Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

A lot of historical quirks went into making Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley the tourism mecca that it is today.

In the big-studio era of Hollywood, actors were contractually required to stay within two hours or 100 or so miles of the studio … which helped make this a haven for stars who wanted to get away. On the less-glamorous side, a tuberculosis sanatorium once attracted people here, thanks to the 350 days of sun and dryness our weather offers.

These quirks also helped, directly and indirectly, lead to the construction of a lot of midcentury-modern buildings—and these pieces of architecture will be the stars of Modernism Week’s Fall Preview, taking place Oct. 19-22.

The list of talented architects who worked in the desert includes William F. Cody, Albert Frey, Richard Neutra, John Lautner, Donald Wexler and so many others. These men were responsible for the layout of areas like the Twin Palms neighborhood. (Why did they name it that? Because each home had two palm trees in front of it.) Of course, the midcentury aesthetic went well beyond homes; these ideals were used in schools, civic buildings, religious buildings, hotels, cultural centers and commercial designs, too.

Why is Palm Springs today such a haven for this architecture—so much so that the National Trust for Historic Preservation named Palm Springs to its 2006 list of America’s Distinctive Destinations? This was a question I asked Charles Phoenix, a performer, tour guide and long-time supporter/fan of all things midcentury; he will have a hand in a variety of Modernism Week Fall Preview events.

“It’s really the people here,” Phoenix said. “Palm Springs is the ultimate place to celebrate midcentury style and design. Palm Springs is a mecca of midcentury style, and it’s where all the kingpins and fans gather each October and February (during Modernism Week proper).”

So how did this happen here? “Being in the desert, I think they were allowed to be a little more experimental and break the rules,” Phoenix said. “The minimalistic style appeals to the residents here, so they didn’t have to spend so much on the details. Remember, most of these homes were second homes.”

Since the 1920s, visionary modern architects have been designing sleek, modern homes that embrace the desert environment. The modernistic use of glass, clean lines and natural/resourced goods helped create an indoor-outdoor living style that many people love. However, midcentury architecture has not always been so beloved.

“During the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, this style fell out of favor; people thought of it just not being in style. Architects during that time thought that midcentury was yuck!” Phoenix said. “Fortunately, there are some people out there who realized that Palm Springs was a diamond in the rough at that time. During the 1990s, a group of people highlighted a couple of properties and a couple of neighborhoods and started to bring in people from all over the United States for architectural tours. Then it just started to snowball. Palm Springs is still being revitalized and recognized as the center of the universe of midcentury modern, and it’s where the lovers of this form gather.”

As these sensibilities have changed, Phoenix has found himself being pulled ever more toward midcentury design. During Modernism Week activities, you can join him on one his double-decker bus tours around town (if they have not completely sold out already), or for one of his slide presentations with actual Kodachrome slides, many of which were just given to him. Some of them appear in his newest book, Addicted to Americana, released on Oct. 3.

Modernism Week’s fall preview takes place Thursday, Oct. 19, through Sunday, Oct. 22. Ticket prices vary. For tickets, a complete schedule and other information, visit

Published in Local Fun

Annenberg Theater

CK Dance Company presents its “Sensational Seventeenth” annual production of The Nutcracker at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 6; and 2 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7. $15 to $25. Dance With Miss Lindsay’s Holiday Showcase happens at 6 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 8. $15 to $20. SPARKLE: An All-Star Holiday Concert, to benefit the Desert AIDS Project, features an appearance by Florence Henderson at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 11; $35 to $400. Helen Reddy Home for the Holidays happens at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14. $55 to $85. Charles Phoenix’s Retro Holiday Slide Show takes place at 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20. $35 to $45. At the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490;

A Christmas Carol—from Theatre 29

The Charles Dickens holiday classic has a month-long run at this Twentynine Palms theater mainstay. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, Dec. 14; Sunday matinee at 2 p.m., Dec. 8. $12; $10 seniors and military; $8 students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151;

CV Rep Luminary Luncheon: Florence Henderson

Carol Brady herself sits down for lunch with CV Rep and friends. Noon, Wednesday, Dec. 11. $35. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966;

Exquisite Potential—from Dezart Performs

In 1979, Alan Zuckerman decides his son is special. Very special. In fact, Zuckerman announces his son is the Messiah. Of course, skepticism abounds. 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, through Sunday, Dec. 1. $22; $18 students, seniors and military. At the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179;

Indian Wells Theater/CSUSB Palm Desert Tribute Concerts

Neil Diamond and Connie Francis take the stage at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 7. Celine Dion is joined by the Xavier College Prep Choir at 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 20. $40 for first three rows; $35 for the remainder of the house. At the Indian Wells Theater at CSUSB Palm Desert, 37500 Cook St. 760-341-6909;

It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play—from Palm Desert Stage Company

This holiday tradition is performed as a 1940s live radio broadcast in front of a studio audience. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Dec. 6, through Sunday, Dec. 15. $25 general; $23 IPAC friends and seniors; $15 students with ID; $11 children. At the Indio Performing Arts Center, 45175 Fargo St., Indio. 760-636-9682;

Lone Star, Laundry and Bourbon—from the Desert Ensemble Theatre

James McLure’s two one-act “1959 Pink Thunderbird” plays are set in small-town Texas, and focus on the life of Roy, a Vietnam veteran. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 20 and 21; 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 21 and 22. $22; $18 students, seniors and military. At the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-565-2476;

Married Alive—from Desert Theatreworks

A new musical about the ups and downs of marriage focuses on two couples: excited newlyweds, and bored not-so-newlyweds. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Dec. 6, through Sunday, Dec. 15. $25; $23 students and seniors. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455;

Million Dollar Quartet

This Tony Award-winning show is inspired by the famed recording session in which Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis and Carl Perkins came together for one special evening. 8 p.m., Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, Nov. 26, 27 and 29; 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 30; 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 1. $35 to $95. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787;

The Most Fabulous Story Ever Told—from the Desert Rose Playhouse

The Old Testament is re-imagined from a gay/lesbian point of view. In other words, instead of Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden is home to Adam and Steve, as well as Jane and Mabel. When banished from the garden, they decide to invent civilization—starting with brunch, of course. 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Dec. 22. $25 to $28. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000;

The Nutcracker, by Moscow Classical Ballet

Tchaikovsky’s holiday dance classic is performed by the “Ballet Star Factory” and accompanied by recorded music. 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 18. $29 to $29. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787;

On Thin Ice—from Script2Stage2Screen

Darrell and Dee examine their lives in this play of truth-telling and coming out, written by local playwright Don Clarkson. 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6 and 7. $10. At the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Desert, 72425 Via Vail, Rancho Mirage. 760-345-7938;

Shrek the Musical—from the Palm Canyon Theatre

The antics of the ogre with the heart of gold are translated to a stage musical! 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Dec. 6, through Sunday, Dec. 22. $32. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123;

Someday at Christmas With Sandy Hackett’s Rat Pack

A toe-tapping good time is promised at this holiday show featuring both Rat Pack songs and holiday favorites. 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 14; 2 and 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 15. $25 to $75. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787;

The Story of My Life—from Coachella Valley Repertory

CV Rep gets into the musical game with this tale of lifelong friends Alvin and Thomas. As time tests the bonds of their relationship, best-selling author Thomas calls on his own stories of Alvin to figure out where things went wrong. 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; 2 p.m., Sunday, from Wednesday, Dec. 4, through Sunday, Dec. 22. $35 preview (Dec. 4 and 5); $40 regular; $50 opening night (Dec. 6). At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966;

A Tuna Christmas—from the College of the Desert Dramatic Arts Company

In the third-smallest town in Texas, Christmas is celebrated with a highly competitive annual lawn-display contest; the production of A Christmas Carol is jeopardized by unpaid electric bills; and the town is being terrorized by the infamous Christmas Phantom. 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 6 and 7; 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 8. $15 general; $10 COD students. At Theatre Too on the College of the Desert campus, 43500 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert. 760-776-7370.

Published in Theater and Dance