CVIndependent

Fri09202019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

When I moved to Palm Springs full-time in 1985, vacationers strolled downtown during “the season.” I shopped in the chic stores at the mall—at least until they closed down each summer. Spring Break was our biggest attraction (although local residents generally stayed home that week), but that did not last much longer: After years of laissez-faire treatment of young partiers, there was the riot of 1986, and then-Mayor Sonny Bono decided to shut down Spring Break.

In the years that followed, the International Film Festival was born, in 1989. The downtown mall closed. Downtown became dreary and sad.

Thankfully, Palm Springs has experienced a turn-around—as has the Coachella Valley in general—by hosting events and encouraging tourism that brings more diverse groups and revenues to the area. Now that downtown Palm Springs is finally heading toward progress at replacing the empty mall behemoth with shops, walkways, living spaces, arts installations, hotels and entertainment venues, you might wonder how the city has encouraged so many new people to visit—people who often return or even resettle here.

Enter Mary Jo Ginther, who serves as the director of tourism and marketing for the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism. Ginther doesn’t actually work for the city: She and her staff are employed by SMG, a company she describes as “the largest manager of convention centers in the world,” with which the city of Palm Springs contracts to provide their tourism marketing services.

Working within the city’s budget allocations, Ginther and her group employ every method imaginable to attract visitors from across the globe, who will visit and thus generate transient occupancy taxes (TOT) and sales taxes.

“Palm Springs has developed an amazing reputation over the past 10 years,” she says, “as well as more than doubled its TOT revenues.”

Visitors may stay in large name hotels, small boutique inns or private guest homes. They come for gambling, events, conventions, the film festival, weddings, get-away weekends or as snowbirds escaping cruel winters in the Midwest and East. They come for family celebrations, school reunions, business meetings and themed special events. They drive down from Los Angeles, jet in from Canada or fly in to enjoy their long European summer holidays.

Ginther, 60, is a Palm Springs resident originally from East Chicago, Indiana. She started her professional life as a middle-school teacher, after receiving a bachelor’s degree in education at Indiana University Bloomington. She subsequently gained experience in the hotel industry, serving for many years as a banquet manager, and spending 22 years with the Hyatt organization. She was transferred to the Palm Springs area, where she worked as a general manager with the Hyatt, and as club manager at the Mission Hills Country Club. However, she had also visited here as a child.

“We used to come out every Christmas on the train to see my grandmother, who had retired to Pomona, and my aunt in Claremont. I know we came to Palm Springs, but I was too young to remember,” Ginther said.

Ginther has been in her current position for almost 10 years, and is a past-president of the Palm Springs Hotel and Hospitality Association.

The Bureau of Tourism not only focuses on generating tourism dollars for the city; it also oversees the Welwood Murray Library, the historical site that will house a show-business collection in downtown Palm Springs, and the Palm Springs Visitor Center. The staff coordinates efforts with the convention center, hotels, businesses and event planners.

“Our job is to help promote the city,” Ginther says, “so we try to bring all interests together.”

They also work with the Agua Caliente regarding casino visitation. “Once they have plans finalized for the downtown property,” she says, “I think we’ll all be amazed, because they have the springs, which is another attraction to bring people to Palm Springs.”

Ginther sees her biggest challenge as identifying and reaching people who are not necessarily vacationers or visitors coming for specific events, and enticing them to visit.

“We need the people who can come in on mid-week days, when hotels have more vacancies, and we have to expand beyond seasonality,” she says. “We have partners in the United Kingdom and Germany, among the places we do specific outreach, and the challenge is to put together attractive travel packages that include vouchers for hotels and cars and activities. And it’s so easy to get around here. The farthest anyone ever has to drive is about six minutes. That’s also a plus.”

Another challenge: “Although Palm Springs is known around the world, people always say, ‘But what is there to do?’ We need to be able to answer that for increasingly diverse groups of people.”

For example, outreach efforts are needed to expand the image of Palm Springs in LGBT communities; currently, there are 23 gay men’s resorts—but only one specifically appealing to lesbian women.

“We need to have other events to promote beyond ‘The Dinah,’” Ginther says, referring to the golf tournament originally named for late singer/actress Dinah Shore, which has now morphed into what is billed as “the largest lesbian event and music festival in the world,” slated to be held this year March 30 to April 3.

Additional efforts to promote Palm Springs are made by Bureau of Tourism staff members attending travel trade shows, representing the city at travel industry conventions, and via advertising.

“We have our own advertising budget and marketing schemes,” Ginther says, “but our job is really to bring together all interested parties, not duplicate efforts made by others, and get people to come to town, stay locally and discover Palm Springs.”

With a focus on Palm Springs being a place to “Stay–Play–Dine–Shop,” the street life downtown once again feels stimulating and chic, and the prospects for the future are encouraging. Thanks in part to hard-working people like Mary Jo Ginther and her associates, the world is getting the word about Palm Springs being the place that is “like no place else.”

But those of us who live here already know that.

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.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

Film

Screening of ‘Tim’s Vermeer’

Tim Jenison, a Texas based inventor, attempts to solve one of the greatest mysteries in all of art: How did 17th century Dutch master Johannes Vermeer manage to paint so photo-realistically, 150 years before the invention of photography? The epic research project Jenison embarks on to test his theory is as extraordinary as what he discovers. This is a Penn and Teller Film, produced by Penn Jillette. Q&A to follow with Lisa Soccio, assistant professor/gallery director at College of the Desert. 6 p.m., Thursday, April 16. Free. University of California at Riverside—Palm Desert, 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive, Palm Desert. 760-202-4007; palmdesert.ucr.edu/programs/ArtDoc13.html.

Music and More

Aiden James

Don’t miss Aiden James performing his latest single, “Last Reminder,” from his album Trouble With This, which launched at No. 28 on the iTunes Top 100. Dinner at 5:30 p.m., with show at 7 p.m., Friday, April 10. $20 show only. Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 800-838-3006; purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Best of Sam Harris

Sam Harris’ career has run the gamut from singer and songwriter to actor on Broadway, film and television, to writer, director, producer and now, author. After winning Star Search in its premiere season, Sam and his powerhouse pop, gospel and theater influenced vocals have never looked back. 8 p.m., Saturday, April 11. $60 to $75. Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

Cabaret 88: Donna Theadore

An American actress and singer who first came to attention as a headliner at many famous nightclubs during the 1960s, Theodore won a Theater World Award and Drama Desk Award, and received a Tony Award nomination for her performance in the 1975 musical Shenandoah. She is best remembered for her appearances with Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, making more than 50 guest appearances. 6 p.m., Wednesday, April 8. $88. Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490; www.psmuseum.org.

Comedy at the Symphony

Piano humorist Wayland Pickard leads an evening of music and comedy in the PBS tradition of Victor Borge, Roger Williams, Peter Nero and Liberace—all rolled into one. His impressions include selections from famous “piano men” such as Billy Joel, Elton John, Scott Joplin, Jerry Lee Lewis and even Schroeder from “Peanuts.” 7 p.m., Saturday, April 11. $25 to $45, with discounts. Helene Galen Performing Arts Center, Rancho Mirage High School, 31001 Rattler Road, Rancho Mirage. 760-360-2222; www.cvsymphony.com.

Opera in the Park

This free annual concert is a celebration of opera music. Bring a picnic lunch and join thousands of Coachella Valley residents and visitors to enjoy an afternoon of incredible music in an informal, tranquil outdoor setting with a professional orchestra and eight young up-and-coming opera singers. Noon to 4 p.m., Sunday, April 12. Free. Sunrise Park, 401 S. Pavilion Way, Palm Springs. 760-325-6107; palmspringsoperaguild.org.

Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus Presents: Extrabbaganza

The Swedish pop group ABBA topped the music charts from 1975-1982. Their music found new life in movie musicals. The Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus will perform a long list of ABBA’s hits. 8 p.m., Saturday, April 25; and 3 p.m., Sunday, April 26. $25 to $50. Temple Isaiah, 332 W. Alejo Road, Palm Springs. 760-219-2077; www.psgmc.com.

Tachevah, A Palm Springs Block Party

A concert for music fans midway between the two 2015 Coachella weekends. The celebration of music and our city takes place outside the Spa Resort Casino in downtown Palm Springs, and a DJ will keep the party rolling in between band sets. 5 to 10 p.m., Wednesday, April 15. Free. Spa Resort Casino, at Tahquitz Canyon Way and Calle Encilia, Palm Springs. Facebook.com/Tachevah.

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, April 9. $55 to $75. Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, Palm Springs. 760-778-6262; palmspringsvacationtravel.com.

Zero Gravity: Music Festival After Hours Party

Zero Gravity will feature a mixture of top talent, emerging artists and special guest appearances. This year, the fairgrounds will be transformed into a mega-club party with amazing sound, lighting, lasers, larger-than-life artwork, exceptional VIP services and more. 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday, April 10-18. Must request an invitation at the website; lineup and ticket prices TBA. Riverside County Fairgrounds, 82503 Highway 111, Indio. Rocketboyevents.com.

Special Events

Cathedral City LGBT Days

Not your typical Pride event, this weekend promises to be interactive, festive and OUTrageous! Enjoy area restaurants, music, hot air balloon rides, the costume “charity bed race” LGBT films and more. Various times, prices and locations in Cathedral City. Friday, April 3, through Sunday, April 5. 760-770-0340; www.discovercathedralcity.com/index.php/event/cathedral-city-lgbt-days.

The Dinah Shore Weekend

Club Skirts presents The Dinah, the largest girl party music festival in the world, rocking Palm Springs since 1991. Various times and locations, Wednesday, April 1, through Sunday, April 5. Prices vary; weekend passes $269. Thedinah.com.

White Party Palm Springs

The largest gay dance party in the world. DJs, live performances, pool parties and more. Various times, prices and locations, Friday, April 24, through Monday, April 27. Jeffreysanker.com.

Visual Arts

99 Bucks Sale

The Palm Springs Artists Council presents this annual major fundraiser for the Education Department. Celebrities as well as Artists Council members and other artists create artwork on 5-by-7 canvases for this popular and intriguing one night event. The purchaser selects works to buy, and only after purchase do they learn the name of the artist. 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., Saturday, April 11. Free. Riviera Resort and Spa Grand Ballroom, 1600 N. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-322-4850; www.psmuseum.org/artists-council.

Indian Wells Arts Festival

More than 200 award-winning artists featuring hundreds of pieces of one-of-a-kind artwork available for purchase. The Second Annual Objet Trouvé Found Art Festival joins once again, featuring award-winning found artists creating a “festival of festivals.” 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday, April 3, through Sunday, April 5. $13; children 12 and under free. Indian Wells Tennis Garden, 78200 Miles Ave., Indian Wells. 760-346-0042; www.indianwellsartsfestival.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

Editor’s Note: A representative of the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce’s Athena Awards approached the Independent about publishing this Q&A with Mariah Hanson, the founder of one of Palm Springs’ largest annual events: the Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend, aka “The Dinah” (thedinah.com). The 2014 event takes place April 2-6.

Hanson is the recipient of the 2013 Athena Leadership Award, presented by the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce. She—along with Carol Channing and Helene Galen—will be honored at the 2013 Athena Luncheon, at 11:30 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Renaissance Palm Springs, 888 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs, Tickets are $85, or $65 for chamber members. To register or get more information, visit www.pschamber.org.

How does it feel to be recognized and honored by the city of Palm Springs with an Athena Award?

I am beyond honored, humbled and grateful to be receiving this award. To be singled out alongside such other distinguished and esteemed honorees, not to mention (being in) such stellar company of women, is, on a personal level, quite an amazing prestige. Just as importantly for me, as an LGBT American to earn such distinction at the local government level from both the Chamber of Commerce and the city of Palm Springs itself is simply incredible.

Why do you think events like the Athena Awards, which honor women leaders, are important?

Contrary to the stereotypical stigma, women are strong and empowered leaders. Yet we are only recognized as such when we adopt a more-masculine persona in business. I personally believe when we, as women, feel confident enough to also bring our feminine attributes into business—such as kindness and compassion, and absolutely own these qualities—we conduct kinder and more-empowering business for all. So yes, awards such as the Athena Awards are extremely important. Overall, it encourages women to take charge, to lead and to blaze forward, in a way that leaves a wake of empowerment and inclusiveness for other women—and men as well!

You’re celebrating 24 years producing the Dinah Shore Weekend in Palm Springs. What role has the city played in the overall success of the event?

Palm Springs has been an amazing partner throughout the 24 years I have been conducting business here. It’s a smart city, run by smart people, who “get it.”

As the saying goes: A rising tide lifts all boats, and Palm Springs appears to understand and fearlessly take that approach in its vision of the future. It is one of the many reasons it has once again reinvented itself and is now enjoying another exceptional renaissance. I honestly could not have found a better place to produce The Dinah than Palm Springs; and I am beyond grateful of the support and love the city and the community has given my event, my customers and me for almost a quarter-century now. It’s an amazing LGBT-supportive city, and this recognition shows just how truly hip and inclusive Palm Springs is. I look forward to The Dinah being here for another 24 years!

What was the most difficult obstacle you’ve had to overcome as a woman in the course of these 24 years producing the Dinah?

Some men I have worked with over the years don’t take women as seriously as they should, but that’s an endemic problem between the sexes and not one that I have ever felt inhibited by. Personally, when faced with sexism, rather than fight it, I’m more inclined to simply take another approach. What’s important is achieving your goals. If you do that, you’ve successfully fought sexism. Many roads lead to Rome, and as long as you get there, all is well.

On a personal level, what does the Dinah represent for you? And what got you hooked to want to produce it for 24 years?

The Dinah is a celebration of living out loud, of being heard, of being seen. When you break it down, at a fundamental level, isn’t that what we all want? For five days, I have the esteemed opportunity to make that possible for a lot of women who may not enjoy that kind of freedom when they return home. It’s incredibly rewarding, and I like to think it is life-changing for them.

What is it about The Dinah that is a life-changing experience for women?

Imagine living in a more-remote part of the country where being out may not be considered socially acceptable. Fast-forward to arriving at The Dinah, where thousands of women are living out loud, without the fear of being judged or bullied. Not only that, but they’re also embraced by an entire city that sends an unspoken message of: You’re worth it! That’s life-changing. Imagine being an older lesbian who has had to keep her love for her partner “in the closet” for her entire lifetime and then attends The Dinah—or perhaps just one of our many events. She then gets a glimpse into this public celebration of our lives. She surely must think: All that work and efforts to attain our rights was worth it. Look at this joy!

What do you think mainstream perception of the event is? And is it important that mainstream people know about it?

I think mainstream society looks at this event like they do any other event that celebrates a specific culture. The LGBT community definitely has a culture, and we feel it is important to celebrate it through our pride events and events such as The Dinah. I think it is very important that mainstream society knows about our lives. The more society as a whole recognizes the fact that our lives are really not all that different than that of society at large, the sooner the LGBT issues of equality will be resolved favorably. It’s about putting a human face to our LGBT community to break stereotypes.

Do you think it is still important for the LGBT community to have events like the Dinah?

Events such as The Dinah offer a space in time to celebrate out loud. There is still a majority of gay women who live in hiding having to pretend to be someone else ... simply because their environment forces them to.

It’s hard for those of us who have the freedom to walk the streets holding hands and kissing our partner to fathom the fact that our lifestyle is not the same for a majority of others, but rather is the exception. We take for granted the fact that our reality is still a dream many wish would come true. The Dinah offers gay women from all over the world the opportunity to escape for five days from the rest of their 360-day life … and provides them the freedom to be who they are.

I believe it provides a glimpse of what life would be if everyone were accepting of each other, no matter what the size of their body, the color of their skin, and/or the tax bracket they belong to. Simply put, it is a testimony of how perfect the world would be if we could all be free to feel free!

What is your favorite job-related story?

I have so many. I liked it when the city made me deputy mayor for the day, and Tim Ellis asked me if I would sign off on his parking ticket. That was a no, apparently. Katy Perry was a career highlight to date. Meeting lesbians from small towns whose eyes are so big at the sights they see … always makes me smile.

Can you share a little-known fact about yourself?

I used to dress up as a cowboy when I was 5 and stand out in the middle of our neighborhood street and demand a quarter from cars driving by. Oh my God. I just realized something: I haven’t changed.

What can you tell us about The Dinah 2014?

The Dinah 2014 is going to be off the hook! I have a major act lined up that I am really excited about! We’re expecting another blockbuster this year.

Published in Community Voices