CVIndependent

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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

To readers of the Coachella Valley Independent, the big “iSun Investigation” that ran in the March 3 Desert Sun was not really news at all. 

On Feb. 15, the Independent, in a piece by Saxon Burns, reported that Coachella Valley taxpayers will be on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars due to questionable bond-issuance decisions by leaders at two area school districts. 

Here’s a selection from that piece, headlined “Generations of Valley Taxpayers on the Hook for Hundreds of Millions After School Districts Issue 'Irresponsible' Bonds”:

When it comes to government these days, maybe, to quote an old Cole Porter song, "anything goes."

Two area school districts, Coachella Valley Unified (the east valley district that runs public schools in Indio, Coachella and points east) and Desert Community College (aka College of the Desert), are among the hundreds in California that have used financing known as capital appreciation bonds, or CABs, to fund construction projects.

These bonds differ from more-traditional cousins in that payments can be put off for years—sometimes decades—allowing districts to save face by not raising property taxes, at least in the short term.

However, interest compounds during those years, and when the bill comes due, many districts—and, therefore, taxpayers within those districts—will be socked with explosive costs. …

Warning bells were raised last year when the Voice of San Diego website, assisted by retired journalist Joel Thurtell, reported that Poway Unified School District would be shelling out a cool billion over 40 years for $105 million in borrowing to renovate buildings. This set off a flurry of coverage from The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times (which published a database of the state treasurer's figures on CABs) and other news outlets.

The fact that things aren't quite Poway bad for our local cases might come as cold comfort. In 2010 and 2012, Coachella Valley Unified School District issued CABs worth slightly more than $35 million. Repayment will set the district back $186.3 million over more than 30 years. …

The Desert Community College District, which serves the College of the Desert, issued nearly $96 million in CABs in 2007, with repayment totaling just north of $430 million over 38.6 years.

Some 16 days later, here are the first two graphs from the piece in The Desert Sun:

A Coachella Valley community college and public school district have engaged in a bond strategy that will cost them hundreds of millions of dollars more than they borrowed by the time the debt is paid off in more than 30 years.

In recent years, both the College of the Desert and the Coachella Valley Unified School District have issued capital appreciation bonds as portions of larger voter-approved borrowing plans. The college and school district used the borrowed money to build new facilities, but the resulting debt — and its escalating interest rates — will linger long after the buildings lose their shine.

The Desert Sun piece, by Brett Kelman, goes on to basically report what the Independent reported, although he did add some nice bits of detail (for example, Kelman broke down what the College of the Desert’s interest payments are slated to be, whereas we didn’t).

He also made one fairly significant mistake: He incorrectly credited nonprofit news orgs The Bay Citizen and California Watch for “uncover(ing)” the story.

While California Watch and The Bay Citizen have indeed done a bang-up job of covering the capital appreciation bond issue, giving them credit for having “uncovered” the story is just plain wrong.

Here’s the anatomy of how this story came to be—first in the Independent, and then in The Desert Sun:

• As we mention above, retired journalist/current blogger Joel Thurtell (translation: unpaid journalist) started covering the financial debacle that is capital appreciation bonds way back in May 2012. While his context was a specific school district, as also mentioned above, he did ring a warning bell about these bonds throughout the state. On May 1, 2012, he wrote: “Let’s hope the California Legislature scraps this abomination. In Michigan 19 years ago, we found that CABs are good only for the handful of bond underwriters, bond attorneys and financial advisers who promote them to enrich themselves at public expense.” 

• On Aug. 6, 2012, news website Voice of San Diego did a piece focusing on Poway. This led to some national attention, from CNBC and other outlets. (It should be noted that Thurtell was apparently upset with Voice of San Diego for not crediting him; VOSD did a piece on that matter, as well as the national attention, here.)

You’ll note that VOSD editor Andrew Donohue writes: “There’s been no concerted effort to act like we were the pioneers. Nor do I believe we have claimed that the information contained within it came to light only as a result of our investigation.”

In other words, VOSD presumably didn’t run the piece under a silly tag like “iSun Investigation.”

• On Aug. 22, California Watch’s Erica Perez did a story noting the coverage of both Thurtell and VOSD. In it, she started expanding the scope of the matter beyond Poway, pointing out the obscene payback amounts some other community college districts were facing in California. 

• On Nov. 29, the Los Angeles Times did a piece on the bonds, presenting them as a true statewide problem. Most valuably, the Times—using data from the state Treasurer’s Office—also published an online database of districts in the state that had issued capital appreciation bonds. 

(Interestingly enough, the Times wound up running a correction on the piece: They initially credited VOSD, without crediting Thurtell, for breaking the news on Poway. Props to them for later amending the piece to credit Thurtell.)

• The Times piece—and the database, especially—led to all sorts of coverage, including localized coverage. In Northern California’s Humboldt County, for example, my friend Hank Sims, of online news source the Lost Coast Outpost, did a story discussing that county’s school districts which had issued capital appreciation bonds. A heads-up from Hank is how I first learned about the Times database, and therefore the Coachella Valley angle.

(Side note: The daily in Eureka, Calif., credited the Lost Coast Outpost for first publishing the information locally—something the folks at The Desert Sun felt no need to do.) 

California Watch did more, expanded coverage (some of which was used in The Desert Sun piece); The New York Times did a piece on the bonds in California.

With the Coachella Valley Independent fully up and running after the first of the year, I asked Saxon to look into the Coachella Valley angle after Hank’s tip. That’s how, to my knowledge, we became the first valley publication to report on the matter.

I am very happy The Desert Sun did their piece; this is an important story that Coachella Valley taxpayers need to know about. But to call this as an “investigation” without properly crediting the journalists who really exposed this matter—especially Joel Thurtell—is wrong, plain and simple.

This Saturday, several hundred folks will descend upon the Sand Acre Estate, and they’ll all have one thing in common: They’ll all be wearing red dresses.

Yep. All of them.

Tickets to the second-annual party, which benefits the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, are $85, or $75 for center members. It takes place from 7 to 10 p.m., Saturday, March 2, at the Sand Acre Estate, 953 N. Avenida Palmas, in Palm Springs. For tickets or more information, call 416-7790, or visit thecenterps.org.

The Independent recently spoke with Shann Carr, the center’s volunteer coordinator (full disclosure: Shann is a friend), and learned five things worth knowing about the Red Dress Party.

1. OK, about the dresses: This event is not about drag queens; it’s for everybody. In the past, Carr says, some folks have expressed reservations about attending, because getting all gussied up in dresses is not something they do. And that’s the point, Carr says. “Ninety-seven percent of the men and women who come would never wear a dress. That’s what gives it a ridiculous, fun feeling.” The result is a non-stuffy cocktail party that benefits a fine cause. “There’s no dinner; there are no political speeches,” she says; in fact, the only real speaker will be a volunteer at the center who’s the mother of a gay kid.

2. There’s help for men or women out there who want to go, but are clueless about makeup, hair, etc. It just so happens that the center’s next-door neighbor (both are located at 611 S. Palm Canyon Drive) is the Champion Institute of Cosmetology, and from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, Champion’s students (supervised, of course) will be available to help for an affordable fee. Call 322-2227 to make an appointment.

3. The red is for a reason. Center representatives have recently been visiting area schools with an anti-bullying campaign, and the red dresses represent solidarity with anyone who has ever been humiliated or bullied—and hence left red-faced.

4. The venue is kind of awesome. The Sand Acre Estate was reportedly Marilyn Monroe’s favorite Palm Springs hangout back in the day—and it’s an utterly gorgeous place for a party, Carr says.

5. The emcee is also kind of awesome. Michael Holmes will be one of the few dudes present who is comfortable wearing a dress. He’s known for playing Judy Garland in his The Judy Show, a parody of the parties Garland used to host at her home in the ’60s. “He’s beautiful; he’s smart; he’s talented,” promises Carr. His main job as emcee will be to run the contest at the party: Guests will be honored in the categories of Sexiest Dress; Best Marilyn; Best Team Effort; Most Outrageous; and Best Couture (whatever that means).

In any case, Carr encourages attendance by everyone who wants to enjoy a fun, non-pretentious three-hour cocktail party—while helping out a great cause.

And to repeat, it’s not about drag queens.

“It’s about people who never do drag; they’re doing it for charity,” Carr says.

It’s time for funk! Israel “Izroc” Andrade, 37, brings said funk as the lead guitarist for the What the Funk Hip-Funk All-Stars. The Indio native and current Cathedral City resident spends his days as the director of operations for an audiovisual company. This Saturday night, March 2, Andrade and the rest of What the Funk will join DJ Paul Z, DJ J Sizzle, Wyte Gye, DJ Guy Worden, Boycott Radio and DJ Crux with MC Manny G at The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., in Indio. Admission to the “Rock the Funk” show, which runs from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., is $5; a portion of the receipts will go to families of local law-enforcement officers who have been killed in the line of duty. For more information on What the Funk, track the band down on Facebook or Reverbnation; for more info on the show, visit www.dateshedmusic.com.

What was the first concert you attended?

Megadeth, seventh grade, a small show in Riverside. My uncle took me.

What was the first album you owned?

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles, age 6.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I listen to a lot of stuff, right now I'm into Die Antwoord. Crazy African rap group.

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

I can pretty much get down to anything except country.

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

The Red Hot Chili Peppers.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

’70's yacht rock … shhhhhh!

What’s your favorite music venue?

The old Blockbuster Pavilion in San Bernardino. Locally, though, the Tack Room Tavern.

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

“Shine bright … like … a … diamond” (from Rihanna, “Diamonds”). Thanks; now it’s in my head again.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Sublime. There’s something about Bradley Nowell’s lyrics and delivery. And the eclectic style; it definitely changed my life. It’s just pure emotion.

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

Jimi Hendrix: "How do you do it?"

What song would you like played at your funeral?

Jimi Hendrix, “If Six Was Nine.”

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

It’s a toss-up between Jimi Hendrix, Axis: Bold as Love, and the Beatles, Abbey Road. Hmmmm. Abbey Road’s “Oh! Darling!” is the song of my wife and me!

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Mamacita” from What the Funk ... ha ha. Shameless plug. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Watching the birth a brand-new publication has been one of the weirdest, yet coolest experiences of my life.

It’s been one fascinating trip after another. Fighting with the website’s template during the build. Explaining to people, or trying to explain to people, what the Independent is. (“It’s like an alternative newsweekly, but it’s updated daily, and it’s online-only—except for the quarterly we’re printing, starting the first week of April, and we’ll probably increase print frequency later … oh, hell, just go read our mission statement.”) Watching the unique visitors go from single-digits per day to double, and to triple, with four digits just around the corner.

It’s been frustrating and awesome and bizarre and rewarding.

Now that the Independent has a fair number of actual readers (including you, and I thank you for that), we’ve started to get that most vexing of all things to an editor: reader feedback.

One on hand, reader feedback is the most important thing to an editor. We do what we do for our readers, and if our readers aren’t responding, then how in the hell do we know people are reading?

On the other hand, a lot of (but certainly not all) reader feedback is … well, inane at best, and horrifying at worst.

If you’ve ever perused the comments on a large newspaper website, you know what I am talking about. Ignorance! Racism! Name-calling! It’s all there!

Anyway, I wanted to take some time to address two bits of reader feedback we’ve received in recent weeks.

So, the poorest school district in the desert and our only community college found ways to educate the most underserved in the desert … and your point is? Students at (Coachella Valley Unified School District) need help. (College of the Desert)? Guess what, it's the only way a lot of locals can get training and education while staying in the desert. I don't see your point. Biased reporting, too. After all, isn't there another side to these bonds? As in, what are they being used for? Oh, that's right. Construction of new campuses, offering more opportunities for locals. But I can see why you'd leave that out—after all, it wouldn't fit your sensational agenda here.

Krystal Herrera, on "Taxpayers on the Hook for Hundreds of Millions After School Districts Issue ‘Irresponsible’ Bonds”

I appreciate this comment from Krystal (despite her misplaced barbs), even though … well, it shows that she misses the point of Saxon Burns’ story, which we posted on Feb. 15.

I think it’s splendid that our community is investing in schools. Krystal’s right when she says College of the Desert is the best way for locals to get an education without leaving the Coachella Valley. And she’s right when she says students at the Coachella Valley Unified School District need help.

So the issue is not that these school districts issued bonds to bring them much-needed money for much-need construction projects. The issue is the fact that the way in which these schools issued these bonds is literally going to cost us taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars more than needed.

College of the Desert and CVUSD could have issued more-traditional bonds and gotten the same amount of money upfront. The problem is, the districts (and, therefore, the taxpayers within those districts) then would have started paying that money back right away. That could have meant tough choices for school administrators if the economy did not continue improving.

Instead, these administrators sold capital appreciation bonds—a type of bond that does not need to be repaid right away. But in exchange for that flexibility, more money—a lot more money—needs to be paid back, over a longer period of time. It’s like buying something with a credit card with zero interest at first—and a ridiculously high interest rate down the line.

In this case, College of the Desert and CVUSD used that credit card knowing that they weren’t going to be making those payments until the ridiculous interest rate kicked in. And we taxpayers are the ones who are getting screwed in the process.

As I said, I really appreciated Krystal’s comment. On the flip side, there’s … this, presented here unedited, which recently appeared in my email inbox with the subject line “CV INDEPENDANT”:

Dear Sir(s);

With great enthusiasm I welcome you to the most media cluttered place on the planet. For a valley of around 300K, there now seems to be a publisher for every 100 residents. I live in LA and I have property in the CV. We have about half of the publiishers here that the CV has.

Oh, and by the way, love your line about 'indepedent journalism', free of the influence from our advertisers. I have a lifetime in publishing and, if you haven't already experienced it, having your biggest advertiser quit because of something you published is the most embarrassing and company-killing thing I can think of. You don't have any advertisers...so, either you will alienate your advertisers or you are independently wealthy and don't need them. Nice line, but complete bullshit.

Let me tell you a cool little story. When I was a young advertising representative I walked into a local car dealership and asked for ads. The GM looked at me and said, 'You know young man, I see or talk to about 50 of you guys a week. If all you publishers and ad people were buying customers, I wouldn't be in the sad shape that I am in.'

Good luck!

Ben Dover

Remember what I said above about “inane at best, and horrifying at worst”?

This is in response to the Independent’s mission statement, which, in part, reads: “We believe in true, honest journalism: We want to afflict the comfortable, and comfort the afflicted. We want to be a mirror for the entire Coachella Valley. We want to inform, enlighten and entertain. We will never let advertisers determine what we cover, and how we cover things. In other words, we will always tell it how we see it.”

Well, apparently, Mr. “Dover” took umbrage with said statement. And he's about 100k short on the number of people here. Anyway, here’s my response to him:

“I appreciate you reading the Independent, and encourage you to keep doing so. As for the line about independent journalism, Google me, or ask around Tucson journalism circles, or ask around alternative journalism circles, and you'll find that I practice what I preach.

“I hope the Independent's brand of journalism and ethics can heal your cynicism a bit, too. :)”

So, there you go. Keep the feedback coming, folks; we’ll run that feedback, sometimes with responses, periodically in our Opinion section. And, as always, thanks for reading the Coachella Valley Independent.

If you walk by Allan Havey on the street, chances are he’ll look familiar—but you won’t know why he looks familiar.

Here’s why: Over his long and varied career, he’s been in a TV show, in a movie or on a talk show (or three) you’ve seen.

He played himself on Louie C.K.’s groundbreaking show Louie. He was on an episode of Up All Night last year. He encountered Kramer on an episode of Seinfeld, and threatened to kick Larry David’s ass for throwing something in his trash can on Curb Your Enthusiasm. He had a non-trivial role as an FBI agent who convinced Matt Damon’s Mark Whitacre to wear a wire in the 2009 film The Informant!

You may have also seen him on Letterman, or in Will Smith’s Hancock, or as a commentator on Countdown With Keith Olbermann, or even hosting his own show, Night After Night With Allan Havey, for three years on the cable channel that would later become Comedy Central.

But despite all these varied (and undeniably cool) roles, Havey says his favorite thing to do, career-wise, has always been standup comedy.

“I really like performing live,” says Havey, who will be bringing his brand of personal, observational comedy to The Improv at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino tonight (Friday, Feb. 22) and tomorrow (Saturday, Feb. 23). “I enjoy the ease. I mean, it’s not easy, but it’s uncomplicated. I don’t have to depend on anyone else.”

The St. Louis native says he always wanted to be in show business, and went to Miami-Dade Community College to learn about acting. He says his first-ever acting role came in a musical version of Frankenstein at the college.

“I went to all Catholic, white schools growing up,” he says. “At college in Miami, the diversity was amazing.”

While Havey cites comedy as his primary love, he says he’s always tried to keep his time on the club circuit down to 12 to 15 weeks per year. For example, after this weekend’s shows at Fantasy Springs, he’ll be off for a month before his next show, at The Improv at Harrah’s Las Vegas, according to his website.

“I make less money, but I am able to audition for parts, and work on my act, and enjoy life,” he says.

He also says that these days, it’s tougher for an established-but-not-big-name comedian to get good club gigs.

“No matter who good you are, there are always younger comedians,” says Havey, 58. “And club owners—not all club owners—say, ‘Why should I pay this guy three grand when I can pay a kid $1,250?, and get the same crowd?' But the shows aren’t as good.”

Havey says he’s played Fantasy Springs before, and that he’s always enjoyed the audience there.

“It’s a great crowd,” he says. “It’s a good mix of people. Any time you’re in a casino, you get a good mix of people. There are young, old—it’s a good demographic.”

When Havey is asked what the audience can expect from him this weekend, he declines to offer any “sneak previews.”

“You’re gonna laugh,” he says. “It’s a good show.”

Allan Havey performs with Brant von Hoffman and Dylan Mandlsohn at The Improv Comedy Club at Fantasy Springs, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway in Indio, on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22 and 23. Shows at The Improv take place every Friday at 9 p.m.; and Saturday at 8 and 10 p.m., through Saturday, April 13. Tickets are $20. For tickets and a complete schedule of upcoming shows, visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com, or call (800) 827-2946.

A traveling replica of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall has arrived in the Coachella Valley, and is on display at the Palm Springs Air Museum through the weekend.

The wall is a project of American Veterans Traveling Tribute (AVTT), and is a traveling replica—with all of the names—at 80 percent of the original's size. It's some 360 feet long.

The wall is on display on the tarmac of the Palm Springs Air Museum through Sunday, Feb. 24. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Friday; 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday (with a special ceremony and program at 1 p.m.); and 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Sunday.

Vietnam War veterans are admitted for free. Otherwise, on Friday and Saturday, viewing of the wall is included with regular admission fees: $15; $13 for seniors 65 and older, retired military members and kids age 13 to 17; and $8 for children ages 6 to 12.

On Sunday, admission is $20 and includes a hot barbecue lunch; Vietnam veterans pay only for the lunch.

For more information, call 778-6262, or visit palmspringsairmuseum.org.

Scroll down to see photos the Independent took of the wall earlier today.

Friday, 22 February 2013 15:00

The Indy Endorsement: The Pork Ramen at Jiao

What: The ramen with pork belly

Where: Jiao, 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, No. B-10, Palm Springs

How much: A downright reasonable $10

Contact info: 321-1424; www.jiaops.com

Why: The flavors are a perfect mix.

It was an in-season Friday night, and we were wandering around the north part of downtown Palm Springs. We had no reservations anywhere—and as hunger started to set in, that lack of reservations became a problem.

There was an hour wait at Jake's. Double that at Birba. So we crossed Palm Canyon Drive and decided to check out Jiao. We're very happy that we did.

Jiao has not quite been around for a year yet; it was opened last spring by the same folks who own Cheeky's and the aforementioned Birba. While it does not draw the freaking-insane-sized crowds that its sister restaurants do, Jiao seems to do a nice business, and we were happy to immediately get seats at the counter. Like I said, we were hungry.

We sampled dishes from all over the reasonably priced pan-Asian menu (which changes every week, if the Jiao Facebook page to be believed), but one stood out: the ramen with pork belly.

Here's how good the pork ramen was: Despite some flaws, the dish was still amazing. Ramen noodles in a delicious broth were topped with perfectly prepared pork belly, greens and a sliced-in-half hard-boiled egg. Simple, but splendid. Every bite in which I could get all of the ingredients was pure heaven.

That leads to the aforementioned flaws: It was almost impossible to get all of those ingredients together in one bite. There is not enough of the earthy, salty (in a good way) broth—it goes fast—and the large pork-belly slices get devoured too quickly unless one cuts them up with a knife. 

But those bites where everything does come together? Perfection.

The next time I am at Jiao, I will order this dish with extra broth and a steak knife (that is, if the dish is on the ever-changing menu that week). I recommend you do the same.

Friday, 15 February 2013 12:00

The Lucky 13: Kymm Galvan of Alyce Bowie!

Kymm Galvan is the lead vocalist for Alyce Bowie and classic-rock band Two Twelve. The Pueblo, Colo., native has called the valley home for more than two decades, and currently lives in Bermuda Dunes. When she’s not rocking on a stage near you, you can find her working at Acqua Pazza. Speaking of Galvan rocking on a stage near you: Alyce Bowie will be taking its mix of classic rock, Southern rock, blues and originals to Indio and the Tack Room Tavern, 81900 Avenue 51, on Friday, Feb. 15 at 9 p.m. For more information on the band, visit www.alycebowie.com; for more on the Tack Room, check out www.facebook.com/tackroomtavern.

What was the first concert you attended?

Kiss!!!

What was the first album you owned?

Kiss, Destroyer.

What bands are you listening to right now?

Hotcakes by The Darkness, and any Angel album.

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

Crappy white-girl hip-hop bands

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

Led Zeppelin with Jason Bonham

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Indian techno house music: “Ja Sha Taan” by Fun-Da-Mental.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Coach House (in San Juan Capistrano).

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

The rant in the middle of the uncut version of “Down With the Sickness” by Disturbed. (It’s too vulgar to repeat.)

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Angel. Frank DiMino’s vocals are legendary.

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

John Lennon. Did he ever think that someday, he would become so significant to the world that he would be assassinated?

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Live On” by Kenny Wayne Shepherd.

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

Super-tough call, but I would have to say One Way Ticket to Hell … and Back, The Darkness.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“The King Is Dead, but the Queen Is Alive,” Pink. My mantra. (Scroll down to hear it!)

Being a brand-new startup sometimes has its advantages. Just ask the folks at the Desert Rose Playhouse.

The next play on the boards for the LGBT and gay-friendly company—British playwright Joe Orton’s controversial (during its debut in 1964, at least) Entertaining Mr. Sloane—was originally slated to open this week. But the play wasn’t quite ready, so artistic director Jim Strait and managing director Paul Taylor decided to push the opening back a week. Then came a last-minute casting change, so Strait and Taylor decided to delay the opening yet another week: The show is now scheduled to debut on Friday, March 1.

“We’re determined not to put up a show unless it’s up to a certain standard,” Strait says.

Of course, an established company could never do what the Desert Rose has done—at least not without upsetting season-ticket holders and sponsors.

“We have no subscribers,” Strait says. “So our schedule is our own.”

That flexibility allowed the Desert Rose’s inaugural show, Dirty Little Showtunes—a gay-themed musical revue/comedy that debuted in San Francisco and features … well, dirty little showtunes—to enjoy a nearly unprecedented run.

“It opened on July 21, and we were going to do four shows per week for seven weeks,” Strait explains. “Well, people kept coming to it.”

So Desert Rose kept extending the play. It finally closed as 2012 closed, after an amazing 24-week run.

“It kept going,” Strait says. “It wasn’t always profitable, but it was always fun.”

After a recently concluded four-week run of Stephen Sondheim’s Marry Me a Little will come Entertaining Mr. Sloane.

“It’s a very early gay play,” says Strait. “Joe Orton was of the bad boys of British theater. He only wrote five plays before his lover killed him with a hammer. … Audiences in the West End were just aghast (at the play).”

The play focuses on a middle-aged woman named Kath, who takes in a young man named Mr. Sloane. Kath’s father immediately dislikes Sloane; meanwhile, Kath begins to take a sexual interest in Sloane. And so does her brother, Ed.

Strait compares the piece to “Britcoms” like Are You Being Served? and Keeping Up Appearances.

“It’s not Ozzie and Harriet,” he says while emphasizing that the play is not that dirty, and is appropriate for all audiences.

Ryan Dominguez, who performed in Desert Rose’s Dirty Little Showtunes, recently joined the cast as Mr. Sloane. Valorie Armstrong plays Kath, and Hal O’Connell plays Ed. Another Showtunes performer, Terry Huber, plays the father of Ed and Kath.

Strait concedes that the play is not the easiest show to produce. It features a fair amount of unfamiliar British slang. And then there’s the play’s length.

“It’s a three-act play, with two intermissions,” he says. “It’s a serious evening of theater.”

After the abbreviated nine-show run, the Desert Rose will produce The Boys in the Band, before concluding the company’s first season with a yet-to-be-determined show.

It’s been an up-and-down journey for the Desert Rose, which was founded by Strait and Taylor—two theater veterans—in 2010 in an effort to fill the void after another LGBT company, the Thorny Theatre, closed. They started raising money, and planned on taking over a Cathedral City building as the Desert Rose’s home. However, the election and the competition for charity dollars with other local causes led to a slowdown in donations; meanwhile, code changes meant the building they wanted was in need of more bathrooms.

Therefore, Strait and Taylor switched courses and found The Commissary in Rancho Mirage, and rented it out last year. They moved in to the spot in May, and converted it into a showroom. Then came their Desert Rose’s first full show, Dirty Little Showtunes, and the rest, as they say, is history.

While Strait and Taylor are still seeking donations, and keeping their eyes open for a permanent home for Desert Rose, Strait says they’re happy to be focusing on theater.

“This is pretty much a grassroots kind of thing,” he says. “It’s really quite charming.”

The Desert Rose Playhouse will perform Entertaining Mr. Sloane, barring any further schedule changes, at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, March 1, through Sunday, March 17. Tickets are $25, and shows take place at The Commissary, 69620 Highway 111 in Rancho Mirage. For tickets or more information, call 202-3000, or visit www.desertroseplayhouse.org.

What: The carne asada tacos

Where: Casa Blanca Restaurant, 35850 Date Palm Drive, Suite A, Cathedral City; 66370 Pierson Blvd., Desert Hot Springs

How much: $7.49 (for three, with rice and beans) as a weekday lunch special; $1.99 a la carte; available in other special combos

Contact info: 328-2150 (Cathedral City); 251-5922 (Desert Hot Springs); www.casablancamenu.com

Why: The little pieces of steak are perfectly seasoned and prepared.

I've driven past the Casa Blanca Restaurant in Cathedral City many dozens of times (a good friend lives just around the corner), but I never stopped in—until recently.

Boy, have I been missing out.

I was in the area on business during the noon hour, and hunger was a-callin', so I decided to stop in for a quick bite. Other than one other occupied table, I had the restaurant to myself. Since I'd never been to Casa Blanca before, I asked the server what she recommended. She said that everything is good (don't they always say that?), and she recommended one of the weekday lunch specials. So, I picked the No. 1: three soft tacos with any available meat (I chose carne asada), plus rice and beans, for $7.49.

I somewhat sated my hunger by chowing down on the chips and salsa, but soon enough, the tacos you see above arrived at my table. They were pure simplicity—just tortilla, steak, white onion and cilantro. I added a bit of the tasty-but-could-be-spicier salsa to one taco, picked it up and bit in.

Yum.

Having lived in Southern Arizona for a decade, and having a love for good Mexican food, I have sampled many carne asada tacos in my time—and these are among the best I've ever had. The key is in the steak: It was seasoned perfectly, with the seasonings complementing the meat, not overwhelming it. Further, the little pieces were just the right size—small enough to pick up a lot of char, but big enough to retain inner softness and juiciness, without any extreme chewiness.

How's the rest of the food at Casa Blanca (which, in addition to the Cathedral City location, has its original location in Desert Hot Springs)? I can't tell you. And I won't be able to tell you after my next visit, either, because I am ordering these tacos again.