CVIndependent

Tue07142020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Happy (?) July, all. The news of the day:

The reopening process is moving further backward: Gov. Gavin Newsom today announced that restaurants, movie theaters, family-entertainment centers and other businesses in much of the state—including Riverside County—must shutter all indoor operations for at least three weeks. Bars must completely shut down, and parking lots at state beaches will close for the weekend.

• The governor is also imploring people NOT to have personal gatherings—and threatening to withhold some state funding from counties that disregard the state’s mandates and requests.

He also took a veiled swipe at casinos. The state does not have regulatory power over them, but he said the state is “in deep conversations and will be making public the fruits of those efforts to at least get a rationale of understanding between partners in our sovereign nations and the state of California.”

• The city of Palm Springs is tightening up the mask mandate, making them mandatory when someone is near any business or in any business district; at restaurants when servers or other employees are near a table; and while working out in gyms.

• While the state is rolling back the reopening process, it’s also no longer funding new testing sites, and is closing underutilized sites, according to the Los Angeles Times. What the hell, California?

Apple is temporarily closing another 30 stores, including a bunch in the L.A. area—but for now, the Palm Desert location is remaining open.

• News that a small trial study of one vaccine candidate yielded promising results got the stock market all excited this morning.

CNN took a look at the mess in Imperial County, where Americans who live in Mexico are crossing back over the border for COVID-19 care—and overwhelming the small county’s medical system.

• It’s official: The European Union is allowing travel again—but those of us from the U.S. aren’t allowed in.

• The coronavirus situation has gotten so dire at San Quentin State Prison—more than 1,100 inmates have the virus—that about 20 prisoners have gone on a hunger strike, according to The Appeal.

The virus is spreading among detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, too.

Along other guidelines, the FDA says a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine will need to be at least 50 percent more effective than a placebo in order to be approved for use.

A study at Stanford University is looking into the possibility that Apple Watches, Fitbits and other wearable technology could let people know that they may have the coronavirus before they start to feel sick.

• The Conversation looks at what went wrong in Texas—and what needs to happen for that state to get out of its current COVID-19 spike.

• The Seattle Times reports on yet more evidence that the widespread Black Lives Matter protests have NOT led to spikes in the diseaseoffering pretty convincing evidence that the disease does not spread well among people who are outside and wearing face coverings.

• One of the biggest mysteries of this damn virus: Most people don’t seem to spread it—but a select few REALLY spread it. The New York Times talks to experts who are trying to solve this mystery.

Autopsies are helping scientists better understand the damage being done by COVID-19—and that’s helping doctors and researchers develop better treatments.

• The fight between insurers and pissed-off business owners who want business-interruption payments are heading to the courts. The Wall Street Journal looks at hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed—and explains why some business owners may have precedents on their side.

United Airlines thinks people are in the mood to travel again—and as a result, it’s adding hundreds of flights to its August schedule.

I did not predict this side effect of the pandemic: Pissed-off otters are biting people.

• OK, now for some good news: The Palm Springs Cultural Center is launching a drive-in movie series—and kicking it off with free showings of Hamilton this weekend.

• One activity that’s free and will always be open: skywatching. Independent astronomy columnist Robert Victor explains what the heavens have in store for us this month.

Finally, we all have something to live for: New episodes of Beavis and Butt-head are coming.

That’s the news of the day. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. Become a Supporter of the Independent, please, if you have the funds and you value what we do. The Daily Digest will return on Friday.

Published in Daily Digest

I have a slight bone to pick with Dr. Cameron Kaiser.

I say “slight,” because overall, the public health officer for Riverside County has done a fantastic job of handling what is, most certainly, an unprecedented health crisis. He was quick to declare a public health emergency. He’s been ahead of the figurative game on many moves—like a mandate to wear masks when leaving home. And the county health system has been good about updating the COVID-19 case numbers on a daily basis, and even including city-by-city breakdowns—something that’s not being done in many places.

So, to repeat: He’s doing a fantastic job overall—but when it comes to keeping the public informed, in some ways, he and his staff could be doing better.

On April 7, his office released some information that was well, scary as hell: a projection that the county, at current capacity, would fill up all 131 ICI beds by April 14; we’d run out of hospital beds by April 23; and we’d run out of ventilators by April 26.

The county also projected that by early May, the county would need 3,000 ICU beds. Again, the county’s current capacity, 131.

Excuse my language … but holy shit! The graphic made it clear that the projections would change based on reported cases, bed availability and resources, but still, there’s a huge difference between 131 and 3,000.

As April 14 has come closer—that’s four days from now, AKA TUESDAY—I’ve been watching for an update to the information. But … there has been no update. Yes, the main counts have been updated daily, but not the pants-wetting ICU-bed projections. Given that we are hearing better things on both a Coachella Valley-specific level and a statewide level, I’d really like an update.

A footnote: It’s also worth noting that one of our writers reached out about a week ago to Dr. Kaiser’s office for an interview. Our writer received a two-sentence response: “I'm sorry. Dr. Kaiser is not available.”

I have no doubt that Dr. Kaiser is bonkers-busy right now. I can’t imagine how busy he is right now. I understand.

But there aren’t that many functional news operations these days in Riverside County—sad, but true—and all we need is 15 minutes, tops. So on Monday, I am going to personally call Dr. Cameron’s office and ask for an interview. I’ll let you know how that goes.

And hey, if Dr. Cameron or someone on his staff is reading this: Can we get an update on those ICU beds, please?

Today’s links:

• I have mixed feelings about this: According to The Verge: “Apple and Google announced a system for tracking the spread of the new coronavirus, allowing users to share data through Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmissions and approved apps from health organizations.” At least there are fewer privacy concerns with this method than the methods used in other countries’ tracking apps.

• The Riverside County mobile app has been updated to allow people to report people and businesses who are not complying with health orders.

• Important, if you didn’t file taxes for 2018 or 2019, and/or you don’t receive various federal benefits: The IRS has set up a website for you to sign up to get your stimulus payments.

• One of the biggest unknowns in this pandemic: How many people may have had COVID-19, but never knew it? A test in Los Angeles County of 1,000 people will help us start to figure out how much the coronavirus has really spread.

• Remember the jackass biotech exec who was sent to prison after jacking up the costs of HIV/AIDS medications? Martin Shkreli wants to be furloughed from prison to help with the fight against COVID-19.

• Even though nursing homes have been the sites of some of the worst coronavirus outbreaks, the federal government isn’t doing a great job of tracking them. So NBC News did their best to fill that gap.

• The Greater Coachella Valley Chamber Commerce is having a call-in legislative and COVID-19 update with Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia at 11 a.m., Wednesday, April 15. Details here.

• KESQ News Channel 3 talked to Coyote StageWorks founder Chuck Yates about the financial havoc the pandemic is causing for local arts organizations. You can read about the week when local theater came to a halt in this Independent piece.

Confused about face coverings, and good practices when it comes to using them? Eisenhower Health has some answers.

• I found this piece fascinating: You know which groups are doing a fine job at combating the spread of the coronavirus around the world? Some militant and criminal gangs!

• The pandemic has ripped a hole in the budgets of many LGBT pride organizations. They’ve banded together to create a Pride Operational Support Fund—and they need donations.

• It’s undeniable: Some people have been hit harder than others by the pandemic and the resulting health and financial crises. But, as this Wall Street Journal piece eloquently points out, this has been hard on almost all of us, in some way.

• The Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center have joined other art-house theaters in offering a curated selection of indie films that you can purchase tickets for to watch at home! Not only can you watch great films; you can support the Palm Springs Cultural Center while doing so!

• Yesterday, we talked about the new Palm Springs Zoom backgrounds being offered by the local tourism bureau. Well, if those aren’t your cup of tea, Nickelodeon is offering some backgrounds that are a little more, well, cartoony.

• You know things are tough when the Hilton corporation, in a lovely gesture to help us feel better (if perhaps a bit fatter), releases what was heretofore a fiercely kept secret: The recipe for the famous DoubleTree chocolate-chip cookies.

• Wiping down food containers after going to the grocery store? Good idea. Washing your fruits and vegetables with soap? Not so much.

• Stressed? Well, calm down by getting together, for free, with the immortal Bob Ross, and paint some happy trees.

• By the way, if you wanted to submit art for our Coloring Book project, but haven’t gotten around to it yet, good news: A couple of artists asked us for more time, so we have extended the deadline to Tuesday, April 14. Get all the specs and details here.

That’s all for the traditional work week! Wash your hands. If you have a virtual event—a Facebook live concert, or a drag show, or a story time, or whatever—add it to our online virtual event calendar. Then go wash your hands again. Then if you value local, independent journalism, and are fortunate enough to have the means to do so, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep what we’re doing, and making it free to all—at a time when most of our advertisers have had to go on hiatus. Now make sure you’ve properly washed your mask, and make sure you wear it out in public. Tomorrow’s my sanity day off; we’ll return Sunday.

Published in Daily Digest

David Graves is really passionate about horror films—so passionate, in fact, that he has convinced the Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center to present horror-film double-features most Friday nights through the end of the year.

The Art of Darkness series debuts this Friday, Oct. 11, with The Innocents at 6 p.m., and A Tale of Two Sisters at 8 p.m. I had to ask Graves: Why so passionate about horror?

“Well, I’m basically a very fearful person,” he said with a laugh. “My passion for horror films started very early, and it may be because that’s just a familiar space for me, but I find that (horror) sharpens all of your senses. … You know, fear is the oldest, deepest emotion that we have; it’s a lizard-brain thing. It was part of our survival. Watching horror movies is sort of the modern equivalent of cavemen setting around a fire telling each other spooky stories. … It’s a safe way to experience fear and (learn to) understand what you fear.”

Graves spent much of his career in film production—he was the assistant costume designer on a little film you may have heard of called Titanic—and considers himself a “huge movie buff.” He said he’s dreamed of doing a horror-film series for years, and it came to fruition after he discussed it with Rick Seeley, a longtime friend.

It turns out Seeley is the president of the board of the Palm Springs Cultural Center. Seeley loved the idea, as did Michael Green, the center’s executive director. Thus, Art of Darkness was born.

“I feel like this is an element that’s missing in the cultural life here,” Graves said. “There are horror-film festivals everywhere all over the country and all over the world; on any given week, and you’ll find one somewhere. It was something that I wanted to bring to the community—and to deepen people’s understanding of what horror is.”

Graves pointed out that horror isn’t just a genre—it’s an emotion. He said the Art of Darkness series goes beyond slasher films and explores horror at a deeper level.

“Many films that aren’t, strictly speaking, horror films still have horrific elements and have various different moods on that spectrum,” he said. “The critical sphere has been taking horror films much more seriously over the last 20 years. This is great, but I want to bring some of this to the local audience and say, ‘Look deeper at these things. Look at the substance and what they are about instead of looking at the surface, and let go of the idea that a horror film equals a slasher film’—because it doesn’t.”

Series-opener The Innocents, with a screenplay by William Archibald and Truman Capote, came out in 1961 and is described thusly on IMDb: “A young governess for two children becomes convinced that the house and grounds are haunted.”

“It’s really visually stunning, but it’s also very creepy and unsettling—and ultimately, it’s ambiguous,” Graves said. “It’s first movie that really, truly scared me. I was about 10 or 11 years old. My parents put it on, and everyone—my sister and my parents—fell asleep. I was watching the whole thing sort of by myself, and it really, really, unsettled me. And I loved it.”

While tickets to individual films in the series are $10, attendees who want to see both portions of the double-feature get in for $15. I asked Graves why he decided to present the Art of Darkness series via double-features.

“It’s a more interesting way to present these films thematically,” he said. “The whole idea was to present films that, on the surface, aren’t necessarily related, but that resonate with each other. … A Tale of Two Sisters, the second film on (the first) double-feature, is a stunning, hauntingly beautiful, really creepy Korean ghost story from the early ’00s. Both it and The Innocents are ambiguous, because they’re ghost stories—but is the ghost real, or is it the person imagining it or projecting it?

“(On Nov. 1), we’re showing remakes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing, which are interesting, because the original films from the ’50s were both products of post-war, Cold War paranoia. The fact that they were remade in the late ’70s and early ’80s … (gives them) different context in a different thematic background. One of the great things about horror films is that they really are a mirror of the time that they were born in.”

Graves said he hopes the Art of Darkness series becomes a regular fall occurrence at the Cultural Center.

“I’ve got at least three years’ worth of these pairings that I’ve plotted out,” he said. “I’ve been ruminating about this for years, and it was just a question of choosing what we wanted to launch it with.”

The Art of Darkness series takes place most Fridays through the end of December at the Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets to the individual films, at 6 and 8 p.m., are $10; admission to both films costs $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-325-6565, or visit psculturalcenter.org.

Published in Previews and Features

Long before newsfeeds, Facebook, 24-hour news networks and even beepers, people got their information from things like news magazines. It may sound like crazy talk, but it’s true.

One of these news magazines—one which has played a vital role in the LGBT community—is The Advocate. It was started as a newsletter by an activist group following a police raid on a Los Angeles gay bar, the Black Cat Tavern, on Jan. 1, 1967—a couple of years before the Stonewall riots in New York City. The newsletter covered the demonstrations against police brutality; later that year, the newsletter was transformed into a newspaper.

The history of The Advocate since those first days is the subject of a new documentary—and it’s one of the highlights of Cinema Diverse, the local LGBT film festival, which will take place at the Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center Sept. 20-23, with a “bonus weekend” taking place at Mary Pickford Is D’Place in Cathedral City the following weekend.

“This year, Cinema Diverse is opening with A Long Road to Freedom: The Advocate Celebrates 50 Years,” said Michael Green, the Cinema Diverse festival director and the executive director of the Palm Springs Cultural Center. “This is going to be a really cool story to share with the audience on opening night. It is a retrospective of the 50 years from the start of the magazine up to the current day.

“It’s a huge historic piece and important. Laverne Cox is narrating it, and the music is provided by Melissa Etheridge. … It covers the pre-Stonewall era from the Los Angeles perspective, the AIDS crisis, marriage equality and up to present day. It’s even more powerful to those of us who have lived in the Palm Springs area during that time and have seen the changes that have occurred.”

A Long Road to Freedom is just one of the documentaries included in the Cinema Diverse schedule. “There’s a huge variety of documentaries this year. We have a film about gay comics and another about gay (erotic) comic-book illustrators and so many more,” Green said.

Cinema Diverse, of course, has offerings going beyond documentaries.

“We have several great musicals this year,” Green said. “They cover a variety of subjects, both as feature films and as shorts. Musicals are great. Even though the characters may have troubles throughout, the endings are usually very uplifting. We also have horror films this year; you could classify them as thriller-type films that are pretty good.”

Why is it important to include films like thrillers/horror movies in an LGBT film festival?

“Movies focused on LGBTQ characters … the audience can relate to,” Green said. “We are also screening Devil’s Path, a real psychological thriller by Matthew Montgomery, a popular LGBTQ actor. People who are familiar with him will be really excited to see it.

“As always, we have some really good foreign films, like A Moment in the Reeds, from Finland. It’s a fun and beautiful story.”

Movies by local filmmakers are a key part of Cinema Diverse.

“We have a local film (producer) named Marc Smolowitz. His most recent film is called 50 Years of Fabulous. It’s all about the Imperial Council from its inception and over the last 50 years,” Green said; the Imperial Court System is a series of organizations that raise money for charitable causes. “Again, it’s a historical film that touches Palm Springs and a story that’s close to home to anyone who is familiar with the Imperial Court System. … Since Marc is local, this makes the film even more special.”

One of the films Green is most excited about is 1985, based on a renowned short film with the same name.

“It’s about the very beginning of the AIDS crisis and a young, closeted guy who goes home to Texas,” Green said. “It’s a very poignant film. It’s filmed largely in black and white. It’s a very powerful.” Gotham’s Cory Michael Smith is the star.

“As in previous years, there will be a lot of filmmakers and actors here to represent their films. There are more films this year than previously, both features and shorts,” Green said.

Cinema Diverse takes place Thursday, Sept. 20, through Sunday, Sept. 23, and Friday and Saturday, Sept. 28 and 29. Individual screenings are $13.25, while an all-festival pass costs $159. For tickets and more information, including a festival schedule, visit the Cinema Diverse website.

Published in Previews and Features

What do you have to do to stay relevant in Palm Springs? “Keep it gay, keep it gay, keep it gay!” would be the answer from famed Broadway director Roger DeBris.

This was on my mind after seeing The Filmmakers’ Gallery presentation of the musical film The Producers in June. Before the screening, producer Jonathan Sanger and Tony Award-winning actor Gary Beach—who played DeBris in the Broadway musical and the film adaptation—did a funny and insightful Q&A.

The Filmmakers’ Gallery is the brainchild of Paul Belsito and Steven Roche, a team that relocated from Long Beach. The Filmmakers’ Gallery is a series of screenings and events with “special guest” appearances by friends and well-known stars from the “gallery” of entertainment-industry colleagues. It takes place on the second Saturday of the month (usually) at the Palm Springs Cultural Center—formerly known as the Camelot Theatres—and on July 14, it will feature a 50th anniversary showing of Yours, Mine and Ours with Morgan Brittany, who played Louise Beardsley in the film.

“We won’t screen anything where we don’t have a live guest who is connected to the film. That is what separates us from the others,” Roche said. “We want to appeal more to the educational aspect of the film. It’s an open question-and-answer forum so people can ask about how an actor got the role, or how (the movie) was different to produce from other films.”

Yours, Mine and Ours stars Lucille Ball and is about a widower who has 10 children—who falls for a widow who has eight. Will they merge into one huge family, or won’t they? Also part of the July Gallery is Michael Stern, the author of the book I Had a Ball: My Friendship With Lucille Ball.

“Michael will be our guest moderator, as well as selling and signing his book,” Roche said. “Michael and Lucy met in the early ’70s; she called him ‘my No. 1 fan’ on The Mike Douglas Show, and it stuck.”

What’s the biggest challenge for Belsito and Roche? “We like to show older movies, and unfortunately, that means the cast is older,” Roche said. “Like that last surviving munchkin from The Wizard of Oz, who just passed away (in May). It’s a bit of a double-edged sword: Who’s alive, and where do they live?”

In August, The Filmmakers’ Gallery will do something unusual—present a newish film.

“We’re excited for Aug. 11: We’re screening The Beales of Grey Gardens, which came out in 2006,” Roche said. “This is very different. It’s a sequel documentary of the original 1970s documentary by the Maysles brothers,” which was about Jackie Kennedy’s aunt and cousin. “We’re lucky to have Jerry Torre, who was the groundskeeper and friend to Big Edie and Little Edie. He wrote a biography, The Marble Fawn of Grey Gardens: A Memoir of the Beales, the Maysles Brothers, and Jacqueline Kennedy. His story is really fascinating: He is the only person who is alive who knew that group and can talk firsthand about what happened there—what was like to be friends with them, and living there with them. We’re excited about that. When we announced this film and the guest, we started to sell tickets on the first day.”

The Filmmakers’ Gallery presentation of Yours, Mine and Ours takes place starting at 5 p.m., Saturday, July 14, while the presentation of The Beales of Grey Gardens takes place starting at 6 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 11, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $10 to $15. For tickets or more information, call 562-354-1490, or visit www.facebook.com/thefilmmakersgallery.

Published in Previews and Features

The Palm Springs Cultural Center accomplishes a lot in the Coachella Valley. In addition to doing the programming at the Camelot Theatres and running the area’s Certified Farmers’ Markets, the center produces several film festivals.

And now, the Palm Springs Cultural Center is getting involved with weed—by producing the first Palm Springs Cannabis Film Festival and Summit, taking place largely at the Camelot Theatres April 17-22.

Giacomina Marie and Paul Palodichuk are the festival directors, as well as the directors of the Palm Springs Farmers’ Market, which they founded 10 years ago. (Full disclosure: I work with the Palm Springs Cultural Center as the volunteer coordinator.)

When asked why they decided to start the festival and summit, they talked about their connection to farmers, coming from Northern California and Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They’re used to working directly not only with produce farmers, but also with local cannabis growers. With the Coachella Valley becoming a mecca for cannabis production and tourism, they felt the area was ripe for a public discussion about what we want the legal cannabis industry to look like. They also want to educate consumers about responsible consumption, both medicinally and recreationally—and clear up some of the confusion regarding the country’s split personality regarding legality.

The film festival and summit are designed to help ease apprehension regarding marijuana use. Taking a lesson from the gay-rights movement, many in the cannabis industry are working hard to get people to “come out” and tell their stories.

Programming and films are still being finalized for the conference. “Talking to Your Teens” will be led by Dr. Marsha Rosenbaum, director emerita of the San Francisco office of Drug Policy Alliance and author of the booklet Safety First: A Reality-Based Approach to Teens and Drugs. She will help parents and grandparents have informed discussions with young people about how to make good decisions in the recreational market. Although it is illegal for teens to use or possess marijuana … if teens today are anything like I was when I was in high school, they’re experimenting with marijuana.

Most of the films being chosen for the festival are documentaries exploring marijuana culture, both nationally and internationally.

While Marie and Palodichuk have more familiarity with small-scale operations due to their farmers’ market background, they said they’re taking great pains to invite representatives from large companies as well as boutique producers. Marie made a comparison to a person’s decision on where to shop for groceries: Some people are going to shop at farmers’ markets; others will only shop at large-scale grocery stores—but all of us are trying to make informed choices.

Looking at the schedule so far, there really is something for everyone, from first-time users to experienced cannabis entrepreneurs. If you are someone who hasn’t smoked a joint since the ’70s, or perhaps spent your entire life following the “Just Say No” message, there are talks specifically designed to help you overcome your understandable worries. Seniors are the fastest-growing segment of cannabis users, and Dr. Jonathan Bechard, from Eisenhower Medical Center, will lead a talk on the safe and effective uses of cannabis for pain and stress relief—and he’s coming to the discussion with a healthy dose of skepticism regarding the belief that cannabis is an all-encompassing cure-all. On the other end of the life cycle, the summit will look at how children with autism, epilepsy and life-threatening diseases might be helped. There is even a veterinarian coming in to talk about the benefits of cannabis use for your pet. As the owner of a hyperactive Pomeranian, I will be checking this out.

For those who are part of the lucrative cannabis industry—or who want to be—there are two tracks that might be right for you. A “Green Rush Series” will investigate the opportunities in marijuana retail, tourism, culinary businesses “and beyond”; and a “Business Case Industry Series” will explore the quickly changing federal, state, county and city legalities, as well as insurance and banking considerations when opening a cannabis related business.

Interested in learning to grow your own? Brooke Sinclair, founder of Sierra Bloom Collective, will lead a workshop on getting the most out of the six plants an individual can grow for themselves. Concerned about social justice? Check out keynote speaker Dr. Lori Ajax, chief of the California Bureau of Cannabis Control.

But what if you just want to come and have fun? Sexologist Nick Karras, creator of the “The Passionate High” project, will present on how pot’s psychotropic and physical effects can help people to experience greater creativity and passion in their intimate relationships.

For more information or festival passes, visit pscff.jackalyst.com.

Published in Cannabis in the CV

A chicken and an egg are in bed next to each other; both are smoking cigarettes. The egg turns to the chicken and says, “So, we now know the answer to that question.”

I have tons of these. But if you would prefer comedy that’s actually, well, funny, consider the Out for Laughs comedy series, coming to the Camelot Theatres each Thursday in February.

Shann Carr, a self-appointed “gay man’s lesbian” (and, full disclosure, a friend of the Independent), is co-producing the series. Each show will have a headliner, multiple entertainers and a different beneficiary.

“I have been doing a series of shows for over 30 years called ‘Out for Laughs,’” Carr told me during our recent chat. “Sometimes I do videos or film; this year in Palm Springs, I am doing a short run of live shows. Every week, there will be at least four acts. Most times, it’s three comedians and a magician. (Co-producer) Max Mitchell and I will host, and the magician (McHugh and Co.) will come and help with the transitions.”

Palm Springs is an easy place to hold these LGBT-themed shows, since Carr has lived in the city for 20 years. How did she wind up living in Palm Springs?

“I have been an out comedian since I was 19,” she said. “Palm Springs was that place in a gay bubble and has that resort mentality. And where else could a lesbian like me afford a house with a pool? It’s a great place! My house is making (me) money, and even (my) dog is doing commercials. Everyone is working!”

Carr said it was important to her for the series of shows to give back to the community.

“Pretty much everything I do, I give something to charity. It’s just a part of how I am made,” she said. “I have worked with these charities in some way, and I just try to spread the support around. … As a gay comic, I do not experience great amounts of wealth, but (the series) does my heart good. Fifteen percent of each ticket will go to the selected charity for the night.”

As for those headliners and charities:

• On Feb. 1, the headliner is groundbreaking trans comedian Ian Harvie; his show will benefit the Transgender Community Coalition. He has opened for Margaret Cho, has a one-hour special called May the Best Cock Win and has been on the award-winning show Transparent.

• Feb. 8 brings Alec Mapa; his show is benefiting Sanctuary Palm Springs. Called “hilarious” by Ellen Degeneres, Mapa recently was featured in his own Showtime special, focusing on the adoption travails that he and his husband have endured. Mapa gets around: He’s been part of RuPaul’s Drag Race, A Very Sordid Wedding and all sorts of other movies and television shows, including two Logo specials.

• Erin Foley will perform on the day after Valentine’s Day, Feb. 15; her show will benefit the Joy Silver campaign for the District 28 State Senate seat. Foley has been on Conan and her own Comedy Central special; she hosts the podcast Sports Without Balls, which has helped make her one of the most sought-after women in comedy.

• Concluding the series on Feb. 22 will be Jimmy James; his show benefits the LGBT Community Center of the Desert. He is an award-winning vocal impressionist with an amazing voice. He does Judy, Cher, Adele, Barbra, Elvis and so many others. He even does a duet … but it’s just him, doing two voices.

“It always freaks people out when I do it,” James told me during a recent phone interview. “Cher is one of my favorites; she changes the molecular structure of the room.”

James has a long history of performing in Palm Springs, he said.

“There are other places you can go that have so many tribute artists, impersonators and performers that I just don’t feel special,” he said. “I used to come to (Arenas Road bar) Streetbar on the last Tuesdays of the month to practice and see what worked and what didn’t. There was no judgment for me. It gave me the chance to develop so many things like Lana Del Rey and Adele. There’s a lot of vetting I have to do for each show. I love new artists and their music, but I work out of the Great American Songbook, too.

“This February will mark 35 years of performing. I started when I was 2,” James continued with a chuckle. “I have learned what my audiences want. … There is even an audience who doesn’t know I do this; they know me for my hit (song) ‘Fashionista,’ which is being played all the time, everywhere.”

The Out for Laughs comedy series takes place every Thursday in February at 7 p.m. at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets for each show are $25 in advance, or $30 at the door. For tickets or more information, visit out4laughs.eventbrite.com.

Published in Comedy

One of them is a small-town pageant winner, circa 1981, who now peddles gay travel on TV. One of them has an obsession with Celestial Seasonings’ Tension Tamer tea. One of them knows all about Sordid Lives. And one of them has become an Internet sensation thanks to his melding of politics and show tunes.

What do they all have in common? They’re the four performers in Logo founder Matt Farber’s Outlandish series, coming to the Camelot Theatres on four consecutive Saturdays, starting Oct. 28 with Sordid Lives creator Del Shores. He’ll be followed by drag star Miss Richfield 1981 on Nov. 4; and drag storyteller Miss Coco Peru on Nov. 11. And on Nov. 18 … the good news is political satirist and show-tune expert Randy Rainbow will be here; the bad news is the show is sold out—as is a second show added on Sunday, Nov. 19. (A small number of series passes, which include Randy Rainbow’s Sunday show, were still available as of this writing.)

I recently had the pleasure of talking to Miss Coco Peru (aka Clinton Leupp) about her upcoming show. One of our discussion topics: Barbra and Liza, and how they are gay-icon stereotypes. Barbra has that nose, and Liza has those big eyes … and that hair! They own those attributes and never apologize for them; Barbra’s album covers even show her profile!

Peru also knows something about a big nose, big hair and big eyes, and she is becoming a gay icon herself. The star of stage, screen, television and the occasional kids’ parties writes all of her own one-woman shows. Her Bronx accent gives away the fact that she started her career on the East Coast—but she has now lived in California for the last 18 years.

She is no stranger to performing in the Coachella Valley; the tea-obsessed Peru has even performed at … several recovery facilities?

“Working with people in recovery—they can go there with Coco,” she said. “I joke that we’re all so fucked up, and they really get it. They want to poke fun of themselves. When you hit rock bottom, and the only way is up, Coco really connects with that for them.”

Her new show is Miss Coco Peru: The Taming of the Tension, and it covers “different themes, including difference between the being present and showing up,” Peru told me. “I take months to write a show so that when people leave my theater, they are rejuvenated and happy. Well, for at least six minutes, before the shit hits the fan again after they leave. That’s just the world we live in now.”

What’s her creative process for creating a show like this? “I usually start with over 100 pages, and then I start to edit them down. I end up with between 20 and 30 pages, including songs which are sung live,” Peru said. “For me, it’s group therapy, and now it’s my turn to talk. Most people will go through a full range of emotions in the hour and 15 minutes of the show.”

Coco Peru has received rave reviews from audiences, and from her good friend Lily Tomlin, whose character Ernestine served as an inspiration. Tomlin even called Peru “one of the last great storytellers”—and indeed, she is.

We talked about the trials involved with growing up gay.

“I had to find my voice—and this was it,” she said. “I talk about how everyone made fun of me, saying I was a girl. I just got to a point where I thought, ‘I am going to show you just how big of a girl I can be.’ So, like the nose, I own just how big of a girl I am! When I accepted who I am, it just felt like I became balanced.”

Peru said she aims to be a positive voice. “I can be bitchy and angry, but my show runs the full gamut of emotions, from being very funny to people getting very emotional during my show. The point is leaving the audience feeling great and leaving the show with a real positive feeling.

“I don’t pick on anyone in the audience; I am way too self-absorbed.”

Peru said her show points out how we’re all connected.

“In today’s world, there is such a disconnect of people. I discuss the ideas we’re all thinking, but I vocalize them,” she said. “We are constantly bombarded with news and information. It’s crazy. There are too many things to try to focus on, then when something happens in our community, it’s easy for (those things) to just slide on by. I also talk about (playwright and female impersonator) Charles Busch and how much he was an inspiration to me. He showed me that you can do theater with a female character and be fabulous.”

The Outlandish series takes place at 8 p.m., Saturday, from Oct. 28 through Nov. 18, at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets to individual shows are $30 to $60 (although both Randy Rainbow shows are sold out); series passes start at $100. For tickets or more information, visit www.outlandishps.com.

Published in Comedy

She stood in my office doorway, as palm trees from Palm Canyon Drive framed her long, dark-auburn hair. The cut of her emerald business suit clung to her curves in the all right places. The way she clutched her Kate Spade purse, I could tell something was really worrying her. Her deep hazel eyes betrayed her, showing the fear she had seen.

“What’s on your mind, doll face?” I asked as I tried to keep my eyes on her in a professional way. I have years of practice at looking at the wrong places.

With a pursing of her lips, she looked at me and said, “It’s already after 4 o’clock.” Her hands started to wring her purse tighter. “We’re going to be late for this year’s Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival.”

Well, that’s how I would imagine it would go.

The 18th annual film festival takes place May 11-14, and once again, it is hosted by writer/historian Alan K. Rode at the Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs.

“I handpick each film, hoping it’s something people will want to see,” Rode told me.

I asked him where he finds so many of these films—many of which even avid fans like me don’t know. “Warner Bros studios opened their vaults to me this year. We are presenting an extremely diverse lineup of films.”

The film festival, per usual, will feature a wide range of guests, including one on opening night—Monika Henried, the daughter of film star Paul Henried, who produced and starred in the opening-night feature: a restored print of Hollow Triumph (1948), directed by Steve Sekely and co-starring Joan Bennett. From the novel by Murray Forbes, this is a story of a casino heist gone bad, a change of identity and the troubles to which a new life can lead.

One of the jewels of the festival is Meet Danny Wilson (1952). This rarely viewed Frank Sinatra and Shelley Winters collaboration is a musical drama directed by Joseph Pevney. This is the transition film that took Sinatra from his bobby-soxer popularity to From Here to Eternity fame. Raymond Burr is also in the film as the gangster who threatens the small-time singer as he rises to the top of his profession.

For first time, the festival will be showing Split Second (1953), marking the directorial debut of Dick Powell (radio’s Richard Diamond). The film follows a group of escaped convicts and hostages hiding in a ghost town—a group that is in real danger.

Other special guests slated to participate include Richard Duryea, son of Dan Duryea, the star of Black Angel (1946). The film also stars June Vincent and Peter Lorre. Andy Robinson, a star of “neo-noir” movie Charley Varrick (1973), will be present for that film’s screening, while Sara Karloff, daughter of Boris Karloff, will attend the screening of The Body Snatcher (1945)—which, in Rode’s opinion, marks Boris’ “finest screen performance.”

The festival’s focus is not only on delighting fans of film noir; it’s meant to open new eyes, too. Rode said festival organizers have been using social media such as Facebook in an effort to entice a younger generation of fans.

“Film is not a museum piece—not a genre, style, look or feel,” Rode said. “… Now we are offering everyone the opportunity to watch in original setting and mode.”

One of the reasons the festival takes place at the Camelot is the theater still has a 35mm film projector. Festival tradition dictates that screenings are shown in that format.

“We are attempting to preserve the original movie-going experience,” Rode said.

The 18th Annual Arthur Lyons Film Noir Festival takes place Thursday, May 11, through Sunday, May 14, at the Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $13 per film, or $125 for an all-access pass. For tickets or information, visit ArthurLyonsFilmNoir.org.

Published in Previews and Features

In 2005, actor Tab Hunter released his autobiography Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. Now thanks to director Jeffrey Schwarz and Hunter’s partner, Allan Glaser, a documentary based on the book is hitting movie screens.

On Thursday, Nov. 12, Tab Hunter Confidential will be screened at the Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs, with Hunter in attendance to discuss the film at a special event benefiting the Desert AIDS Project. The film will then remain on Camelot screens for at least a week.

During a recent phone interview, Hunter explained why he decided to write the book.

“I wrote the book with a lot of hesitation, but I figured I had to do it, because someone else was going to write a book,” Hunter said. “I figured it’s better to get it from the horse’s mouth, not from some horse’s ass after I’m dead and gone, where they’ll put some spin on it. I didn’t want that. People are noted for doing that.”

Hunter, now 84, worked as a stable boy at the age of 14; that is how he met actor and agent Richard Clayton, who used to come to the barn to ride and shoot promo photographs.

“That’s where it started, where I was shoveling the real stuff out of the barn,” Hunter said. “(Clayton) discovered me there, and my career went on from there.”

Hunter’s love of films started around the same time. He said he would see films on weekend evenings after working in the barn all day.

“All those wonderful Tyrone Power films like The Black Swan and all of those things—I loved the total escapism,” he said. “I was always so locked within myself that I admired anybody who could be out there, and those films gave you a whole different vision of the world. That was really important to me when I was a kid, and you’re scared of your own shadow. Lucky, my brother helped me out a lot, but we used to go to the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara all the time.”

While Tab Hunter was best known for acting and his all-American good looks, he also recorded music as well.

“I was doing a chore with Natalie Wood for a film we had done, and I was singing,” he said. “Howard Miller, who was a huge disc jockey in Chicago, asked me, ‘Did you ever think of recording?’ And I said, ‘I sing in the shower, and everyone sounds good in the shower.’ He said, ‘I’d like to introduce you to Randy Wood at Dot Records.’ He put me in touch with Randy, and Randy heard me sing, and presented me with a tune called ‘Young Love.’ I recorded it on a Friday and heard it on the car radio while I was driving the following Monday, and almost hit a palm tree, I was so shocked. It knocked Elvis out of the No. 1 slot and stayed there for about six weeks.

“From there on, I went on to do an album. Jack Warner (of Hunter’s studio, Warner Bros.) called me in the office and he said, ‘Wait a minute! You can’t do that! We own you for everything!’ I said, ‘But Mr. Warner, you don’t have a recording company.’ He looked at me and said, ‘We do now!’ and started Warner Brothers Records. That’s amazing when you stop to think how huge that company is now.”

Hunter starred in both hits and films that flopped. However, Hunter insisted he has no regrets.

“I don’t ever wish I didn’t do anything, because I did them because it was called ‘survival,’” he said. “That’s what happens when you have bills to pay. Usually, the actor gets the blame if the picture isn’t any good. … They don’t realize the producers and the directors and all the money behind it is what makes the picture. I’ve done a lot of bad pictures, and I don’t look at those and forget them; that is just called experience. The best part is I got to work with good people—actors, writers and directors. That helps you grow.”

He said he is particularly proud of several films, however.

“I love Damn Yankees because it was my first musical,” he said. “I love That Kind of Woman because it was with Sophia Loren—need I say more? Also, it was with Sidney Lumet, who was a wonderful director. I liked Gunman’s Walk, because it was the first heavy I ever played in a film, and that’s a really great picture. But I think TV is what gave me more opportunity than movies, because the studio era was falling apart then.”

John Waters helped Tab Hunter enjoy a bit of a resurgence in the 1980s when he cast him in Polyester. Hunter also went on to star in Grease 2, and became a bit of a cult favorite with the younger generation.

“John was great,” Hunter said. “I was doing a play in Indianapolis, and I got a call one day, and it was John. He said, ‘Hello. I’m John Waters, I don’t know if you know me or not.’ I said, ‘John, I’m a major fan of yours! I love Mondo Trasho and Pink Flamingos.’ He said, ‘I have a script I’d like you to do, if I can send it to you.’ I said I had two weeks off before I had to do another play, and asked when he planned to shoot. He asked me, ‘Before we go there, how do you feel about kissing a 300-pound transvestite?’ I said, ‘I’m sure I’ve kissed a whole hell of a lot worse.’ He sent me the script; I read it. I had already met Divine at David Hockney’s party a little while earlier, and I thought he was wonderful. It was a great experience, and I loved doing that film for him. It revitalized my career.”

When the book Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star was released in 2005, it included a confession on a subject about which members of the press and many others had speculated for decades: Hunter is gay. When he looks back, he said he feels the press is still quite cruel.

“I think, ‘How sad!’ Because everything seems to be so in your face and pushed out there from a time when things were much quieter and much simpler; people didn’t discuss those things, and the word ‘gay’ wasn’t even around,” Hunter said. “They might have said something, but it was hush, hush. It was nobody’s damn business. My touch of reality in the unrealistic world of Hollywood was going out to the barn and shoveling the real crap. … People are always going to be quick to label people. The first line of my book is, ‘I hate labels.’ People were always trying to label people, and what’s much more important is that we’re all human beings. What kind of a human being are you? That’s what’s important.”

He said he misses the relative privacy the media offered stars back in his heyday.

“Everything is discussed today, and I’m not really sure I like that,” he said. “I love what Allan (Glaser) said in an interview last week. A reporter was talking about the documentary, and Allan said, ‘Yes, Tab came out of the closet and did the documentary, then turned around and closed the door behind him.’ I thought that was funny, but it was true. The documentary is about my journey, the early years, the Hollywood years, and these golden years. We’re all on a journey—but the most important question is: What kind of journey are you on?”

Tab Hunter Confidential will be shown at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 12, at Camelot Theatres. 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $20 and include a post-show Q&A; VIP tickets, which include a pre-screening reception, are $65.. For tickets or more information, call 760-325-6565, or visit the event’s Facebook page.

Published in Previews and Features

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