CVIndependent

Wed05222019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Dwight Hendricks

Today, in 2019, we have Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel. Thirty years ago, in 1989, we had Truvy, M’Lynn, Ouiser, Clairee and, of course, Shelby.

Those are the strong female characters from Steel Magnolias—and Cathedral City’s Mary Pickford 14, in partnership with Fathom, Turner Classic Movies and TriStar, will be among the theaters presenting showings of the film on Sunday, May 19, and Wednesday, May 22, to celebrate its 30th anniversary.

Steel Magnolias takes place in a small Louisiana parish and is based on a true story. Writer Robert Harling wrote both the screenplay and the play that preceded it as a memorial to his sister, Susan, after she died from complications related to diabetes in 1985. She is represented by the character of Shelby (played by Julia Roberts in an Oscar-nominated performance), and the story is about the strong ties between the friends who live in this tight-knit community. It’s a community that celebrates all the residents’ highs and lows—both the good and bad events in each other’s lives. We get to experience Shelby’s life-changing moments all the way to the end. Steel Magnolias shows that even though you may feel like you have not made much of an impact on other people, you really have, in some way.

The film was both a critical and commercial success, and Steel Magnolias remains wildly popular three decades later thanks to the strong female characters and the fantastic storyline. In other words, it can now be called a classic—and this is why Fathom Events has chosen to give the film special 30th anniversary screenings at the Mary Pickford 14 and other theaters across the country.

Damon Rubio, whose D’Place Entertainment owns the Mary Pickford 14, explained the partnership between Fathom Events and theaters like his.

“This partnership brings many films to a new generation,” Rubio said. “This gives people an opportunity to see these films on a large screen, like they should be seen.”

I asked him to explain the partnership between the Mary Pickford and Fathom Events.

“Fathom is like a studio; they are a content provider, and they license out films to theaters, and then they also help promote them,” Rubio said. “They work with classic films instead of first-run movies … This is only one of several films that Fathom will be presenting this year. We will be showing Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan and Field of Dreams, just as examples. We will also be showing music concerts, such as Led Zeppelin. There are also offerings of opera, anime, big-stage live productions and sporting events such as boxing.

What is so special about watching a classic film at a movie theater?

“We also offer an experience,” Rubio said. “You can come and sit in the recliners, have a nice beer or wine—and have a café that serves while enjoying your movie,” he said.

Whether you’ve seen Steel Magnolias before or not, a word of advice: Bring your tissues! You’ll need them.

Steel Magnolias will be screened for its 30th anniversary at 4 p.m., Sunday, May 19; and 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 22, at Mary Pickford Is D’Place, 36850 Pickfair St., in Cathedral City. Tickets are $11.95. For tickets or more information, visit dplaceentertainment.com. Other local, chain-owned theaters will be showing Steel Magnolias on Sunday, May 19; Tuesday, May 21; and Wednesday, May 22; for a complete schedule, visit www.fathomevents.com.

How do you get the best roles written for you, both onstage and onscreen?

In the case of the great Charles Busch, you write the roles yourself.

The gay/drag icon—who also found mainstream success with his Tony Award-nominated play The Tale of the Allergist’s Wife—will bring his cabaret show Native New Yorker to the Purple Room on Friday and Saturday, April 5 and 6.

“Ever since I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be on the stage,” Busch recently told me. “During college, I was never cast in any plays. I thought that if I was not making it in the university’s theater, I was going to have a big problem in the real world.

“It’s not like I could find any roles that were right for me. Being an androgynous young fellow, I didn’t know what would work for me. I started writing full-length plays when I was 11; I don’t know why it took me to the ripe old age of 19 to figure out I could write a starring role for myself. Northwestern didn’t offer the opportunity to put on your own production. I figured I’d never let that stop me. My senior year, I wrote a play and found a way of doing it myself. That was the first time I ever wrote, acted and directed my own play. … I really just became a writer so that I could have roles onstage.”

Busch, as the name of his show states, was born in New York City.

“I had an eccentric childhood. My mother died when I was 7, and I was very lucky that my Aunt Lillian, a widow with no children, lived in New York City. She was the great force in my life,” Busch said. “I was always spending weekends with her. She started taking me to the theater when I was about 9 years old. She was always very, very encouraging to me. When I was 13, I was living in a fantasy world, and I wasn’t functioning. I was going to be held back in school. I was living up in a suburb, and my aunt stepped in and brought me to live with her in New York City—just like Auntie Mame. She was the most influential person in my life. She encouraged any talent that I had and was extremely supportive. She taught me great lessons, and I was very fortunate I was never saddled with the concept of, ‘What would people think?’ It’s never been part of my consciousness, and that has allowed me to be something of an adventurist and just do something because I thought it would be fun or outrageous.

“My operative word that I have always held onto is always ‘fun.’ I don’t have the concern of, ‘What will people think?’—just, ‘How much fun this could be?’”

Busch’s April shows will mark a return to the Purple Room.

“I love Palm Springs and have been coming to the Purple Room for the last three years. I have some very good friends who live in Palm Springs, and I like to come whenever I can,” he said. “Unfortunately, I don’t get to spend as much time socializing, because I don’t want to exhaust myself before performing.”

Busch said Native New Yorker reflects his personal experience.

“I am a playwright—really, a storyteller. My cabaret show is about my story, where I come from—and then finding songs that help illuminate my stories,” Busch said. “This show is very much about my life in the ’70s and the ’80s. It starts off when I went to college at Northwestern, and it’s really about my quest during that decade and a half of how I was going to have a career in the theater. … The show ends at the opening of my 1985 show Vampire Lesbians of Sodom. This play helped establish me as a playwright and actor.

“I sing a collection of beautiful songs from the ’70s and ’80s by Sondheim, Rupert Holmes and Henry Mancini, as well as a collection of Broadway pop songs. The songs really helped to illuminate my storyline. It’s both touching and funny. I’ve told these stories so often in my living room that it’s nice to be able to share it on the stage. I create the illusion that the whole audience is in my living room.”

While Busch is known for his drag performances, he will not be in drag for Native New Yorker.

“Originally, the show was done with me in drag,” he said. “But it is my story, so a few years ago, I decided to try it without the drag. I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about it, but I’ve discovered that I really love it. It didn’t really change anything. It made me feel freer, and it makes more sense when I’m introduced as Charles Busch, and I enter as Charles Busch.”

Charles Busch: Native New Yorker will be performed at 8 p.m. (after a 6 p.m. dinner seating) on Friday and Saturday, April 5 and 6, at the Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $50 to $60 plus a $25 food/drink minimum. For tickets or more information, call 760-322-4422, or visit purpleroompalmsprings.com.

“The history of man is the history of crimes, and history can repeat. So information is a defense. Through this we can build, we must build, a defense against repetition.” —Simon Wiesenthal

Tom Dugan is bringing his one-man off-Broadway show Wiesenthal (Nazi Hunter) to Palm Desert for two shows—one already sold out—as the start of a nationwide tour.

When I spoke to Dugan, I had to ask: Why did he tackle a subject as heavy as the Holocaust for this one-man show?

“My father was a product of the Great Depression, and when he fought at the end of World War II, he went to liberate one of the death camps,” Dugan said. “He saw all these people starving and dying. He saw that there was plenty of food in the reserves for all these people. (The Nazis) chose not to give it to them—and instead, to use it against them—and he never quite grasped the reason why people would do that to each other.

“I always wanted to create a piece that was powerful and uplifting at the same time. I didn’t know how to do that until one day, I was reading about Simon Wiesenthal.”

Wiesenthal (1908-2005) was a Holocaust survivor who spent about four years in various concentration camps. After he was freed, he dedicated his life to tracking down Nazi war criminals.

“The point is just to take a sliver out of time and life,” Dugan said. “… Simon was a good subject to pick, because he was an aspiring amateur comedian before World War II, so it’s easy to add levity to the story. There are many friends of his who have relayed his anecdotes and jokes to me. The experience is meant to be an uplifting and poignant night out.”

Dugan said Holocaust survivors who have seen the show have expressed gratitude.

“The most fulfilling of surprises have been when survivors from the Holocaust come to the show and bring their families. Oftentimes, they will come up to tell me that I could tell their story better than they could—and now they feel that their family can truly understand the experience they had,” he said.

I had to ask Dugan what Wiesenthal would think about the resurgence of nationalist movements, both in the United States and abroad.

“I can only make a speculation that he would not be surprised,” Dugan said. “Things have been moving this direction for a while. It works in a cycle. People who (lived through the) experience are gone, and the others forget. Then things go back. He is often quoted of speaking about the human savage, and it is mankind’s job to control and contain this savage within us. The lessons from this play are very topical in our country today. Wiesenthal’s mission was to give voice to those who were silenced, encouraging future generations to fight against hatred and intolerance for all people.

“This is what is fun about the questions and answers after the show. You never know who will show up or what they will say. I once had a student even tell me that the show ‘didn’t suck like I thought it would.’”

While Dugan has a number of TV and film credits on his résumé, his most notable successes have come via the one-man historical shows he’s written.

“I wrote a play called Shades of Gray about Robert E. Lee,” he said. “It’s gotten too controversial to do now, because who Robert E. Lee was is not who the general public thinks he was.” Dugan also wrote and directed a show about Frederick Douglass, In the Shadow of Slavery; The Ghosts of Mary Lincoln; and Jackie Unveiled, about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

I asked him whether it’s harder to write about real people than fictional characters.

“You can’t make things up,” he said. “You have to know who you’re writing about and really learn who they were.”

Wiesenthal (Nazi Hunter) will be performed at 2 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 9, at the Riverside Theatre on the UC Riverside-Palm Desert Campus, 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive, in Palm Desert; a question-and-answer session follows each show. Tickets are $55; as of our press deadline, tickets remained for the 2 p.m. show, while the 7:30 p.m. show had sold out. For tickets or information, call 866-811-4111, or visit wiesenthaltheshow.com.

Galileo Galilei once said, “Wine is sunlight, held together by water.” Of course, Galileo never made his way to sunny California—but if he were here now, something tells me he’d want to be at the WineLover’s Auction, taking place at the Thunderbird Country Club on Saturday, Feb. 16.

The WineLover’s Auction is the signature annual fundraiser for Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine. Doug Morin is the executive director of CVVIM, which operates the only free medical clinic in the Coachella Valley, in Indio at 82915 Ave. 48.

“This rose out of a study that was undertaken by JFK Memorial Hospital in 2007. The conclusion of that was the valley needed a free clinic for individuals who did not have insurance by whatever means,” Morin said. “The program was modeled after a national program called Volunteers in Medicine. … After a couple years of fundraising … in 2010, we started providing services near JFK.

“There was a lot of community support behind opening the clinic. Part of what was so time-consuming was getting the nurse practitioners, doctors and dentists to volunteer, as well as (raising money for) the operational costs and the direct patient costs, like the bandages and all the other sorts of things that are required for treatment and diagnostic services. … The county helped out by providing a county-owned office for us; our cost is the maintenance of the office space.

“Since then, we have consistently seen about 1,000 unduplicated clients every year, totaling around 3,500 visits … Many have a chronic illness that requires ongoing follow-up, like diabetes, which is our No. 1 issue that we see clients for, (followed by) COPD and congestive heart failure. We provide primary care and a few specialty services, but not urgent or emergent care. If someone breaks a leg, or has a heart attack, or an open wound, then they have to go to the emergency room.”

Morin said the clinic also offers case-management services to those in need, as well as education services. “A lot of diabetes education is designed for healthy living, to help the patient get around with diabetes and keep it stable,” he said.

“Almost two years ago, we began a homeless-outreach program around the Indio and Coachella area. We have physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, psychologists, social workers and a number of other Individuals who work in the field. We tend to think that (homeless people) need blankets and shoes, which they usually do, but what most of them really need is medical services. Often, they’ll get vaccinations or A1C level checks in the field.

“We do all of this with about 200 volunteers and six full- and part-time staff for the year.”

Who can receive treatment at Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine?

“We do have eligibility requirements,” Morin said. “One is that you must be a resident of Coachella Valley. You can’t have medical insurance, or you (must be unable to afford) to use your current medical insurance, and you must be at 200 percent of the federal poverty level. For an individual, that means making only about $20,000 a year.”

So … what about the WineLover’s Auction?

“This is the fourth annual wine auction, and it has, for the past three years, raised more than $200,000 each year. Our yearly budget is $600,000 to cover patient care, so almost a third of our yearly budget is raised from this,” Morin said. “We have presenting sponsorships from both JFK Memorial Hospital and the Desert Regional Medical Center. The evening starts off with a wine reception and a general silent auction, and then moves into the dining room for the live auction. There’s not just wine, but a lot of things that are wine-related; for example, there are trips to Napa Valley, trips on yachts and cruises for several hours, some featuring foods and wine. Sometimes there’s art involved. … There’s something for everybody. The auction items’ values are anywhere from $100 to several thousand dollars.

“Our biggest wine sponsor is Chateau Ste Michelle. They provide all the wine for the reception and the dinner. They also provide a number of packages of rare wines, signed bottles and collector bottles. … To cap the evening’s festivities off, there is usually some entertainment with songs from a winner of a local talent show.”

The WineLover’s Auction takes place at 5 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 16, at the Thunderbird Country Club, 70737 Country Club Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Tickets start at $250. For tickets or more information, call 760-625-0737, or visit cvvim.ejoinme.org/winelovers-auction.

What says “Christmas” more than candy canes, hot chocolate, Santa’s Village and a slide made of “snow”? While I don’t know the answer to that question, I do know that all of this can be found at the North Pole Village during the second annual Snow-Fest in Cathedral City on Saturday, Dec. 8.

And to clarify: Yes, I did say “slide made of ‘snow.’” More on that later.

“This is the first year that we have duplicated a Santa’s Village theme, and we have had a great city response,” said Jo Anne Kennon, the event organizer. “The CV Rep prop department has built 10 storefronts, and local artists from CV Rep are painting them. They are so cool—and each one has a local sponsor. Special thanks goes out to Ace Hardware of Cathedral City; they ordered everything and are helping build it all. They are our title sponsor.”

The involvement of CV Rep, aka Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre, is a perfect fit, since the renowned company will be moving into the former IMAX theater in Cathedral City’s downtown area in the new year.

“Between Ace Hardware and the CV Rep designers and artists, they took our small idea and made it a million times better,” Kennon said. “This is going to be such a whimsical, fun event, because they made all the difference in the world! The village storefronts will be up for the whole month of December. Christmas music will be playing all the time so that people going to the theater or City Hall can enjoy the music and use (the storefronts) as a picture opportunity.”

There will be a whole lot of festive happenings during Snow-Fest.

“We’re going to have a tree-lighting, a candy-cane drop of 20,000 candy canes, strolling carolers, strolling instrumentalists, and a holiday market that includes food, arts and crafts, and much more,” Kennon said. “We’re trying to make this something big and different. We want to create something that covers all the generations. … We want to make this as family-oriented and interactive as possible. We are offering hot chocolate, Mexican hot chocolate and apple cider. Santa will be handing out cookies to some of the VIP guests also.”

Bad news: Santa will not be arriving via sleigh. The good news: He’ll be arriving in a more … shall we say, SoCal way.

“He will make a grand entrance in a convertible Volkswagen,” Kennon said. “The Grinch is coming, too.”

(Cover your kids’ eyes for this next revelation.)

“Both Santa and the Grinch are City Council members,” Kennon revealed, her enthusiasm growing as she spoke. “Santa Claus will be in his parlor, where he will have his own Christmas tree and a toy box. Mrs. Claus will be there, as well as a couple of elves. There is also going to be an elf workshop behind the tree in the middle of the village. That is where children will get to make Christmas ornaments out of recycled paper, CDs, ribbon and all kinds of stuff. That way, kids can make ornaments for their own trees at home.”

In the middle of the festival, a stage will feature music—and carolers and others will be stationed throughout the event “so that there will be music everywhere around the village,” Kennon said.

I had to ask: How is this snow slide going to work, seeing as we’re in the middle of the desert? The answer: The snow isn’t really snow.

“It’s in the form of bubbles. We don’t want anyone to get hurt from snowballs, so there’s going to be a small slide for young kids with the bubble machine, with bales of hay,” Kennon said. “Everything will be covered in bubbles! They will be able slide down the slide like they are in snow.”

While the snow won’t be real, the Christmas vibe will be.

“I’ve seen a lot of Christmas shows where you see carolers standing outside, in front of houses in the snow. But that’s not something we can actually see here. This is the vision that I wanted to bring for everybody to enjoy.”

Cathedral City’s Snow-Fest takes place from 5 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 8, in Cathedral City’s Town Square Park, just east of the intersection of Palm Canyon and Cathedral Canyon drives. Admission and parking are free. For more information, visit www.snowfest.us.

I recently asked a reality-TV star about politics.

“I never thought I’d run for president … but if America wanted a bankrupt, second-rate reality star with bad makeup and hair, it could’ve been me!” Bianca Del Rio said. “I can’t watch the fuckery!”

Del Rio—best known for winning the sixth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race—will be concluding her current Blame It on Bianca tour on Friday, Nov. 23, in a show benefiting AAP-Food Samaritans at the Riviera Palm Springs. The show will mark the Coachella Valley debut for the New York-based “clown in a dress” (her words, not mine) and her unfiltered, occasionally controversial brand of comedy.

“I have never been to Palm Springs before,” she told me. In other words, she’s a virgin! (Well, in this one sense.)

Drag was a calling for her, said Del Rio (aka Roy Haylock).

“Without sounding insane, I have been doing drag for 23 years,” she said. “It wasn’t a choice. I started in New Orleans, and then (moved to) New York. Then a magical thing happened: I did RuPaul’s Drag Race.”

Not only did Del Rio “do” the show; she won the whole thing back in 2014.

“It shifted my entire life,” she said. “It’s been a whirlwind for the past five years now. I have traveled on six continents now. I’m still trying to book Antarctica.”

She has appeared in venues small and large … and they’re getting larger.

“I did three nights in London in a theater that holds 3,300 people on this tour, but next year, I have been bumped up to a large arena,” she said. “I will be the first drag queen to play the Wembley Arena. It will be absolutely insane!”

I asked Del Rio to elaborate on her earlier statement that drag was not a choice.

“It wasn’t a conscious choice. I don’t know anybody who consciously says, ‘I want to be a drag queen,’” she said. “Well, maybe nowadays because of shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race. In my day, even (members of the) gay community didn’t want to be drag queens. It was the land of misfits. I mean, we weren’t the butch guys; we weren’t the normal people. We were just a little group of outsiders. Everybody did either song or dance. It really became a showcase, so to speak. In those days, you had to either go to a bar or go underground for a drag show. It wasn’t celebrated. But when you’re an out-of-work actor, or things just aren’t going well, you do a drag show.

“I’ve always worked in theater and in costumes—that was my day job. … You never know if you’re going to be working. It all just reflected on what was happening in my life. I might be doing Mamma Mia! for eight years; then it closes, and then it’s back to drag shows every night. Then Drag Race happened, and it really shook things up for me.”

I asked if she had any advice for a young drag-queen-lette who was just starting out.

“Don’t do it—it’s a trap!” Del Rio said. “You will spend more money than you’ll ever make! It’s quite pricey to be a drag queen. You have to do it because you love it. You have to do it because you’re having a good time—and the minute you aren’t having a good time, then you need to stop. Truly.

“Because of shows such as Drag Race, that has really opened up everything for me. The flip side to it all is you can’t walk outside without a drag queen falling out of a tree. Anywhere! There is so much more to drag than what people see on TV.”

What can we expect to see in Bianca Del Rio’s show?

“Expect the unexpected. I hate everyone!” she said. “Seriously, it’s an honest opinion. I unleash the demons, and I talk about it. No one is safe!

“What really happens in the show depends on the audience. There’s a lot of material that I use in America that I have not used in the U.K. Other countries have their own issues, and they don’t give a shit about Trump. It depends; I cover everything from politics to Drag Race. I cover the experiences I’ve had, which comes to explain why I am the hateful mess that I am today. There’s also a portion of the show that is audience participation. … It’s always amazing the questions people will ask you, or the situations that they will put you in. … I’ve had people ask where I put my dick. The answer is: Under my wig.”

Del Rio explained that it’s really damned hard to be a drag queen on tour.

“I lost my luggage once,” she said. “It’s one of the biggest fears to any drag queen—because what is a drag queen without costumes? A man! It was a challenging moment, and I was in Wisconsin, of all places—not that they expect much glamour there anyway. So, not being known for glamour myself, I thought: What do I do? I just ran to the local Walmart, and I had to do a mini challenge! … So, of course, I told the airline not to forward my luggage to Wisconsin, because I was going to Washington, D.C., the next day. Of course, they forwarded it to Wisconsin, so I had no luggage in D.C. At least you can go shopping there!”

Bianca Del Rio will perform Blame It on Bianca! at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 23, at the Riviera Palm Springs Grand Ballroom, 1600 N. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $45 to $199, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit AAP-Food Samaritans. For tickets or more information, visit blameitonbianca.brownpapertickets.com.

On Oct. 2, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told: An Oral History, a book by Hollywood comedy couple Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman, is being released—and three days later, the hilarious duo will kick off the second season of the Palm Springs Speaks series.

The speakers’ series is a joint effort by the Palm Springs Cultural Center and the Friends of the Palm Springs Library. Ron Willison, the president of the Palm Springs Library Board of Trustees, helped organize the series—which is bringing some huge names to the valley in the coming months.

“We are trying to bring in interesting speakers,” he said. “We want to promote literacy, and we add different speakers for each year to make it interesting. Last year, we had Deepak Chopra talk about wellness. Dan Savage talked about LBGT issues, and Al Gore (was here) in association with the (Palm Springs International) Film Festival.

“This year, to start off, we will have Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally, and they will be speaking on their new book, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told: An Oral History. Palm Springs Speaks is actually one of only six stops they are doing for their book.”

The actors/writers/comedians have been married for 15 years, which virtually unheard of in the entertainment industry. In the book, they explain how their relationship has survived and thrived.

While the entire Palm Springs Speaks series this season has yet to be announced—the complete slate will be announced on Oct. 5—Willison did spill the beans on some of the other scheduled speakers.

“This year, we are also having Janet Mock,” Willison said. “She is a trans activist and director of the series Pose.”

Willison said organizers make a concerted effort to keep ticket costs down; admission to Mullally and Offerman’s talk starts at just $30—and all tickets to Palm Springs Speaks events include books.

“We try to make tickets more affordable to people within different communities, like the trans community,” he said. “We hope people can afford to come and hear somebody from their own community speak (like Janet Mock). We know how important that is.

“We are also having Jane Fonda as a part of this series. We always want community involvement whenever we can. For example, when Jane Fonda comes here, tickets will be donated to high schools because of her work with teen pregnancy in Atlanta.

“Our goal is to eventually take the Palm Springs Speaks series and have it become as large as the Desert Town Hall, which has 1,900 people and is actually the No. 1 speaker series in the country,” Willison said, referring to the series that takes place each year January through March in Indian Wells.

Organizers of Palm Springs Speaks have various goals in mind.

“The level of awareness is important for Palm Springs Speaks. It costs over $100,000 a year to put this on, and luckily last year, we made a little bit of money,” Willison said. “The monies go to two very important organizations, so the more money we raise, the more money they receive. Palm Springs Speaks is presented in the west end of the valley by the Palm Springs Cultural Center and the Friends of the Palm Springs Public Library. Proceeds go to support the Cultural Center and the Friends of the Library equally. The Palm Springs Library uses the money for buying books or helping with new furniture or renovations.

“We are hopeful that in a couple of years, Palm Springs Speaks will be at a level of recognition where it should become profitable for everybody involved. It is our goal to make Palm Springs Speaks something that the city is proud of and the valley is proud of—and to make this series a destination event for people to travel here from Los Angeles or Phoenix for a nice weekend getaway that has a positive reflection on our town.”

Palm Springs Speaks presents Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman at 7 p.m., Friday, Oct. 5, at the Richards Center for the Arts at Palm Springs High School, 2248 E. Ramon Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $30 to $60. For tickets or more information, visit www.palmspringsspeaks.org.

Long before newsfeeds, Facebook, 24-hour news networks and even beepers, people got their information from things like news magazines. It may sound like crazy talk, but it’s true.

One of these news magazines—one which has played a vital role in the LGBT community—is The Advocate. It was started as a newsletter by an activist group following a police raid on a Los Angeles gay bar, the Black Cat Tavern, on Jan. 1, 1967—a couple of years before the Stonewall riots in New York City. The newsletter covered the demonstrations against police brutality; later that year, the newsletter was transformed into a newspaper.

The history of The Advocate since those first days is the subject of a new documentary—and it’s one of the highlights of Cinema Diverse, the local LGBT film festival, which will take place at the Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center Sept. 20-23, with a “bonus weekend” taking place at Mary Pickford Is D’Place in Cathedral City the following weekend.

“This year, Cinema Diverse is opening with A Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate Celebrates 50 Years,” said Michael Green, the Cinema Diverse festival director and the executive director of the Palm Springs Cultural Center. “This is going to be a really cool story to share with the audience on opening night. It is a retrospective of the 50 years from the start of the magazine up to the current day.

“It’s a huge historic piece and important. Laverne Cox is narrating it, and the music is provided by Melissa Etheridge. … It covers the pre-Stonewall era from the Los Angeles perspective, the AIDS crisis, marriage equality and up to present day. It’s even more powerful to those of us who have lived in the Palm Springs area during that time and have seen the changes that have occurred.”

A Long Road to Freedom is just one of the documentaries included in the Cinema Diverse schedule. “There’s a huge variety of documentaries this year. We have a film about gay comics and another about gay (erotic) comic-book illustrators and so many more,” Green said.

Cinema Diverse, of course, has offerings going beyond documentaries.

“We have several great musicals this year,” Green said. “They cover a variety of subjects, both as feature films and as shorts. Musicals are great. Even though the characters may have troubles throughout, the endings are usually very uplifting. We also have horror films this year; you could classify them as thriller-type films that are pretty good.”

Why is it important to include films like thrillers/horror movies in an LGBT film festival?

“Movies focused on LGBTQ characters … the audience can relate to,” Green said. “We are also screening Devil’s Path, a real psychological thriller by Matthew Montgomery, a popular LGBTQ actor. People who are familiar with him will be really excited to see it.

“As always, we have some really good foreign films, like A Moment in the Reeds, from Finland. It’s a fun and beautiful story.”

Movies by local filmmakers are a key part of Cinema Diverse.

“We have a local film (producer) named Marc Smolowitz. His most recent film is called 50 Years of Fabulous. It’s all about the Imperial Council from its inception and over the last 50 years,” Green said; the Imperial Court System is a series of organizations that raise money for charitable causes. “Again, it’s a historical film that touches Palm Springs and a story that’s close to home to anyone who is familiar with the Imperial Court System. … Since Marc is local, this makes the film even more special.”

One of the films Green is most excited about is 1985, based on a renowned short film with the same name.

“It’s about the very beginning of the AIDS crisis and a young, closeted guy who goes home to Texas,” Green said. “It’s a very poignant film. It’s filmed largely in black and white. It’s a very powerful.” Gotham’s Cory Michael Smith is the star.

“As in previous years, there will be a lot of filmmakers and actors here to represent their films. There are more films this year than previously, both features and shorts,” Green said.

Cinema Diverse takes place Thursday, Sept. 20, through Sunday, Sept. 23, and Friday and Saturday, Sept. 28 and 29. Individual screenings are $13.25, while an all-festival pass costs $159. For tickets and more information, including a festival schedule, visit the Cinema Diverse website.

What has a dog and historic significance—and required a whole lot of hours to create?

The answer is Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero. It’s one of the 10 feature films that will be presented as part of the 2018 Palm Springs International Animation Festival and Expo, taking place Wednesday, Aug. 22, through Sunday, Aug. 26.

Sgt. Stubby is based on real events that took place during World War I. It is a beautiful story about a stray dog who finds himself with the American 102nd infantry Regiment. Stubby served for 18 months and participated in 17 battles on the Western front. Because he could smell better than his human counterparts, he prevented them from walking into attacks; he also found and comforted wounded soldiers. He’s even the subject of an exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution.

If you’re more of a cat-lover, there is also a film for you: “Marnie’s World is a fantastic story about a spoiled house cat. All of the sudden, Marnie gets caught in an adventure with these dogs and wild animals. They steal a car then go on the run.”

That’s how Brian Neil Hoff, the festival’s director, described the film as he gave me the rundown of the festival’s offerings, which will include both features and short films.

Hoff said he and his crew received more than 3,000 submissions this year.

“We get submissions from around the world. This year, we have many films that are by Oscar winners and talents,” he said. “(Beyond) the 10 features, there will be 230 shorts available for viewing. They range in time from two minutes to 25 minutes, with all various styles and plot points.

“Not only (will the festival be the) U.S.A. premiere for a lot of these films; the films’ home countries range from Russia, Germany and Indonesia to Australia. This adds to the diversity, too.

“We are going to have special themed screenings, like for Sgt. Stubby. … We are inviting veterans and their families for the screening at the Palm Springs Air Museum.”

Another feature about which Hoff is excited is Wall. The 82-minute animated documentary features two-time Oscar nominee David Hare as he examines the impact of the wall between Israel and Palestine.

“This is a topical film for the environment today,” Hoff said.

He has steered the festival from rather humble beginnings into the world-class festival it is today.

“The festival started in my backyard nine years ago. That was the name of it: the Backyard Film Festival,” he said. “In fact, it may be the first festival to have started like that. I really didn’t know what I was doing. We had a few hundred people show up. This year, we’re looking at 25,000-30,000.”

Hoff is in the film industry himself, and he’s been able to tap into his network of animation filmmakers and artists.

“Animation just really stuck with me,” he said. “I am really impressed with the art form. People work on these projects for, like, five years. Oftentimes, this is their premiere for their hard work.”

The 2018 Palm Springs International Animation Festival and Expo, being held in partnership with Comic Con Palm Springs, takes place Wednesday, Aug. 22, through Sunday, Aug. 26, primarily at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Ticket prices vary; watch www.psiaf.org for a complete schedule and ticket information.

The Hi-Desert Cultural Center is a mere 35 miles from downtown Palm Springs. It’s a place where artists from around the world have come to express themselves while being surrounded by nature.

The center hosts a theater and a philharmonic. It’s been around since 1964. Red Skelton even performed there—and there’s a good chance you’ve never even heard of it. Therefore, you may want to consider one of the center’s most popular events, a twice-a-year evening that will return for its seventh edition on Saturday, Aug. 18.

Desert Stories is a one-night event that offers … local, high desert artists the chance to tell their stories,” said Michael McCall, the art curator for the brand-new Yucca Valley Visual and Performing Arts Center, an “annex” of the Hi-Desert Cultural Center. “It’s an interesting event. I went to the one in January. The event is amazing; you’ll have 10 to 12 people doing a presentation, and it usually is a sold-out full house. Each presentation is done differently; somebody will do stand-up comedy; some of it is a musical presentation, or a visual presentation with imagery on the displayed on the wall behind the person.”

McCall has been busy; he’s also working on Desert Icons, a show at the new Yucca Valley Visual and Performing Arts Center. It’s slated to open on Aug. 25; the current, inaugural exhibition, Ground to Sky, will be on display through Aug. 11.

“The show centers around the desert in art, and how artists interpret it,” he said. “It is extending what an idea of an icon is. I wanted to do a show that is about the desert and its icons.”

McCall moved to the high desert around the start of the year after living in Los Angeles for more than 35 years, so he has a fresh take on how the desert influences art.

“It’s amazing to see the talent that comes from both the high and the low desert—to see what’s going on creatively and how people are creating here,” he said.

While McCall is a new high desert resident, he did visit the area often before his move.

“I was always looking for a place that I thought was close enough in case I needed to go back to L.A. for anything—like to see art shows, or see museums,” he said. “I started coming up here a few years ago. I really dug it, and I liked the people, so when I was offered this job, I thought it was kind of an amazing golden nugget. I have had the opportunity to build a (new center) from the foundation to the sky.”

The Hi-Desert Cultural Center developed the Yucca Valley Visual and Performing Arts Center in a 15,000-square-foot building that used to be a motorcycle dealership. The space, at 58325 Twentynine Palms Highway, gave the Hi-Desert Cultural Center the chance to expand more into the visual arts.

McCall said the high desert allows artists to have experiences they can’t have elsewhere—but it doesn’t come without its drawbacks.

“The desert extremes or the weather extremes can beat the crap out of materials,” he said. “… But in the Coachella Valley you still have a lot of light pollution. We don’t have that, so you can see the night sky in a way that you’ve never seen before. It’s quite an experience.”

On Aug. 18, Desert Stories XIII will showcase some of the high desert’s best artists and storytellers. Come and see why the event usually sells out.

Desert Stories XIII, hosted by Cheryl Montelle, takes place from 6 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 18, at the Hi-Desert Cultural Center, 61231 Twentynine Palms Highway, in Joshua Tree. Tickets are $32 to $40; this is an R-rated event due to adult themes and strong language. For tickets or more information, call 760-366-3777, or visit hidesertculturalcenter.org. For more information on the Yucca Valley Visual and Performing Arts Center, visit yvarts.org.

Page 1 of 3