Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

No annual event is more beloved—and as specific to Palm Springs—as Modernism Week.

The February program, a celebration of the city’s history as a playground and showcase for midcentury modern architecture and design, has long since expanded beyond a week. It actually stirs a few months early, in the form of the Modernism Week Fall Preview, which grows more and more as the years go by.

This year’s Modernism Week Fall Preview will take place Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 17-20, with 50 events taking place over those four days—and some of those events are already sold out.

“Most of the events in October are smaller versions of what you’ll see in February,” said Tom Dolle, creative director for Destination PSP, which “produces unique, originally designed merchandise.” Dolle is the creative mind behind the Modernism Week Fall Preview’s immersive, Instagram-friendly Cul-de-Sac Experience, now in its third year.

The Cul-de-Sac Experience is a compelling hybrid of exhibit, home tour and performance art. On Sunday, Oct. 20, one short block of homes in the famed Canyon View Estates, all designed by William Krisel, will be transformed into a period replica outside and in, complete with antique cars in the driveways and costumed extras. The idea came about when Dolle—a graphic designer by trade and a classic-car lover by nature—considered how best to give back to the city he loves. He looked at the cul-de-sac where he resides, which includes eight identical houses, as well as a condo complex. He was once tasked with hosting a friend’s classic car, which, for space reasons, he decided to park in his part-time neighbor’s driveway.

“It was one of those lightbulb moments,” Dolle said. “It was like stepping into a time capsule.”

This year, the dynamic scene will be set in 1966, two years after the famed Whisky a Go Go opened in Los Angeles, and Carol Doda started dancing topless at the Condor Club in San Francisco. In addition to this year’s selection of period cars (“perfectly curated, all convertibles,” Dolle said), organizers are bringing in a DJ and period go-go dancers to perform as visitors mill about, interacting with the houses and a bevy of models dressed in 1960s high fashion. Guests are welcome to dress to the theme, and photography is more than encouraged.

Included in the experience—tickets cost $75—are guided tours of the pool and garden areas, and a souvenir booklet complete with historical information, photos and vintage ads. There will even be a vintage ice cream cart.

“Everyone gets an ice cream—a Fudgesicle or a Creamsicle,” Dolle said.

The Cul-de-Sac Experience is one of the few Fall Preview events that isn’t replicated at the main February event.

“The Fall Preview is becoming much more important (in its own right), and sort of more lifestyle-oriented,” Dolle said, whereas the main event is “much more architecture- and design- and tour-oriented.”

Dolle added: “February really attracts people from all over the world. The fall event, because it’s a shorter time period, is traditionally more local.”

Of course, the Fall Preview will include Modernism Week staples like the double-decker-bus architectural tours (some of which are already sold out). Also popular is the self-guided tour of Frank Sinatra’s former estate, the E. Stewart Williams-designed “Twin Palms Residence” in the Movie Colony neighborhood. It’s listed as a Class 1 historical site by the city of Palm Springs, and became listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016. Palm Springs Preservation Foundation board members will be on hand to answer questions and provide informational handouts.

The mini-version of the Palm Springs Modernism Show and Sale will take place on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 19 and 20. Those wanting to get a jump on shopping for vintage furniture, lighting, art, jewelry, rugs, fashion and more from 40 different exhibitors can pay to attend a preview party on Friday night, Oct. 18.

Receiving special focus this fall is prolific local architect Hugh Kaptur, perhaps the last living heavyweight of Palm Springs midcentury modernism. Kaptur, 88, will be present at a free event from 10 a.m. to noon at the recently renovated Kaptur Plaza, and the subject of a free talk given by Palm Springs Preservation Foundation board member Steven Keylon at the Palm Springs Cultural Center at 11 a.m., Sunday, Oct. 20. The new Cole Hotel, a thorough rehabilitation of the Kaptur-designed former Bahama Hotel, will hold a celebratory opening party at 4 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 19; tickets are $55.

The events of the Fall Preview go beyond admiring buildings; for example, those 21 and older can enjoy learning—with a three-drink minimum!—as the bartenders at Mr. Lyons Steakhouse lead a Midcentury Mixology Cocktail Clinic on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 18 and 19; the $62 cost includes the aforementioned three drinks.

Back to Cul-de-Sac A Go Go!: Dolle said he’s excited about creating a place where guests can “be really happy, and have a great time,” even if it is just for a couple of hours.

“It’s celebrating the concept of modernism,” Dolle said.

The Modernism Week Fall Preview, including more than 50 events, takes place Thursday, Oct. 17, through Sunday, Oct. 20. For tickets and more information, including a complete schedule, visit

Published in Local Fun

I love signature events, and they don’t get any more “signature” in the Coachella Valley than Modernism Week. It has become the defining celebration of the things this city stands for—iconic architecture, glamour, sophistication, occasional hedonism and complete freedom.

What is modernism? Wikipedia says this: “Modernism is a philosophical movement that, along with cultural trends and changes, arose from wide-scale and far-reaching transformations in Western society during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It was the touchstone of the movement’s approach towards what it saw as the now obsolete culture of the past.” Modernism transformed every aspect of society and the arts—and it still permeates our thinking and world view.

Volumes have been written, discussed and debated about the movement. Modernism Week focuses on the architecture that arose after World War II but does not limit itself to that. With more than 350 tours, lectures, screenings and parties taking place from Thursday, Feb. 14, through Sunday, Feb. 24, Modernism Week is simply far too large to cover in a single article … or even a single issue of a newspaper.

After hours of reviewing press releases and schedules regarding Modernism Week, I was left with a question and a thought. The question: How did a dusty, remote village in the Mojave Desert become a world-class destination symbolizing modern style and misbehavior? The thought: The appeal of Modernism Week goes far deeper than just an appreciation of architecture and interior design.

Many people credit the Hollywood studio system with the invention of Palm Springs. Starting in the silent-film era, movie stars were elevated to the status of royalty, instantly recognizable around the globe. However, a series of scandals involving sex, drugs and suicides threatened the very existence of Hollywood, and major studios began writing ethics clauses into their contracts—and any infringement of the strict moral codes would end careers immediately. Studio spies and gossip columnists were watching every movement and action of these new kings and queens.

The studios also required that its stars could not travel farther than two hours from the studio without permission, just in case reshooting was required. However, the exuberance and freedom from the status quo of the Roaring ’20s was far too great to be contained by a mere contract, and the opening of a tennis club in a desert crossroads exactly two hours from Hollywood provided a perfect escape from the watchful eyes of studio bosses.

Spanish colonial retreats surrounded by high walls and privacy hedges soon sprang up, creating the neighborhoods of Las Palmas and the Movie Colony. A town grew to service the needs of the Hollywood elite who congregated here. Word leaked out to the public about the luxury, the parties, the affairs and the licentiousness in this desert oasis. The legend of Palm Springs took root, and people flocked here to catch a glimpse of it.

After World War II, a new generation of stars, still under contract, sought to re-create Palm Springs in a new and modern way. The war had created new technologies, and a group of young architects were eager to employ these innovations. Large sheets of glass and steel girders provided these architects with a new palette, and they invented a completely revolutionary style of building for the desert environment.

With the demise of the studio system in Hollywood in the late 1960s, Palm Springs experienced a decline. Several decades later, a new demographic discovered its charms: Gay men of a certain age began arriving. They were drawn here by the mystic history and the inexpensive housing. They began to lovingly restore the Modernist neighborhoods.

Palm Springs experienced a rebirth.

Today, Modernism Week draws fans from all over the world. While the amazing postwar architecture is the centerpiece, the art, culture and lifestyle are also celebrated. There’s something for everyone, from serious architectural buffs to simply the curious,

Page after page of events are scheduled over the 11-day run. As I reviewed them, I was impressed by the breadth of topics and experiences. Then it struck me: Almost everything that mentioned Hollywood, movie stars, the Rat Pack, Las Palmas and Movie Colony were already sold out … and this was more than a month before opening day. There was something going on here.

It’s well-documented that, as a society, we are beginning to value experiences over possessions. I would contend that a nostalgia for the glamour, luxury, risqué behavior and lifestyle of cocktails by the pool that created and sustained Palm Springs throughout its history still runs very deep. People want to experience what went on behind those high walls and privacy hedges themselves. Who can blame them? What better way to appreciate these innovative structures and the modern living style than an icing of excess?

So, take a walking tour. Attend a lecture, Watch a film. Learn about shade block. Have a cocktail at Frank’s house. Maybe indulge in some bad behavior. (Just make sure it’s not too bad.) Immerse yourself in the mid-century.

This is our heritage. These are our traditions. It is our gift to the world. I, for one, couldn’t possibly be prouder to be a part of it.

Modernism Week takes place from Thursday, Feb. 14, through Sunday, Feb. 24, at locations valley-wide. For more information, including a complete schedule and ticket information, visit

Published in Visual Arts

Modernism goes beyond architecture; the movement rippled through fashion, music, literature, philosophy and so much more.

This fact is something the Palm Springs Art Museum is highlighting during Modernism Week 2018—a time when the museum has much to celebrate.

Modernism Week—“the ultimate celebration of midcentury architecture, design and culture,” so says the week’s tag line—is returning Feb. 15-25 with more than 350 events in the Coachella Valley.

Michael Hinkle is the new director of philanthropy at the Palm Springs Art Museum; until recently, he was the managing director of the PSAM Architecture and Design Center, located in the southern portion of downtown Palm Springs. Both the main museum campus and the Architecture and Design Center will host Modernism Week events.

“Modernism Week creates this whole new opportunity to touch new audiences coming into town,” Hinkle said.

The museum’s Frey House II will again be open to the public for Modernism Week. The Frey House II, located above the Palm Springs Art Museum’s main campus, is perched on the side of a boulder—and the boulder is part of the home in many ways.

“Albert Frey actually left that house and its contents to the museum when he passed away in 1998,” Hinkle said. “He left it with the intention that we’d open it to architects and students, and through our official operator during Modernism Week, it’s the only time the general public can access the Frey House II. Other than that, (access) is very limited. It’s on a private road at the end of a street behind the museum, and it’s the only time the public can see that mid-century-modern jewel.”

I asked Hinkle how the museum produces Modernism Week events that draw attention and remain fresh each year. Hinkle’s response: The museum does what the museum knows.

“The museum itself has different collecting strengths, from contemporary art, glass and Western art, to architecture and design,” he said. “Modernism and architecture are both always on our mind. Our friends and partners at Modernism Week have certainly created an incredible opportunity that draws international attention to Palm Springs. We just really look to focus on what we do: We create exhibitions that speak to architectural design enthusiasts, and programming that supports those exhibitions. We also provide lectures that speak from a scholarly point of view to parties that celebrate mid-century modernism for fun.”

This year, the museum is celebrating an architectural accomplishment of its own: the opening of the road leading from Palm Canyon Drive to the Palm Springs Art Museum’s main campus, through the downtown redevelopment project.

“The exciting thing with Modernism Week this year is that the base of operations will be right across from the (museum) in downtown Palm Springs,” Hinkle said. “There will be a lot of excitement based around the opening of the … road to the museum, and having the lectures and the programs. (Modernism Week) is going to create the opportunities to have a fun experience or take a deep dive into exhibitions and architects like Albert Frey. Sidney Williams is going to do an amazing talk about technology and nature with Albert Frey, and how he connected and used that with his design aesthetic.”

Speaking of the downtown Palm Springs redevelopment project, Hinkle said he thinks it complements Palm Springs’ architectural history.

“The designers of the downtown Palm Springs park—they, like many designers and architects working in contemporary times, look to the modernism style and aren’t looking to re-create mid-century modernism, but to honor that kind of architecture in contemporary times by utilizing some of those aesthetics, whether it’s the clean lines and faces, the indoor/outdoor (combinations) or the roofs,” he said. “Downtown allows us to bring (the modernism aesthetic) to contemporary times with that amazing hotel and that Starbucks Reserve. When they opened up that road from Palm Canyon to the museum—it’s like the museum is positioned for a rebirth of some sorts.”

Hinkle said it’s exciting that Palm Springs and the rest of the Coachella Valley honor modernism—while also embracing new architecture and technology.

“The 20th century made a deep impact on art and architecture, and we are lucky in Palm Springs that we recognize that,” he said. “… There’s so much preservation and (so many) efforts to protect and honor the tradition of modernism, but we also have to realize that we’re in the 21st century now, and connecting those dots from modernism to now—it really allows us in Palm Springs to have the best of both worlds.”

For more information about Modernism Week, visit

Published in Visual Arts

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

DJ Baz, aka Barry Martin, is not a typical DJ—his musical tastes are vintage and unique.

Those traits make him a perfect fit as one of the two performers at the Modernism Week Tiki-a-Go-Go party at the Royal Hawaiian Estates on Saturday, Feb. 18.

During a recent interview, Martin explained this year’s theme for the party.

“This year’s spin is ‘go-go.’ You take the Sunset Strip with places like the Whisky a Go Go and the Troubadour and you bring it to Palm Springs,” Martin said. “It’s a combination of tiki music and go-go, so that’s why it’s called ‘Tiki a Go-Go.’ A band called the Hula Girls, from Orange County, will be performing a special set of music with a lot more go-go thematic twists. They also have two beautiful dancers on podiums. It’s going to be a lot of fun. This event always sells out, and it’s (the Royal Hawaiian Estates’) big fundraiser for the year. The residents at Royal Hawaiian love it. They’re typically very quiet.”

Martin considers himself a big fan of tiki culture.

“A lot of people associate tiki with Hawaii, which isn’t really true,” he said. “Tiki represents anywhere where they carve idols that would represent different things. Hawaii just stands out because it’s part of the United States, and we always think of tropical imagery of being only Hawaiian when it’s Samoa, Fiji and a lot of the other islands out there.”

According to Martin, The Hula Girls will not disappoint.

“I’ve seen the Hula Girls many times,” Martin said. “A lot of people hear them play and call it ‘rockabilly.’ A lot of what they do does, in fact, have a rockabilly edge to it, but they call it ‘hulabilly,’ so they’re taking Hawaiian themes … and were really big in surf guitar.”

Martin does a variety of events; he said he saw an opportunity.

“I saw a big, gaping hole,” Martin said. “Every time I would go to an event such as a fundraiser, a gala, or anything else like that, (DJs were just playing) house or nu-disco. That’s fine, but you hear it everywhere all the time. It’s just so pervasive. Where’s the music that represents Palm Springs? … I thought there was room for me.”

Martin’s knowledge and taste as a crate-digger lead to music that is fun and different.

“I love a lot of the Hawaiian music, and I always mix it in, but there’s so much of that music from that culture,” he said. “I play what I call ‘world-beat exotica.’ I mix in a lot of vintage Latin music with cumbia and reggae. I just blend it all together. It’s not just Hawaiian music. Twist-and-shake music was really big in the ‘60s. The twist-and-shake music was adopted by go-go dancers on the Sunset Strip.”

Celebrating the vintage side of Palm Springs is a lot of fun for Martin.

“That’s what Modernism Week is all about,” he said. “Modernism Week is putting all of this on a pedestal, because it almost all but disappeared. Palm Springs is still the mecca in the world of that kind of architecture. There are structures and buildings all over town that are still in mint, if not pristine, condition. Places like the Royal Hawaiian embrace that and live it almost as a lifestyle.”

Martin said he loves themes.

“I do weddings, so you have to play everything like ‘Brown Eyed Girl,’ but I prefer doing a very specialized playlist,” he said. “Whether it’s ‘Barcelona Nights’ or ‘Cuban Nights,’ give me any theme—such as ‘Monsters,’ for example—and I can take off with it and really dig. I can come up with not-obvious selections. If your average club DJ took a gig like that or was pressed to do something like that, they might just come up with some pretty obvious choices. That may not be as entertaining. I can turn that around and really make an impression with the music. They might hear something they haven’t heard in years, or something they haven’t heard at all. That’s what I love to do—take genres of music that people have never heard or haven’t heard loud enough, and turn them on to it.”

Finding vintage material can be a challenge—although modern technology has been a big help.

“There are tons of resources,” Martin said. “For digging, Spotify is great to me, and you can pick your poison. YouTube is also a good resource for vintage stuff that might not be available for certain stuff, because royalties can’t be figured out. I figure if there’s no way to find where you can purchase it, it’s kind of free game, and a DJ doesn’t usually need a license to burn music. As long as the venue has the license to play music, I’m covered. … I play music that was only on 35s in India. I have some of my favorite places, such as The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles. You really do find some gems in a shop like that. Vinyl is outselling CDs now, too, and I play a lot of vinyl.”

As for the Tiki-a-Go-Go party, Martin said the crowd will provide a lot of the fun.

“They come with the purpose of partying and having a good time—and they do,” Martin said. “No one just stands around posing. That’s why I wanted that ‘hulabilly’ feel for the music, and I’ll play music leading up to the band going on, when they’re on their break, and music to close out the night. My palette can be much broader, and it can be a lot of shake and twist, go-go and Hawaiian stuff. We’ll keep the night going.”

Tiki-A-Go-Go takes place at 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 18, at 283 E. Twin Palms Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $125. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit For more information on Modernism Week, which takes place Feb. 16-26, visit

Published in Previews

Modernism and tiki design go hand in hand—and since Palm Springs is a haven for midcentury modern architecture, it’s no surprise that tiki/tropical design found a home here, too.

Welcome to the Royal Hawaiian Estates. As part of Modernism Week, the complex will be throwing its big annual bash, Tiki-A-Go-Go, on Saturday, Feb. 18. Expect a fun night of music from DJ Baz, as well as a performance by The Hula Girls—and, of course, tours of the legendary grounds that were once a playground to many famous residents.

Bill Lewallen, a representative of the complex’s homeowners, talked about the history of the Royal Hawaiian Estates, located in south Palm Springs near the intersection of South Palm Canyon and Twin Palms drives.

“In the late ’50s, World War II was glamorized by the movie industry and the magazines,” Lewallen said. “It was all about the islands and the South Pacific. The GIs would come back and have all these stories of tiki torches, the dancers and this and that. Places like Trader Vic’s capitalized on that, and tiki became very popular.

“The developer, Phil Short, he was Jewish, and he wanted to build a place in south Palm Springs that had a Hawaiian/Polynesian influence. … It was sort of his middle finger to the Tamarisk crowd: Back in the day, through discrimination, they wouldn’t let Jews or anyone they considered not white join their country clubs. They didn’t care how much money you had. Phil Short said, ‘Screw you!’ and built this place.”

It’s believed that the Royal Hawaiian Estates—with 40 units in 12 buildings on five acres—constituted the first Hawaiian-themed structures in Palm Springs; everything else being built at the time had a more conservative modern appearance.

“Phil Short had a real thing about Hawaii,” Lewallen said. “He was a New Yorker, with (architects) Don Wexler and Rick Harrison. Don Wexler and Rick Harrison didn’t know much about Polynesia, so they researched it. Don Wexler did the interior, and Rick Harrison was responsible for the outside of it. Rick Harrison was the one who designed all the Polynesian elements. Phil Short advertised in the cruise-ship magazines that went from New York City to Florida and then South America, and to Los Angeles and Hawaii. He advertised heavily in those magazines.”

The Royal Hawaiian Estates, which opened as a 55-and-older complex, wound up being the last collaboration between Wexler and Harrison. “Don wanted to stay closer to commercial design, and Rick wanted to branch out more into residential. So they left amicably, according to Don, but this was the last project they did in partnership,” Lewallen said.

Lewallen said the complex was absolutely hopping in the 1960s.

“It was a party! One of the first residents was a guy named George Jessel, who was the toastmaster of Hollywood,” Lewallen said. “He was also a Vegas entertainer. He was a notorious partier. This is 40 units on 5 acres. In 1961, George Jessel had a unit on the west side of the complex, and he would bus in all these showgirls from Vegas, and they would wear these skin-tight latex bathing suits, high heels, huge hair and a full face of makeup at the pool. They would carry martinis and serve drinks by the pool. Hawaiian music was piped in throughout here 24 hours a day. When George was festive, he’d have huge blocks of ice shipped in, and they would have these ice glaciers in the pool during the summer. The models would float on the ice glaciers. It was wild. It was one big family and one big party.”

Life in the Royal Hawaiian Estates today is a lot different than it was back in the 1960s. It’s no longer a complex for those just 55 and up, and condominiums currently for sale are listed in the $300,000 range.

“It’s quiet. ... But nobody is really here,” Lewallen said. “Even right now, people come during the weekends. People come for a couple of months during the winter. My neighbor next door hasn’t been here in 17 years, and his unit just sits there. To walk into the unit next door, it’s like to walk back in time: It’s the original floor, original counters, cabinets and appliances. Everything is intact. My cleaning lady goes over there and cleans it just to keep the dust out. It’s a Danish couple. … We do have a lady who lives here who’s currently in hospice, and she’s been here since Day 1. When she passes, my neighbors will be the oldest residents. We’ve been through 10 deaths since I’ve been here of the older residents.”

In the ’90s, the property fell into disrepair due to a lack of occupants and funds. Fortunately, times today are better for the Royal Hawaiian Estates. The “tiki apexes” on the buildings were restored in 2013. The “flying sevens” on the patios were restored, too, as were the Polynesian architectural elements known as “fascia of the gables.” So how do they do all this restoration? Not usually through the traditional method of HOA “special assessments”; instead, they use fundraising and grants from the Palm Springs Historic Site Preservation Board.

“That’s one reason why we have fundraisers. The cocktail parties we have once a year are the biggest fundraisers,” Lewallen said. “We use the funds generated from the party to put back into the restoration effort. They try not to comingle the operation funds with the restoration funds. The beams that you see everywhere, they were milled at a special size back in the ’60s, and they don’t make wood that size anymore. The wood has to be cut less than inch shorter. Everything has to be factory-built and cured. Each one of these beams, like the flying sevens, to redo are $15,000 just for one. My unit has three. We had one special assessment of $5,000 because they just can’t keep up with the restoration.”

Tiki culture is enjoying a resurgence, a sorts, and a lot of it has been incorporated into Palm Springs’ Modernism Week. Lewallen said he’s received a lot of feedback regarding old images he’s put online.

“I got an email from Google a couple of weeks ago, and it was a robot thanking me,” Lewallen said. “It commented on how the graphics I’ve put up from the late ’50s and early ’60s on Google Maps have increased the traffic—and it was way out there. … Tiki is coming back. Don the Beachcomber used to be where Ernest Coffee is … on the north side. The guy who owns the coffee shop said that when they were knocking out walls and putting up reinforcements, they took a full wall down—and (the area) behind that was full of artifacts and wallpaper that was intact. There’s also the Tonga Hut, and the Purple Room went back to tiki when it opened.”

While the Tiki-A-Go-Go party costs $125, the Royal Hawaiian Estates complex is worth experiencing—and preserving. Lewallen said attendees can expect to have a lot of fun.

“The beautiful thing about our parties is because we have five acres, you can spread out, and you don’t feel cramped,” he said. “There’s so much space. There’s parking; there are places to walk around and smoke a cigarette, and some people open their homes for viewing.”

Tiki-A-Go-Go takes place at 6 to 9 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 18, at 283 E. Twin Palms Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $125. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit For more information on Modernism Week, which takes place Feb. 16-26, visit

Published in Visual Arts

If you’re like me, the recent political and societal climate has got you down.

Well, thank goodness our lovely valley is doing its part to offer plenty of mood-improving distractions.

Every February, art takes center stage in Palm Springs, thanks to the Art Palm Springs fair (which is rapidly growing) and Modernism Week (which already really huge). Not-so-coincidentally, we here at the Independent have a tradition of bringing you a selection of stories every February previewing these awesome events.

In the February print edition (hitting streets this week), and next week at, Brian Blueskye will bring you a fantastic article on the Royal Hawaiian Estates. This little Polynesian-themed south Palm Springs complex has a fascinating history—and even more fascinating architecture. It’s also the site of one of Modernism Week’s biggest parties.

Also in the new print edition and online next week, Nicole Borgenicht has two companion pieces that show the local side of Art Palm Springs: She talks to owners of two local galleries about what they have in store for the fair, and two local artists whose work will be on display at the fair.

Modernism Week and Art Palm Springs are just the tip of the figurative iceberg as far as Coachella Valley arts events go. This weekend brings the Southwest Arts Festival to Indio, while March brings the La Quinta Arts Festival. Of course, April is dominated by two weekends of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival—you know it simply as Coachella—and one weekend of the country-tinged Stagecoach Festival.

Now … about that aforementioned political and societal climate: Starting tomorrow at, the Independent will publish a new regular column by veteran alt-media scribe Baynard Woods. “Democracy in Crisis” will focus its watchful eye on the actions of the Trump administration. And, man, is there a lot to watch.

In the meantime, I hope the Independent continues to inform you, enlighten you and entertain you.

Be sure to grab the aforementioned February 2017 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, coming to a location near you (if it’s not already there). As always, thanks for reading, and if you have any questions or feedback, please drop me a line at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Published in Editor's Note

We’ve reached that time of year when it seems like there’s a big-deal event happening almost every weekend—a time of year which feverishly continues until the Stagecoach music festival closes out “season” in late April/early May.

Two of February’s biggest local events revolve around art: Modernism Week and the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair. Of course, we’re previewing both goings on. First, Brian Blueskye has penned a fantastic feature on modernist artist Nat Reed (whose art graces the cover of the February print version) as an entree into Modernism Week. Second, we use art—what else?—to preview the goings-on at the Palm Springs Fine Art Fair.

However, our new arts coverage doesn’t end there. The valley’s theater season is in full swing, and you can peruse reviews of two shows that are on the current boards: Desert Rose’s Angels in America and CV Rep’s A Class Act. For the more literary-minded, I’d like to direct you to a book excerpt from Independent contributor Alexis Hunter. Joi Lansing: A Body to Die For is a fantastic read.

I also would be remiss if I didn’t mention some goings-on in our Food and Drink section. I am sorry to report this is the final Sniff the Cap column by Deidre Pike, who has been writing about wine for the Independent since our launch. (That is, unless I can talk her into staying. Hey, I gotta try.) Deidre has been a friend and colleague of mine for two decades now, and her words added so much to this newspaper; she’ll be missed.

In related news: We’re looking for a wine columnist! If you think you have the proper knowledge and writing chops, drop me a line; my email address is below.

I’d also like to thank arts writer Victor Barocas for all of his work for the Independent over the last two-plus years. He, too, is leaving the ranks of Independent contributors. (In related news, we’re looking for new visual/fine arts contributors; again, email me if interested.)

As we say goodbye to Deidre and Victor, we’re saying hello a new contributor: Sean Planck. He is now writing a monthly column for the Independent focusing on the local happenings regarding medical marijuana; catch the debut edition of Cannabis in the CV here.

As always, your feedback and comments are appreciated.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Coachella Valley Independent, be it online, or in our print edition; the February issue is now in 370-plus locations across the valley and high desert. Enjoy.

Published in Editor's Note

You may have never heard of Nat Reed—but you’ve almost certainly seen his work before. The midcentury modern artist did the poster/cover for last year’s Palm Springs Pride, and he’s been written about in various publications.

At the Palm Springs International Airport, Reed is collaborating with Virgin America to create an interactive modernism exhibit at the airline’s gate that will be on display during Modernism Week, which this year is taking place Feb. 11-21.

During a recent interview, Reed discussed his art, which has an animated feel that includes various midcentury modernism elements: architecture, automobiles and even tiki. 

“It’s all referencing the period and things from that period,” Reed said. “Polynesian exotica and the whole tiki thing was popular in the ’50s and ’60s. … With the tikis, my grandfather was a Polynesian decorator and tiki carver, so I grew up with those all around. Those are really natural things for me to use. As I’ve used tikis in the work, (I’ve learned) they’re really good at distilling the graphic emotion in the piece. I tend to stay away from directly human figures, because for me, that blows the mystery of a piece. It’s just too direct.”

Reed said his childhood surroundings inspired him to do things his own way.

“I grew up in a family of artists, Bohemians, and everyone was always making something. I’m not really that formally educated and drifted in and out of art classes,” Reed said. “It was mostly just my background with my family, and everyone always making things. In a way, formal instruction was sort of: ‘Why can’t you just figure that out yourself?’”

Looking at the paintings in Reed’s gallery, I was curious about his process. The works are definitely computerized, but there’s a certain detail that looks like it could be hand-sketched.

“The pieces on pegboard that I do: Those are paintings. I’m not working through the holes on the pegboard; I’m working around them,” he said. “But after I do my concept sketches, I’m composing them digitally on the computer. I definitely want them to feel like they could be traditionally created, and I work really hard toward that.

“I do all of my own printing and saturate the inks really heavily during the printing process. They have a really rich surface.”

Reed explained what he has planned for the Virgin America gate at the Palm Springs International Airport.

“Marc Joseph at (vintage store) Wonderama is very involved in the retro community,” Reed said. “He was doing a vignette for Virgin Airlines. He asked me if I would put up some art. He asked, ‘What about doing the whole background on a mural?’ I said, ‘Yeah, that sounds good.’ What they’re showing there is digitally mocked up where they took my Palm Springs map and put it in the background. I’m working specifically on a piece that will be the background for his furnishings and vignette.”

Reed’s work resembles the work of modernism artist Shag. Reed said people often confuse their work.

“People often come in and ask, ‘Is this Shag?’” Reed said. “People say they’ve seen that before, and I have a lot of work around town, so people may have seen my stuff before as well. But generally, that’s what people are thinking. My work isn’t character-driven as much as his is, but it’s obviously referencing the same period in very colorful and graphic prints. But if you look at the work, it’s very different. I did the Palm Springs Pride poster, and that really got around.”

Reed said people generally respond positively to his work—and often make a pop-culture reference in comparison that itself is tied modernism.

“That’s what’s so gratifying about this: People come in and go, ‘Ohhhh, this makes me so happy, and it’s so colorful,’” he said. “The other thing that happens so often is people say, ‘It’s like The Jetsons!’ People will barely walk in and say that. They don’t exploit that brand enough. It’s so universal when they’re associating that brand with this style.”

Of course, the star of Modernism Week is the local architecture. Not surprisingly, Nat Reed is a fan—of both existing buildings and structures that have been lost.

“Both of the banks down the street, especially the Bank of America and the Chase Bank, are just beautiful examples of elegant modern architecture.” He said. “The old canopy at the Spa Resort Casino that they tore down, that was elegant and perfectly made. I was so sad to see that go. The liquor store at Vista Chino, too. I’m so mad because the ARRIVE hotel that they built right next to it—I don’t know what planners think, but they let them build it with that zig-zag roof line rising above the roof line of the liquor store, which ruins that beautiful roof line.”

Reed concedes that he’s surprised how big Modern Week has become.

“It seems like five years ago is when it started to explode,” he said. “Three years ago, it was even bigger, and I was so surprised.”

Reed is participating in Modernism Week in one more way: His home is part of a Modernism Week tour. If you check out his home in the Racquet Club Estates, expect to see both him and his art there.

“I really sort of restyled the house to be more themed with Modernism Week, so I’m on the tour, and I’m going to be there,” he said. “I’ll probably do some signing and have some artwork in the house. Event-wise, that’s what I’m focusing on.

“I might do something in the gallery for the airport piece and have a reproduction here. I’m sort of last minute on things.”

For more information on Nat Reed, visit his gallery at 333 N. Palm Canyon Drive, No. 108B, in Palm Springs; call 323-304-8822; or visit For information on Modernism Week, visit Below: Just a few pieces of art at Nat Reed's gallery.

Published in Visual Arts

Before I dive in to all of the great February goings-on around the Coachella Valley, I want to pay tribute to two big names in music we just lost.

Rest in peace, Lemmy Kilmister and David Bowie.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club will be holding a Modernism Week-themed event at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13: There will be a screening of Visual Acoustics in the Commune. The film is a celebration of modernist architecture and a joyful portrait of renowned architecture photographer Julius Shulman. Admission is free. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900;

The McCallum Theatre is fully booked with great stuff in February. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 5 and Saturday, Feb. 6, Frank Sinatra Jr. will be performing. The son of the Chairman of the Board is a great singer and will be singing in celebration of his father’s 100th birthday. Tickets are $61 to $111. Continuing with the Sinatra centennial celebration: At 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 14, crooner Steve Lawrence will take the stage. Lawrence was a close friend of Sinatra—in fact, when Sinatra retired, Sinatra gave Lawrence a book of his arrangements. Tickets are $67. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 24, get ready for a night of awesome country music: Wynonna Judd will be performing. After starting out as part of a smash-hit duo with her mother, Wynonna has been quite successful on her own. Tickets are $47 to $77. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787;

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa obviously made a wise choice when it booked with Johnny Mathis, considering his Feb. 13 show is sold out—but cheer up, because at 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 12, you can rock out to Air Supply, or whatever it is crazy fans of Air Supply do. The Australian duo of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock has been soft-rocking since the ’70s and recently had a hit with “Desert Sea Sky,” which was remixed and played in dance clubs. Tickets are $40 to $60. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a fine slate of February events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, the original Jersey Boy himself, Frankie Valli, will be performing. He was a member of the Four Seasons, and he had a spectacular solo career, so you won’t want to miss this one. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 27, there will be a double bill with The Commodores and The Jacksons. Both groups have continued on without their famed frontmen, and to an extent, it’s worked for them both. The Jacksons’ reunion since Michael Jackson died in 2009 has come with mixed live reviews, though. Lionel Richie is currently not joining The Commodores, and it doesn’t look like he will anytime soon. Nonetheless, if you’re a real fan, you will enjoy both. Tickets are $39 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000;

Spotlight 29 has a couple of great events worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 6, easy-listening superstar Engelbert Humperdinck will be coming back. The ballad singer has spawned numerous legends, including one that claims he’s bagged an impressive number of women—a number that puts Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead and Gene Simmons of KISS to shame. Whether or not that’s true, there’s one thing he gave to us millennials … Fly with me, lesbian seagull! Tickets are $45 to $65. Are you a fan of the ’70s? Did you live through the ’70s but don’t remember it? Either way, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20, the ’70s Time Machine Tour will take you back. Featuring performances by Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad, Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, and Denny Laine of Wings, the show will happily invoke the decade of leisure suits, pet rocks, shag carpet, van living and waterbeds. Yay! Tickets are $35. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566;

As for Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace: I’m sure we’ll be hearing some very big announcements soon regarding outdoor shows for the spring and summer, especially with Coachella right around the corner. But in the meantime, the February schedule is wonderful. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 5, Joshua Tree locals Gene Evaro and the Family (right) will be appearing. Gene is one of the most talented musicians in the Coachella Valley; Alf Alpha has told me stories about Gene’s production skills in the studio as well. Tickets are $10. At 8 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 14, it will be time for local rock fans to rejoice and celebrate Eddie Spaghetti’s victory over throat cancer, because The Supersuckers are back! Funny story: I saw The Supersuckers in 1995 in Cleveland; the band was opening for White Zombie and the Ramones. Let’s just say The Supersuckers didn’t get a welcome reception that night—and I was one of the hecklers. But over time, The Supersuckers grew on me; they’re an excellent rock ’n’ roll band. Also worth mentioning: My friend Charlie Overbey will be opening. His new record The California Kid is awesome. Tickets are $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

The Hood Bar and Pizza has one event we know about worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend—at a prom out of a John Waters film, that is—with Shannon and the Clams (below). Desert Hot Springs’ finest, Slipping Into Darkness, is also on the bill. Shurpadelic, dude! Admission is $10 at the door. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220;

Published in Previews

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