CVIndependent

Sat12072019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The holiday season is here! It’s December in the Coachella Valley—which means venues are hosting a whole lot of events that’ll put you in the holiday spirit. Here’s but a sampling of the offerings local venues have in December.

The glorious McCallum Theatre has a packed schedule of shows that’ll get you in the Christmas mood. On Sunday, Dec. 1, at 3 and 7 p.m., come experience one of the greatest musical groups ever: The Beach Boys. While the group is famous for surfing hits and the visionary masterpiece Pet Sounds, the band is coming to Palm Desert on the “Holiday, Harmonies and Hits” tour; expect songs spanning the Boys’ entire career, as well as some holiday greats. Tickets are $68 to $118. This is the giving season, so it makes sense that the McCallum is hosting its 2019 McCallum Theatre Annual Gala, featuring legendary singer Seal. Proceeds from the gala help fund theater operations and arts-education programs across the valley. It takes place at 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 5. Tickets are $100 to $125. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs’ lineup this month has shows for lovers of all sorts of different genres. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6, Old Dominion—with opener Ryan Hurd—will bring its “Make It Sweet” tour into town. Grab your cowboy hat and boots, and go square-dance the night away to the critically acclaimed country stylings! Tickets are $49 to $129. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14, witness the Peanuts gang come to life at A Charlie Brown Christmas Live on Stage. Enjoy holiday cheer with Snoopy, Linus, Lucy and more! Tickets are $39 to $69. Fresh off of Queen’s summer tour, where he again did an excellent job of filling the late Freddie Mercury’s shoes, Adam Lambert comes to Indio at 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20. Come enjoy an evening of Lambert’s pop hits—and perhaps some Queen covers. Tickets are $59 to $99. Legendary soul and gospel singer Dionne Warwick will bring her “A Holiday Celebration” tour to town at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 21. The night will be filled with holiday and pop classics, and will feature Warwick’s signature voice backed by a 14-piece string section. Tickets are $39 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 is featuring a few fun events in December. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7, The Dan Band will bring comedic interpretations of pop songs and hilarious stage banter to the Spotlight Showroom stage. This is the band featured at the end of The Hangover. Tickets are $20 to $30. Also coming to Spotlight: Femmes of Rock, rock violinists who cover your favorite classic-rock tunes, from AC/DC to ZZ Top. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14, come find out what your favorite classic-rock song would sound like played by four violin-istas! Tickets are $25 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Agua Caliente will host legendary recording artist Chris Isaak at 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 13. Best known for his song “Wicked Game”—one of the most covered songs in music—Isaak is bringing his rockabilly sound to Rancho Mirage for an entertaining night of songs. Tickets are $50 to $275. Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Morongo Casino is showcasing a festive lineup of music and comedy acts throughout December. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7, The Charlie Daniels Band is coming to Cabazon looking for a soul to steal. Country, Southern rock, and badass solos and beards—what more could you ask for? Tickets are $49. If you’re looking to laugh until you cry, come to Morongo on Saturday, Dec. 14, at 7 or 10 p.m., to witness one of the funniest comics of our time, Gabriel Iglesias. With numerous of specials, and his own series on Netflix, Iglesias is at the top of his game. Tickets are $69, and were close to selling out at press time. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet's features a plethora of bands to warm you up during cold Pioneertown nights this month. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7, psych-punk outfit KOLARS will grace the Pappy’s stage. Considering the band’s ability to combine vastly different genres into one live set, the show will have something for everyone. Tickets are $15. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 28, The Evangenitals will return to Pappy’s for a night of alt-country and fun! The show is free, so why not go and enjoy it? Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Toucan's Tiki Bar and Cabaret Lounge is hosting a couple of December events. At 7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6, Joel Kim Booster (pictured below) will come to Palm Springs for a night of comedy. He has written for shows such as Big Mouth, and has had specials on Comedy Central. Tickets are $25. At 7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 13, Frenchie Davis brings her Soulful for the Holidays show to the desert. Davis has done both Broadway and the televised singing-competition shows during her career, so it’s safe to say: She can sing. Tickets are $35 to $45. Toucans Tiki Lounge and Cabaret, 2100 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-416-7584; www.reactionshows.com.

The Purple Room promises to keep you entertained this month. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6, Levi Kreis brings his annual Home for the Holidays show to the Purple Room. Go watch as Kreis infuses gospel, country, rockabilly, jazz and Christmas hits into one show. Tickets are $40 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7, Scot Bruce returns to the Purple Room to become Elvis for the Elvis: Blue Suede Christmas show. If you weren’t around during Elvis’ day, or even if you were, go see the next best thing! Tickets are $30 to $35. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 27, Palm Springs JUMP! will pay tribute to some of the best artists who lived and performed in Palm Springs. This event will feature tunes from Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and others. Tickets are $25 to $30. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Ace is home to a lot of fantastic December happenings. From Friday, Dec. 20, through Sunday, Dec. 22, experience a weekend of comedy, music, movies and more at the Old St. Shtick festival. A plethora of comedians will be featured, such as Guy Branum, Billy Wayne Davis, Chris Estrada and others. Admission is free on Friday; tickets are $15 the other nights. At 7 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 26, gather for a night of tales at Campfire Stories With Desert Oracle’s Ken Layne. He was the subject of our September cover story. This is a perfect time to warm up by the fire and hear conspiracy theories regarding the monsters that surround our desert. The event is free! Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

Published in Previews

Every year, when late August rolls around, and we start the first round of Best of Coachella Valley voting, the results announcement seems so far away.

Yet … the next three months fly by—and while the time is flying, a lot of work is being done.

Primary, that work is being done by you, the amazing readers of the Independent. To start, you tackle that first-round ballot—including almost 130 categories and NO pre-selected finalists, just a blank field to fill in next to each category.

After that goes on for several weeks, we here at the Independent get to work, and we tabulate all those first-round ballots to determine who you picked as our finalists. Then, in late September comes the announcement of each category’s three to six finalists (five in most cases)—and the start of the final round of voting. After four weeks of that, we here at the Independent check the results and begin putting together our special Best of Coachella Valley print edition, as well as this online version.

We say it every year, but it’s worth repeating: Man, you readers are good. Yeah, other publications and websites here in the Coachella Valley do readers’ polls—but the slate of winners and finalists you Independent readers come up with is so much better than the rest, partially because of how we do our polling (i.e., asking readers to vote just once in each round, to lessen the ballot-box-stuffing), but mostly because you, our readers, are smart and community-minded. This is a fantastically diverse, valley-wide selection of finalists and winners.

So, please join us to celebrate at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 18, at Copa Nightclub—again your selection this year as Best Nightclub—at 244 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs, for the Best of Coachella Valley Awards Party. All of the winners present will receive certificates and have an opportunity to say thanks. Plus, we may have several surprises in store for everyone. I hope to see you there.

Congratulations to all of the winners and finalists … and welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2019-2020!

—Jimmy Boegle, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Arts

 

Best Art Gallery

TIE

CODA Gallery

Shag

 

Runners up:

3. Heather James Fine Art

4. Melissa Morgan Fine Art

5. Michael Weems Collection

 

Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. The Show at Agua Caliente

4. Fantasy Springs Special Events Center

5. The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Best Outdoor Venue

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. Fantasy Springs Rock Yard

4. Empire Polo Club

5. Rancho Mirage Amphitheater

 

Best Local Arts Group/Organization

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. CREATE Center for the Arts

5. Coachella Valley Symphony

 

Best Local Band

Giselle Woo and The Night Owls

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

The Flusters

Ocho Ojos

4. Avenida Music

5. Captain Ghost

 

Best Local DJ

DJ Galaxy

 

Runners up:

2. Alf Alpha

3. Alex Harrington

4. DJ Baz/Barry Martin

5. DJ Mr. D/Joe De Hoyos

 

Best Local Musician (Individual)

Jesika von Rabbit

 

Runners up:

2. Giselle Woo

3. Doug Van Sant

4. Courtney Chambers

5. Krystofer Do

 

Best Local Visual Artist

Adam Enrique Rodriguez

 

Runners up:

2. Shag

3. Sofia Enriquez

4. Chris Sanchez

5. Cristopher Cichocki

 

Best Movie Theater

Century La Quinta and XD

 

Runners up:

2. Mary Pickford Is D’Place

3. Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center

4. Century Theatres at The River and XD

5. Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 and IMAX

 

Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Palm Springs Air Museum

Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

4. Coachella Valley History Museum

 

Best Producing Theater Company

Palm Canyon Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Repertory

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. Desert Theatreworks

5. Desert Ensemble Theatre Company

6. Dezart Performs


Life in the Valley

 

Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

TIE

Desert AIDS Project

Palm Springs Animal Shelter

 

Runners up:

3. Boys and Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley

4. Coachella Valley Rescue Mission

5. Shelter From the Storm

 

Best Gym

EOS Fitness

 

Runners up:

2. 24 Hour Fitness

3. World Gym

4. In-Shape

 

Best Yoga

Urban Yoga

 

Runners up:

2. Bikram Yoga Plus

3. Yoga Center Palm Desert

4. Power Yoga Palm Springs

5. Yoga Central

 

Best Bowling Alley

Fantasy Lanes Bowling

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Canyon Lanes at Morongo

 

Best Sex Toy Shop

Skitzo Kitty

 

Runners up:

2. Not So Innocent

3. Gear Leather and Fetish

4. Mischief Cards and Gifts

 

Best Auto Repair

Exotic Car Service

 

Runners up:

2. A.G. Auto Care

3. Kennard’s Automotive

4. TIE

Cam Stone’s Automotive

Singh’s Automotive Repair

 

Best Car Wash

Quick Quack Car Wash

 

Runners up:

2. Elephant Car Wash

3. Executive Car Wash

4. Airport Quick Car Wash

5. Desert 100 Percent Hand Car Wash

 

Best Plant Nursery

Moller’s Garden Center

 

Runners up:

2. Moorten Botanical Garden

3. Vintage Nursery

4. Lotus Garden Center

5. Bob Williams Nursery

6. Sky Nursery

 

Best Pet Supplies

Bones-N-Scones

 

Runners up:

2. Petco

3. PetSmart

4. Pet Oasis

5. PoshPetCare

 

Best Annual Charity Event

Palm Springs Pride

 

Runners up:

2. Concert for Autism

3. McCallum Theatre Annual Gala

4. Red Dress/Dress Red (LGBT Community Center of the Desert)

5. Evening Under the Stars (AAP-Food Samaritans)

6. Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards (Desert AIDS Project)

 

Best Place to Gamble

Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa Rancho Mirage

3. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa Palm Springs (Spa Resort Casino)

4. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

5. Spotlight 29

 

Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. KMIR Channel 6/NBC Palm Springs

3. CBS Local 2

 

Best Local TV News Personality

Bryan Gallo, KMIR Channel 6/NBC Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Karen Devine, KESQ News Channel 3

3. Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

4. Brooke Beare, KESQ News Channel 3

5. Jeff Stahl, KESQ News Channel 3

 

Best Radio Station

KGAY 106.5

 

Runners up:

2. 93.7 KCLB

3. Jammin’ 99.5

4. Mix 100.5

5. 107.3 Mod FM

 

Best Local Radio Personality

Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

 

Runners up:

2. John Taylor, KGAY 106.5

3. Bill Feingold, KNews 94.3 FM/104.7

4. Don Wardell, 107.3 Mod FM

 

Best Retail Music/Video

Palm Springs Vinyl Records and Collectibles

 

Runners up:

2. Record Alley

3. Guitar Center

4. Music Heals

 

Best Comics/Games Shop

Desert Oasis Comics

 

Runners up:

2. Game Stop

3. Comic Asylum

 

Best Hotel Pool

Ace Hotel and Swim Club

 

Runners up:

2. The Saguaro Palm Springs

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. Renaissance Palm Springs

5. Kimpton Rowan

 

Best Indoor Fun/Activity

Escape Room Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Get Air Trampoline Park

3. Glitch Palm Springs

4. Desert Rocks Indoor Climbing Gym

 

Best Marijuana Dispensary

Joy of Life Wellness Center

 

Runners up:

2. The Leaf El Paseo

3. Atomic Budz

4. Palm Springs Safe Access

5. Mother Earth’s Farmacy

 


Valley Professionals

 

Best Doctor

Dr. Maria Gopez

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Bruce Ferguson

3. Gennady “Henry” Nosovitsky, PA

4. Dr. David Morris

5. Dr. Michael Jardula

 

Best Eye Care

Milauskas Eye Institute

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. David Esquibel (Desert Vision)

3. Dr. Greg Evans (Evans Eyecare)

4. Dr. Wallace Goldban (Desert Ophthalmology)

5. Dr. John K. Schofield

 

Best Dentist/Orthodontist

Dr. Scott Shepherd (Palm Springs Family and Cosmetic Dentistry)

 

Runners up:

2. Hospitality Dental and Orthodontics

3. Dr. Frank Hernandez (Hernandez Dental)

4. Dr. Gerald Chang

5. Vineyard Family Dental Office

 

Best Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Mark Sofonio

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Timothy Jochen

3. Dr. Scott Aaronson

4. Dr. Bruce Chisholm

 

Best Attorney

Walter Clark

 

Runners up:

2. Barbara Barrett

3. Christopher Heritage

4. Brad Faber

5. Michael Knighten

 

Best Air Conditioning Service

Comfort Air

 

Runners up:

2. Timo’s Air Conditioning and Heating

3. Esser Air Conditioning and Heating

4. General Air Conditioning

5. Simmons Air

 

Best Personal Trainer

Jaime Jimenez

 

Runners up:

2. Ryann McMillon

3. Brian Guzman

4. Brandon Wertz

 

Best Chiropractor

Dr. Gina Davis

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Jim Cox

3. Dr. Susan Brennan

4. Dr. Navid Nazemi

5. Dr. Stephen Krupey

 

Best Real Estate Agent

TIE

Barbara Carpenter

Paul Zapala

 

Runners up:

3. Shann Carr

4. Paula LaBellarti

5. Jason Allen

 

Best Public Servant

Rep. Raul Ruiz

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors

3. Sheriff Chad Bianco

4. Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia

5. Palm Desert City Councilman Sabby Jonathan


Fashion and Style

 

Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Trina Turk

 

Runners up:

2. R&R Menswear

3. Wil Stiles

4. Kimbals

5. Division

 

Best Local Resale/Vintage Clothing

Revivals

 

Runners up:

2. Angel View

3. Goodwill

4. Plato’s Closet

 

Best Furniture Store

Mathis Brothers

 

Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. H3K Design

4. Mor Furniture for Less

5. Bob’s Discount Furniture

 

Best Antiques/Collectables Store

Misty’s Consignments

 

Runners up:

2. Sunny Dunes Antiques Mall

3. The Estate Sale Co.

4. Victoria’s Attic

 

Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

Tiffany and Co.

 

Runners up:

2. El Paseo Jewelers

3. Leeds and Son

4. The Fine Jewelry Bar

 

Best Hair Salon

J. Russell! The Salon

 

Runners up:

2. Heads Up Hair Designs

3. 18|8 Fine Men’s Salon

4. Turquoise Salon

5. Dishwater Blonde Salon

 

Best Spa in a Resort/Hotel

Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente

 

Runners up:

2. Spa at the Ritz Carlton

3. Spa La Quinta at the La Quinta Resort

4. The Spa at Desert Springs (JW Marriott)

5. Agua Serena Spa at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

 

Best Day Spa (Non-Resort/Hotel)

Massage Envy

 

Runners up:

2. Studio M Salon and Spa

3. Bliss Chakra Spa

 

Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop

 

Runners up:

2. Indio Florist

3. Jensen’s Foods

4. Cathedral City Floral Designs

5. Vaso Bello Celebrations

 

Best Tattoo Parlor

Anarchy and Ink Tattoo

 

Runners up:

2. Bloodline Tattoo and Body Piercing

3. Blue Rose Tattoo

4. Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

5. Strata Tattoo Lab

 

Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer

Costco

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. Ooh La La De Paris Eyewear

4. LensCrafters

5. One Price Optical


Outside!

 

Best Public Garden

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. TIE

Moorten Botanical Garden

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

5. Wellness Park at Ruth Hardy Park

 

Best Place for Bicycling

CV Link

 

Runners up:

2. Joshua Tree

3. Bear Creek Path (La Quinta)

4. Tahquitz Creek Loop

 

Best Recreation Area

Joshua Tree

 

Runners up:

2. Whitewater Preserve

3. Mount San Jacinto State Park (Top of the Tram)

4. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

5. Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area

 

Best Hike

Bump and Grind Trail

 

Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Canyon Trail

3. Mount San Jacinto State Park (Top of the Tram)

4. Thousand Palms Oasis Preserve

5. The Cross Trail Loop

 

Best Park

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. Ruth Hardy Park

3. La Quinta Civic Center Park

4. Demuth Park

5. Sunrise Park

 

Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Big 5 Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

4. Nomad Ventures

 

Best Bike Shop

Palm Springs/Palm Desert Cyclery

 

Runners up:

2. Tri-A-Bike

3. Joel’s Bicycle Shop

4. BikeMan

 

Best Sporting Goods

Big 5 Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

4. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis

 

Best Public Golf Course

Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort

 

Runners up

2. Desert Willow Golf Resort

3. Eagle Falls Golf Course

4. Classic Club Golf

5. Mission Lakes Country Club

 


For the Kids

 

Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Civic Center Park

3. Demuth Park

4. Ruth Hardy Park

 

Best Place to Buy Toys

Mr. G’s Toys and Expressions

 

Runners up:

2. Target

3. Walmart

4. JadaBug’s Kids Boutique

 

Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Target

 

Runners up:

2. Old Navy

3. JadaBug’s Kids Boutique

4. Carter’s

5. The Children’s Place

 

Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Runners up:

2. Red Robin

3. Old Spaghetti Factory

4. Shakey’s Pizza

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Place for Family Fun

The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

 

Runners up:

2. Boomers

3. Escape Room Palm Springs

4. Get Air Trampoline Park

5. Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Best Place for a Birthday Party

Fantasy Lanes Bowling Alley

 

Runners up:

2. The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens

3. Get Air Trampoline Park

4. Chuck E. Cheese’s

5. Shakey’s Pizza


Food and Restaurants

 

Best Casual Eats

TIE

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. Kitchen 86 + Bar

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Caterer

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

3. Dash and a Handful

4. Lynn Hammond

5. Fusion Flair

 

Best Diner

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Bongo Johnny’s

3. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

4. Rick’s Restaurant

5. John’s Restaurant

 

Best Organic Food Store

Sprouts Farmers Market

 

Runners up:

2. Clark’s Nutrition and Natural Foods

3. Whole Foods

4. Nature’s Health Food and Cafe

5. Harvest Health Foods

 

Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. Real Italian Deli

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Bristol Farms

 

Best Custom Cakes

Over the Rainbow

 

Runners up:

2. Nothing Bundt Cakes

3. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

4. Pastry Swan Bakery

5. Jensen’s Foods

 

Best Desserts

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Nothing Bundt Cakes

4. Over the Rainbow

5. Billy Reed’s

6. Jensen’s Foods

 

Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Great Shakes

 

Runners up:

2. Brandini Toffee

3. Lappert’s Ice Cream

4. Coco Freeze

5. Kreem

 

Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden

 

Runners up:

2. Hadley’s

3. Great Shakes

4. Oasis Date Gardens

5. Windmill Market

 

Best Frozen Yogurt

Yogurtland

 

Runners up:

2. Jus Chillin’

3. Tutti Frutti

4. Beach House

 

Best Bakery

Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café

 

Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. Aspen Mills

4. Frankie’s Italian Bakery, Café and Supper Club

5. Carousel Bakery

 

Best Barbecue

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

 

Runners up:

2. Smoke Tree BBQ

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Zobo and Meester’s

 

Best Burger

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Tyler’s Burgers

3. Smokin’ Burgers

4. Bongo Johnny’s

5. Tony’s Burgers

 

Best Veggie Burger

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. Palm Greens Café

5. Grand Central Palm Springs

 

Best Sandwich

TKB Bakery and Deli

 

Runners up:

2. The Sandwich Spot

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Bongo Johnny’s

5. The Lunchbox

6. Billy Q’s

 

Best Pizza

Bill’s Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

3. Blaze Pizza

4. Upper Crust Pizza

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings

 

Runners up:

2. Wingstop

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Bagels

Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café

 

Runners up:

2. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

3. Panera Bread

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Bristol Farms

 

Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Jamba Juice

3. Koffi

4. Coco Freeze

5. Big Juice Bar

 

Best Buffet

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet at Agua Caliente

3. Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantast Springs

4. Emperor Buffet

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo

 

Best Local Coffee Roaster

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Joshua Tree Coffee Company

3. Coachella Valley Coffee Company

 

Best Coffee Shop

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Gre Coffeehouse and Art Gallery

3. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

4. IW Coffee

5. Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café

 

Best Tea

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

 

Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. Grand Central Palm Springs

4. Starbucks

 

Best California Cuisine

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. POM California Cuisine at Fantasy Springs

4. Acqua California Bistro

5. Bellatrix at the Classic Club

 

Best Breakfast

TIE

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

Wilma and Frieda’s

 

Runners up:

3. Elmer’s

4. Broken Yolk Café

5. Bongo Johnny’s

6. Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Best Brunch

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. The Tropicale

4. Lulu California Bistro

5. Bongo Johnny’s

 

Best Chinese

P.F. Chang’s

 

Runners up:

2. JOY at Fantasy Springs

3. Palm Tree Palace

4. New Fortune Asian Cuisine

5. Soul of China

 

Best Greek

Evzin Mediterranean Cuisine

 

Runners up:

2. Athena Gyro

3. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

4. Koutouki Greek Estiatorio

5. Yianni’s Taverna

 

Best French

Le Vallauris Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. French Corner Cafe

3. L’Atelier Café

4. Cuistot Restaurant

5. Si Bon

 

Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine

 

Runners up:

2. India Oven

3. Sam’s Indian Food and Pizza

 

Best Italian

Mario’s Italian Café

 

Runners up:

2. Ristorante Mamma Gina

3. Johnny Costa’s Ristorante

4. Il Giardino

5. Il Corso

 

Best Japanese

Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Shabu Shabu Zen

3. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

4. Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey

5. Taka Shin

 

Best Korean

JOY at Fantasy Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Maru Korean B.B.Q. and Grill

3. Umami Seoul

4. You Grill Korean BBQ

 

Best Sushi

Dragon Sushi

 

Runners up:

2. Misaki Sushi and Griill

3. Sandfish Sushi and Whiskey

4. Joyce’s Sushi

5. Taka Shin

 

Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Mariscoco's Culiacan

 

Best Steaks/Steakhouse

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

 

Runners up:

2. The Steakhouse at Agua Caliente

3. LG’s Prime Steakhouse

4. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar

5. Outback Steakhouse

 

Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. My Thai

3. Pepper’s Thai Cuisine

4. Thai House

5. Le Basil

 

Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu

 

Runners up:

2. 533 Viet Fusion

3. Rooster and the Pig

4. JOY at Fantasy Springs

5. Pho of the Desert

 

Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Chef Tanya’s Kitchen

 

Runners up:

2. Native Foods Café

3. Palm Greens Café

4. Luscious Lorraine’s

5. The Sandbox Kitchen

 

Best Upscale Dining

Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

3. The Tropicale

4. Johannes

5. Jillian’s

 

Best Outdoor Seating

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. Jackalope Ranch

4. Bongo Johnny’s

5. Bellatrix at the Classic Club

 

Best Late-Night Restaurant

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club

5. Paul Bar/Food

 

Best Mexican

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. Pueblo Viejo Grill

3. Tac/Quila

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. La Tablita

 

Best Salsa

Rincon Norteño

 

Runners up:

2. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Tac/Quila

 

Best Burrito

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. El Mirasol

3. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Loco Charlie’s

 


Spirits and Nightlife

 

Best Beer Selection

Yard House

 

Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. Draughtsman

4. The Beer Hunter

5. Eureka!

 

Best Local Brewery

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Brewing Co.

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

4. Desert Beer Company

 

Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Neil’s Lounge

3. The Beer Hunter

4. Henry’s Sports Bar and Grill

5. Bart Lounge

 

Best Cocktail Menu

TRIO Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Tonga Hut

4. Workshop Kitchen + Bar

5. Seymour’s

 

Best Craft Cocktails

Paul Bar/Food

 

Runners up:

2. Seymour’s

3. Truss and Twine

4. Libation Room

5. Del Rey at the Villa Royale

 

Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club

Hunters

 

Runners up:

2. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

3. Blackbook

4. Chill Bar Palm Springs

5. The Roost

6. Streetbar

 

Best Happy Hour

La Quinta Cliffhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. The Tropicale

4. TIE

Il Corso

Kitchen 86 + Bar

 

Best Dive Bar

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Tool Shed

3. Neil’s Lounge

4. Desert Fox

5. Club 5

 

Best Margarita

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

4. El Mirasol

5. Tac/Quila

 

Best Martini

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Bongo Johnny’s

4. TIE

Del Rey at the Villa Royale

Zin American Bistro

 

Best Nightclub

Copa Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Hunters

3. Chill Bar Palm Springs

4. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

5. Bart Lounge

 

Best Sports Bar

The Beer Hunter

 

Runners up:

2. Big Rock Pub

3. AMP Sports Lounge

4. Revel Public House

5. Billy Q’s

6. Henry’s Sports Bar and Grill

 

Best Wine Bar

Zin American Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. V Wine Lounge

3. TIE

Dead or Alive

Twelve Cocktails Above at Fantasy Springs

5. La Fe Wine Bar

 

Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More

 

Runners up:

2. BevMo!

3. Desert Wine Shop on 111

4. Bouschet

5. Larry’s Wine and Spirits

 

Best Bar Ambiance

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Paul Bar/Food

3. TRIO Restaurant

4. Stacy’s Palm Springs

5. Del Rey at the Villa Royale

Published in Readers' Picks

It is now officially fall in the Coachella Valley, which means the weather’s getting colder—and the entertainment is getting hotter. Here are some November events worth noting.

The illustrious McCallum Theatre features some premium entertainment this month. Rock icon Melissa Etheridge, known for hits “Ain’t It Heavy” and “Bring Me Some Water,” takes the stage at 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 14. The Oscar and Grammy winner is touring in support of her most recent album, The Medicine Show. Tickets are $85 to $105, and are very nearly sold out. As we inch closer to the holidays, the arrival of A Christmas Story: The Musical will be most welcome. The songwriters behind Dear Evan Hansen and La La Land have transformed the cult-classic film into a stage show that “will shoot yer eye out, kid!” Catch it at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 26; and 2 and 8 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 27. Tickets are $65 to $125. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 30, piano wizard John Tesh (right) will grace the McCallum stage. After selling 8 million records over his career, Tesh is coming to Palm Desert on his “Acoustic Christmas” tour, which will get you in the right mood for the upcoming holiday season. Tickets are $35 to $75. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs is featuring one of the biggest norteño groups in the world at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8, as Los Tigres del Norte brings hits from a 30-plus-year career to Indio for a night of música y baile! Fresh off the Los Tigres del Norte at Folsom Prison live album and concurrent Netflix special, you can enjoy what Billboard calls “the most influential regional Mexican group.” Tickets are $49 to $99. Coming to the Fantasy Springs stage at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 22, is legendary crooner Paul Anka. While Anka will play the hits from his career, such as his 1959 classic “Put Your Head on My Shoulder,” this Anka Sings Sinatra: His Songs, My Songs, My Way tour also features Anka’s tribute to the Chairman of the Board. Even at 78, Anka still can woo with that trademark voice. Tickets are $59 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29’s most-intriguing November event is the All Star Jam, presented by Auen Foundation. Have you ever wondered what would happen if members from hit groups such as The Romantics, Journey, Chicago and Kansas all got together under one roof for the ultimate jam session? With all proceeds going to Martha’s Village, it’d be a shame for you to not to go and find out. The show is at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2, and tickets are $75 to $95. You must be 21 or older to attend. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Agua Caliente turns up the heat this month, as funk pioneers Tower of Power (alongside openers Average White Band) arrive at The Show at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2, to celebrate their 50th anniversary by performing songs that are guaranteed to “funkifize, energize and provide the soundtrack for new American movements of love, peace, soul power, mind power and people power to rise!” In 1973, the group asked “What Is Hip?”, so go find the answer. Tickets are $46 to $170. A few weeks later, the irreplaceable and recognizable voice of legendary soul singer Smokey Robinson will come to Rancho Mirage. Witness the Motown leader live, at 79 years young, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 23. Tickets are $95 to $125. Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Morongo will host the multi-talented Wayne Brady, from Whose Line Is It Anyway? and, more recently, Let’s Make a Deal. Go see his comedy and singing skills in full effect at 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8. Tickets are $45 to $55. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s November lineup features top-notch acts of seemingly every kind. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1, enjoy the desert’s own Jesika von Rabbit, with support acts Landroid and Popstar Nima, on a night that promises to invigorate. Tickets are $20. The following weekend, catch two legends who rocked the ’70s. Cherie Currie (The Runaways) and Brie Darling (Fanny) have teamed up and plan to take Pappy’s back four decades with hits from their catalogs, along with some of their favorite songs. The show is at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 9, and tickets are $20. Pappy’s will close out the month with the genre-melding Meat Puppets, with supporting act Particle Kid (ason of Willie Nelson), at 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 30. Thanks to Meat Puppets tracks dabbling in country, punk and alternative rock, fans won’t want to miss out on these ’80s icons who inspired the likes of Kurt Cobain. (Two tracks on Nirvana’s Unplugged album are Meat Puppets covers!) Tickets are $25 and may already be sold out. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

Toucans is hosting some festive events this month. From 3 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 2, check out the second annual Pride in the Parking Lot event. Admission is free, but space is limited, so head to the website below to reserve space, as legendary DJ Chi Chi LaRue and other music acts will perform all day long. The following weekend, famous lesbian standup comedian Suzanne Westenhoefer (below), with special guest Ebony Toliver, will bring the laughs at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 8. Tickets are $25. Toucans Tiki Lounge and Cabaret, 2100 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-416-7584; www.reactionshows.com.

At the Date Shed, reggae all-stars Fortunate Youth will return to Indio at 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 14. The group is fresh off single “Young and Innocent” with Half Pint, so come down, get up, stand up and boogie to some reggae rock. Tickets are $20. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.facebook.com/dateshed.

The Purple Room in Palm Springs features some top acts this month. Vocal and cello duo Branden and James will be bringing their brand of classical/soul music to the stage at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 22, and Saturday, Nov. 23. They are on their “All You Need Is Love” tour, and will fill the night with a wide array of hits from Nat King Cole to music from Rent. Tickets are $35 to $40. Also gracing the Purple Room’s stage is musical treasure Marilyn Maye. At age 91, there’s nothing she can’t do. She’s most famous for her record number of appearances on The Tonight Show—76! Ella Fitzgerald once called her “the greatest white female singer in the world.” See her perform at 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 29, and Saturday, Nov. 30. Tickets are $70 to $90. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club promises a night of laughter for the ages at 9 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 6, when the weekly Belly Flop comedy night features Neil Hamburger, Maggie Maye and Robert Dayton. Iconic comedian Neil Hamburger has opened for Tenacious D, Tim and Eric, and Faith No More, and tells some of the worst jokes you will ever hear (in a good way). Tickets are free; you just need to RSVP. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

Published in Previews

Bruce Fessier has seen the Coachella Valley’s arts and entertainment culture completely change—repeatedly—during the 40 years he’s worked as the entertainment writer at The Desert Sun.

On June 3, Fessier’s column will be appearing for the last time before he heads into retirement.

“The industry has changed quite a bit, and it’s not as satisfying as it used to be,” Fessier said during a recent interview at The Desert Sun’s offices. “I still have some brain cells, so I would still like to do some other things before I no longer have those brain cells. I never wanted to spend my entire life as a journalist. It just kind of worked out that way. Having the opportunity to take an early-retirement benefit gives me enough of a cushion that I can try some other things.”

When Fessier arrived at The Desert Sun in 1979, there wasn’t much to cover.

“I often say that the difference between now and then is that when I first started, there wasn’t enough entertainment to have a calendar,” Fessier said. “Now there is so much entertainment that they don’t want me spending my time assembling a calendar. So I don’t do a calendar anymore, and I’m back to where I started. I covered the nightclubs, and I covered the lounge scene. They had concerts at Palm Springs High School, and most were either big band or classical.”

Fessier said skater culture was helping launch a local music scene when he started at The Desert Sun.

“There was a guy named Myke Bates who started a company called Bates Skates. That became the centerpiece for this skating culture,” Fessier said. “There was a rebellion that was happening right after I got here. A lot of the people were skateboarding and roller-skating on sidewalks in Palm Springs. The city of Palm Springs created ordinances to prohibit them from skating. This guy Bates was the head of the skating culture and was a punk-rocker. He was in the band Target 13. That generated this punk-rock culture, and I started covering a lot of that. Most of that was in Desert Hot Springs and not in Palm Springs itself, but there was a real scene that was developing. I covered that in the early days, and it was always the alternative to the classical stuff you’d see at Palm Springs High School and the lounge scene.”

Fessier was around when the desert generator scene developed. Bands such as Kyuss and Fatso Jetson played shows in the middle of the desert as they cut their teeth—and Fessier doesn’t agree with the modern romanticization of those desert parties.

“I went out to one generator party, and it was just terrible conditions,” he said. “Never mind how dangerous it was; it was the type of thing where there was so much sand blowing. It would get in your face and all the instruments, and it was just not enjoyable. … I would see some of those guys at Adrian’s Dance Club or something like that, but I can’t say I was a participant in the generator scene.

“Back in 1989, you could hear this music coming out from the middle of nowhere, and you didn’t know where it was coming from, because they never told anybody. Jesse Hughes (of Eagles of Death Metal) recently posted on Facebook about how I covered him in the early days. I saw him and one of his bands at this drive-through Italian restaurant in Cathedral City where you could get spaghetti for $2, and he was playing there. That’s the thing: You’d see these people playing in little nooks and crannies. Even though I didn’t go out and hang out in the hills, I was still aware of what was going on.”

There was one name in town that you couldn’t avoid back then.

“Everybody idolized Sinatra in those days,” Fessier said. “I wrote a column one time back then about how you could go to every bar in town and hear ‘New York, New York.’ I got so sick of that song. That came out in 1979, and everybody was singing it. That’s what it was like in 1979 in Palm Springs. They were all close personal friends of Frank and all had stories about him, and I’d run into him at all these different places. That was kind of fun, actually.

“I wasn’t really a big Frank Sinatra fan at the time, but just seeing the impact he had on all the people and discovering his generosity in person—it made me a big fan of his. Once I stopped getting over the generational thing that I had and started appreciating his music, I became a big Frank Sinatra fan.”

Fessier remembered seeing both the good side and the bad side of the Chairman of the Board.

“He was mercurial. If you caught him on a good day, you were intoxicated by him. If you caught him on a bad day, you were scared to death of him. I saw him on both sides,” Fessier said. “The first time I was in a room with him was the first week I was entertainment editor. This PR guy decided he was going to take me around town and show me all the lounges and restaurants. He told me he was going to take me to Don the Beachcomber, because that was where Sinatra hung out. I had a friend with me at the time who was a real drunken kind of friend. I wasn’t expecting this to be any big deal, and the last thing I expected was to see Sinatra at this place.

“We get there, and there was Sinatra. Don the Beachcomber was a tiny place. He was at the bar with about 20 friends, and he’s entertaining them all. This red light came on, and he said, ‘When that red light comes on, I sing.’ This PR guy said, ‘You do not talk to Frank Sinatra.’ My friend was drunk and said, ‘I don’t care what you say; I know people who are big shots, and I’m going to go up to him and say hello.’ (My friend) brushed us aside and said, ‘Hey Frank,’ and Frank said, ‘Hey pal, how you doing?’ and shook his hand.

“Frank had this charisma, and it would hypnotize you a bit.”

Fessier also covered the local theater scene extensively.

“I saw the big change coming, and that was the McCallum Theatre (which opened in 1988),” he said. “When I got here, there was an organization called the Valley Players Guild, and they were always looking for their own home. Then there (was) the Palm Desert Community Theatre, and that was pretty much it. College of the Desert did their own shows. Then the McCallum (began) doing fundraising and the performing-arts series that they did at Palm Springs High School and the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum. It became apparent that would not only dwarf community theater, but take up all of The Desert Sun’s resources: I was going to be covering what was going on at the McCallum instead of community theater.

“That’s the reason I co-founded the Desert Theatre League in 1987, because there were more groups that were starting, and there were other splinter groups. I thought they needed some sort of a promotion that I wasn’t going to be able to provide, and an award show would be that kind of promotion. I wanted it to also be a networking opportunity for people to share their resources. My co-founder was an actor in town who also worked in the advertising department for The Desert Sun, so some of these splinter groups that didn’t have nonprofit status could get the lower nonprofit advertising rate by being a member.”

Fessier and I were two of the five journalists invited to cover Paul McCartney’s 2016 show at Pappy and Harriet’s. I remember seeing him disappear and reappear many times throughout the show.

“I had an early deadline,” Fessier explained. “We are always trying to be first, and so Robyn (Celia, the venue’s co-owner) let me use their office. Their office got so crazy with people coming in to where I went to the back of the office in this closet where I had my laptop, and I’d be writing and walking out to see what the commotion was. We didn’t get a photo pass, either, and I was trying to take pictures. That was crazy! … It was certainly historic, and I didn’t really appreciate it as much as I should have at the time.”

Fessier said covering the valley’s big festivals, Coachella especially, can be tiring and strenuous—but wind up being worth the trouble.

“Even today, the press accommodations are bad,” Fessier said. “I did an interview with (Coachella founder) Paul Tollett a week ago, and I was telling him how the press accommodations always suck. I told him, ‘You know what the sports guys get?’ The second year we were there, a colleague said that the press tent was four sticks and a canvas. The first year, they didn’t even have electricity in there. But at the time, it was so magical, because you could just walk up to people. I walked right up to Moby and did an interview. There was nobody setting up any press interviews. It was magical from the very beginning.”

Fessier made a prediction about Coachella’s future.

“It’s going to be international,” he said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if J Balvin is the first international headliner not to use English as his primary language. That’s the direction it’s going in. It had more international stars this year than there were acts from the United States. Paul Tollett likes to nurture those guys and bring them up.”

Considering all the changes taking place in the media world, I had to ask: Do you feel that what we do will still matter in the future?

“I just did a talk to a class of broadcasters at College of the Desert, and I told them, ‘You’re living in an exciting time when you won’t need radio stations, and you won’t need newspapers, (but) you will need entrepreneurial skills to monetize your work. You have an opportunity to find out what you want to do and make a living at it without corporate ties,’” he said. “Working for a corporation is very frustrating. I’m happy to not have to be worried about rewriting some story from TMZ about herpes breaking out at Coachella.”

Fessier explained why he stayed at The Desert Sun for four decades.

“I got an offer at the San Francisco Chronicle, and I’m from San Francisco. I went to college there, and I always dreamed of going back to the Bay Area. But the salary they were offering me was not significantly more than what I was getting here,” he said. “I’ve always had other income opportunities and have never had to rely just on The Desert Sun. It’s between not being offered enough money and my wife saying, ‘I’m not going to live in Cincinnati!’

“This is a nice place to not only live but raise kids. I’m very proud that both of my kids are doing very well now. One is an animator for Bob’s Burgers, and the other one is managing a cannabis dispensary.”

Published in Features

The summer slowdown is beginning after a rainy, windy, busy season. The snowbirds are gone—but May is still packed with a lot of compelling events.

The McCallum Theatre is winding down with a couple of events before going dark over the summer. At 7 p.m., Thursday, May 2; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 3 and 4; and 2 p.m., Sunday, May 5, College of the Desert Performing Arts will be performing Phantom of the Opera. Tickets are $23 to $43. Take a journey through 5,000 years of Chinese culture at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 9; 2 p.m., Friday, May 10; and 2 and 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 11, with Shen Yun. This is a musical and dance performance of various tales and legends from China. Tickets are $120 to $150. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino is rocking into May. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 18, the supergroup (and the word “supergroup” is an understatement in this case) Hollywood Vampires will be performing. It’s Joe Perry of Aerosmith along with ... Johnny Depp and Alice Cooper! With a lineup like that, you need a word bigger than “supergroup.” Tickets are $59 to $99. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 24, R&B superstar Maxwell will be returning to the Coachella Valley. In 2016, Maxwell released his album blackSUMMERS’night to high critical acclaim. Tickets are $59 to $99. At 8 p.m., Sunday, May 26, Runaways guitarist and all-around bad ass Joan Jett will be performing. Tickets are $49 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa Rancho Mirage has a star-packed May with several sold-out events. Here are a couple with tickets left as of our press deadline. At 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 10 and 11, enjoy CIRCOVIA, a Cirque-style extravaganza, created by Misha Matorin, a former member of Cirque du Soleil. Tickets are $40 to $60. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 31, comedian, actor and writer Rodney Carrington will be appearing. You probably remember Carrington’s raunchy comedy from the late ’90s when everyone was sending .WAV files of his raunchy songs to your AOL e-mail address. Tickets are $35 to $55. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a big Latin-music event in May. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 4, Norteño group Los Huracanes del Norte will be performing, along with Banda Machos. Los Huracanes del Norte is internationally acclaimed Latin group, as is Banda Machos—so what we are trying to say is that this is a huge deal. Tickets are $35 to $45. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort and Spa is the place to be if you’re passionate about … TACOS! At 11 a.m., Saturday, May 18, it’ll be time for the Morongo Taco Festival 2019. What could be better than a taco festival? Maybe it’d be more appropriate on a Tuesday—but a Saturday will do just fine, because any time is good for tacos. Tickets are $10, and tacos from 30 various vendors are $2. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace rides into the spring/early summer season with an impressive May calendar. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 24, Matisyahu (upper right) will be performing. Matisyahu’s career started with him winning over audiences as a devout Hasidic reggae star, but over the years, he’s become more spiritually evolved and has branched out musically. Tickets are $40. At 4 p.m., Saturday, May 25, the outdoor festival Stoned and Dusted will be taking place, with Melvins, Fu Manchu, Brant Bjork and others. Tickets are $60. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Date Shed is ending the season with a few events in May. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 10, Los Angeles jam band The Higgs will be performing. Tickets are $10. At 8 p.m., Thursday, May 23, MURS will take the stage. MURS is a socially minded rapper on the independent side of the rap game. He’s a brilliant lyricist—and this is one show you won’t want to miss. Tickets are $20-$25. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.facebook.com/dateshed.

The Purple Room Palm Springs has a star-studded May schedule. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 4, soul singer Chadwick Johnson will be performing. Johnson has worked with famed producer David Foster, has performed for former President Bill Clinton, and has received international success for his combination of soul music with pop and jazz. Tickets are $30 to $35. At 8 p.m., Friday, May 17, Nutty will be doing a vinyl-record release in collaboration with local artist Shag. Nutty is self-described as “jetsetter jazz.” Translation: The group takes rock ’n’ roll hits and puts on a jazz spin on them. Tickets are $30 to $35. At 8 p.m., Saturday, May 18, actress, songwriter and singer Amanda McBroom (below) will be performing. McBroom is probably best-known for writing the title track for the film The Rose, and she had recurring roles on shows such as Starsky and Hutch, Star Trek: The Next Generation and many others. Tickets are $35 to $40. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

If you’re a data geek like I am, you can have a lot of fun with Pollstar magazine’s annual list of the Top 200 theater venues in the world.

For example: The Coachella Valley’s McCallum Theatre—considered a small- to medium-sized venue—in 2018 came in at No. 70 in the entire world, with well more than 100,000 tickets sold. No theater in Southern California sold more tickets than the McCallum did, even though the venue is only open for half the year.

That’s right: The McCallum had more butts in its seats in 2018 than any theater in Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the country.

Mitch Gershenfeld, the McCallum’s president, CEO and show-booker, said 2019 has been even stronger—and that he has high hopes for the 2019-2020 season. Tickets for all shows in the upcoming season go on sale online today (April 11) at 6 p.m., with box-office and phone sales beginning tomorrow morning at 9 a.m.

The 2019-2020 season includes the big names—Melissa Etheridge (Nov. 14), anyone?—that people have come to expect to be on the McCallum schedule, along with valley favorites like the Ten Tenors (Feb. 19-23, 2020) and Pink Martini (March 4-8). However, Gershenfeld said he’s particularly thrilled about the Broadway shows he’s booked; five of them have never been to the McCallum before, kicking off with the musical adaptation of A Christmas Story (Nov. 26 and 27).

“It has all of the key things that are in the movie,” Gershenfeld said. “There’s a whole number with dancing leg lamps.”

That will be followed by Waitress (Dec. 6-8) and The Play That Goes Wrong (Jan. 21 and 22), a critical darling that just closed on Broadway earlier this year—and is still going strong on London’s West End.

“It’s the quintessential British farce,” Gershenfeld said.

Escape to Margaritaville (Jan. 30-Feb. 1)—a musical featuring the songs of Jimmy Buffett, but you probably figured that out already—will be followed by Beautiful: The Carole King Musical (Feb. 7-9), which has become a Broadway fixture, recently celebrating its fifth anniversary there.

“It’s really nice to get another musical that’s still on Broadway,” Gershenfeld said.

Those new-to-the-McCallum shows will be joined by returnees Chicago (March 13-15) and The Illusionists (April 7 and 8).

Mitch’s Picks—a series of a shows by unheralded performers that Gershenfeld personally recommends—are back, starting off on Nov. 22 with a double-bill of performers who perform traditional Latin music with a twist: the all-women Mariachi Flor de Toloache and The Villalobos Brothers. They’ll be followed by a Christmas show on Dec. 16 by YouTube a cappella sensation Voctave.

“They’re an amazing group who primarily performs at Disneyworld,” Gershenfeld said. “The core members have beautiful voices, and the arrangements are extraordinary.”

Other Mitch’s Picks include the Derina Harvey Band, a Celtic-rock group (Jan. 14); Wicked alum-turned-soul singer Shoshana Bean (Feb. 4); and Mnozil Brass (March 24), a brass septet that melds original tunes, classics and a lot of humor.

The National Geographic Live series will be back at the McCallum for a second year with three shows. Gershenfeld admits he was concerned about how a science series would do—and he was pleasantly surprised by the reaction of McCallum audiences this year.

“They love it, and they point out that it’s so different,” Gershenfeld said. “It’s also a program that attracts children, which is great. During the Q&A sessions, the kids are always asking questions.”

This year’s shows are On the Trail of Big Cats (Jan. 6), Photography Without Borders (March 2) and View From Above (April 5) with astronaut Terry Virts.

Gershenfeld said the new season’s highlights include some tribute shows that are quite special. First and foremost is A Toast to Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé (April 4). The two were most successful act to regularly appear at the McCallum before the Ten Tenors came along, Gershenfeld said.

“Frank Sinatra would show up to hang out backstage,” he added.

Gormé passed away in 2013, and Lawrence has retired from performing; this show will feature their son, David Lawrence, and Tony Award-winner Debbie Gravitte, along with a 32-piece orchestra and vintage video clips.

“We have all of their original music charts,” Gershenfeld said. “… This is the first place this show is going to play. There’s no place (Steve Lawrence) would want to do the first show other than (here).”

Speaking of Frank Sinatra … he’ll be returning to the McCallum, sort of, thanks to the talents of Bob Anderson, on Feb. 14 and 15. Gershenfeld explained that the Sinatra impressionist sounds exactly like Ol’ Blue Eyes, and to add to the impression, he has a prosthetic mask of Sinatra’s face. When you add in a 32-piece orchestra playing Sinatra’s original arrangements … the likeness is eerie and amazing.

The other big names coming to the McCallum zigzag across genres—Mandy Patinkin (Nov. 16), The Beach Boys (Dec. 1), Itzhak Perlman (Jan. 20), Ricky Skaggs (March 12), the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater (March 15), and so on.

“Last season (2017-2018) was the most successful in our history,” Gershenfeld said. “This year (the just-concluding 2018-2019) surpassed it.” And 2019-2020 has a great chance of continuing that trend.

Tickets for the McCallum Theatre’s 2019-2020 season go on sale online at mccallumtheatre.com at 6 p.m., Thursday, April 11; and at 9 a.m., Friday, April 12, at the box office, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, and by phone, at 760-340-2787. For the complete schedule, visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Local Fun

Coachella and Stagecoach dominate the music coverage in April—but there are a whole lot of great events going on before, during and after the festivals throughout the Coachella Valley.

The McCallum Theatre will soon enter its summer hibernation, but not before a fantastic April schedule. At 8 p.m., Thursday, April 4, find out who’s the boss when Tony Danza brings in his one-man variety show. He’ll be telling stories about his life and playing music with the Desert Symphony. Tickets are $75 to $250. At 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 10, popular Christian-contemporary music artist Stephen Curtis Chapman comes to the McCallum. He’s won five Grammy Awards and sold more than 10 million albums. Tickets are $39 to $88. At 7 p.m., Saturday, April 27, the Coachella Valley Symphony will be holding its 26th Anniversary Gala, joined by Under the Streetlamp, a fun music group that performs rhythm and blues, rock ’n’ roll and doo-wop from the 1950s to 1970s. Tickets are $45 to $85. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has an April event you won’t want to miss … especially if you’ve watched Netflix or Hulu recently. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 6, Ashanti and Ja Rule will be performing. Ja Rule may currently be best-known for his recent involvement with the disastrous Fyre Festival. He’s also known for a few hits in the early 2000s. Tickets are $39 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino in Rancho Mirage has several fun events from which to choose in April. At 8 p.m., Friday, April 5, truTV star and magician Michael Carbonaro will be performing. Carbonaro is also known for his appearances on 30 Rock, Happily Divorced and Grey’s Anatomy, on top of his dazzling magic act. Tickets are $25 to $160. At 8 p.m., Friday, April 26, Comedy Central’s Daniel Tosh will take the stage. You remember him … he’s guy who has all the videos from YouTube showing people doing stupid and ridiculous stuff—supplemented by his colorful and hilarious commentary. Tickets are $80 to $100. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a couple of intriguing shows. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 13, Paquita La Del Barrio (upper right) will be performing. Known as “Franny from the Neighborhood,” this beloved performer is well-known in the United States and Mexico for her songs that promote strength and solidarity while challenging sexist machismo. Tickets are $35 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, April 27, the “comedian of a thousand faces,” Jo Jo Jorge Falcon, will bring the funny. Falcon is known for his twisted sense of humor—and for sometimes wearing a condom-tip cap. Tickets are $36 to $81. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort and Spa has a full slate of impressive April offerings. At 9 p.m., Friday, April 5, ’60s pop icons Chubby Checker and Frankie Avalon will be performing on a double bill. Frankie Avalon is best-known for his movie performances with Annette Funicello in what become known as the “beach party” genre. He’s also a singer-songwriter and has recorded seven albums. Chubby Checker is known for his hit “The Twist” (which was actually a Hank Ballard and the Midnighters cover) and the accompanying dance. Tickets are $45 to $65. At 9 p.m., Friday, April 12, comedian Cedric the Entertainer will be performing. He’s best-known for his role as Eddie in Barbershop, as well as his other acting roles, but he’s also been a popular standup comedian through the years. Tickets are $59 to $79. At 9 p.m., Friday, April 26, country artist Rodney Atkins will take the stage. He’s had six No. 1 hits on the Billboard U.S. Hot Country Songs chart since his career began in 2003. Tickets are $45 to $55. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has a lot going on in April—and is always a popular place to be during Coachella and Stagecoach, as you never know who will show up. Here are a couple of events with tickets still available. At 9 p.m., Friday, April 19, Pale Waves will be performing. It’s a four-piece indie-pop band from the United Kingdom—and this group is fantastic. When I listened to their debut album My Mind Makes Noises, it reminded me of the best alternative pop, such as the Cocteau Twins, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Echo and the Bunnymen. Pale Waves has been selling out venues in the U.K., Europe and North America. Tickets are $16 to $20. At 8 p.m., Sunday, April 28, the legendary rockabilly/rock ’n’ roll band Reverend Horton Heat will be performing, along with the Legendary Shack Shakers. No hyperbole: These are two of the best rock bands in America, and both have recorded great music that any rockabilly, blues or rock fan can appreciate. Tickets are $25. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The action remains hot at the Purple Room. At 6 p.m., Friday, April 12, the “King of the Song Cue Ball” Jerome Elliott will be performing. A hilarious award-winning actor, singer and director, and a friend of the Independent, he’s performed at just about all of the top cabaret venues across the country. Tickets are $25 to $30. At 6 p.m., Friday, April 26, jazz singer, songwriter and actress Ann Hampton Callaway (below) will come to the Purple Room. She’ll be singing jazz songs that were made famous in films. Tickets are $55 to $65. At 6 p.m., Saturday, April 27, actress and singer Renee Olstead will be performing. You might remember her from Still Standing and The Secret Life of the American Teenager. Well, she’s also a hell of a singer, and performed at the Live 8 concert in 2005. Tickets are $35 to $40. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

March brings both the revelry of St. Patrick’s Day and increasingly warmer weather—which, given the relatively cold February we had, will be even more welcome than normal.

Oh, and March is also bringing a lot of great shows, too!

The McCallum Theatre has plenty going on in March. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 8, get in the Saint Patrick’s Day mood with The Irish Rovers. The Irish Rovers provide audiences with a good time featuring traditional Irish music; don’t be surprised if you find yourself singing and clapping along. Tickets are $25 to $85. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 9, Grammy Award-winning vocalist Steve Tyrell will be performing. Tyrell has been a regular at the McCallum for 15 years now. After a dozen or so albums, appearances on soundtracks for films such as That Thing You Do and Father of the Bride, and other accomplishments, he’s guaranteed to put on a good show. Tickets are $48 to $78. Here’s an interesting one … at 8 p.m., Friday, March 29, actor Rob Lowe will be performing his one-man show Stories I Only Tell My Friends. He’ll reveal tidbits about his life in Hollywood and his acting career, which now spans four decades. Tickets are $65 to $150. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a superstar-packed March. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 1, the former lead vocalist for Steely Dan and the Doobie Brothers, Michael McDonald, will be performing. He’s collaborated with artists from Kenny Loggins and Van Halen to Grizzly Bear and Thundercat. He’s also won five Grammy Awards and charted with several singles. Tickets are $39 to $69. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 8, ventriloquist and comedian Terry Fator will take the stage. Ever since he won America’s Got Talent in 2007, he’s been a huge hit with audiences. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 22, classic-rock band Creedence Clearwater Revisited will be returning to the Coachella Valley. I’ve seen this band perform on three occasions, and the group—made up of two members of the original Creedence Clearwater Revival lineup and three other fantastic musicians—sounds just as good as the original. Tickets are $39 to $69. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a couple of events of which you should take note. At 8 p.m., Friday, March 15, Latin-music duo Los Temerarios will be performing. Adolfo and Gustavo Angel have become Latin-music superstars since they started in 1978, earning a Latin Grammy Award and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Latin Billboard Music Awards. Tickets are $55 to $85. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 23, Prince-tribute band Purple Reign will take the stage. I watched this band’s soundcheck one time, and I couldn’t believe how well this band does Prince’s music. Others have taken notice as well—the group appeared on The Late Show With Dave Letterman on New Year’s Eve in 2009. Tickets are $25 to $35. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a couple of Latin superstars coming through in March. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 16, enjoy a double bill of Voz de Mando and Kanales. Since the group began in 2002, Voz de Mando has released seven albums; recent single “Pa’ Que No Me Anden Contando” became a Top 10 Billboard Latin Music hit in the United States. Kanales came to the United States from Sinaloa and became a big star in Norteño-music world. Tickets are $40 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 23, Latin-music duo Amanda Miguel and Diego Verdaguer will be performing. They are Latin-music legends who have been together since the 1970s. Tickets are $51 to $106. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s is the place to be in March … or, well, any other time of the year. At 8 p.m., Thursday, March 21, Cold Cave (upper right) will be performing. Cold Cave is a project of Wesley Eisold, of the bands American Nightmare and Some Girls. Eisold was born without a left hand, which means he does not play an instrument—but he excels as a vocalist. He’s also a published writer. Tickets are $20. At 8 p.m., Sunday, March 24, cosmic-country band Green Leaf Rustlers will take the stage. The band features Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes, Pete Sears of Jefferson Starship, John Molo of the Phil Lesh Quartet, and Greg Loiacono of The Mother Hips. A “cosmic-country” band should definitely be a hit at Pappy and Harriet’s. Tickets are $30. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room has a diverse list of events for March. At 6 p.m., Saturday, March 2, powerhouse cello and vocal duo Branden and James (below) will be performing. The duo features America’s Got Talent finalist Branden James, a classically trained tenor, and cellist James Clark. Tickets are $35 to $40. At 6 p.m., Saturday, March 9, Scot Bruce will be performing the songs of Elvis’ early years. Bruce is a regular performer at Disneyland and is considered one of the best Elvis-tribute acts in the country. Tickets are $30 to $35. At 8 p.m., Saturday, March 23, get ready to laugh in tribute to one of the most iconic comics who ever lived when Joe Posa stars as Joan Rivers. He’s an impersonator of many stars, including Michael Jackson and Liza Minnelli. Tickets are $30 to $35. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

Matthew Morrison is a quadruple threat: His résumé includes acting, dancing, singing and songwriting—but the Broadway star is best known for playing Will Schuester on the TV show Glee.

Morrison will be performing at the McCallum Theatre on Thursday, March 21.

During a recent e-mail interview from London—he was unable to speak on the phone as his tour took him to Europe and Asia—Morrison discussed his stints in Broadway musicals such as Hairspray, South Pacific, Finding Neverland and others.

“Performing on Broadway, to me, was the big stage that I was preparing for years in advance,” Morrison said. “When something is your passion, I believe there’s no room for fear. I took that mentality into each role I was fortunate enough to attach myself to. There was a lot of pressure when I was offered the role of Link Larkin in Hairspray, but I’m thankful for that, as it prepared me for my biggest challenge yet, and that was The Light in the Piazza. All I can do as an actor is prepare as best as I can, in order to deliver the best possible performance. … Luckily for me, I feed off of the energy in the room, and I truly believe because of that, I was able to handle the pressure of performing on Broadway, even early on in my career.”

His 2015-2016 performance in Finding Neverland was well-received by audiences.

Finding Neverland was a true pleasure for me throughout the process,” Morrison wrote. “From the beginning stages of watching the tryout runs at A.R.T. in Massachusetts, to working with Tony Award-winning director Diane Paulus during rehearsals, all the way through my last show in January 2016—there was an unspeakable energy that lured me to performing each night. There’s always a little bit of wonder about how the audience and Broadway community will interpret a musical of this kind, but I truly believe that this production was special in its ability to connect with audiences of all ages. I, like many others, have always had an attachment to the story of Peter Pan, and I think that alone was enough (of a) reason to deliver each night.”

One of his earliest performances on Broadway—back in 2000—was in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

“That production was my last supporting role in theater, and it prepared me a lot for what was to come,” Morrison said. “A Broadway show is demanding and challenging to any artist, in my opinion, and our job is to make sure it doesn’t seem that way when we perform. The story is entertaining in whatever production it’s told.”

When Glee premiered in 2009, it quickly became a hit with young audiences—and the first season was nominated for a whopping 19 Emmy Awards. Morrison said he was surprised by the reaction.

“I think everyone was in the beginning, to be honest,” he wrote. “Ryan Murphy is such a talented writer, producer and director, and he had such a strong vision for this show, along with Brad Falchuk and Ian Brennan. I strongly feel that Glee was the most socially relevant program for its time, connecting with audiences on all levels. The storylines, characters and music clicked in a way that was so unique for television, and still is today. I’m truly proud of what that show accomplished on a social level. I hear day after day just how much that show changed lives.”

Thanks to his time on Broadway, Morrison discovered his ability to sing jazz songs, as well as American standards.

“As a Broadway actor and singer, your voice is trained to tell a story and emote in a wide range,” he said. “I’m a huge fan of American standards and the ‘feel’ of the legends from the ’60s—like Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis Jr. These standards they sung told beautiful stories, and that is why I connected with them so much. When I’m up onstage during a concert, connecting with an audience by singing these songs, it brings me back to the Broadway stage. Many of these songs were also sung throughout Broadway shows, so there’s a natural connection there as well.”

Morrison released two studio albums, both during Glee’s run; his most recent, Where It All Began, was released in 2013 on Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine’s 222 Records. I asked him if there was any new music from him forthcoming.

“Music has and always will play an integral role in my life and career,” he said. “The only thing that changes is where I see myself, and how I can authentically deliver a message to my audience. All I can say right now is that I’ve been working very hard on creating a project that is relevant to my life as father, and I look forward to sharing it in the near future with everyone.”

There is one Broadway role that Morrison said he still wishes to play—and if you listen to his version of that play’s title track on Where It All Began, you’ll realize how perfect he’d be in the role.

“A main source of inspiration has come from Gene Kelly. He was an all-around entertainer and talented individual. A production of Singing in the Rain would be an honor to be a part of,” Morrison said. “The title song is one I perform at almost every concert. It’s my way of attaching myself perpetually to the story.”

Matthew Morrison will perform at 8 p.m., Thursday, March 21, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $80 to $130. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Previews

Michael Childers is truly a renaissance man; Merriam-Webster’s definition—“a person who has wide interests and is expert in several areas”—describes him perfectly.

The Coachella Valley resident is an award-winning photographer, producer, writer and documentary filmmaker—and his talents are being showcased in several upcoming events.

Childers was the photographer and production assistant on the movie Midnight Cowboy, the legendary 1969 film directed by his late partner, John Schlesinger. Childers and former Variety editor Peter Bart will be sharing memories and photos at a special 50th anniversary screening of the film on Saturday, March 2, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center.

On Wednesday, April 24, Childers will bring his annual One Night Only Broadway extravaganza back to the McCallum Theatre.

Childers has been very busy as of late; in fact, he just picked up the award for Best Short Documentary at the 2019 Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival in Los Angeles for I Knew Andy Warhol, which he produced. He’s also working on a documentary film about the late actress Natalie Wood. He recently took some time to speak to me about all these goings-on.

His gorgeous book of photography, Icons and Legends, graces coffee tables in homes across the country—but as far as the desert is concerned, Childers’ crowning achievement would have to be One Night Only, the musical-variety extravaganza he produces each year at the McCallum. He created the event 15 years ago as a fundraiser for local charities. Since then, more than 150 Broadway performers have participated in the show.

This year’s production, “Broadway Showstoppers,” features some of the best songs from Broadway musicals, including Cats, The Phantom of the Opera, Wicked and Dear Evan Hansen. Proceeds will benefit the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, which provides services for abused and neglected children. The nonprofit center was founded in 1986 by Frank and Barbara Sinatra and offers individual, group and family counseling, as well as outreach and prevention programs.

“Showstoppers” will be directed by Broadway choreographer and director Larry Fuller, with musical direction by Christopher Marlowe. This year’s cast includes Ann Hampton Callaway, Liz Callaway, Lucie Arnaz, Christine Andreas, John Barrowman, Davis Gaines and Sal Mistretta. The production will be dedicated to the memory of two desert icons we lost recently, Carol Channing and Kaye Ballard. Both appeared in his One Night Only shows, and Childers knew them both well. In fact, he told me that he photographed Channing’s wedding to her former high-school sweetheart, Harry Kullijian, at her Rancho Mirage home—and Ballard actually introduced Childers to his partner of 30 years, the aforementioned director John Schlesinger. She set them up on a bind date.

“Something just clicked,” he said.

Childers said he always has themes and dream casts for future shows floating around in his head. One Night Only is a huge undertaking, requiring seven months of planning and preparation. He said that having a great team around him, including the hard-working crew at the McCallum, makes it possible.

The show sells out every year, and because of its reputation, many Broadway stars are eager to join the cast.

“Who wouldn’t want to come enjoy the sunshine in Palm Springs when it’s cold and rainy in New York?” Childers said. Also worth noting: Performers are treated royally, with lots of perks and parties thrown into the mix. JetBlue is once again a main sponsor, offering a number of free airline tickets to those performing.

So what’s on Childers’ bucket list? He says he would like to produce more documentary films. In other words, it does not seem that the multi-talented Michael Childers will be slowing down anytime soon.

The 50th Anniversary of Midnight Cowboy takes place at 6 p.m., Saturday, March 2, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $20 to $45. For tickets or more information, call 760-325-6565, or visit Eventbrite.com.

One Night Only, a show benefiting the Barbara Sinatra Children’s Center, takes place at 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, April 24, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $75 to $175, with a limited number of VIP tickets, including an after-party, available for $495. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Published in Local Fun

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