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Dining Out for Life Benefits the Desert AIDS Project on Thursday, April 27

Dining Out for Life day is one of my favorite days of the year. Why, you ask? Well, when else can you eat at one or two (or, uh, like seven?) of many, many Coachella Valley restaurants—and say you’re doing so not due to gluttony, but instead to benefit a great cause?

The great cause in this case is the Desert AIDS Project, and this year’s DOFL date is Thursday, April 27. On that day, participating bars and restaurants will donate anywhere from 33 percent to 100 percent (!) of the day’s sales to DAP.

Earning special mention are the four (as of our press deadline) restaurants giving their entire days’ sales to DAP: The Barn Kitchen at Sparrows Lodge, Pho 533, Ristretto and Townie Bagels.

You must participate in this. I mean, you dine out anyway, right? We’ve said it before, and we’ll say again: It’s literally the least you can do.

For more information, visit www.diningoutforlife.com/palmsprings—and on that special day, follow the Independent’s Facebook page as we chronicle our various visits to Dining Out for Life restaurants.


New: Truss and Twine, Sister Bar/Restaurant of Workshop Kitchen + Bar

When Michael Beckman’s Workshop Kitchen + Bar restaurant opened in the historic El Paseo building at 800 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, in 2012, it earned a lot of much-deserved buzz thanks to its innovative menu, its stark industrial décor and its fantastic craft-cocktail offerings.

Now Beckman has a second buzz-worthy restaurant in that building. Truss and Twine opened March 13, offering “classic cocktails broken down by era, alongside a desert-inspired menu using ingredients from the Coachella Valley,” according to a news release.

Wait … cocktails broken down by era? Very cool! According to that news release, bar managers Dave Castillo and Michelle Bearden broke down their menu into five eras of cocktail culture: the “Golden Age,” “Prohibition,” “Tiki,” “Dark Ages” and “Originals” (featuring new in-house creations).

As for the food, expect upscale bar/snack offerings, including jamon iberico, the amazing ham that caused me to put on several pounds the last time I was in Spain.

We had not checked out Truss and Twine in person as of our press deadline—but trust me, we will soon.

Truss and Twine is open at 4 p.m. daily, and stays open late. Details at trussandtwine.com.


In Brief

Early readers of this column, here’s an event you won’t want to miss: The lovely Purple Palm Restaurant and Bar, at the Colony Palms Hotel, 572 N. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is hosting the Pink Party. It takes place from 6 to 9 p.m., Wednesday, March 29. The event, featuring chef Nick Tall’s cuisine and a variety of rosé wines, is a benefit for the Annette Bloch Cancer Care Center at the Desert AIDS Project. Admission is $50; call 760-969-1818 for reservations. … Pete’s Hideaway, at 665. S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is the home of the new Club Rouge. The “secret underground nightclub and showroom” is a joint product of PS Underground, the group that puts on various themed dinners at top-secret locations around the valley. Club Rouge is currently hosting the Lost Cherry Cabaret every Saturday at 10:30 p.m.; $47 will get you “gourmet appetizers and sinful desserts” as well as the show, featuring performers Francesca Amari, Robbie Wayne and Siobhan Velarde. A full bar is available, of course. Get tickets and info at www.rougepalmsprings.com. … Coming soon to Rancho Mirage: Haus of Poke, a restaurant serving the raw-fish salad in various forms. It’ll be at 42500 Bob Hope Drive, Suite B; info at www.hausofpoke.com. … The old Café Europa space at The Corridor, at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, will soon be the Mod Café. A menu at ToastTab.com shows it’ll offer all three square meals, with salads, stuffed pitas, burgers, melts and bowls as the main lunch and dinner fare. Visit www.toasttab.com/mod-cafe for more. … The Noodle Bar, our favorite place to eat at the Spa Resort Casino, 401 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs, has closed. … Coming soon: Vinny’s Italian Ice and Frozen Custard, to 190 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Attendees of the LGBT Center of the Desert’s recent Red Dress Dress Red Party got to sample some of Vinny’s frozen fare; expect an opening around May 1. Details at www.vinnysitalianice.com. … The L Fund, a local nonprofit that helps out lesbians in crisis, is having its Gumbo Gala fundraiser at noon, Sunday, April 2, at the Palm Springs Pavilion, 401 S. Pavilion Way, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $75; get details at www.facebook.com/Palmspringslfund. … Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza has opened its doors in the West Elm building in downtown Palm Springs, at 201 N. Palm Canyon Drive. It’s the second valley location of the highly regarded pizza franchise. Details at www.blazepizza.com/locations/palm-springs. … Brunch has returned to The Saguaro, at 1800 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Outside of El Jefe, the hotel’s culinary offerings have been in flux since the departure of Tinto. People can now enjoy weekend brunch from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends on the courtyard patio; get menus and more info at thesaguaro.com/palm-springs.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

When the Pointer Sisters began performing as an R&B group in 1969, nobody would have predicted that the group’s biggest hits would eventually be electronics-driven songs in the 1980s.

Yet that’s exactly what happened, and while the group has slowed down somewhat in recent years, the Pointer Sisters continue to perform—and will headline the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, a fundraiser for the Desert AIDS Project, on Saturday, Feb. 11.

Today’s Pointer Sisters only feature one original member—Ruth Pointer—although the group remains a family affair: She’s joined by her daughter, Issa, and her granddaughter, Sadako. During a recent phone interview, Ruth Pointer discussed how she and her sisters adapted to the technology that changed the way music sounded during the ’80s.

“I don’t recall it being very hard,” Pointer said. “We were making not only that kind of transition, but (moving) to a different record company and to a different producer who had something else in mind. We’ve always been pretty adventurous in breaking boundaries and trying new things. It’s always been exciting for us to do interesting things.”

One of the songs the Pointer Sisters are best known for is “Neutron Dance,” which played during a chase scene in 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop. Pointer said she did not like the song when it was first presented to her.

“Allee Willis co-wrote that song, and she has always been what we’ve considered a great songwriter and a fun artist,” Pointer said. “When she brought the song to us, she had me in mind to sing the lead on it, because I have a very strong gospel balance in my voice. I really wasn’t enthusiastic about playing that song, because I’ve always related neutrons to war and destruction, like a neutron bomb. She said, ‘Look, just go in there and sing that song, girl, because I know that you’re going to rock it!’ I did; it was fun, and it’s been fun to sing ever since.”

The Pointer Sisters were on tour with Lionel Richie when “Neutron Dance” became popular—rather quickly.

“We didn’t even have it in our setlist in our show. By the end of the tour, everyone was coming to our dressing room saying, ‘Do you know what’s going on with this song?’” Pointer said. “The very last show we had on the road with Lionel, he came into our dressing room and said, ‘Listen, you guys have to put “Neutron Dance” in the show. It’s going crazy. It’s in Beverly Hills Cop, and people want to hear it.’ We put it in the show, and I will never forget hearing a scream so loud and people rushing the stage. I almost forgot the lyrics to the song! I thought, ‘Oh, this is what it feels like to have a hit, OK!’”

Will the Pointer Sisters ever record a new album? After all, the group has not released a studio album since 1993.

“I really don’t know.” Pointer said. “I’ve had thoughts about it, but my thoughts about it are that it would just be an experimental thing to incorporate new sounds and new techniques, and current artists you might want to collaborate with. … I think the type of music we do is for what our generation was at the time. We still travel and do shows, and the people who remember our music are baby boomers. They get it. There are some young people in our audiences, and they come backstage and tell us, ‘My mom was always playing the Pointer Sisters.’ But the whole body of music has changed so much as to what’s accepted and what makes a hit. It’s so different than it used to be.”

I asked Ruth Pointer, now 70, if she’s ever felt like calling it a day or going off in a different direction—to make a solo album, perhaps.

“I’ve had those feelings. Sometimes, I have them even now,” she said. “I just feel like as long as it works, we’ll just keep doing it. The people who hire us, they hire us for a certain reason and for a certain reputation we had. If you’re going to change it all of a sudden, that could really throw a wrench into it. Right now, we’re going to keep it as it is. I’ve had aspirations to do solo things, and I wrote a book about my life (published last year) called Still So Excited. Who knows what the future might bring?”

When I asked Ruth Pointer about her favorite career moments, she brought up the song “I’m So Excited.”

“It’s just one of those songs. We’re so fortunate that when we wrote that song—that’s exactly what we had in mind,” she said. “We went into it thinking … that everyone, when they heard that phrase, they would think about how there was a song that said, ‘I’m so excited!’ I hear that all the time. We got exactly what we wanted from that song.”

The Pointer Sisters will perform at the 23rd Annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards Gala. The event starts at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, in Palm Springs. Tickets start at $475. For tickets or more information, call 760-992-0445, or visit www.desertaidsproject.org.

Published in Previews

Palm Springs is home to a higher-than-normal percentage of HIV-positive residents—and a new documentary tells the stories of some of these people living with HIV.

Desert Migration will be screened at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 5 at the Camelot Theatres by the Palm Springs International Film Society.

During the 80 minutes of Desert Migration, the various subjects share their morning routines, along with bits and pieces of their stories. One of the more interesting subjects is Doc, a tattooed, pierced, muscular man who likes to do yoga in the nude, and who explains that he’s not a conventional gay man. Another subject, Will, is shown walking through his apartment and sitting in a chair reading a Bible. He explains that he’s overweight, that his penis size is inadequate, that he has poor posture, and that he is HIV positive—but it’s the sores on his back, a result of being HIV-positive, that keep him from having sexual encounters.

During a recent phone interview, director Daniel Cardone explained how the film came to be.

“I never really had a particular interest in documentaries,” Cardone said. “(I had) a general interest in film and different kinds of storytelling—so anything that would tell the story in the best way. It’s almost like the subject creates the form as to how the story is told. I thought my path was going to be in narrative filmmaking … .

“I worked with my producer, Marc Smolowitz, a couple of years prior doing a short documentary piece about living with HIV in San Francisco. I thought it might be possible to use that short piece in a longer-form feature, and that’s why I chose to do this film the way that I did it. There are no direct interviews where people talk directly into the camera, or any of those things you traditionally see in a documentary. That was me inspired by fictional narrative, but instead, I was inserting something as narrative while using a true subject. It was a hybrid between a narrative film and documentary. … I invented it as I went along, and that was the exciting part about it.”

Cardone said he’s seen the struggles that many of his friends endured due to being HIV-positive.

“Living in Palm Springs and in my own backyard, I realized that many of my friends were people who … lived through the plague years,” he said. “They lost all their friends, their whole social life, and their whole way of living was gone: They lost their jobs, houses and their health. Fortunately, everyone shown in the film managed to regain some ground to a certain degree. I was very much interested in the psychological ramifications of that.

“There have been a few films about HIV showing the terrible years and losing a lot of people in the Castro District, and How to Survive a Plague, which shows ACT UP trying to advocate to save people’s lives. I wanted to go beyond that and look at: Where are we now? And where are we now with the people who lived through all that? I wanted to dive into those aspects, especially the psychological aspect and the ongoing trauma, and how they live day after day after day, and what the medications they’re taking do their system. That was particularly important. No one really knows for sure what it’s doing to their systems.”

The issues with medications are addressed; many people don’t realize how damaging many HIV medications can be. Another topic: why some muscular HIV-positive men are maniacal about their upkeep.

“One thing about gay men is many of them are body-conscious. Another issue is when you’ve gone through HIV, and your body is wasting away,” Cordone said. “All these people you see in the film at the gym working out at some point were wasting away. They were alarmingly thin. There is one particular man in the film, Steve, who is mentioned going on steroid therapy, which promotes muscle mass and prevents his muscles from fading away. On top of that, it really does build up muscle tone—and that relates to a comment that was also made about HIV-positive men having the best bodies.”

Cardone said he wasn’t prepared for how the film changed his own perspective.

“On an intellectual level, I was sort of prepared for it, and I knew what was going to come up. You know what you’re going to find on an intellectual level,” he said. “But what surprises you is the emotional impact that it has on you. … Hearing their stories in emotional ways was really overwhelming at times. You’re sitting there re-living someone’s life with them, and they’re being completely honest and open. It’s made me a more open and emotional person and helped me put my own life into perspective—and to be grateful. Just getting into that emotional heart of the matter took me by surprise and was a really good thing about making the film.”

I wanted to hear more about some of these men’s stories—especially about a man named Ted, who mentioned he read And the Band Played On and remembered his encounter with “patient zero.” Cardone said it was hard to figure out what to use and what not to use.

“Everyone brought something to the table and was really unique in a way,” he said. “There’s a lot more to Ted … that unfortunately didn’t make it into the film. It’s where he’s been and the things he’s been through. The same with Will, the gentleman with the sores on his back, and how he feels as a result of having his skin break out like that. There’s so much there, and everyone had a complex story. The hard part was trying to fit it all into the film, because there were so many wonderful moments from everyone—joy and sadness, and everything in between. It was hard to find a balance to fit everything into the movie without shortchanging anyone, and I hope we were successful.”

The Desert AIDS Project is shown in the documentary providing health-care services to some of the subjects. Cardone said the DAP is truly unique, and no program like it exists anywhere else in the country.

“I think what they’re doing overall is extremely positive,” Cardone said. “There is nowhere else that offers what they do. No organization is perfect, but what they do for people, and how they have helped people to transform their lives, is truly magnificent. People couldn’t get access to that health care if they were living in other areas in America, and that’s sort of been the attraction for people to come to the desert. They do a lot of fundraising and raising awareness, and making sure that people with HIV who do live here don’t feel like pariahs and don’t feel like there’s no support. The dental, the checkups, the housing—there’s so many things they offer. The healthcare when you have HIV is a big deal.”

Desert Migration will be screened at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Camelot Theatres. 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $15; the proceeds will benefit the Palm Springs International Film Society and the Desert AIDS Project. For tickets or more information, call 760-325-6565, or visit www.psfilmfest.org. For more information on the film, visit www.facebook.com/DesertMigration.

Published in Previews and Features