couple of years for Greater Palm Springs Pride, and the LGBT community in general. The festival’s move from Palm Springs Stadium to downtown last year was a huge success. In fact, organizers say Palm Springs Pride is now the second-largest pride celebration in California, bested only by San Francisco Pride. After the U.S. Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality earlier this year, there is a lot to celebrate.

One of the most recognized symbols of the LGBT community is the rainbow flag. The flag was designed in 1978, with a lot of revisions since. Its colors represent the diversity of the LGBT Community, and it has been used for pride marches and equality-related protests.

For Palm Springs Pride this year, I thought I’d reach out to a handful of local LGBT community entertainers and leaders, and ask them one simple question: What comes to mind when you see a rainbow flag?

“The rainbow flag is a sense of pride, a sense of community, a sense of unity of where we are, where we have been and where we are going. Color Our World With Pride! Celebrate! Don’t be afraid to show some color.” —Bella da Ball

“When I see the rainbow flag, I am reminded of our community’s great diversity—diversity in our race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, religion and so on. We’re white, black, Latino, Asian and Native American. We’re men, women and transgender. We’re Christian, Jewish and Muslim. I’m reminded in bold, beautiful color that we are more than LGBT, but we represent everything between those letters.” —Darrell Tucci, Chief Development Officer, Desert AIDS Project

“Anal sex! No, I’m just kidding! My answer is simple: I always think of gay pride and community.” —Jersey Shore

“I remember marching with the New York City Gay Men’s Chorus down Broadway. It was my first time since coming out late. It started to rain, and we had a giant rainbow flag. You can imagine what it looked like when over 100 guys tried to take cover under the flag and still walk down Broadway looking fierce!” —Jeffrey Norman, Director of Communications and Public Affairs, McCallum Theatre (and an Independent contributor)

“To me, the Rainbow Flag is a celebration of the uniqueness and beauty of both the LGBT individual and the collective community. Each color is spectacular on its own, yet when woven together in community, it’s even more majestic.” —Mike Thompson, Chief Executive Officer, the LGBT Community Center of the Desert

“When I see a rainbow flag, I think of unity, love, strength, a sense of belonging, and, of course, pride.” —Tommy Locust, Mr. Palm Springs Leather 2014 and Chill’s house DJ (and an Independent contributor)

“People scramble to deem the flag irrelevant and (say) that this sort of demonstration of pride isn’t necessary, and many pretend that no one is struggling anymore. The history of the flag makes me feel grateful to be alive in a time where so much has changed for us and that an argument like that could even exist.” —Shann Carr

“Comfort, equality, progress. Lives were lost in order to have this flag erected. They are just colors to some, but for me, it’s so much more. I know if I see the pride flag displayed in businesses, I feel a comfort in knowing I can feel safe and will not be judged on my sexual preferences.” —Marina Mac

“To me, it means that the queer are here! On a serious note, the rainbow flag represents LGBT friendliness, and LGBT community is present and proud. Many places around the world, (LGBT people) can’t hang flags, and when one is present, it means that being gay is normal, OK. We are here, just like any other person.” —DJ Femme A

“I see pride, dignity, respect, hard work, love, compassion, diversity and equality. Over the years, the rainbow flag has been a symbol of pride in our community. It signifies the strength we have had to stay grounded! The colors are the diversity we enjoy, sharing equal respect for those who do not have the foresight into moving positively into the future.” —James Bork, Mr. Chill Leather 2016 and second runner-up, Mr. Palm Springs Leather 2016

Published in Features

October is finally here, and that means the valley is starting to churn back to life after its summer slumber.

With help from the Independent and Chill Bar, I will once again be throwing a concert series to benefit the Community Food Bank at the LGBT Center of the Desert. The Oktoberfest Concert Series Benefiting the Community Food Bank at the Center will take place every Thursday in October at 9:30 p.m. On Thursday, Oct. 1, Palm Desert band The Flusters will performing a modern take on vintage rock ’n’ roll and ’60s surf rock. On Thursday, Oct. 8, EeVaan Tre and the Show will be bringing its fantastic R&B and hip-hop sound back to Chill. On Thursday, Oct. 15, the high desert’s Gene Evaro and the Family will take the stage. On Thursday, Oct. 22, Tribesmen will play with special guest Venus and the Traps. On Thursday, Oct. 29, Hollace—winners of the recent Hood Bar and Pizza Battle of the Bands—will perform with special guest Johnny Elsewhere. A $5 donation is suggested; 21 and older. Chill Bar, 217 E. Arenas Road, Palm Springs; 760-327-1079; www.facebook.com/ChillBarPalmSprings.

You know season is here when the McCallum Theatre is open again, and the McCallum has some great events scheduled for October. At 7 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 11, Comedy Central’s Daniel Tosh will be performing. He’s calling his performance the “Tosh Saves the World Charity Show,” and proceeds will go to various charities. Ian Edwards, Tom Papa, Greg Hahn and Lachlan Patterson are also scheduled to appear. Tickets are $75. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 23, prepare yourself: Bill Maher is coming back. Just a friendly warning: If you’re in the Fox News-viewing demographic, stay away from this show. Also, if you’re easily offended, Bill Maher will probably not be a good time. Tickets are $57 to $107. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24, get out your Stetsons, and shine up your boots, because Jason Petty is returning as Hank Williams in Hank and My Honky Tonk Heroes. You’ll also be hearing tunes from Jimmie Rodgers, Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb and George Jones. Tickets are $22 to $52. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino had a fabulous summer, and has a lot of other exciting things booked through the rest of the year. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 10, there will be a performance by Latin singer-songwriter Julieta Venegas. Venegas is a big name in her native Mexico, and has also found success internationally. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 17, sitcom star and comedian George Lopez (above) will be appearing. While Lopez has been wildly successful, he’s also known for explosive tweets on Twitter, including a “Fuck you!” response to a fan. Tickets are $49 to $99. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa is definitely the place to be in October. While the Duran Duran show on Oct. 3 might be sold out, there are other events to consider. At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 2, Blue Collar Comedy member Ron White will be appearing. “Tater Salad” has had quite a successful career—because he’s freaking hilarious. Tickets are $70 to $245. At 8 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 6, country singer-songwriter Frankie Ballard will take the stage. His career started after he won Kenny Chesney’s “Next Big Star” competition, and he has been rising steadily ever since. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 23, The Tonight Show house band The Roots (above right) will be appearing. The Roots built their legacy on hip-hop and were an indie success; they are one of the few hip-hop acts to feature live instruments. They were the first hip-hop act I ever saw live in 1996. If you go see them, you’ll be blown away. Tickets are $55 to $75. Stay tuned to CVIndependent.com in October for an interview with The Hit Men (appearing Oct. 16) and a live review of Duran Duran’s show. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a couple of events worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 2, Latin sensation Don Omar will perform. Billboard named Omar one of the top-selling Latin artists. He also appeared alongside Paul Walker and Vin Diesel in the Fast and Furious film franchise. Tickets are $54 to $84. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 10, check out a somewhat interesting event called Brenton Wood’s Love Jam. Wood was a modestly successful R&B/soul singer in the late ’60s. Also appearing will be the Zapp Band, who Dr. Dre sampled several times; Rose Royce; GQ; Atlantic Starr; Candyman; and Peaches and Herb. Tickets are $40 to $60. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has a busy month ahead. At 8 p.m., Friday, Oct. 2, there will be another celebrity music show by The Kiefer Sutherland Band. That’s right—you read that correctly. After Macaulay Culkin’s rather awkward appearance last year at Pappy’s with his band The Pizza Underground, I hope Kiefer puts on an excellent show. Tickets are $15. Speaking of awkward … at 9 p.m., Thursday, Oct. 8, Daniel Romano and the Trilliums will be performing. After Romano’s excellent performance at Stagecoach in April, I had the opportunity to interview him—and, well, he was strange, distant and didn’t seem to like anything or anyone that particular day. He’s a brilliant performer, but skip trying to talk to him on the back patio at Pappy’s. Tickets are $12. At 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 30, and Saturday, Oct. 31, it’ll be that time of the year again: Gram Rabbit takes the stage at Pappy’s for the group’s usual Halloween shows. While Gram Rabbit has basically been on hiatus, front woman Jesika Von Rabbit recently toured with Eagles of Death Metal in the Midwest. Buy your tickets now, because it will sell out, and there will be a large crowd. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room Palm Springs is preparing for a busy fall. At 7 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 10, the “Gay Don Rickles,” Jason Stuart, will be performing with special guest, local (and friend) Shann Carr. Hopefully Stuart’s material isn’t as offensive as Rickles’ live album. Tickets are $25. Purple Room Palm Springs, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive; 760-322-4422; purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Tryst Lounge continues to host local bands. At 10 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 13, Derek Jordan Gregg will be performing. At 10 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 24, Spankshaft will take the stage. At 10 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 27, an act calling itself the Techno Hillbillies will play. All shows are free. Tryst Bar and Lounge, 188 S. Palm Canyon, Palm Springs; 760-832-6046; www.facebook.com/Trystpalmsprings.

The Date Shed has one intriguing event worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 17, post-grunge band Puddle of Mudd (below) will perform. During the early part of the last decade, the group had 15 minutes of fame. Alas, today, frontman Wes Scantlin is known to perform heavily intoxicated, or to lip-sync an entire show. Many of the band’s original members have run away from Puddle of Mudd. I will say that you should go to support local opening acts Mighty Jack and the Rebel Noise, given they both put on great shows. Tickets are $20 to $25. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews

Palm Springs is well-known for its star-studded International Film Festival, held every January. However, the city also hosts a well-regarded annual LGBTQ film festival, known as Cinema Diverse—and it’s taking place at the Camelot Theatres Sept. 17-20.

Local comedian Shann Carr has been affiliated with the festival since its start, beginning as a volunteer eight years ago.

“Every city in America had an LGBTQ film festival, and Palm Springs is known for having its very own international film festival, and we were the only town without an LGBTQ film festival,” she said. “For a gay town, that’s pretty surprising.”

Through the years, Carr has seen trends in festival submissions come and go from year to year. For example, she said films on the subjects of gay marriage and equality are starting to wane.

“You watch the crest of what’s on the front-burner of our community at the given time. In the past couple of years, it’s been all gay marriage and babies,” she said. “… Now, it’s, ‘Enough about the weddings! Enough about gay rights!’ Right as we gained marriage equality, those submissions dropped right down. Television and film is how a lot of the world learned that gay people aren’t scary people. It really is about education.”

What’s a current trend in festival submissions?

“The transgender issue has now come up,” she said. “… I haven’t seen a lot of (the films focusing on transgender issues), but I know there are a handful of them, as well as some shorts. Last year, one of the most talked-about shorts was called Brace, and it was about a transgender man who was at a bar, and this guy started liking him, and they started liking each other—and then the other guy found out the man was transgender.”

Carr has seen the festival’s Opening Night centerpiece film, Eisenstein in Guanajuato.

“The opening film is amazing. It’s about a Russian gay man, and it’s beautiful,” she said. “He speaks with a thick Russian accent throughout the entire film, and so much amazing stuff comes out of it. It’s a story about a Russian filmmaker in the ’30s who comes through the United States and learns he can make a film for next to nothing in Mexico. He spends a visa period filming 200 miles of film and discovering his sexuality—and he’s a virgin at 33. There’s a bit of frontal nudity, and as a lesbian watching it, I thought, ‘Innocent, playful penis!’ It was a beautiful, interesting, artistic penis.”

Carr said there is something she wishes there was less of at the festival: the divide between the sexes. However, she conceded the divide is real.

“I didn’t want to see a men’s compilation and a women’s compilation,” she said. “As I took a handful of people into a screening … as soon as the guys got down to it for a sex scene, the women were like, ‘Do I have to watch this?’ The guys are all like, ‘LET’S GO! WOO HOO! … As much as I was trying to push them into that progress, they weren’t having it at all.”

Considering all the positive changes taking place in the LGBTQ community, I asked Carr whether an LGBTQ film festival will still be necessary and needed in a decade.

“I think so, because humans are like this, and animals are like this: They see their reflection, and they want to belong, be affirmed, be enlightened,” she said. “… It’s an explanation of the changes we’re seeing, but I don’t see us completely going to the cliff and falling over. Ethnic groups still want to see each other and congregate with each other.”

Cinema Diverse takes place from Thursday, Sept. 17, through Sunday, Sept. 20, primarily at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets range from $13 for individual screenings to $159 for an all-festival pass. For tickets or more information, call 760-325-6565, or visit cinemadiverse.org.

Published in Previews and Features

The Palm Springs International ShortFest included a great compilation of lesbian shorts—and I don’t mean flannel boxers!

The nine short films in the “Gay!La (Hers): LesbiaNation” program on Thursday, June 19, were well-made and smart—and not one of the lesbian characters was struggling with her sexuality.

There was a married mother having an affair with a lesbian. The married woman felt guilty about the affair, but there was no mention of her sexuality. There was an alcoholic mess of a hot lesbian—but no hint that her lesbianism caused her alcoholism. Brava, my kinda films!

All of the movies were very intimate, rounded out with humor and light and darkness. There was old love, new love and borrowed love. The only remotely blue content came from The Gay Agenda, a cute three-minute doc from Australia about a hysterical art show that quoted some of the most horrifically inaccurate accusations made by the Christian right about the “gay agenda”—and then included hysterical yet beautifully staged images showing what those statements would look like in “reality.” This film was also the only one that really took a direct look at homosexuality.

My favorite short was Disaster Preparedness, a film about one night with two lesbians in their New York apartment during a hurricane. Fast and funny, sad and real, smart and close to the bone, the short brought the viewer all the way into this couple’s life. It was impossible not to fall in love with both characters as they argued through an amusing storm of their own.

The Q&A after the shorts was great, with filmmakers present from as far away as Australia and Lebanon. The host asked the panel: “What is your least favorite cliché in gay films?” Almost all of the filmmakers said that it was the painful coming-out story. Several of them expressed that they had set out to make films in which the characters who explored engaging situations just happened to be gay.

I have to admit that I’ve heard similar statements in the industry for years; they often meant that people didn’t want the characters to be so gay. But that’s not the case any more: These characters were entirely gay. It’s just that processing the process of processing the gay aspect is not the focal point.

One director said, “It is time for queer film 2.0.” Of course there is still a place to focus on the shame and struggle and joy of coming out—but now we can pioneer our way to the stories beyond those beginnings. The Gay!La program showed how filmmakers are now doing that, in a universally translatable way.

The Palm Springs International Shortfest continues through Monday, June 23. For tickets, a complete schedule and more information, visit www.psfilmfest.org.

Published in Previews and Features

It’s almost August, and that means that the Coachella Valley cultural scene is entering its deadest time of the year.

Nonetheless, there are still a lot of things going on: Movies and music can be found in surprising abundance throughout the month.

But when it comes to theater—forget it. The local companies pretty much ignore the month of August. Perhaps they’re prepping for the 2013-2014 season; perhaps they’re taking a much-needed break. Whatever the reason, August is, by far, the slowest theater month in the Coachella Valley.

Still, a few local companies are at least throwing us Coachella Valley theater-lovers a bone or two this month. Here are some shows worth your attention.

Friday and Saturday, Aug. 2 and 3

The brand-new Desert Theatreworks has big plans for 2013-2014: The company has four full shows slated for the season, ranging from an Agatha Christie whodunit to a musical set in a trailer park.

But the fine folks at Desert Theatreworks are offering the valley a nice appetizer before the main course: This summer, they’ve mounted a couple of one-weekend shows. This coming weekend, they’re following up July’s Up (The Man in the Flying Chair) with A.R. Gurney’s comedy Sylvia, a play about a man, a woman and the dog (played by a human running around on all fours!) that comes between them.

Catch Sylvia at 7 p.m., Friday; and 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday, at the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way in Palm Desert. Tickets are $23 to $25. Call 760-980-1455, or visit www.dtworks.org.

Saturday, Aug. 10

We admit we’re biased on this one: VJ Hume—you may know her as Valerie Jean, and those of us at Independent World Headquarters know and love her as our theater reviewer—wrote, directs and stars in LUSH!, her play about Marty Mann, the first woman who participated in Alcoholics Anonymous.

Catch a readers’-theater performance of LUSH!, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 10, at the Palm Springs Womans’ Club, 314 Cahuilla Road in Palm Springs. Tickets are $10, and the proceeds benefit Michael’s House, a Palm Springs recovery center. Call Zigi at (760) 464-2138 for reservations.

Saturday, Aug. 10

OK, we admit a little biased on this one, too: Shann Carr is a dear friend of the Independent. Plus she’s funny as hell—and you can see this for yourself when she performs her standup comedy (the news release calls it “debaucherous comedy and intimate storytelling; that sounds about right) at the Desert Rose Playhouse, 69620 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage, also at 7 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 10. Tickets are $20; call 760-202-3000, or visit www.desertroseplayhouse.org for those tickets or more info.

Saturday, Aug. 17

Take two magicians—Mark Kalin and Jinger Leigh (“their skills in levitation are sure to haunt and mystify the kid in all of us,” the press release promises), and add in a comedy/magician, Jeff Hobson (“a combination of Liberace and Don Rickles,” the aforementioned release alarmingly claims). And what do you have?

You have the Carnival of Wonders!

We’re not exactly sure what all of this means, but the show has had successful runs in Reno, Las Vegas and Atlantic City, so it may be a nice of entertainment at 8 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 17, at The Show, at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive in Rancho Mirage. Tickets are $30 to $60. Get tickets or more info at www.hotwatercasino.com or 888-999-1995.

Pictured below: Local legend Shann Carr.

Shann Carr

Published in Theater and Dance

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 inacenterminute.com. 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.

Published in Local Issues

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