CVIndependent

Fri12152017

Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

When residents of the Coachella Valley joined many, many thousands of visitors from around the globe last year to celebrate Greater Palm Springs Pride, the mood was decidedly mixed.

On one hand, the year 2015 had brought us arguably the greatest LGBT-rights legal victory ever: full marriage equality in all 50 states.

On the other hand, we were reeling from the news that just days before Pride—mere feet from the site of the Pride enclosure on Arenas Road—George Zander, a prominent LGBT-rights activist that so many of us knew and loved, had been gay-bashed along with his husband, Chris, after leaving Hunters Nightclub.

Fortunately, George’s prognosis was good, although he faced a lengthy and grueling rehabilitation process after injuries including a broken hip.

As 2016’s Greater Palm Springs Pride approaches, the mood of locals and visitors alike is decidedly less joyous than it was a year ago.

In the months since last year’s Pride, the LGBT community has found itself under attack. Horrifying new laws in some states are targeting the rights of transgender men and women to simply be able to go to the bathroom safely. The Republican presidential ticket has come out staunchly against the nationwide marriage equality we all celebrated so joyously when we gained the right a year and a half ago. And most horrifically of all, a shooter—perhaps conflicted by his own sexuality—killed 49 revelers, and injured dozens of more, late one June night at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Fla.

As for George Zander: Many of us gathered earlier this week in downtown Palm Springs for a candlelight vigil to mourn his passing last December. That good prognosis we all clung to with hope during last year’s Pride turned out to be woefully incorrect. 

As we get together for Greater Palm Springs Pride 2016, we’ll deal with all of the emotions of the last year—sadness, mourning, anger and, yes, joy, too—with the help of art, just as our fellow humans have done for millennia.

We’ll march. We’ll play and listen to music. We’ll dance. We’ll revel in art. We’ll act and become engrossed in story at the theater.

And we’ll hope that by the time Greater Palm Springs Pride 2017 rolls around, we’ll have a lot less to mourn—and a lot more to celebrate.

Published in Editor's Note

When Chris Zander shared the news on Dec. 10 via Facebook that his husband—local LGBT activist and local Equality California field director George Zander—had passed away, many people in the community reacted with shock.

George and Chris Zander had been attacked on Nov. 1 near Calle Encilia and Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs after leaving Hunters Nightclub. Two suspects, Keith Terranova and Christopher Carr, have since been arrested; both have pleaded not guilty to crimes including battery with serious injury, elder abuse and hate crime. The Palm Springs Police Department said Carr has nine previous arrests, and both Carr and Terranova have previously been convicted of battery.

Chris Zander, 33, required stitches after being struck in the back of the head with a tire iron, while George Zander, 71, suffered a double-fracture to his hip, which required surgery.

George had gotten through the surgery and was back home after spending some time in a rehab center. Friends reported that George was recovering and in good spirits—which is why Chris’ announcement on Dec. 10 was so shocking.

That morning, George was rushed to Desert Regional Medical Center and passed away at 7:50 a.m., police said. The cause of death has not been publicly released as of our press deadline.

Prosecutors have not yet said whether Terranova and Carr will be charged with murder.


During a recent phone interview, Equality California executive director Rick Zbur talked about all that Zander did in the desert.

“He was our primary staff person in the desert areas and Inland Empire, and he started working with us in 2009,” Zbur said. “George was an amazing person, and it’s a huge loss for our organization, the LGBT community and the broader communities in the desert area.

“He spent his time working with us and focusing on schools and making sure the needs of seniors were met. He was our primary person in the desert areas enrolling people in health care, and, of course, George was a bit of a political junkie and understood the importance of making sure pro-LGBT elected officials were elected. He was very much our person on the ground and a key part of our political program as well.”

Zbur said that while Zander was a great activist, he was also was a person who cared deeply for others.

“I can’t tell you how many of our volunteers in the desert communities are so saddened by his passing. He mentored individuals, and people loved him. He was a kind and generous soul. He used his work to try to mentor LGBT individuals and young adults as they were coming up, and help them understand the importance of organizing and how you do it. He really took people under his wing and became a big part of their lives.”

Zbur said the fact that such a hate crime could happen in a “gay Mecca” like Palm Springs illustrated an unfortunate reality.

“We know that hate crimes are still commonplace throughout California and throughout the nation,” he said. “I think there’s been sort of a recent understanding of the violence that transgender people are now facing throughout the country. We had 22 transgender people lose their lives in the past year. But this is also a wake-up call that we have a lot of work to do in advancing acceptance and understanding of the entire LGBT community.

“We have pockets of misunderstanding and apathy toward our community, and that’s why we’re very focused on the new part of our mission, which is increasing acceptance for LGBT people. George was a very key part of that process for us. Within our community, after the huge success we achieved with marriage equality, people have asked, ‘Is the fight over?’ I think this shows that we have a lot of work to do.”


Paulina Angel, a local musician and transgender activist, was a close friend of George Zander. During an interview at the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, she talked about how she met George.

“About 10 years ago, I was part of Gay Associated Youth, and they invited me for a fundraiser brunch in Palm Springs, and at that event is where I met George,” Angel said. “I was still this shy person, and I didn’t know what to expect. I first came out as gay before I came out as transgender, so he knew me when I was this person named Paul Angel. He loved talking to people and working with people. He made sure that your rights were taken care of.

“The great thing about him was that he was always working on something. Whether it was rights for the LGBT community, or for people who needed health care, he cared. He cared about people in the middle class, and people in the Hispanic community—he really loved working on Hispanic-related issues. He was a very dedicated organizer. He loved organizing things for people and making sure their messages were heard. That’s one of the great things about George.”

Angel noted that George was dedicated to anything he took on, which made him enjoyable to work with, no matter the issue.

“He was always hard at work. He’d be up until 3 in the morning working on something,” Angel said. “He loved to work, and he would never rest until something was done. That’s the thing I loved about him and what we had in common—we both loved working on things all the way into the night. Even when people around us were asleep, we loved working.”

After the November attack, Angel stayed with Chris at the Zanders’ home and helped him through the difficult time.

“It was especially hard on Chris. I remember when he came back to their place after he got out of the hospital,” Angel said. “Once he saw me, he ran up to me and just hugged me and was crying; I was a little-teary eyed, too. He was so shaken up by what happened and was very nervous. He was always thinking about George and just wanted to go back and be by his bedside. He didn’t want to talk to anyone, and I helped him out with facilitating anything that came along.

“When I saw George (after the attack), he had the biggest smile. Even when something knocked him down, he always put a smile on his face. He was like, ‘Hey, these people did this to me, but they haven’t taken away my smile.’”

She last saw George on Nov. 17—the day of her first musical performance in many years, at the benefit show for George and Chris Zander organized by the Independent at Chill Bar in Palm Springs.

“I saw him before the show,” she said. “I went and visited him, and we were just making each other smile and laugh. He asked me, ‘Are you going to play me a song?’ and I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll play you a song.’ But I wasn’t able to, because he had to go and have X-rays. We spent 20 minutes talking about the event and what was going on. I remember he told me, ‘I’m a little bit in pain, and you might hear me say a curse word or two.’ I joked with him: ‘George Zander say a curse word? Never!’”

Angel said she plans to keep working as an activist.

“For me, I talk to my grandmother a lot, and we talked about this. She asked me, ‘I’m concerned about you, because you live there, and you’re at a lot of those events. Aren’t you afraid of someone attacking you?’” Angel said. “My belief is if it happens, it happens. I’m not going to live my life under the sheets thinking I can’t go out because someone is going to beat me up. I’m going to live my life, and if it happens, it happens, but I’m not going to let it stop me from doing what I need to do. Especially as an activist myself, I’m not going to let it scare me away from the work that I’ve been working on—and what George worked on.”


Ray Chance, a friend of George and Chris Zander, started a GoFundMe campaign to get a star for George Zander on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars. In just seven days, he raised $11,000, with a boost from local activist and philanthropist Harold Matzner. Chance is now going through the process to get the star approved.

“It was kind of a gut emotional reaction to do something to memorialize George,” Chance said. “After he died, I thought, ‘That’s not the end of it! It’s not going to end here!’ George was a star in his own right. He was a star in Palm Springs. He brought light everywhere he went, and he was always on the street on Thursday nights at the VillageFest. In Palm Springs, there can be no better legacy for George. When I talked to Chris about it, after we got through the tears again, Chris said, ‘George would be tickled pink to have a star on the sidewalk!’ I was like, ‘Thank you, Chris! That’s all I needed to hear!’

Chance said some people have questioned whether it’s appropriate for such an effort to be dedicated to getting George a star, but he plans on seeing this to completion.

“I’ve received some less-than-supportive comments about doing this, and questions like, ‘Why don’t you donate to a foundation?’ or this or that. Everyone needs to choose his or her own way to honor,” Chance said.

Chance was a friend of George Zander for 12 years.

“I met him after I moved to the desert. George had a huge public personality, and in the 12 years I knew him, he became an incredibly devoted, dear and loved person,” Chance said. “We would set aside a day in April where we would have our own Thanksgiving so all of our chosen family could get together.”

Since starting the GoFundMe effort, Chance has heard from many of George Zander’s friends from Seattle, where Zander lived before moving to Palm Springs.

“He had a huge impact there,” Chance said. “Based on the number of people who have donated and made comments from Seattle—including friends he had up there who are on the Seattle City Council issuing a letter of condolence to Chris Zander—he was big in Seattle before he came down here. And God bless him for coming down here, because with George, there was no artifice about his dedication to equality, tribal equality or transgender equality. He was for equality for all.”


On the day of Zander’s death, I reached out to prominent LGBT and HIV/AIDS activist Cleve Jones.

“I moved down to Palm Springs in the late ’90s, and sometime after that, he had just moved down from Seattle,” Jones said from San Francisco. “We had both been involved in Democratic Party politics. He was also a member of the peace vigils that were held every Saturday at Tahquitz Canyon and Palm Canyon to oppose the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“He was a really lovely man. He was a gentle soul, very kind, very smart, very hard-working, and it’s just a terrible loss. I’m so angry and hurt that such a wonderful life would end the way it did.”

Jones said people can learn a lot from George Zander about what it really means to be an activist.

“A lot of people call themselves activists, and all they ever do is talk about it or type about it, but George really was an activist and a worker,” Jones said. “He was always out there, and you could see him every Thursday night at VillageFest, and he would be out there with the Stonewall Democrats. He was at every rally, every hearing, and he always did the work. He didn’t just talk about it—he DID the work. I really value people like that, especially in this current age with people who think clicking on a screen is activism.”

Jones reflected on the fact that such an attack happened just off Arenas Road in Palm Springs.

“Right in the gayborhood, and right where it’s supposed to be a safe place,” he said. “I believe we’ve won some very important victories in recent years, but there are so many of us who are still being beaten up and murdered, and too many of our kids who are committing suicide and (contracting) HIV. Our work is not done and never will be.

“I would like to believe that what happened to George and Chris will have some meaning, and I hope and expect that many people will see this as a dreadful reminder that there is work to be done. It’s so hard to convey to people who didn’t know George what a sweet and dear man he really was. I just really don’t have the right words to describe what a gentle soul he was. I don’t recall him ever engaging in any mean-spirited stuff. He was very positive and brought out the best in people in everyone that he was around.”


Chris Zander has been keeping a low profile and declined to speak to the Independent. However, on Dec. 21, he took to Facebook to discuss plans for a memorial service for George.

“We have not yet decided a date for George Zander’s celebration of life services,” he wrote. “I will make sure to post it on both of our pages as soon as a date has been chosen. I know there is a sense of urgency with many of his friends to pay their respects, and I would like nothing more than to honor that, but at this time, I am still in a bit of shock and haven’t been able to make a clear decision on when all of this should take place. Thank you for all of your LOVE and support!”

Photos below: George Zander and friend Ray Chance; Zander at a rally for transgender rights; Zander and Jeanne Legault, during his days in Seattle; Zander and Congressman Raúl Ruiz.

Published in Features

I admit I’m feeling unnerved.

The terrorist attack in San Bernardino followed seemingly unrelated events including the shooting of Black Lives Matter activists in Minneapolis, and the murder of three people at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Then came the fire-bombing at the mosque in Coachella, and the death of my old friend George Zander after the gay-bashing he and his husband, Chris, suffered in downtown Palm Springs. (As of this writing, it is not yet clear whether Zander’s death was directly related to that assault.)

Coincidentally, I recently ran out of new books on my nightstand, and began re-reading two old favorites: 1984 and Brave New World. They are both incredible novels—but reading them at the same time is perhaps an unnecessary punishment at a time when our own country’s future seems to be so precariously hanging on the next presidential election.

George Orwell’s 1984 is set in a world of never-ending war, invasive government surveillance, the manipulation of history, tyranny dominated by the presence of Big Brother, and the control of society by a privileged class via a party motivated purely by power. The book was published in 1949, after World War II, and uses the destruction of London as its physical backdrop (not unlike the devastation depicted in Mad Max or Clockwork Orange). It also envisions a society in which citizens are controlled through fear and intimidation.

Orwell introduced concepts we use today. When things are described as “Orwellian,” we mean they go too far in manipulating or depriving the population of the basic necessities of life. The concept of Big Brother became a reality television show on which a group of people live together, isolated from the outside world—and always under the watchful eye of the television camera. “Doublespeak” and “groupthink” came straight from Orwell’s frightening vision of a totalitarian future in which children spy on their parents, and the ultimate punishment for independent thinking is to be confronted by the thing that frightens one most. Anyone who has ever read 1984 cannot possibly forget Winston Smith and the rats.

Brave New World, written by Aldous Huxley and published in 1932, casts the future as a perpetually happy utopia in which people live in a clean, efficient, technically advanced society, without traditional marriage or family—embryos are artificially manufactured with restricted abilities and ambitions. Class distinctions are fully accepted based on sleep-programmed education from infancy, and the size of the population is strictly controlled so each class can be provided with everything it needs. A drug keeps the population docile, and those few who dare to see themselves as individuals are banished to uninhabitable parts of the globe. Individuality is discouraged, and society is run as a benevolent dictatorship.

How do these two books relate to my being upset about the beating of the Zanders and the bombing of the mosque? These two local crimes seem motivated by individuals willing to use violence based on their individual visceral opposition to gays or Muslims; a recent study by Nathan Kalmoe, a University of Michigan doctoral candidate, articulated a broader explanation of the willingness of individuals to use violence for political gain.

At a time when the leading candidate of one of our two dominant political parties is shamelessly using demagoguery—attempting to gain power by arousing the emotions and prejudices of others—to play to the fears of Americans in exchange for political support, it is no surprise that Kalmoe found that combative and even violent political rhetoric can make some Americans see violence as an appropriate means to an end.

“The rhetoric of ‘fighting’ for a cause, declaring ‘war’ on problems, and suffering ‘attacks’ from opponents, is how political leaders, journalists and citizens often talk about politics,” says Kalmoe. “Political leaders, pundits and citizens regularly demonize opponents and emphasize the righteousness of their own goals. Language like that may facilitate moral disengagement, which allows people to rationalize the harm they do to others.”

To be fair, most people in the study opposed violence, but a significant minority, ranging from 5 to 14 percent, agreed with the use of violent options, while between 10 and 18 percent were indifferent. That means millions of ordinary Americans accept the general idea of violence to gain political ends. Not surprisingly, Kalmoe found that young adults are more prone to adopt violent attitudes after exposure to such language—possibly explaining the appeal of groups like ISIS and domestic militias that seem to offer a way for disaffected young people to act and not just feel powerless.

Both Brave New World and 1984 are cautionary tales, and each depicted a future that has not come to pass. But we do have elements of each: surveillance; calls for a greater invasion of privacy, even of citizens; the manipulation of language to mean something other than what it means (in 1984, the three central principals are “War Is Peace; Freedom Is Slavery; Ignorance Is Strength”); conformity in the name of assimilation; the use of drugs to minimize distress; turning on each other in the name of security (“If you see something, say something”); and class consciousness.

More than 25 years after Brave New World, Huxley wrote a nonfiction work, Brave New World Revisited, in which he considered whether the world had moved toward or away from his vision. According to Wikipedia, Huxley concluded that the world was becoming like the future he had envisioned much faster than he originally thought it would.

My conclusion, after San Bernardino, the attack on the Zanders, and the Coachella mosque is that we are much closer to 1984 and Orwell’s prediction that fear would be the ultimate motivator of political power.

If we are to retain our values and head toward a more optimistic future—one in which our religious houses of worship and the Zanders of our world are secure—we need to recognize that casting every conflict in apocalyptic language and falling for demagogic rhetoric must be rejected.

If you think your vote doesn’t count, think again—while you still can.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

At most alternative publications, the “Best Of” is the biggest issue of the year. Advertising reps and readers tend to love “Best Of”; editors tend to loathe it.

Well, we’ve just brought you our second annual Best of Coachella Valley—and while I am indeed an editor, I don’t loathe this issue at all. In fact, it was a lot of fun to put together.

Of course, most alt-paper “Best Of” issues are much bigger and more complex than the Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016. That’s not to say there isn’t some heft and complexity; we do have more than 115 readers’ choice categories, as well as a half-dozen staff picks, and an excellent feature on The Flusters, the group voted Best Local Band. But compared to, say, LA Weekly’s Best of L.A., this “Best Of” is tiny. But it’s bigger than last year’s Best of Coachella Valley. Next year’s will probably be even bigger. Such is life at a (thankfully) growing, 3-year-old alternative publication.

While I can (and do) quibble with some of the readers’ choice results, I am quite pleased overall. A LOT of readers voted this year; thank you for that. This year’s winners are more geographically diverse, too; there are more eastern-valley businesses taking home awards.

Anyway, I’ve done enough babbling about the “Best Of.” Let’s talk about a party instead—and celebrate the winners of the Coachella Valley Independent’s Best of Coachella Valley 2015-2016!

Join us at Bart Lounge—the winner of Best Nightclub and Best Bar Ambiance in the readers’ poll—at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 15. Everybody and anybody (21+) is invited. Admission is free! At 7:15 or so, we’ll kick off our brief awards ceremony. After that, Best Local Band winner The Flusters will take the stage.

Before and after, enjoy the sounds of Best DJ finalists Alex Harrington and Tommy Locust!

Email me if you have any questions. See you there!


Around 8:30 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 1, Equality California field manager George Zander and his husband, Chris Zander, were leaving Hunters Nightclub on Arenas Road in downtown Palm Springs. They were holding hands when an unidentified male began to shout anti-gay slurs at them. The man then walked away.

When the Zanders reached the corner of South Calle Encilia and East Tahquitz Canyon Way, the man returned with an accomplice and attacked them.

In the resulting scuffle, Chris Zander suffered a concussion, as well as cuts and bruises. George Zander, 71, was knocked to the ground and suffered a broken hip.

On Thursday, Nov. 12, Palm Springs police announced they had arrested Keith Terranova, 35, of Palm Springs. On Dec. 1, police announced they had in custody the second suspect: Christopher James Carr, 30, of Desert Hot Springs. Among other things, the two are charged with committing a hate crime.

The attack hit close to home, for all sorts of reasons, here at the Independent. Editor/publisher Jimmy Boegle is a friend of George, and both Boegle and assistant editor Brian Blueskye play in the same softball league as Chris. We felt the need to do something to help.

With the help of Chill Bar, we assembled a benefit show, hosted by activist and counselor Richard Noble. On Tuesday, Nov. 17, Paulina Angel—a good friend of the Zanders—kicked off the event, and was followed by ukulele master Johnny Elsewhere. The Flusters—just voted the Best Local Band by Independent readers—then played a full set. Finally, Haunted Summer also played a full set, wowing the decent-sized crowd.

All of the performers played for nothing or next to nothing; they have my eternal gratitude. Thanks also to everyone who donated raffle prizes, including Desert Rose Playhouse, Dezart Performs, the Desert AIDS Project, Lola’s Signature Touch, Gay Desert Guide, Contempo Lending, Jeffrey Norman and our gracious hosts, Chill Bar and Jacob, Anya and Kevin. (Forgive me, please, if I missed anybody.)

Thanks to donations and raffle proceeds, the show raised $564—a modest but helpful sum. The proceeds were given directly to the Zanders, to assist with their mounting medical bills.

Below are some pictures from our benefit show, by Tommy Locust.

Published in Editor's Note

Ron Celona says films like Uniquely Nasty, which document the persecution of LGBT Americans, are important—because you never know what the future may bring.

“Anything is possible when it comes to the presidential election and that turn of events,” says Celona, the artistic director of Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre. “In individual states, they’re still trying to overturn (laws protecting LGBT rights). There are still discriminatory things happening.”

This why Celona worked so hard to bring the film Uniquely Nasty: The U.S. Government’s War on Gays to town, for two showings at CV Rep on Wednesday, Sept. 9. The 30-minute documentary, narrated and reported by Yahoo News’ Michael Isikoff, tells three stories that show how the U.S. government persecuted and discriminated against LGBT Americans in the 20th century.

The screenings at CV Rep will be followed by panel discussions featuring locals George Zander, of Equality California; and Andy Linsky, a member of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation board. They’ll be joined by Isikoff and Charles Francis, the president of the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C. 

It’s the Mattachine Society of Washington, D.C., that catalyzed the making of the film, says Lisa Linsky, an attorney with McDermott Will and Emery, in New York City; she’ll be the moderator of Wednesday’s panel discussions. (Side note: She’s also a friend of Celona’s from high school; their recent re-connection, long story short, led to these Palm Springs screenings.) Linsky’s firm has been doing pro-bono work for the Mattachine Society—an “archive activism” organization focusing on LGBT history—for three years, obtaining historical government documents to tell forgotten and/or under-publicized stories about the U.S. government’s discriminatory treatment of LGBT citizens going back to the 1940s. Some of this research was used for an amicus brief that was submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court as the nine justices considered the recent gay-marriage issue. As we all know, the court ruled 5-4 in June that marriage equality was the law of the land.

Back before that historic decision, in January, Linsky took part in a program that showed off some of her firm’s findings for the Mattachine Society. Isikoff was in the audience.

“He expressed fascination, and said he wanted to do a documentary about the work,” Linsky says. “Two weeks later, the documentary was green-lit by Yahoo.”

The documentary was posted on Yahoo News in June, shortly before the 5-4 decision in the Obergefell v. Hodges case was announced. Linsky says the documentary has received well more than a million views thus far.

One story told in Uniquely Nasty focuses on Wyoming U.S. Sen. Lester Hunt. In 1953, Democratic senator’s son was arrested and accused of soliciting sex from an uncover male police officer. Republicans, including notorious red-scare Sen. Joseph McCarthy, threatened to publicize the arrest if Hunt didn’t decline to run for re-election and resign his seat. At first, Hunt refused the demands of his opposing senators—but he later became so distraught over the matter than he took his own life, on June 19, 1954.

Linsky says the goal of the documentary is to educate young people, and hold government accountable for its past wrongdoings.

“Our overarching objective is to inform people about this work (by the Mattachine Society), the nature of the work, and why it’s significant,” she says.

While the country seems to be definitively moving in a direction toward widespread LGBT acceptance, that does not mean there won’t be setbacks, especially when it comes to the actions of local, state and federal governments, Celona says—and that’s why it’s important to learn about the history told in Uniquely Nasty.

“How do we deal with what the future will bring?” he asked.

Screenings of Uniquely Nasty: The U.S. Government’s War on Gays, followed by panel discussions, take place at Wednesday, Sept. 9, at the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre, 69930 Highway 111, in Rancho Mirage. A public screening takes place at 6 p.m., with a by-invitation screening at 8 p.m. Admission is free, but seats are limited and will fill up. To RSVP, call 760-296-2966, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Watch the film at Yahoo News, or scroll down to the Media section below.

Published in Previews and Features

The nascent Sunny Dunes Antique District had a coming-out party, of sorts, on Saturday, June 20.

Various businesses in the district kept their doors open a little later than normal for the Pop Shop Hop, “an evening of shopping and discovery of all the shops on Sunny Dunes,” according to the event’s Facebook page.

A decent-sized crowd—considering it was about 110 degrees outside—wandered among the various shops and chatted with proprietors; anybody who visited all of the participating businesses received a free entry into a raffle. Of course, participants could purchase extra raffle tickets, with the proceeds going to the Safe House of the Desert, which operates the Pop Shop thrift store in the area.

Around 8 p.m., people assembled at the Tool Shed, a gay/leather bar on Sunny Dunes, for the raffle drawing; all of the prizes were donated by various area businesses.

“I love this neighborhood,” said George Zander, who helped organize the Pop Shop Hop. He’s part of Some Fabulous Leos, a charity group which has spent the last year supporting the Safe House. “I love the entrepreneurship.”

Yes, there’s lots to love in this little neighborhood, located just south of downtown Palm Springs, where a lot of new businesses have popped up within the last year or two—and in that spirit of entrepreneurship, these businesses came together earlier this year and started holding monthly meetings to fight for common interests.

The Sunny Dunes Antique District—not everyone’s sold on that name, by the way—has modest goals. A bike path and bike racks, for example. A sign at the start of the district on Sunny Dunes. Maybe a stop for the Palm Springs BUZZ Trolley, which as of now simply zooms by the area.

The group already has a win under its belt, of sorts. Bill Sanderson, of Townie Bagels, Bakery and Café, notes that the group worked with Palm Springs Councilwoman Ginny Foat to get the city to allow businesses to place A-frame signs outside. Unlike the businesses in, say, the Uptown Design District, the businesses in the Sunny Dunes Antique District can’t legally place signs outside, Sanderson explained, because the area is zoned for commercial manufacturing.

As of now, that zoning remains in place, although he said Foat received assurances that the businesses wouldn’t be cited if they put out A-frames. “As for a zoning change, we’re working for that to become permanent,” he said.

Speaking of new businesses: While Townie has been selling bagels and other goodies at farmers’ markets for some time now, Townie’s storefront, at 650 E. Sunny Dunes Road (in the spot formerly occupied by Tlaquepaque), isn’t even open yet. Fingers crossed, it’ll open sometime in July. During the Pop Shop Hop, Townie used some counter space inside the Pop Shop.

Next door to the Pop Shop, more or less, is the 20,000-square-foot building that houses Antique Galleries of Palm Springs, at 505 E. Industrial Place. Mike Rivkin is one of the owners of Antique Galleries, which opened over Thanksgiving weekend 2014. He and others credit Angela Kinley, who manages the Pop Shop, with galvanizing the creation of the neighborhood group (although it should be noted that Kinley adamantly, yet politely, refuses to be a spokesperson for the neighborhood).

“This building was closed for a number of years,” Rivkin said about his delightfully air-conditioned space. It was previously a printing facility and then a medical-marijuana-growing spot, he said.

“The building was a wreck,” Rivkin said. Today, it houses diverse wares from dozens of vendors. “I think, in some respects, this building was a catalyst” for the increase in area businesses over the last year or so.

Rivkin said the business district has been a success so far because everybody in the neighborhood seems to understand the idiom: “A rising tide lifts all boats.”

“There’s a lack of competitiveness and a wonderful sense of collaboration,” Rivkin said, pointing out that he often refers customers to the other antique/collectables businesses in the area—and vice-versa.

Across the street from the Pop Shop and Antique Galleries is I Remember This!, a vintage and collectables store that also opened around Thanksgiving last year. Co-owner Andy Cardenas said he’s heard from other potential store owners who are interested in the district, even though the area hasn’t necessarily had a great reputation.

“We’d like to keep this a neighborhood,” he said. “We want to keep it from becoming too commercialized so we don’t lose our focus. We want it to be more independent.”

The Sunny Dunes Antique District obviously has a long way to go—including reaching a definitive conclusion on that name. (Some of the stores that don’t sell antiques have concerns, it turns out.)

“We all got together to try something,” said Bill Sanderson, of Townie Bagels.

Considering the number of new businesses opening in the area, what they’re trying seems to be working. Stay tuned.

Below: Andy Cardenas, of I Remember This!: “We’d like to keep this a neighborhood. We want to keep it from becoming too commercialized so we don’t lose our focus. We want it to be more independent.” TOMMY HAMILTON/TOMMY LOCUST PHOTOGRAPHY

Published in Local Issues

Everybody knew the U.S. Supreme Court would be ruling on the gay-marriage question sometime in late June.

However, nobody was sure what the decision would be—and nobody was sure when it would be announced.

Of course, now we all know: On Friday, June 26, in a narrow 5-4 ruling, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional for states to prohibit same-sex couples from marrying. The ruling means that, effectively, same-sex marriage is now legal in 50 states.

How fitting it was that the ruling was announced on June 26—the same day that the U.S. Supreme Court, in 2013, struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and legalized (for the second time) same-sex marriage in California by effectively throwing out Proposition 8. It's also the same day that in 2003, the Supreme Court ruled that sodomy laws were unconstitutional. 

On Friday night, hundreds of people showed up at Francis Stevens Park in downtown Palm Springs for a rally that had been planned for weeks—albeit with the date TBA—by the LGBT Center of the Desert. Below is a gallery of photos from the momentous celebration.

Photos by Tommy Hamilton/Tommy Locust photography.

Published in Snapshot