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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

DJ Galaxy—aka Vincent Corrales—is a ubiquitous name at clubs and events all over the Coachella Valley, and he has performed at pride events all over the United States.

How ubiquitous? He doesn’t just have one residency … he has four: in Palm Springs at Wang’s in the Desert, Oscar’s and All Worlds Resort, and in Cathedral City at The Roost Lounge. Oh, and he does the lunch-hour mix several times a week on KGAY 106.5. During any given performance, you can dance the night away to his unique set of today’s hits, throwback jams and custom DJ Galaxy remixes.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that the readers of the Independent have voted for DJ Galaxy as the Best Local DJ in our annual Best of Coachella Valley poll. I recently talked to Corrales about his history as a DJ, and what it means to be voted Best DJ.

“I’ve been DJing for about 29 years,” Corrales said. “I have a lot of music in my family. My brother was actually a DJ when I was a kid, and I started learning from him when I was 13. Then I began playing in bars and a lot of places around Palm Springs when I was 16. I played a lot in the Coachella Valley, and would sometimes go spin in New York, Miami and Las Vegas. I do some tours from time to time as well.”

DJing is not the only thing Corrales excels at; you may have heard his voice on the radio, or seen one of the products of his production company.

“I currently have my own radio show on 106.5 KGAY, which is on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It's the Noontime Retro Lunch Show that runs from noon to 1 p.m.,” Corrales said. “I also run a video-production company called VJC Productions, which I’ve had since 1993. I do a lot of video production, graphic design and nightclub consulting for stage and sound design. That’s my side job, and I DJ five nights a week. I try to make it my main job.”

As for his DJ name, the choice was simple for Corrales.

“I’ve always been interested in space and astrology, so when someone asked me for my DJ name, I just thought ‘Galaxy’! So I became DJ Galaxy,” he said.

Often included with his DJ name is DJ Galaxy’s motto: “Peace, Pride, Love.”

“The music I spin revolves around those three words,” Corrales said. “My goal musically is bringing love and fun energy to all the places I play at. I don’t play any negative or offensive music.”

He aims to have people leave violence at the door, and have a good time on the dance floor. His creation of safe spaces and the usage of his platform to fight for equal rights are among the reasons DJ Galaxy has gained such a broad following of fans.

“Thank you for all the support and continued love that I get at each event I spin at!” Corrales said. “I’m very honored to get this award and ask for your continued support!”

Published in Features

Steven Fales has performed his Confessions of a Mormon Boy one-man show all over the world since its debut off-Broadway more than 13 years ago—but the show may never have happened without the support of the Desert Hot Springs woman Fales calls his “Mormon Auntie Mame.”

“She loved me unconditionally,” Fales said about Linda Parkin, who died of ovarian cancer in 2014. “She never had kids, but she always called me her ‘first born.’”

After successful shows at Rancho Mirage’s Desert Rose Playhouse earlier this year, Confessions of a Mormon Boy is being performed each Tuesday in May at Oscar’s Café and Bar in downtown Palm Springs.

The show tells the story of Fales’ upbringing as part of a prominent Mormon family in Utah, and focuses on the realization that he’s gay; his attempts at “reparative therapy”; his excommunication from the church; his fall into drug use and prostitution; and his eventual self-acceptance. While the show contains neither full nudity nor profanity, it should be considered R-rated due to its subject matter.

Fales said the show has always been hugely popular with gay members and former members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (disclosure: I fall into the “gay former member” category), but some other audience-goers found some of the show’s content uncomfortable—particularly the portion dealing with Fales’ time as a prostitute.

“We weren’t ready to talk about all of this before marriage equality,” he said. “For the gay Mormons, they were so hungry to be shown onstage. They’d fly in from all over the country to see the show. To my knowledge, I was the first gay Mormon to tell his own story in any mainstream way.”

Fales said that the Confessions of a Mormon Boy script has been updated and refreshed over the years. In addition to other shows, including a cabaret act, Fales has been developing a trilogy—two plays to pair with Confessions of a Mormon Boy, meant to be performed on three consecutive nights. Missionary Position is a prequel, focusing on his younger years, while Prodigal Dad focuses on his battle during the Great Recession to keep his parental rights in not-so-gay-friendly Utah. However, he’s put the other two shows on the shelf for now to focus on bringing Confessions of a Mormon Boy to both audiences old and new.

After the show’s at Oscar’s this month, Fales is going on the road, taking the show to Norway and South Africa, and he has plans to later take the show to Asia and back to New York City. In between, however, he hopes to return to perform in Palm Springs—a place he fell in love with in large part due to his loving and accepting Mormon aunt—in the fall.

“The desert is becoming home,” Fales said.

Confessions of a Mormon Boy will be performed at 8 p.m., Tuesdays, through Tuesday, May 28, at Oscar’s Café and Bar, 125 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, in Palm Springs. Tickets start at $44.95, and include a free special cocktail; premium seating and dinner packages are also available. For tickets or more information, visit mormonboyoffbroadway.com.

Published in Theater and Dance

When It Comes to Restaurant-Inspection Ratings, Please Calm Down

In the September 2015 issue, I used this space to examine the ridiculousness of public freak-outs over restaurant-inspection ratings. Now, 25 months later, I shall do so again.

Here’s why: On Friday, Sept. 1, some very bad things happened to Manhattan in the Desert, at 2665 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. First: The restaurant had refrigeration problems. Second: Inspectors from the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health showed up.

As a result of all this, according to the inspection report: “Due to (a) lack of adequate refrigeration, (the) facility … decided to voluntarily close.”

That’s bad enough. Making matters worse: This happened on a Friday … before a holiday weekend—Labor Day Weekend, to be exact. This meant the restaurant had to be closed during what would normally be a rather lucrative four days, until it could be re-inspected by the county on Tuesday the 5th—even if the refrigeration matter were fixed well before that.

Making matters much worse … the inspector, as they are mandated to do, placed a big, red “C” sign, for all the world to see, near the closed restaurant entryway.

Of course, someone took a picture and posted it on Facebook; that pic was then passed around, giving trolls and idiots a chance to have a field day.

Yes, “C” ratings are a big deal. A “C” or even a “B” means the restaurant failed its inspection, requiring that it be re-inspected again, often the next business day, until it receives an “A.”

My problem with all of this is context: My research uncovered at least nine other Coachella Valley businesses that got “C” grades during inspections over the last 12 months, with many dozens of others getting “B” grades—which, again, means failure—often with scores of 80 or 81, meaning they’re on the cusp of “C” grades. You probably heard of the mess regarding Manhattan … but did you hear about many of these other restaurant-inspection failures? Unless you’re constantly checking the county website, no, you did not.

Some restaurants that fail inspections are genuinely dirty or poorly managed; many of them are not—they just had a bad day, like all businesses have. This is why Manhattan in the Desert will not lose a dime of my business. See you there soon, I hope.


California Barbecue Company Moves to Indio's Club 5

On Aug. 15, we published a nice piece at CVIndependent.com about Reggie Martinez and his California Barbecue Company.

At the time, Martinez—who before had been at Neil’s Lounge, in Indio—was serving up smoked meats and his famous mac-and-cheese to rave reviews at the Red Barn, in Palm Desert.

However, shortly after the article was posted, the Red Barn and Martinez parted ways. When we asked Martinez what happened, he declined to share the details.

Martinez’s smoker, fortunately, did not stay in storage for long: He is now serving his delicious barbecue and sides at Club 5, located at 82971 Bliss Ave., in Indio.

For more information, call 760-863-6971, or visit www.facebook.com/thecaliforniabarbecueco.


In Brief

New: Azúcar Restaurant and Bar. The tiny restaurant at the La Serena Villas, at 339 S. Belardo Road, in Palm Springs, has been creating a buzz with its tasty fare, such as shrimp and scallop ceviche ($16), Kobe beef sliders ($23) and blackened salmon ($25). Lunch and dinner are served Wednesday through Sunday, as is breakfast on Saturday and Sunday. The restaurant offers a limited menu on Mondays and Tuesdays. Check out the menus at laserenavillas.com/azucar-restaurant-and-bar. … If you’re a fan of cigars and tequila, take note: Las Casuelas Terraza, at 222 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, will be holding its latest cigar and tequila dinner at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 11. Rancho Mirage’s Viva Cigar Lounge is providing the cigars, and the tequila on offer is Hornitos Black Barrel and Siete Leguas Añejo. $35 will get you all that plus a carnitas bar. Call 760-325-2794 to reserve your spot. … Mark VanLaanen, a now-former co-owner of Trio Restaurant, recently announced he’ll soon be opening On the Mark just a few doors down at 777 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. The shop will sell cheese, meats and other yummy foods—along with beer and wine. Watch www.onthemarkpalmsprings.com for updates. … Coming within the next few months to 36101 Bob Hope Drive, near Gelson’s: O’Caine’s Irish Pub. Watch www.facebook.com/ranchomiragemarketplace for updates. … Good news for fans of patio seating and Sunday tea dances: Oscar’s Café and Bar, at 125 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, in downtown Palm Springs, again has a liquor license. Ownership changes there led to drama, which led to the current owner not having a liquor license, but that has been resolved now. … We’re hearing rumors that a high-end sushi and cocktails joint is coming soon to Palm Springs. Keep your fingers crossed, and watch this space.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

The Blacklist: Redemption (Thursday, Feb. 23, NBC), series debut: While hardcore Blacklist fans are asking, “How’s this spin-off going to work?” casual viewers are curious to know: “How many encoded tattoos can she fit on her body?” For the latter: That’s Blindspot, dumbasses. For the former: Undercover op and ex-Blacklist bad hombre Tom Keen (Ryan Eggold) has a wife and a baby at home, but now he’s going to be traipsing around the world with mom “Scottie” Hargrave (Famke Janssen) on missions the U.S. government won’t avow, because, karma. It’s best to forget the parenting logistics of The Blacklist: Redemption and just go with the action (which will only span eight episodes, so Tom will be back with Liz and Agnes on The Blacklist proper soon enough). But if Redemption is a hit—which it could be; Blacklist faithful won’t be disappointed—they’re going to have to work out a nanny schedule for future missions.

Sun Records (Thursday, Feb. 23, CMT), series debut: Many a dramatized biopic and miniseries have tackled the rock ’n’ roll legend of Elvis Presley—but none have brought together the “Million Dollar Quartet” that also includes Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis. Sun Records attempts to contain all of these personalities and chronicle the civil rights movement of late-’50s Memphis, and fares mostly better than expected for reality-damaged CMT (which, as a reminder, still stands for Country Music Television, not Cheerleaders, Mullets and Trucks). The Quartet members are portrayed well-if-not-vacantly-pretty enough, but it’s the turn by Billy Gardell (Mike and Molly) as Elvis manager Colonel Tom Parker that provides Sun Records’ real spark.

The 89th Annual Academy Awards (Sunday, Feb. 26, ABC), special: More than just another overlong awards show wherein rich celebrities exchange trophies for being rich celebrities who put out semi-commercially viable content last year, The 89th Annual Academy Awards will also be an overlong soapbox for rich celebrities to rail against the rich celebrity currently residing in the White House (or Mar-a-Lago, or wherever). As boring as that sounds, it’s nothing compared to the snooze-inducing qualities of several of this year’s Best Picture nominees: The most—really, only—exciting part of Arrival was Amy Adams’ CGI floaty-gravity hair; La La Land somehow made jazz, and musicals, even more unpalatable; and Manchester by the Sea … WTF was that mumble-y tone poem of tragedy? Have fun watching the dresses and No Orange Order rants.

Taken (Monday, Feb. 27, NBC), series debut: Bryan Mills, the man with a very particular and dangerous set of skills who still couldn’t protect his daughter and wife from being kidnapped and/or killed over the course of three movies, is back! More accurately … was back? Doomed TV knockoff Taken is a prequel, set 30 years before the films, starring Clive Standen (Vikings) as a younger, fashionably bearded Mills, who’s recruited into the CIA after his sister is gunned down by terrorist goons on his watch. (It does not pay to be related to this guy.) Soon, his covert-agency boss (Jennifer Beals) is putting him through the usual crime-drama-case-of-the-week grind, leaving fans of far-more-ambitious timeslot occupant Timeless to wonder, “NBC cut the season short for this?”

President’s Address to Congress (Tuesday, Feb. 28, many channels), news special: What’s President … yep, still funny … Donald Trump going to pull out of the pocket of his ill-fitting big-boy suit this time? Another attack on real information leaks that somehow led to fake news? More victory laps for winning so hard/narrowly months ago? A eulogy for Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Celebrity Apprentice? A declaration of war on New Mexico? (“So much more advanced and dangerous than old Mexico, believe me.”) As thrillpressing (thrilling + depressing, new term) as the many, many, many possibilities are, The Only TV Column That Matters™ suggests watching the new Roger Corman cinematic masterpiece Death Race 2050 on Netflix instead. It’s the best indicator of where ’Merica is headed since Idiocracy, believe me.

Published in TV

Will La La Land suffer from enough backlash before the Acadamy Awards ceremony this Sunday, Feb. 26, to lose the Best Picture Oscar? Will Matt Damon show up to foil Jimmy Kimmel’s big hosting gig dressed as Batman? Will Ben Affleck stop pouting about how badly Live by Night bombed and re-accept the directing chores of The Batman?

I know that last part was off-subject, but if you mention Damon, you have to mention Affleck. Alternative-newspaper writers are fined $78.53 if they fail to do so.

Honestly, it’s odd to see so many people hating on a movie that is cleaning up at the awards. I’ve personally and publicly recommended La La Land to many people, feeling it was a sure thing, only to be met with scowls when they next saw me. One person actually punched me in the face and threw their drink at me. It was awkward … and it was wine, so it stained. Lawsuit pending.

I just don’t understand the backlash. Ryan Gosling is so dreamy.

Anyway, here’s a detailed rundown of the major categories, along with some quick picks of the secondary ones.

But first, this year’s Oscar drinking game is as follows: Every time Meryl Streep takes a jab at Donald Trump, drink two tequila shots, and go tell your neighbor you despise their taste in shoes. By the time the evening is over, you should be sufficiently wasted, and your neighbor’s garbage can will hopefully be overflowing with gaudy pumps and stinky sandals.


Best Picture

Arrival

Fences

Hacksaw Ridge

Hell or High Water

Hidden Figures

La La Land

Lion

Manchester by the Sea

Moonlight

The least-deserving nominee in this pack would be Fences, although it does qualify as an acting powerhouse, and the nominations it received in acting categories are much deserved. Overall, as a movie, it felt a bit narrow with its staging, like something more appropriate for HBO or Netflix than the big screen.

La La Land has been scoring this year. It’s hard to think it will lose out on the biggest prize, but if it does, I think Moonlight will be the film responsible for an upset.

Snubs: The Witch was an outstanding horror film, an audacious directorial debut, and possibly the year’s best-looking film. Of course, it got zero nominations. Not even a nomination for costumes or Best Evil Goat Performance!

Should and will win: La La Land


Best Achievement in Directing

Denis Villeneuve (Arrival)

Mel Gibson (Hacksaw Ridge)

Damien Chazelle (La La Land)

Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea)

Barry Jenkins (Moonlight)

It’s so bonkers to see Gibson nominated. Granted, he did a great job, but there were others more deserving, so it feels a bit showy for the Academy to put him in there. They love their controversy.

No matter … Chazelle is taking this one home. If it’s not him, it’s Jenkins.

Snubs: David Mackenzie for Hell or High Water; Robert Eggers for The Witch.

Should and will win: Chazelle


Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role

Isabelle Huppert (Elle)

Ruth Negga (Loving)

Natalie Portman (Jackie)

Emma Stone (La La Land)

Meryl Streep (Florence Foster Jenkins)

Of those competing, Stone is the most deserving. Her performance was a major feat and will not be ignored. While Streep is fun in Jenkins, she has no chance of winning, and it’s a wasted nom. As for Huppert, she’s a great actress, but Paul Verhoeven’s Elle is a bad film.

Snubs: The worst snubs of the year happened in this category. Amy Adams should be here for Arrival, a film that got many nominations and that wouldn’t have worked as well without her at its center. Oscar likes to do at least one or two truly dopey things a year.

Even worse, Annette Bening’s career-best performance in 20th Century Women is nowhere to be found. Perhaps not enough Academy viewers were able to see it in time? That can be the only explanation, because she was incredible, and would be my second choice after Stone.

Should and will win: Stone


Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role

Casey Affleck (Manchester by the Sea)

Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge)

Ryan Gosling (La La Land)

Viggo Mortensen (Captain Fantastic)

Denzel Washington (Fences)

It looked like Affleck was going to make a clean sweep of the major awards, but, uh oh, he lost the SAG award, and that award is a fine predictor of who will get the Oscar. Being that Affleck is also plagued with controversy this year, I’m thinking the Oscar is going to Denzel.

My second choice in this category after Affleck would be the oh-so-dreamy Gosling, who learned how to play jazz piano for La La Land, and delivered an engaging, funny and sweet performance as well. Someday, this guy is going to get an Oscar.

Snubs: I love me some Viggo, and Garfield was powerful in Ridge, but Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals) and Joel Edgerton (Loving) should’ve gotten noms in their places.

Should win: Affleck

Will win: Washington


Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role

Viola Davis (Fences)

Naomie Harris (Moonlight)

Nicole Kidman (Lion)

Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)

Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)

All the nominees in this category are deserving, and this is one of the more snub-free categories. It’s a tough one to pick, but Williams shared perhaps the most memorable dramatic scene of the year with Affleck in Sea, and she absolutely rocked it. Davis is the favorite here, but Williams is the most deserving.

Should win: Williams

Will win: Davis


Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali (Moonlight)

Jeff Bridges (Hell or High Water)

Lucas Hedges (Manchester by the Sea)

Dev Patel (Lion)

Michael Shannon (Nocturnal Animals)

There’s no question with this one: It’s going to Ali for playing the controversial father figure in Moonlight. If I were picking, Hedges would get it for Sea, but the inevitable Ali win is almost as deserving.

Snubs: While there were no major snubs in this category, equally deserving actors included Ben Foster in Hell or High Water, and Woody Harrelson in The Edge of Seventeen.

Should win: Hedges

Will win: Ali


Best Animated Feature Film

Kubo and the Two Strings

Moana

My Life as a Zucchini

The Red Turtle

Zootopia

While Kubo is the more ambitious and better film, Zootopia will get the most votes.

Snubs: Whoa … no Finding Dory? That’s just silly.

Should win: Kubo and the Two Strings

Will win: Zootopia


Other Predictions

Cinematography: La La Land

Costume Design: Jackie

Documentary Feature: O.J.: Made in America

Documentary Short Subject: The White Helmets

Short Film Animated: Piper

Short Film Live Action: Sing

Film Editing: La La Land

Foreign Language Film: The Salesman

Music Original Score: La La Land

Music Original Song: “City of Stars” (La La Land)

Production Design: La La Land

Sound Editing: Hacksaw Ridge

Sound Mixing: La La Land

Visual Effects: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

Adapted Screenplay: Moonlight

Original Screenplay: Manchester by the Sea

Published in Previews and Features

One of the highlights of the Palm Springs International Film Festival is its extensive program of films submitted for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar—giving audiences a taste of the best movies from around the world (or, well, at least what government agencies around the world have decided are the best movies).

This year’s festival featured 43 of the more than 80 Best Foreign Language submissions for the upcoming Oscars—including eight of the nine movies on the Academy’s shortlist. The five nominees, as well as the nominees in all the rest of the categories, will be announced tomorrow, Tuesday, Jan. 24.

The nominees in the category generally tend toward the middlebrow, with serious historical dramas—often focusing on World War II—reliably taking up a few spots each year.

Such is the case this year—three of the eight shortlisted movies shown at the PSIFF deal with World War II and its aftermath: Denmark’s Land of Mine, about young German POWs forced to clear land mines in Denmark after the war; Norway’s The King’s Choice, about the first days of Germany’s invasion of Norway in 1940; and Russia’s Paradise, about a Russian resistance member in Nazi-occupied France.

Of these three, Paradise is the most artistically successful, doing more than just dramatizing sections from a history textbook. Shooting in black and white, in the constrained Academy ratio, director Andrey Konchalovskiy combines dreamlike imagery and magical-realist plotting with stark, clear-eyed depictions of life in a concentration camp, and the balance of power between Nazi officers and prisoners. The movie’s conceit of “interviews” with three main characters after their deaths is sometimes a bit heavy-handed, but it allows for poetic moments and quiet reflection that more straightforward historical dramas often lack.

Both Land of Mine and The King’s Choice take a more straightforward historical approach, and while they tell stories that have been underrepresented in historical accounts (at least outside their native countries), they only intermittently bring those stories to life. In Land of Mine, a group of young (most appearing to be in their early teens) German soldiers are kept as POWs in Denmark following the war, and are forced to clear the tens of thousands of land mines along the Danish coast. The movie offers a welcome perspective in which the Germans are sympathetic, scared young men who don’t necessarily understand the consequences of their actions; it’s the often vindictive Danish military personnel are the villains. But the young characters are nearly interchangeable; their eventual emotional connection with their Danish commander is predictable; and the suspense built around periodically exploding kids seems a bit exploitative.

The King’s Choice doesn’t have any exploding kids, and it’s a bit dry in its ploddingly procedural account of the few days between the time when Germany invaded Norway, and when the country’s King Haakon VII made an historic break with Parliament and refused to surrender to Germany. As director Erik Poppe explained before the screening, the king’s actions are an important part of Norwegian history, taught in schools—but without that inherent Norwegian pride, it’s hard to get worked up over this fairly minor military aspect of the war, or to get invested in the principled stands of a pampered (if likable) royal family.

After war movies, the next most-popular genre for the Foreign Language Oscar is possibly the intense domestic drama, represented by Canada’s It’s Only the End of the World and Iran’s The Salesman, both from acclaimed international auteurs. It’s Only the End of the World was adapted from Jean-Luc Lagarce’s stage play by prolific filmmaker Xavier Dolan, and despite its cast of French superstars (Gaspard Ulliel, Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux, Nathalie Baye), it remains stagebound and claustrophobic, with the characters tediously talking in circles during a tense family gathering over the course of a single day. Dolan is known for bold, visually inventive films, but here, he sticks mostly to uncomfortable close-ups and stands back as his actors chew the scenery.

The Salesman, from A Separation Oscar winner Asghar Farhadi, is more restrained, even as its subject matter is darker. It’s a slow burn about a married couple whose relationship is strained when the wife is attacked in their apartment, and her husband becomes consumed with finding the perpetrator. But this isn’t some action-packed revenge thriller; it’s a contemplative story about responsibility and empathy, a rumination on the value of vengeance and a look at how seemingly strong relationships can be destroyed in a moment. The lead performances from previous Farhadi collaborators Shahab Hosseini and Taraneh Alidoosti are very good, and while the connection to Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman (a production of which the couple star in during the events of the movie) is a bit tenuous, both are thematically rich family dramas with satisfyingly downbeat endings.

Thanks to the creation of an additional executive committee several years ago, the selections for the Foreign Language Film Oscar category have gotten a little more diverse, and a few of this year’s shortlisted films fit less neatly into familiar genres. Sweden’s A Man Called Ove, Germany’s Toni Erdmann and Switzerland’s My Life as a Zucchini are all lighter than their fellow shortlist selections, with more emphasis on unique artistic visions. Ove is the most conventional, a feel-good dramedy about a grumpy old man who comes to appreciate life thanks to the efforts of his friendly neighbors. It’s the kind of crowd-pleasing, gentle movie that could star Tom Hanks if it came from Hollywood, and while star Rolf Lassgård makes for an appealing curmudgeon, the flashbacks slowly illuminating his tragedy-filled past eventually tug way too hard on the heartstrings. But Academy voters seemingly love to have their heartstrings tugged, and with its mix of the heavy and the heartwarming, Ove comes across as typical Oscar bait.

The most critically acclaimed movie on the shortlist, Toni Erdmann, is the frontrunner to win the Oscar, and it’s certainly the strangest and most challenging film of the eight shown at the festival. Running nearly three hours, Maren Ade’s film is a combination of cringe comedy, family drama and sociopolitical commentary, with plenty of strange detours along the way. The title character is the alter ego of Winfried Conradi (Peter Simonischek), an eccentric, lonely old man who wants to reconnect with his corporate go-getter daughter Ines (Sandra Hüller). It takes almost an hour for Toni to emerge, as Winfried follows his daughter to her work assignment in Romania, and the movie unfolds at a meandering pace, with dry corporate meetings next to uncomfortable scenes of Winfried’s attempts to insert himself into his daughter’s life. Many have found the film moving, funny and profound, but for me, it was like listening to a long, rambling joke with no punchline.

The best of the eight shortlisted movies I saw at the festival is also the unlikeliest selection, the Swiss stop-motion animated movie My Life as a Zucchini. It’s also eligible for the Best Animated Feature award, but it’s a bit of a dark horse in both categories. That’s a shame, because director Claude Barras’ film is utterly charming, beautiful to look at and sweetly affecting. It’s the story of a young orphan (who goes by the name Zucchini) adjusting to life in a group home and eventually finding a makeshift family. The material isn’t groundbreaking, but the hand-crafted animation gives it a wonderfully skewed perspective, while the dialogue is funny and realistic, and the characters are very likable.

It was the last movie I saw at the festival—and it ended my experience on a high note. Hopefully Oscar voters will feel the same way.

Published in Previews and Features

Kal David is a white guy from the South Side of Chicago—but, man, can he play the blues.

Kal—aka David Raskin—appears at Oscar’s Café and Bar with the Kal David Trio on Monday evenings from 6 to 9 p.m. for “Blues and BBQ” when he’s not off touring the world. He also plays regularly at the Purple Room.

One interesting fact about Kal David: He played in a band called Kal David and the Exceptions, which included Peter Cetera, who went on to join the band Chicago, and Marty Grebb, who went on to join The Buckinghams.

“Peter was in my band and was my bass-player, and I like to kid around and say I taught him everything he knew,” Kal David said during a recent interview. “He came to me fully skilled, and we were just kids. I was just out of high school, and he was still in high school. I, of course, was alongside him through his career, and I remember when he was invited into that band, which was called The Big Thing and eventually became Chicago. They didn’t have a bass-player, and after Peter and Terry Kath buried the hatchet, given they didn’t get along, Peter came into the band, and he was great.

“When Terry passed away, I did call them and offer my services, as did a number of people who were considered for the position, but they went for a longhaired younger guy named Donnie Dacus at the time. They did what they did, and that’s great.”

David has had a successful career on his own, and has collaborated with a number of larger-than-life musicians.

“I have performed several times with B.B. King, and I could say that he was my first idol,” David said. “I looked at that man playing guitar standing in front of a band, and I said, ‘I want to do that when I grow up.’ Meeting him was spiritual, and no one has a bad thing to say about Mr. King. He was IT as far as I’m concerned.

“I shared the stage many times with Stevie Wonder, opening for him, and (we also had) a few jam sessions. He was one of my first idols, and I still revere him. It’s as if the hand of God came down, pointed at him, and said, ‘You!’ I admire many of the guys I’ve played with, too, and I’ve had the privilege of playing with guys who have gone on to do other great things.”

When I asked David which of his records was his favorite, he asked me if I had kids, and implied that choosing a favorite album would be like choosing a favorite child. However, he then talked about the experience of making his latest album, Living the Dream, with his partner, Lauri Bono.

“We found ourselves in Germany, and we were offered the chance to go into the studio,” he said. “This was all with German musicians, and I called my drummer in New York and asked if he could join us in Germany. He came over and did the record with us. It was a great experience, and I told the studio owner, who is also an organ-player and the engineer, that it was the best experience we ever had in a studio. … Anytime anything was getting tense at all or people were questioning what was going on, the owner would invite us upstairs to eat. There’d be 14 of us taking in a meal.”

David is loyal to Gibson guitars and always plays his sunburst Gibson Firebird onstage.

“I’ve played a Gibson Firebird since the ’60s,” David said. “Eric Clapton was a Gibson guy for many years, and when I first saw him, was playing a Gibson SG. Then he became a Fender guy, for some reason. I can see why, because those Fenders stay in tune: You can throw them down the stairs, and they’ll still be in tune. I actually own a Fender Telecaster, but I can’t seem to get away from my Firebird. I saw Brian Jones from the Rolling Stones playing one, and I saw one in a store, and the guy told me to try it out, and there’s nothing like it. It’s my sound.”

After living in Los Angeles for many years, David said that he and Lauri Bono were attracted to the Palm Springs area for the same reason that many others are.

“I discovered Palm Springs because of the weather,” he said. “I used to come out here whenever I could just to take a couple of days off from the crazy Los Angeles scene. I came out here with Lauri one time, and we actually had four days to spend in Palm Springs in a row, and it was like a big deal. I had the chance to look around at some real estate, and I said to Lauri, ‘You think we could make it out here?’ After we moved here, I was commuting back and forth to Los Angeles, sometimes twice a week. But I did eventually find work out here, and it’s cool. It’s very cool.

“I didn’t know what to make of it at first. Usually, my band is Lauri and me and two other guys. I have a pretty good Rolodex of great players I work with, and now I have a more steady band, which is called The Real Deal. I got called to play this gig (at Oscar’s), and it didn’t feel like it was going to be a suitable place for me, Lauri and a band. We like to make a certain amount of money, and this was on Monday, and I quoted them a price for my trio, and they went for it. I discovered that just playing with the trio and without Lauri, I could do any tune I could think of, or even take requests. I really enjoy the casualness and the looseness of playing here—it’s like a jam with my guys, the Kal David Trio.”

For more information on Kal David, visit www.kaldavid.com.

The whole mess started, as far as we can figure, when somebody walking by Oscar’s Café and Bar noticed the restaurant had posted its recent “C” rating from the Riverside County Department of Environmental Health, as required. He or she took a photo, and then posted it on Facebook.

After that, things got really stupid, really fast.

The picture on Facebook went locally viral, and became the talk of area foodies. It was even posted on a prominent local blog or two.

Then, in a move that would cause any decent journalism-school professor to weep in despair, KMIR News showed up, did a story on the Oscar’s rating, and inexplicably led off a newscast with it.

As a result, Oscar’s—located at 125 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, in Palm Springs—was unfairly maligned. This is not to say that Oscar’s didn’t deserve the “C” rating, or that Oscar’s customers didn’t have a right to know about it. This is also not to say that the Oscar’s manager didn’t make matters worse when, on the three-minute-long KMIR news story, he complained that the county inspectors should have “given us notice that they were coming.”

The problem here is that this stupid, stupid story lacked context—and, as a result, Oscar’s was unfairly singled out.

During the KMIR piece, reporter Julie Buehler mentioned that Oscar’s had “the only C rating in the Coachella Valley.” This statement was both false and contextually bonkers. It was false because Sam’s Sushi, in Rancho Mirage, also had a “C” rating hanging over its figurative head at the time, a fact that was added to the online version of the KMIR story three days later.

Here’s how it was contextually bonkers: According to an analysis of Riverside County Department of Health records by the Independent, at least 13 restaurants in the Coachella Valley received “C” ratings between August 2014 and July 2015. Of course, KMIR didn’t do a story on any of those other “C” ratings—at least not that we could find on the KMIR website.

To show how unfair this kerfuffle was to Oscar’s, know this: Oscar’s was inspected on July 30. Gyoro Gyoro Isakaya Japonaise (a place I adore, by the way), located a very short block away from Oscar’s, at 105 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, was inspected on July 9, just three weeks before Oscar’s was.

Not only did Gyoro Gyoro receive a “C” rating during that inspection; health inspectors closed the restaurant, due to violations including “rodents, insects, birds or animals,” “sewage improperly disposed,” “hot and cold water not adequately available” and “food contact surfaces not cleaned and sanitized.” Gyoro Gyoro would not re-open until a re-inspection five days later, on July 14. Yet this closure received no coverage anywhere that I could find.

According to Health Department records, the other Coachella Valley places that received “C” ratings over the last year are Woody’s Burgers and Beer (June 30), the Cathedral Canyon Golf Club (May 29), Pho Lan (May 27), Two Bunch Palms Bliss (May 19), El Taco Asado (April 3), Aqua Soleil Hotel and Mineral Water Spa (March 12), Four Seasons at Palm Springs (March 20), Las Flores (in Coachella, Jan. 16), Fandango Tacos and Beer (Nov. 25) and O’Leary’s Pub and Grill (Nov. 13).

It’s also worth noting that many dozens of area restaurants, some with very prominent names, received “B” ratings—with a surprising number receiving on-the-cusp-of-C scores of 80.

Any restaurants that get “B” or “C” grades are re-inspected within several days, and eventually given an “A” grade. That means unless you’re doing some pretty serious digging on the Riverside County Department of Health website, or you just happen to be at a restaurant at the right time, it’s hard to know which places initially received less than an “A” grade.

But that doesn’t excuse the unfair treatment Oscar’s received.


In Brief

SO.PA has opened at the new L’Horizon Resort and Spa Palm Springs, at 1050 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Chef Giacomo Pettinari, who has a Michelin star to his credit, is at the helm. Info at lhorizonpalmsprings.com/sopa-restaurant. ... Starting Aug. 30, Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill, at 350 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, will be offering a drag-queen show during Sunday brunch. Reservations are recommended; rioazulpalmsprings.com. … Summer closures are starting to come to an end! For starters, Vicky’s of Santa Fe, at 45100 Club Drive, in Indian Wells, will reopen Thursday, Sept. 10; www.vickysofsantafe.com. … Asian-fusion joint Kitchen 88 is slated to open in September at Spotlight 29, at 46200 Harrison Place, in Coachella; www.spotlight29.com. … Congrats to Bill’s Pizza, at 119 S. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs: TripAdvisor recently placed Bill’s on its list of Top 10 pizza joints in the country. Wow!

Published in Restaurant & Food News

If you don’t yet know the music of Jennifer Corday, you will soon. The Long Beach native has called Palm Springs home for about six months now, and is playing more and more around town; for example, you can catch her regularly at Oscar’s Café and Bar in Palm Springs, and she’ll be at the Rock Yard at Fantasy Springs on Saturday, May 23, with her full band, Classic Rock Revolution (classicrockrevolution.com). Learn more at jennifercorday.com. Here are her answers to The Lucky 13!

What was the first concert you attended?

A Flock of Seagulls at Bogart’s in Long Beach. But Howard Jones and Bon Jovi at Irvine Meadows were the first big ones!

What was the first album you owned?

Rick Springfield—oh, how I wanted to be Jessie’s Girl. I had a mad crush on Andy Gibb. And AC/DC’s Back in Black, played LOUD.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I’m digging a few songs from the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack right now: Annie Lennox’s cover of “I Put a Spell on You”—she kills it, almost better than Manson—and “Earned It” from The Weeknd. And Maroon 5; I can never get enough of Adam’s sweet hooks!

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

I appreciate just about everything, but I get particularly irritated when a song is on the radio with ridiculously shallow lyrics and no melody to speak of.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Zeppelin, Joplin and Gaga.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Old Madonna albums. Or new Taylor Swift.

What’s your favorite music venue?

To play: I always dig House of Blues’ sound and lights, but the Rock Yard at Fantasy Springs is a blast. We play on the outdoor stage surrounded by ponds (which always makes rocking out interesting, as one COULD fall in), with a packed crowd rockin’ out under the stars! Let’s not forget Oscar’s, my new favorite Palm Springs local spot which I play regularly.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Your sugar, yes, please. Won’t you come and put it down on me?” Maroon 5, “Sugar.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Melissa Etheridge. Gay girl with guitar gets famous, discovered at the local bar! Hey, maybe that could happen to me?

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

Kurt Cobain: “Tell me everything.”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“At Last” by Etta James, because love is really all there is, and how lucky am I that I did find it at last? And then I want to blast something ridiculously fun, like “Rock and Roll All Nite” by Kiss.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Oh, don’t make me pick one. Bon Jovi’s Slippery When Wet. The Best of Led Zeppelin Disc 2. And more off the radar: Poe’s Haunted is another all-time favorite.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

My new album: Tastiest Licks, a greatest hits collection, packed with 20 songs including several award-winners.

Published in The Lucky 13

When I sat down with actor and drag performer James “Gypsy” Haake and Carnival Cabaret producer Dan Gore—also Haake’s manager—they placed a portfolio on the table.

It was packed with photos from Haake’s days at the La Cage Aux Folles dinner cabaret on La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles, with stars including Dudley Moore and Hugh Hefner. Also included is what Haake said is a rare photo of Dear Abby and Ann Landers together—with him in between.

Haake, 82, recently came out of retirement and is performing as Gypsy once again. He will be emceeing Carnival Cabaret shows at Oscar’s Café and Bar Dec. 29-31.

Haake began his career as a Broadway performer after he graduated from high school in New Jersey. He had experience in a local theater; he lived there during the summer, he said, painting sets and dancing in shows. After taking part in an open audition, he was cast in his first show at the age of 19.

That first show led, in a sense, to his name “Gypsy.”

“Dancers, both boys and girls, who dance in the chorus are called ‘gypsies,’ because they go from one show to another,” he said. “I was cast in a show called Wish You Were Here that had a swimming pool onstage, and that’s where Florence Henderson got her start, and she was 19 also. She sang and got the lead song. Jack Cassidy was the star, and I went (on) to other shows after that.”

By the time he was 30, Haake had retired from dancing and opened a cabaret in Manhattan called Gypsy’s; notable actresses such as Christine Ebersole and Nell Carter performed there. Haake was at the club until 1978.

“The disco and the drug scenes came in,” Haake said. “No one was going to the big cabaret clubs, and they all closed.”

He befriended John Waters’ leading lady, Divine (Glenn Milstead), after seeing him perform in a theater in the early ’70s on the Lower East Side of New York in a show called Women Behind Bars. However, Waters and Haake were not a fit.

“He didn’t like me at all,” Haake said. “He said I was way too mainstream, because I didn’t curse, and I wouldn’t eat shit like Divine did in Pink Flamingos.”

In the ’80s, Haake began appearing in films and TV shows. He was noticed by Mel Brooks and his wife, Anne Bancroft, and was cast as Sasha in To Be or Not to Be.

“The interesting thing about my film career is 90 percent of the time, I had the best directors,” he remembered. “Sidney Lumet directed me in The Morning After, Robert Altman in Tanner ’88, and Mel Brooks? You can’t do better than that. ... Everything I learned, I learned from Anne Bancroft in eight months.”

Divine died in 1988, on a day when he and Haake were supposed to get together for lunch. At the time, Haake was working on the set of Troop Beverly Hills. Divine had been selected to play the role of Uncle Otto on Married With Children. Instead, Haake took the part, and appeared in one episode.

“It was very hard to replace him,” Haake said. “Not only that, but sitcom television is so different from film. It was very difficult; plus, I was used to film.”

Haake’s drag career didn’t start until later in his life—when he became, oddly enough, an instant fashion model.

“It’s not like anyone else that does it. I had never been in drag, and I was 50 years old,” Haake said. “Vivian Blaine took me to Neiman Marcus, and she bought eight gowns (and) shoes. Agnes Moorehead had died, and we replicated her makeup and the eyebrows, and that’s how it went on. Designers would give me clothes, (and) flew me to Paris to do a Chanel show. By then, I was pretty famous.”

Haake’s drag routine is certainly unique. He doesn’t sing, and he doesn’t imitate anyone. Also, in his words: “No wigs and no tits.”

Gore further explained what makes Gypsy a rarity among drag performers.

“Gypsy is mainly an emcee,” Gore said. “It’s his emcee style that’s been so popular. It’s hard to believe that his performance in La Cage Aux Folles was as popular as it was. It wasn’t a gay bar; it was a very high-end cabaret that attracted very high-end clientele, wealthy clientele, and conservative clientele. Gypsy was the emcee in between the acts and impersonated celebrities. This was before social media, before e-mail, and before any of that. It was actually a phenomenon, because the power of word of mouth was a prevalent thing. Designers would come in and see all the celebrities in the audience, and it was packed to the hilt, and maybe 20 percent were current celebrities. They’d see Gypsy wear the dresses and were in awe, and they would make him dresses so he could tell the audience what he was wearing.”

Gore said he focuses on quality when he puts together his Carnival Cabaret shows, which feature a variety of drag performers.

“When you go to a drag show at a gay bar, there’s no director, and there’s no structure,” Gore said. “People are working for drinks or $20. We’re not striving to earn tips; we’re striving to push a higher level of theater involving men portraying women onstage. Everyone who is performing in this show isn’t from here, because the people in this town are not at the caliber of talent I would use, and they don’t have the ability to be in a structured show; they’re just used to dollars in their tits. There’s nothing wrong with that, though, because that’s where I get my acts, and then I tell them what we do, and I see potential in a lot of people.”

Haake said that at the age of 82, he still enjoys doing what he does, even after a handful of retirements.

“I do enjoy it, especially for someone at my age,” he said. “As far as living in the past, I’m talking about my past. I don’t literally live in it. People I knew such as Lana Turner are dead now and have gone before me, and I’m very current. When I open here, it’ll be like my first night (ever performing). That’s where my mind goes: It’s my first gig, and here we go! I’m always the alpha; I’m never the omega.”

Carnival Cabaret takes place at 6 p.m., Monday and Tuesday, Dec. 29 and 30; and 5:45 and 9 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 31, at Oscar’s Café and Bar, 125 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $24.95 for the show only on Monday and Tuesday (starts at 7 p.m.), or $49.95 for dinner and the show. The early dinner show on Wednesday is $69.95; the late dinner show is $99.95. For tickets or more information, visit carnivalcabaret.ticketleap.com.

Published in Local Fun

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