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Jimmy Boegle

On Friday night (May 11), Pam Ann proved true the age-old axiom that there can be too much of a good thing.

The Australian comedian, whose real name is Caroline Reid, kicked off a nine-city U.S. tour at the McCallum Theatre. Attendees were predominantly if not overwhelmingly gay men—and Pam Ann, no surprise, aimed her show squarely at the “mid-century modern, post-modern Palm Springs gays with their Alexander or Wexler redone homes.”

The events kicked off with a video inserting Pam Ann into the short-lived 2011-2012 ABC show Pan Am, with Pam Ann having all sorts of amusingly filthy interactions with the cast and crew (including asking a black character whether he could “split her in half” with his gigantic you-know-what; he answered in the affirmative). She then came out wearing a yellow dress and proceeded to riff, hilariously, with the audience for a good half-hour.

I’ve seen Pam Ann’s show about a half-dozen times (all of the previous shows I saw were on cruise ships), and this was by far her funniest—and least-structured—performance. She spent the bulk of her time harassing and joking with the appreciative audience. (Several fans even presented her with gifts, including poppers and a “Virgin America flight manual," which contained condoms, lube and perhaps even a bit of cocaine. The “cum-dripping” Grindr-like nature of Virgin America, at least in Pam Ann’s addled brain, was mentioned numerous times over the evening.)

Problem was, she was having so much fun—and early success—while joking with the audience that the elements of her proper “show” were rushed.

In fact, the “show” parts were at times rather weak. She has a new animated safety video that is awkward and, at best, mildly amusing. A video inserting her into famous films such as Superman and The Exorcist was OK, but a McCallum tech partially ruined it by stopping it about a third of the way through and then starting it all over again. And her closing number, with her saying goodbye to the audience to the tune of “From New York to L.A.,” was a complete mess.

However, her comedic interactions with the audience showed Pam Ann at the top of her game (even as she proved that she’d never heard of the city of Indio). Some of her over-the-top-humor—such as quizzing a wife on the blowjobs she gives her husband—left some audience members uncomfortable, and at least one usher shaking her head. That's not Pam Ann's problem, though; the audience members, at least, should have known what they were getting themselves into.

While Reid was indeed hilarious, there was a bit too much of that good thing: The show ran for about two hours and 15 minutes, and the laughs faded a bit as the night went on. Pam Ann herself seemed surprised by the show’s length when she walked onstage for the final number, expressing shock that the show had gone on for so long and adding that she probably would have walked out by then if she’d been in the audience.

Pam Ann was a hoot on Friday night. But a half-hour less of her would have been even better.

Fire Temporarily Shutters Twin Palms Bistro

On a fairly recent visit to the newish Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge, 1201 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, a manager told us that the restaurant, which opened last year, was finally starting to hits its figurative stride after working out all of the kinks that come with launching a new business.

Then Murphy’s Law hit. And then it hit again. And yet again, as posts on the restaurant’s Facebook page show in heartbreaking detail.

On April 9, a “minor fire” broke out in the Twin Palms kitchen.

“The fire started in a wall and the good news is the damage appears to be minor. The bad news is we will be closed today as we work to repair the damaged area,” said an April 10 post on the Twin Palms Facebook page.

An April 11 post expressed hope that the minor damage would be repaired in time for an April 12 opening.

That didn’t happen. From an April 13 post: “Well, Murphy’s Law is in effect and we will not be able to reopen this weekend due to a couple of issues that our contractor has uncovered. We now have our sights on mid-week next week.”

Here it is, approaching mid-May, and the restaurant is still closed. The folks at Twin Palms tell us that a re-opening is probably several more weeks away, and that they’ll let us know the firm reopening date when they know it.

In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed on their behalf.

Rancho Mirage Koffi Opens

In early March, we reported that the Rancho Mirage location of Koffi—the fun coffee house owned by locals John Abner and John Strohm—appeared to be months away from opening, based on a look we took at the then-under-construction building at 71390 Highway 111.

Good news: Last week—less than two months after our initial report—the Koffi opened its doors to the public.

Koffi’s original location, at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, opened in August 2002. The second Koffi, at 1700 S. Camino Real (at Palm Canyon Drive, near the Ace Hotel), opened in 2008. The new location differs from the other two in that it includes a coffee-roasting facility.

We said it before, and we’ll say it again: The success Abner and Strohm are enjoying with Koffi is downright refreshing, seeing as locally owned coffee houses across the world are closing after being pushed out by aggressive chains (like Starbucks). Bravo.

The Rancho Mirage Koffi can be reached at 760-340-2444.

Thai Smile Taking Over La Casita Spot

La Casita, at 100 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, recently closed—and one of Palm Springs’ most popular Thai restaurants is taking its place.

A sign put up earlier this week in a window at the old La Casita spot says that Thai Smile Palm Springs—currently located 651 N. Palm Canyon Drive—will soon open there.

That leads to a big question: What will come of the current Thai Smile Palm Springs spot? Will it close, or will the Thai Smile folks take a page out of the Las Casuelas playbook and keep two similar restaurants open within mere blocks?

A Facebook message and a phone message asking that question have thus far gone unreturned.

Rainbow Bar and Grill Closes

The Rainbow Bar and Grill, at 216 N. Indian Canyon Drive (at Arenas Road), closed rather suddenly last month.

Handwritten signs on the doors of the establishment claim that the restaurant is “temporarily closed” because the “wind knocked power out," while just inside the door, unopened mail litters the floor. Meanwhile, the Rainbow Facebook page announced on April 18: “Hello everyone! We’d like to inform all of our friends and loyal customers that Rainbow Bar and Grill will be temporarily closed until further notice. Thank you.”

The “temporary" closure is unlikely to end anytime soon; many Rainbow employees have already moved on to other jobs, meaning a re-launch would require a whole bunch of new hires. 

Rumors are circulating that a prominent gay couple—who owns a couple of other area business—is buying the place, but a representative of the couple reports that there’s “nothing to share” regarding that rumor.

Trio Hosting Weeklong Fundraiser for Stroke Recovery Center

May is National Stroke Awareness Month, and to mark the occasion, TRIO Restaurant, 707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, is holding a week-long fundraiser for the Stroke Recovery Center.

From Monday, May 13, through Sunday, May 19, TRIO will donate 10 percent of sales to the center.

“Trio owners Tony Marchese and Mark Van Laanen are proud to host this event, and believe in the amazing work that the Stroke Recovery Center does here in the desert,” said a news release. “The center offers long-term rehabilitation to the survivors of stroke and traumatic brain injury along with support for their families, caregivers and loved ones.”

For more information, call TRIO at 760-864-8746.

Sally Kellerman has had a long and storied showbiz career.

She nabbed an Oscar nomination for her performance as the iconic Margaret “Hot Lips” O’Houlihan in the 1970 movie M*A*S*H, and continues to act, with a role upcoming on the new IFC show Maron. She’s also a renowned singer, having earned her first record contract, with Verve Records, at the age of 18. Finally, she’s an author with a just-released autobiography, Read My Lips: Stories of a Hollywood Life.

On Wednesday, May 15, Kellerman will bring all of those talents to Vicky’s of Santa Fe, 45100 Club Drive in Indian Wells, for Sally Kellerman Live!, described in a news release as “an evening of intimate and laid back music and conversation presented in her own inimitable style, backed by a trio consisting of Andy Langham on piano, Lyman Medeiros on bass, and Dick Weller on drums.” The event begins with no-host cocktails at 5:30 p.m., with a special three-course prix-fixe dinner at 6; Kellerman’s show begins at 7:30. Afterward, she’ll sign copies of her new book. Tickets are $75; that includes tax, tip, the dinner and the show. For pre-paid reservations, call 760-345-9770; for more information on the show, visit vickysofsantafe.com/sally-kellerman.

We asked Ms. Kellerman to answer The Lucky 13; her answers (or lack thereof) are below.

What was the first concert you attended?

I don’t have a clue. I do remember the first musical I ever saw, though. It was South Pacific by Rodgers and Hammerstein.

What was the first album you owned?

Nat King Cole.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I don’t listen to bands.

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

I like all good music.

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

Rod Stewart, Barbra Streisand, Cher, Bette Midler and Kenny Loggins.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Singing.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Vicky’s of Santa Fe.

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

There are too many to mention. Lyrics run a mile a minute in my head.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

The first time I heard Barbra Streisand sing. Janis Joplin.

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

Rod Stewart: “What are you doing tonight?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

I won’t be there, so I don’t care!

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

This isn’t possible to answer.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Any of the songs on my current two CDs, Sally and Roll With the Feelin’. (Scroll down for a listen.)

Meet Richard Almada. Several months ago, he launched Desert Art Tours, a new business that offers … well, just what the name says: tours, organized and hosted by Almada, that offer attendees a chance to take in a variety of art in the desert and beyond.

Almada has experience in the arts, cosmetics and real estate worlds over his 30-plus year career. As someone who does not know a whole lot about gallery/visual arts, I decided to talk to Almada about the valley’s arts scene, and where Desert Art Tours fits in.

Consider yourself warned (in a good way): If you ask Almada a question about art, you are going to get a quick-paced, passionate, information-heavy answer. Here are some highlights from our chat.

Why Desert Art Tours? Why now?

Almada said he started the company because he recognized that there are a growing number of folks, both locals and tourists, like me—people who want to learn more about art. For example, the Smithsonian museums have been seeing record crowds. “Attendance at art venues, in the country and around the world, has grown, even as the recession hit us,” he said.

However, it can be difficult for gallery and museum attendees to get proper information if they’re there to truly learn, and not just browse. “Docents aren’t always available,” Almada said. “That can discourage a lot of people from attending.”

It can also be a challenge to see a variety of art in the ever-sprawling Coachella Valley, both for tourists without vehicles, and for locals who may not know where to go. Therefore, Almada handles all of the transportation—and even arranges for a meal on some tours.

Since nobody else in the Coachella Valley that he knew of was offering such art tours, Almada said, starting Desert Art Tours to fill that niche made sense.

What tours are offered?

Almada currently lists six different tours on his site: a tour of the Palm Springs Art Museum; a journey of art, both public and private, across the valley; a valley gallery tour; an El Paseo shopping/gallery jaunt; a private collections tour; and a Southern California day trip tour. Almada is also happy to tailor tours to attendees’ specific desires.

What are some favorite places to take tour-goers?

Almada mentioned a variety of places, all of which happen to be in Palm Desert: The J. Willott Gallery on El Paseo (“They appeal to a vast audience,” he said); the new Dawson Cole Fine Art location, also on El Paseo, which showcases the “world-class sculptures” of Richard MacDonald; the Imago Galleries on Highway 74 (“The architecture is so grand, and the art is so contemporary. They have world-class glass creations.”); Heather James Fine Art, on Portola Avenue, which Almada likes both for its “blue chip” art and its periodic exhibitions, including a fine Picasso show a few years back; and, finally, the four-acre Faye Sarkowsky Sculpture Garden at the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert.

OK, so how much does it cost?

That depends on the tour, the length and whether a meal is involved, but it starts at $125 per person, with a group of at least four, he said.

For more information or to contact Desert Art Tours, visit desert-arttours.com.

I was shocked when lunatic flight purser Pam Ann told me she was flying to the West Coast for her gig at the McCallum Theatre on JetBlue—which has no first-class seating.

And then she said something even more shocking.

“I like flying JetBlue!” she said. “It’s a daytime trip. I watch the telly.”

Turns out I was speaking not to Pam Ann, but Caroline Reid, the Australian comedienne who performs as the profane, elitist, racist and hilarious flight attendant. Pam Ann—who would not be caught dead on a plane outside of first class—will be performing at the McCallum on Friday, May 10.

If you’ve never seen a Pam Ann show, well, picture this: The theater is an airplane flight, and Pam Ann is your flight attendant. After the perfunctory safety video (which, in this case, is anything but perfunctory), Pam Ann emerges in a ridiculously flashy outfit, with her beverage trolley in tow. She then proceeds to abuse the airline industry, the audience and herself (Is that a gigantic pile of cocaine?!) for the duration.

And if, god help you, you’re seated in one of the first couple of rows (aka first class), wear your most-expensive brand-label clothing, lest you get banished to the back of the plane, um, theater. Needless to say, the kids should skip the show (and, for that matter, the rest of this interview).

For those who have seen Pam Ann perform, Reid said to expect some new touches—new safety videos, for example. And she’s “amped up the trolley,” she added.

Of course, attendees can also expect topical references to the airline world’s latest mishaps. Reid noted that Pam Ann is “not afraid to offend a few people,” and mentioned the horrifying U.S. cargo-plane crash in Afghanistan. The April 29 crash—which was caught on a dashboard-camera video by a nearby motorist—killed seven National Air Cargo employees when the Boeing 747 tumbled out of the sky shortly after takeoff.

“The pretty pictures on the safety card aren’t going to pan out, when you look at that video,” Reid noted. “Instead, you’re going to get five seconds of sheer terror. I don’t like takeoff, because I know too much about it.”

While Reid and Pam Ann are fairly well-known in Australia (where she had her own TV show) and Europe, she is not all that famous in the United States outside of the gay community. She said she’s hoping this summer’s U.S. tour will change some of that.

“I’m building my brand and career here. It’s tough,” she said, noting that she recently got her green card and has been living in New York City since 2009.

Her ultimate goal here, she said, is to get a Pam Ann movie off the ground. She described it as a melding of Austin Powers, 1970s disaster films, Absolutely Fabulous and The Hangover.

She described the film’s first moments as a “scene out of my life.”

“It’s Pam Ann getting fucked by two black immigration officers in a hotel room,” she said.

Reid said she’s looking forward to her return to the Palm Springs area.

“To me, it’s where Pam Ann would have her headquarters,” she said. “I love the architecture. It’s so retro to me. Plus there’s that whole Sonny Bono connection.”

Of course, Pam Ann loves her gays (not that she really loves anyone). Reid said she’s always had a connection to gay men and transgendered people, for some reason. (She’s often mistaken herself for a man in drag, she said. Looking at Pam Ann’s outfits, this makes sense.)

“Palm Springs is one of the gayest places I’ve ever been,” she said. “But it’s a different gay. It’s older and wiser. You clink the crystal a little bit more. You’re puffing the cushions up a little bit more. I am seeing a lot of white linen.”

Of course, the McCallum Theatre is not in Palm Springs; it’s in Palm Desert, and is known for attracting a variety of audiences from around the Coachella Valley. (And a large variety, it is: Pollstar ranked the McCallum as the top theater in all of California, and 13th in the world, in terms of ticket sales during the first quarter of 2013.)

So will Pam Ann change her show at the McCallum—a theater known for a wide variety of shows, including Broadway musicals—to account for the fact that not all of her audience will be made of up of Palm Springs gays?

“I’m going to put some cats in it, and I’ll call it Pam Ann Cats,” Reid joked.

In other words, don’t count on it.

Pam Ann performs at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive in Palm Desert, at 8 p.m., Friday, May 10. Tickets are $45 to $65. For more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

What: The salsa (with chips, of course)

Where: Rincon Norteño, 83011 Indio Blvd., Indio

How much: Free with your meal

Contact: 760-347-4754; www.rinconnorteno.com

Why: Because it’s hot—and we ain’t talking about the spice.

It’s a Tuesday afternoon, well past my usual lunch time. Due to various meetings in Indio, I have not yet had a chance to eat, and I am freaking hungry.

I wander in to Rincon Norteño, and for some reason, the waitress who seats me thinks I am ordering to-go. When she comes to take my order, and I tell her that I am actually dining at the restaurant, she says “Ohhhh!” and immediately heads to … a soup warmer?

Yes. A soup warmer.

She ladles some of the contents into a bowl; grabs a bowl of chips off a nearby shelf (the chips are placed in bowls in advance; why, I have no idea); and delivers them to me.

I sniff the warm, tan-colored liquid in the small yellow bowl. It does not look all that appetizing, but I am ravenous, so I grab one of the thickish tortilla chips and dive in.

Mmmm.

Most salsas that are served around these parts, of course, are served chilled (or perhaps room-temperature), and feature tomatoes as one of the main ingredients. In this deliciously warm concoction, at least two different types of peppers (the server tells me) are instead the main attraction, with a lot of white onions backing them up. (As for the ingredients beyond the onions and the chiles? I have no idea. It’s a delicious mystery.)

While the salsa is heat-hot, it’s not all that spicy-hot—these are mellow peppers, with just a little bit of kick. The resulting salsa/sauce/gravy/soup is earthy, comforting and just plain yummy.

The combination plate I had was, frankly, pretty average. No matter; that warm salsa will keep me coming back to Rincon Norteño. It’s that good.

On the Ghostlight Trio Facebook page, the band is described as “Honky Tonk Roadhouse Dieselbilly.” If you’re curious about what, exactly, that means, head to Plan B Live Entertainment and Cocktails, 32025 Monterey Ave., Thousand Palms, at 8 p.m., Saturday, April 27, when you can catch the band in action. Trio member Mike Behrman also told us that the band just released an album of original songs that will be available on Amazon, Pandora and Spotify, as well as on CD. Want to know more? Visit www.ghostlighttrio.com, or track’ em down on Facebook. Behrman, 54, is a writer who lives in Joshua Tree, and he’s been in the area for 16 years. He was kind enough to take the time between his writing and his music to answer The Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

Bob Seger.

What was the first album you owned?

Meet the Beatles!

What bands are you listening to right now?

Buck Owens, Jimmie Vaughan, and Imelda May.

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

Death metal.

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

The Beatles

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Old blues and honky tonk.

What’s your favorite music venue?

The Joshua Tree Saloon.

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

“Now, now, my darlin’, can I have a little a talk with you?” from “Love Me Darlin’,” Howlin Wolf (and originally “May I Have a Talk With You,” B.B. King).

What band or artist changed your life? How?

The Fabulous Thunderbirds. I saw them live in a small club on my 21st birthday, stood in front of Jimmie Vaughan, and thought playing roots music was the coolest thing you could do!

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

John Lennon: “Got any songs you don’t want?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Rumble,” Link Wray.

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

Help!, The Beatles.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“The Girl Can't Help It,” Little Richard (while looking at a pic of Jane Mansfield). (Scroll down to hear it!)

What: The Bavarian meatloaf dip

Where: Pinocchio in the Desert, 134 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs

How much: $9.95

Contact: 760-322-3776; www.pinocchiops.com

Why: Because it’s different.

Pinocchio in the Desert is one of the valley’s most popular breakfast/brunch/lunch joints for many reasons, not the least of which is, frankly, the booze: Bottomless champagne for $3.95? Well drinks and martinis for $2.50? Before mid-afternoon?! Hell yeah.

Hey, the food’s pretty good, too. Among the standard-ish omelets and benedicts and sandwiches, you’ll find some creative, different gems, and we encourage you to find one in particular: the Bavarian meatloaf dip.

This sandwich is truly greater than the sum of its parts. There’s some sauerkraut, as well as some grilled onions. There’s melted white cheese. There’s a grilled French roll. On the side is some creamed horseradish (use it) and some au jus (skip it).

And the meat? Well, it’s “super fine meatloaf from veal and pork,” and it is indeed super fine, even if it has the consistency of a thick piece of mortadella, or, God help us all, Spam. But Spam never tasted this good. Trust us.

Put all of those ingredients together (except for the au jus), and you have one fantastic sandwich, a melding of tastes that all stand up to and complement each other: meaty, spicy, sour, creamy, etc. Yum.

So, go. Be prepared for a wait if it’s a Saturday or a Sunday; just chill by the rainbow-flag-draped Marilyn Monroe statue, and be patient. Cheap drinks and tasty fare await—and the Bavarian meatloaf dip may be the fairest fare of all.

Meet Chris Hoggatt. He’s a 20-year-old student at the College of the Desert and a graduate of Palm Desert High School who works at the Yard House.

Oh, and one more thing about Hoggatt: He’s a hip-hop dancer.

Hoggatt will be making his big-stage debut alongside 21 other individuals and groups this week as part of Open Call, the McCallum Theatre’s annual talent project. This is the 15th year for Open Call, which is part of the McCallum’s education and outreach program.

Kajsa Thuresson-Frary, the director of education at the McCallum, has been a part of Open Call since the beginning. She says that Open Call started as part of an effort by the McCallum to live up to a then-new slogan—“It’s your theatre”—as the organization emerged from tough times in the late 1990s.

“It’s an effort to closely work with the local community to create a community event,” she says.

Here’s how it works: In the fall, non-professional members of the community (within 45 miles of the theater) who are least 8 years old are invited to send in a CD or DVD of themselves performing—dancing, singing or doing anything else that would work on a stage. The McCallum folks call in the performers with the most talent and/or potential for in-person auditions. The judges then select the finalists, who must commit to six straight days of mandatory rehearsals under the direction of professionals, as well as four open-to-the-public shows over three days at the McCallum. While there’s no fee to enter the contest, finalists receive a stipend and compete for three prizes: a $2,500 grand prize; a $750 second-place prize; and a $750 audience choice award.

Hoggatt says he’s been dancing all his life, and joined a dance company—he can’t remember the name of it—when he was 8 years old. (The company, interestingly enough, performed at the McCallum, Hoggatt says.) However, Hoggatt then put dance aside for sports, before getting involved in “dance battles” while he was in middle school. In high school, he performed at assemblies as part of Palm Desert High’s Hip-Hop Club (yes, the school really does have a Hip-Hop Club), and performed at the COD Live show last spring.

It was the College of the Desert show and an increasing interest in theater, he says, that led him to take dancing more seriously, and to look at it as a possible profession. That’s why he decided to send in an audition DVD for Open Call last fall.

“It was a real chance to test myself and challenge myself,” he says.

This is actually Hoggatt’s second brush with Open Call fame. He says he sent in a video during his freshman year of high school, and was asked to come in for a live audition—but got sick and could not go.

So why did he wait five years to try out again? He says he lost confidence in his abilities; he started watching shows like America’s Best Dance Crew, and thought: “I can’t do what these guys do.”

“I was sitting there, and I didn’t know if I wanted to try out again,” Hoggatt says.

Hoggatt says the Open Call experience has been rewarding—especially the chance to work with choreographer Jennifer Backhaus, the founder of Orange County’s Backhausdance contemporary dance company. He says Backhaus has been very helpful in pointing him toward studios and other ways to help him go beyond his current, largely self-taught dance methods.

Joana CiurashAnother finalist, opera singer Joana Ciurash, 50—who, by day, is an associate professor of chemistry at College of the Desert—took a different path to Open Call. She was born in Romania and came to the United States 27 years ago. Her mother was an opera singer.

“I was never interested in singing,” Ciurash says. Instead, she was interested in dancing, and wanted to become a ballerina.

“Unfortunately, I wasn’t good,” she laughs.

Around the age of 40, she started singing in church choirs, and while she earned her master’s degree at Cal State Northridge, she took an opera workshop—not for singing purposes, but to help her overcome her fear of speaking in front of a crowd.

When she got her job at College of the Desert about seven years ago, she took an opera class there, and kept getting the lead singing role in the class productions. (Look for videos of her singing in La Boheme on YouTube.)

It turns out she inherited some talent from her mother.

“My mom came to a performance, and she was shocked,” Ciurash says.

Those opera-class shows (sadly, Ciurash says, the class was a casualty of budget cuts) were followed by several other performances—she sang at a benefit concert a colleague organized following the devastating 2010 Haiti earthquake, and she performed at her own recital at COD.

She credits her friends for nudging her into trying out for Open Call.

“Many of my friends, they want to hear me sing again, and want me to take any opportunity to get exposed more,” she says. “I thought it was a good opportunity to send in my tape.”

At the Open Call, each of the performers/groups does an individual number; then, for the finale, all of the performers come together onstage—where everyone sings, and everyone dances, regardless of whether one is a singer, a dancer, a ventriloquist or something else.

Both Hoggatt and Ciurash cited the finale as one of the biggest challenges.

“An opera singer usually just (stands) on the stage,” Ciurash says. “I mean, they do acting … but they don’t dance. And for me, all the moves I have to do (in the finale) … oh my gosh. I told them to put me in the back.”

The Open Call shows take place at 7 p.m., Thursday and Friday, April 18 and 19; and 2 and 7 p.m., Saturday, April 20, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. A limited number of tickets remain; the shows will sell out. Tickets are $7 to $55. For more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.

What: The bacon, tomato, fontina and basil panino

Where: Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café, 72990 El Paseo, Palm Desert

How much: $10

Contact info: 760-834-8814; www.clementineshop.com

Why: The pickles brighten things up nicely.

For the first couple of bites, it was simply a sandwich—a tasty sandwich made with great ingredients, yes, but still just a sandwich—that was pricey and on the small side.

And what was on the plate alongside said sandwich, frankly, wasn’t looking too great. The potato chips were unremarkable, and the vegetables, as you can see above, looked … well, past their prime, to say the least.

But then something possessed me to take a bite of one of those carrots … and I felt really, really stupid. I should have known better.

Turns out those pieces of carrot and broccoli were pickles—tart, vinegary pickles. And it turns out that those pickles served as a palate-cleanser, of sorts, that helped make subsequent bites of that sandwich sing.

Before a pickle, a bite of the sandwich was good, but dominated by bacon, with the other flavors well in the background. After a bite of pickle, the pesto jumped front and center, with the basil bright and floral. The fontina’s sweetness also came forward, and the bacon moved from being the only star to being one of the three ingredients on the sandwich marquee.

This visit to Clementine was my first, and it sure won’t be my last. The café part offers breakfast, lunch and dinner, and the gourmet-marketplace part offers all sorts of goodies, including a pasta bar, refrigerated foods (the soups got my attention), a deli and a patisserie that’ll add a half-inch to your waistline just by looking at it.

Who could have known that among all these great foods, some rough-looking pickles would be so important?