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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.

Published in Literature

Famed novelist Sidney Sheldon was a fervent supporter of the Palm Springs Library. Sheldon and his wife, Alexandra, even donated a bighorn statue to the library, which is on display by the entrance to the building on Sunrise Way.

I once interviewed Sheldon, who died in 2007, at the library, and he passionately talked about the importance of reading: “The kids of today must read books, because some of them will be politicians of tomorrow, and they will be making decisions that influence all of us!”

Sheldon is gone now, but his books are still there on the shelves. The library reportedly has 172,000 volumes, and is the leading library in the valley by its numbers. However, in recent months, a series of incidents at the library, at Sunrise and Baristo Road, has been troubling.

On Aug. 7, according to Palm Springs Police records, Garrett Kevin Jennings, 54, allegedly stole a bike from the rack at the library entrance—in broad daylight! The library was still open, with patrons passing by, as he cut the lock off with a bolt-cutter and rode away on the stolen bike.

“I saw him as he threw the lock and removed the bike from the rack,” said Esteban Gallegos, a library security guard. “I took a picture of the suspect while he was pedaling from the library entrance through the parking lot.”

Gallegos reported the crime to the police and submitted the suspect’s picture. A detective recognized the perpetrator: Jennings had a criminal history.

On Aug. 13, Jennings was arrested at noon on Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. He was riding a different bike, but still had a bolt-cutter on him, according to police records. He was booked on suspicion of committing a theft, possession of burglary tools and violation of probation.

According to Gallegos, who’s been a guard at the Palm Springs Library since June 2006, the number of incidents at the library has skyrocketed in the past year.

“Yes, it’s a fact. I’ve been doing more reports than ever before, and I’ve got a big file to prove it,” he said.

His account is confirmed by Merrit Chassie, a 20-year veteran of the Palm Springs Police Department. “We've got a lot going on there at the library park, and we’re often called in, sometimes by Esteban,” Chassie said.

Another alarming library incident, this time involving Gallegos as a victim, happened on Aug. 19. Police Sgt. Harvey Reed said the suspect was 19-year-old Derrell Celestine of Palm Springs, who was later arrested for grand theft and violation of probation.

Gallegos described what took place.

“The suspect was permanently banned from the library for stealing DVDs. He was trespassing, so I took my phone to take a pic of him as proof to the police,” Gallegos said. “I was adjusting the camera when he ran fast toward me. He pushed me, poked me in my left eye and took my phone. For a moment, I couldn’t see, but I ran after him. He escaped with my phone.”

The stolen phone was never found. Gallegos said he’s glad his eye is OK now, and that Celestine was captured by the police.

Gallegos also mentioned finding small, empty bags at times on library shelves, and on one occasion, there was a fist fight at the library door.

Shortly after the bike and phone incidents, I personally witnessed a raucous scene at the library entrance: An elderly man was pushed to the ground by someone. Within minutes, two Palm Springs police cruisers with four deputies showed up. The deputies drove onto the park grass in a search for a possible suspect wearing a red shirt.

These days, an armed guard has occasionally been seen inside the library. I tried to talk to him. Once he learned I was a reporter, he declined to speak to me, saying that he could get fired if he did so.

I also sat down with Jeannie Kays, the library director. While she was happy to talk about more cheerful subjects, she declined to discuss the increase in problems at the library.

I wonder what Sidney Sheldon would say about that.

Published in Local Issues