CVIndependent

Sun08092020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Happy Monday, everyone. We have more than 20 story links today, so let’s get right to ’em:

• It was a big news day for the U.S. Supreme Court. In a landmark 6-3 ruling, the court ruled that gay, lesbian and transgender workers are protected by federal civil-rights lawsand Trump appointee Neil Gorsuch (!) wrote the majority opinion. The court also more or less upheld California’s sanctuary law by declining to hear a challenge to it.

• This just in, from the city of Palm Springs: “In an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, continue to flatten the curve and keep residents and visitors safe, the city of Palm Springs would like to notify the community that this year’s Fourth of July fireworks spectacular has been CANCELLED. ‘Due to the fact that the state of California is prohibiting large gatherings there will be no fireworks this year,’ said Cynthia Alvarado-Crawford, director of Palm Springs Parks and Recreation. ‘We thank our Palm Springs residents for their understanding.’”

T-Mobile—and possibly other wireless services—suffered a major outage today. Details are unclear on what exactly happened as of this writing.

• OK, now this is weird: The mayor of Indio apparently told KESQ News Channel 3 that even though Coachella and Stagecoach have been cancelled, Goldenvoice is still considering putting on a large, Desert Trip-style festival in October. We have no idea how such a large gathering would be possible, but as we’ve repeatedly said in this space, nothing makes sense anymore, so who knows.

• Despite rising case numbers, California is still doing OK as a whole in terms of COVID-19 metrics, Gov. Newsom said today.

• Yet again, the president has made a baffling remark regarding COVID-19: “If we stop testing right now, we’d have very few cases, if any.” Sigh …

• The Los Angeles Times takes a look at the reopening debate taking place in Imperial County, which borders Riverside County to the southeast, and has the highest rate of COVID-19 cases in the state. Despite the high rates, some people there want to start the reopening process anyway.

• Hmm. Three large California police unions announced a plan yesterday—via full-page advertisements in some large daily newspapers—to root out racists and reform police departments. While some will scoff at this, the fact that police unions are suggesting such reforms is nothing short of stunning.

• Also stunning: A major Federal Reserve official said yesterday that systemic racism is holding back the U.S. economy.

• Sign No. 435,045 that we know very little about the disease: At first, scientists feared common hypertension drugs could make COVID-19 worse in people who took them. Fortunately, now they’ve changed their minds.

• Sign No. 435,046 that we know very little about the disease: Scientists from UCSF and Stanford say that “super antibodies,” found in less than 5 percent of COVID-19 patients, could be used to treat others battling the disease—and may help in the development of a vaccine. That’s the good news. The bad news, according to Dr. George Rutherford, as reported by the San Francisco Chronicle: “Between 10 percent and 20 percent of patients with COVID-19 show no antibodies in serological tests, Rutherford said. The remaining 75 percent or more of coronavirus patients develop antibodies, he said, but they aren’t the neutralizing kind, indicating immunity to the disease might not last long in most people.

• The FDA has revoked the emergency-use authorization for hydroxychloroquine, aka the president’s COVID-19 drug of choice.

Tesla—and other companies—refuse to disclose coronavirus stats at their workplaces. Neither will county health departments. Why? They’re citing federal health-privacy laws as a reason—even though that’s not necessarily how federal health-privacy laws work.

• Writing for The Conversation, a professor of music explains why for some churches, the inability to sing is a really big deal.

• Also from The Conversation, and also religion-related: Indian leaders are using Hindu goddesses in the fight against the coronavirusand it’s not the first time they’ve used deities to battle disease.

• The Riverside Press-Enterprise writes about local public-health officials, people who normally work fairly anonymously, but who have now been thrust into the limelight—and a large degree of public scrutiny, often undeserved—thanks to the pandemic.

• The Legislature is in the process of passing a budget today—even though they’re still negotiating things with Gov. Newsom. Why the urgency? Well, they have to pass a budget by today if they want to continue being paid. In any case, there’s disagreement on how to deal with a $54 billion deficit caused by the economic downturn caused by the pandemic.

The 2021 Academy Awards are being delayed two months due to the fact that most movie theaters remain closed, and most movie productions have been suspended because of, well, you know.

• This column from The Washington Post may leave you beating your head against the wall: “Are Americans hard-wired to spread the coronavirus?

• The pandemic has led some companies to institute the four-day work week. NBC News looks at the pluses and minuses—and finds mostly pluses.

China’s embassy and consulates have been engaging in displays of kindness—like free lunches and donations of medical supplies—in U.S. communities where they’re needed. NBC News looks into this interesting tidbit.

That’s the day’s news. Wash your hands. Please, please PLEASE wear a mask whenever you’re around other people. Fight injustice. Be kind. If you value honest, local journalism, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. The Daily Digest will be back tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

I was raised in a religious home and didn’t lose my virginity until the embarrassing age of 26. I was told by the church to save it for marriage, and I was a virgin until I met the woman who would become my wife at a party. I said to hell with it; we had a one-night stand; and we’ve been together now for eight years.

I’m tall and slim, and my wife is short and heavy. Like an idiot, I believed it’s what’s on the inside that matters. My wife is the sweetest, most thoughtful person I’ve ever met. I love spending time with her, but I have absolutely no sexual attraction to her. As a result, I’ve all but stopped initiating sex, and on the rare occasion when we do make love, I make her come twice while I’m struggling just to get off.

I know it’s shallow, and I know beauty is only skin deep, but what am I supposed to do when seeing my wife naked sends me into an anxiety attack? When I’m helping out with laundry, I get bummed, because there’s nothing in her wardrobe I find attractive on her. Even when I look at old pictures of us together, I get extremely depressed, because I know this is the best she’s ever going to look. It doesn’t help that she finds me handsome and regularly tells me so.

It’s gotten to the point where I find any woman who isn’t my wife desirable. (Including, but not limited to, her family and friends.) I should also mention that she has no interest in having an open relationship or a threesome, because she prefers having me “all to herself.” I don’t want to ask her to change, because she’s perfectly happy with herself, but I’m becoming increasingly resentful.

What do I do? How do I tell her? And is there any way I can come out of this a good husband?

In The Shallows

I was so relieved to get all the way to the end of your letter without learning you had kids. Because that means I can advise you—with a clear conscience—to file for divorce, and move the fuck out just as soon as it’s possible to do so. Not for your own sake, ITS, but for your wife’s sake. She deserves better.

You say you’re growing increasingly resentful. I hope your resentment is directed at all of the people who victimized you. Your wife isn’t one of them. It’s your parents you should resent, ITS, as well as all the sex-phobic bullshit artists out there masquerading as “faith leaders.”

You should be angry with yourself, too. While I know from personal experience how a religious upbringing can put the zap on a kid’s head, you were a grown-ass man when you met your wife at that party. You couldn’t have slept with her that night—you couldn’t have lost your virginity in a one-night stand—if you hadn’t already rejected nearly everything you’d been taught about sex. If you were capable of having premarital sex, you were capable of refraining from marrying the first person you slept with.

Your wife is gonna want to know why you’re leaving her—of course she is—but you’re not going to tell her the real reason. You’re going to make something up. You want kids, and she doesn’t (or vice-versa); you married too young (which is true); you have unresolved childhood issues (and don’t we all). While you won’t be able to spare your wife the pain of a breakup, ITS, you can spare her the pain of learning the person she’s been sleeping with for eight years is repulsed by her body. You can’t be a good husband to her, ITS, but you can be decent ex-husband. And to do that—to be her decent and loving and supportive ex—you can’t set her self-esteem on fire on your way out the door.

And your wife’s body isn’t repulsive. She’s not someone you’re attracted to, ITS, and you’re not obligated to find short and round women sexually appealing. But while “tall and slim” are more closely associated with conventional concepts of attractiveness, ITS, not everyone’s into tall and slim. There are people who are into short and round, and people out there who are attracted to all body types, and people who are utterly indifferent to bodies. Your wife deserves the chance to find someone who’s sincerely attracted to her. Even being alone would be better than spending decades with someone who recoils from her touch.

For the record: What’s on the inside does count. It matters. If you met a woman who was more conventionally attractive—if you were with someone who was your idea of hot—and over time, she revealed herself to be an asshole (if she was rude to waiters, if she was emotionally abusive, if she was a Trump supporter, etc.), your attraction to her would wither away. What you want—not what you’ll get, ITS, but the best you can hope for—is some combo of hot on the outside (subjective and personal) and good on the inside. And the longer you’re with someone, ITS, the more important good on the inside becomes. Time is a motherfucking meat grinder, and it makes hamburger out of us all. If you prioritize your idea of hot over all other qualities, you run the very real risk of spending decades with a person who has aged out of hot and was never nice.

Longtime reader asking for advice. I’m a med student. I came to the U.S. when I was 18 in order to go to college, and I’m still in the U.S. I’m 25 now, and I’ve been dating my boyfriend for about three years now. We’re somewhat monogamous and have been living together for two years. I’m out as a gay man where we live, but my parents and family back in Brazil have zero idea. As you may know, Brazil has a weird relationship with sexuality. We’re seen and for the most part are very open, but our culture is also very homophobic. My BF has been pressuring me to come out, but I’ve been apprehensive, considering how important family is to me.

Fears A Massive Implosion Likely, Yet …

Gay men don't come out to our families because they’re unimportant to us. We come out to our families because they’re important to us.

Family is important to you, and you’re worried you might lose yours if you come out to them. But you’re definitely gonna lose them if you don’t. Because to keep your life a secret from them—to hide your boyfriend from them—you’re going to have to cut them out of your life. It'll be little things at first, FAMILY, but over time, the amount of things you have to keep from them grows. Lies pile up on top of lies, and the distance between you and your family grows. Before you know it, they don’t know you at all anymore, and you don’t know them—because you can’t risk letting them know you. So to avoid their possible rejection, you will have rejected them. You will have lost your family.

I know, I know: It’s scary. I came out to my very Catholic family when I was a teenager. I was scared to death. But if they couldn’t accept me for who I am—if I couldn’t rely on their love and support—what was the point of having them in my life at all?

By the way: No one likes being someone’s dirty little secret. It hurts your boyfriend to see the person who claims to love him prioritize his family’s presumed bigotry (it’s possible they’ll react more positively than you think) over his feelings and dignity. By not coming out, FAMILY, you will lose the family you were born into—and the one you’ve created with your boyfriend, too.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.; @FakeDanSavage on Twitter.

Published in Savage Love

Another work day has passed without me getting any work done.

Actually … that’s not accurate—in fact, other than a break for my physical therapy appointment, I’ve been toiling at my desk all darned day. So let me restate: Another work day has passed without me getting any newspapering done.

I have at least a half-dozen stories in the figurative hopper to edit and post. I have a couple of calls to make for a story I am working on myself. I need to start laying out the Coachella Valley Independent Coloring Book—which is going to be unbelievably cool, by the way—so we can put it on sale Friday. And I have some stuff on the sales-side I need to do, especially since the deadline for our May print edition is sneaking up next week. (Hey, wanna buy an ad? Drop me a line.)

But other than that pathetic parenthetical sales pitch to conclude that last paragraph, and this Daily Digest, no newspapering got done today. Instead, I participated in a conference all with other publishers on how they’re dealing with this mess. I tried, without success, to figure out how in the hell to finish applying for an SBA loan. And I spent a whole lot of time applying for more grants.

I speak for all other small-business owners trying to keep the lights on during this mess when I say: Bleh.

So … tomorrow, I have decided, I will ignore loan applications for a day. I will eschew all conference calls. And I will just edit and write and layout and sell and yay.

One other thing I’ll do: I’ll count my blessings. I know I am one of the lucky ones. I am healthy; I am safe; I have purpose; I have a fridge full of food. If you’re feeling annoyed, or down, or frustrated, I recommend you take stock, and think of the blessings you have.

Also, as we’ve said before in this space: We’re going to get through this. It’s going to take longer than any of us would like, and a complete return to a COVID-19-free existence is probably going to take much longer than any of us would like. But we’re in the midst of what should be the worst of it right now, and we’re at least surviving, right?

Hang in there, folks. And watch CVIndependent.com and this space for all sorts of excellent copy tomorrow.

Today’s links:

• The big news of the day: Gov. Newsom laid out his vague, no-timeline-yet “road to recovery” for the state. It’s vague, and it’s depressing, and a lot of things need to happen, but take some solace in the fact that we’re at least able to talk about steps toward reopening California. Right?

• The other big news of the day: The president says he’s going to halt U.S. funding of the World Health Organization. Yes, he’s doing this in the middle of a pandemic. No, nothing makes sense anymore.

Stimulus deposits are starting to show up in bank accounts. If yours hasn’t arrived yet, CNN explains when you can expect it, and how you can check on its status.

• Oh, and because things are terrible, the feds aren’t stopping banks and debt collectors from seizing those stimulus checks.

• This is sort of a worst-case scenario, so take this with a large grain of salt: This social distancing crap could last until 2022 if we don’t develop a vaccine. Or an effective treatment. Or etc.

The Los Angeles Times talked to a UCLA epidemiologist and infectious-disease expert about the prospects of reopening California. It’s an interesting piece, with this key takeaway: “Evolutionarily speaking, it’s to the virus’ benefit to mutate where it’s even more contagious but less deadly ‘because it doesn’t do the virus any good to kill its human host to be able to transmit.’” So, we should root for mutations, I guess?

• Example No. 138,936 of how truly little we know about this damned coronavirus: It appears that simply positioning some patients on their stomachs rather than their backs can make a big difference in recovery success.

• Example No. 138,937 of how truly little we know about this damned coronavirus: We don’t even know how far COVID-19 can travel in “aerosolized droplets.” Two thoughts: 1) Sigh. 2). Ew.

• Some local small-business news: Lulu California Bistro, one of the valley’s biggest restaurants, will be open for takeout business starting Thursday. And to raise funds to support employees, the Mary Pickford Theatre in Cathedral City will be selling popcorn and other movie-theater treats on Friday and Saturday for pickup.

• The Conversation brings us this piece from an Oberlin professor of sociology pointing out that the pandemic may prove to be fatal to many communities’ gay bars.

• Speaking of depressing-if-unsurprising news for the LGBT community: San Francisco Pride has officially been cancelled.

Major League Baseball is participating in a study that will test up to 10,000 people for coronavirus antibodies—but this is just for science, and won’t help the game return any faster, according to ESPN.

• This has nothing to do with COVID-19 at all, but screw it: Here’s how to make shot glasses out of bacon and chocolate.

That’s all for now. Submit your online event info to our calendar here. Thank you to all of you who have become Supporters of the Independent recently; if you’d like to join them in helping us to continue doing what we do, find details here. Wash your hands. Wear a mask when you absolutely must leave home. More tomorrow!

Published in Daily Digest

To the characters in The Boys in the Band, someone like Pete Buttigieg would have been inconceivable—a happily out (and married) man who was a serious candidate for the U.S. presidency.

When Boys premiered in 1968—one year before the Stonewall riots—a same-sex couple still could be arrested for dancing together, even in a place as purportedly free-thinking as New York City’s Greenwich Village.

“Younger actors have to be very, very mindful that they’re not aware of the level of repression of these characters,” says Michael Pacas, who is directing the production of the play that will open at Palm Canyon Theatre for four shows on April 30. “Back then, you could be arrested for just being in a gay bar, have your name in the paper and be fired. Younger actors enjoy a much more permissive society.”

Boys, the story of a group of gay friends who have gathered at a Manhattan apartment for a birthday party, is a drama with flashes of bitter comedy. The birthday boy is Harold, a self-described “32-year-old ugly pockmarked Jew fairy” with a wicked wit, a stiletto tongue and an endless well of self-loathing. Many of the characters share Harold’s self-loathing to some degree, including Michael, the party’s host; Michael’s boyfriend, Donald; the promiscuous Larry; and Larry’s boyfriend, Hank, who is separated from a woman.

Many of the play’s most outrageous (and quotable) lines come from Harold or Emory, an interior decorator who’s the campiest of the camp. (It’s Emory, via playwright Mart Crowley, who coined the phrase, “Who do you have to fuck to get a drink around here?”) A film version of Boys came out in 1970, and the play was revived in 2018 in a 50th anniversary edition in an all-star edition with gay actors Jim Parsons, Matt Bomer and Zachary Quinto. That revival, with a slightly updated book, was filmed and will air on Netflix later this year. It’s the revival version, with the addition of an intermission, that will be performed at the Palm Canyon Theatre.

“We’re setting production in 1968,” Pacas says. “Everyone has a cell phone now, and the landline is a major plot device.”

Despite the many changes in LGBT rights since the play was written, Pacas says, “it really is sort of a snapshot of gay life.”

And not always a positive one, either. Of course, when George and Martha go for each other’s throats in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, no one expects their relationship to stand for every heterosexual marriage. But when Michael and Harold declare emotional war on each other, with devastating results, it was seen by some critics as an etched-in-acid portrayal of gay men at a time when mainstream portrayals of gay people still were rare. (“Show me a happy homosexual,” declares the cynical Michael, “and I’ll show you a gay corpse.”)

“People have two takes on the show,” Pacas says. “One is: ‘But it’s such a negative portrayal of gay men!’ Another is: ‘Oh, that’s such a fun show; this is what life really was like in 1968.”

Pacas says the latter attitude brings its own challenge, particularly for those audience members who come for the campy dialogue.

“We also have to communicate to those who want to quote the lines with the characters that there’s a lot of internal and external homophobia” mixed with the humor, he says.

Pacas grew up in Baton Rouge, La.

“I came from a rather—let’s just put it, Southern Baptist upbringing,” he says. “Back then, it was quite brave of you even to go to a gay bar. People were taking down the license plates of the people inside and trying to make trouble.”

He later moved to Chicago, where he met his husband, and the two moved to Palm Springs after visiting one weekend.

“If people think this play is a negative view of gay men,” he adds, “it’s my job, and the actors’ job, to make it empathetic. … We still have that same old bugaboo of hating ourselves.”

That’s not the only challenge in staging a 1960s period piece in 2020 Palm Springs.

“This show is a stage manager’s nightmare,” Pacas says. “People are onstage the whole time, moving around, eating food, drinking, eating birthday cake. And I need to talk to the actors just in case someone is gluten-free or has allergies.

“Unlike back then,” he adds with a laugh, “we may end up with a vegan birthday cake.”

The Boys in the Band will be performed at 7 p.m., Thursday, April 30; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday, May 1 and 2; and 2 p.m., Sunday, May 3, at the Palm Canyon Theatre, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $29.50. For tickets or more information, call 760.323.5123, or visit www.palmcanyontheatre.org. Kevin Allman is a California-based journalist. Follow him on Twitter: @kevinallman.

Published in Theater and Dance

The Coachella Valley is brimming with musical talent—yet it’s lacking when it comes to music venues.

Thank goodness for The Hood Bar and Pizza in Palm Desert.

Over the years, The Hood has transformed from a simple metal bar into … well, a metal-and-everyone-else bar that is also one of the premier performance venues in the valley, with events being held every day. While countless local bands have gained popularity thanks to a boost from The Hood, the venue has also hosted numerous famous acts, such as surf-rock legend Dick Dale.

In recent years, The Hood has also started hosting events such as a weekly Drag Queen Bingo night, and has become a regular participant in the Desert AIDS Project’s annual Dining Out for Life night. This fascinatingly vibrant mix is due in large part to its owner, Brad Guth—an out-and-proud gay man.

“I grew up in a time when people were not as accepting and tolerant as they are today,” said Guth. “It was shameful to be different, especially with regard to sexual orientation. That was never discussed or taught in school. Nonetheless, I had a great time just being myself. I was always confident. For example, I was never too interested in being an athlete—so I became a male cheerleader, my high school’s first! And while I took a lot of heat for that, I had a blast, and my family fully supported it.”

Guth told me a story about skipping the homecoming dance during his senior year of high school.

“I went to my first alternative club in West Hollywood instead,” Guth said. “It was a big club, frequented by many celebrities, and I was nervous as hell. I was working as a waiter at Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour, and I used to hear all of the other waiters talking about this place. When I arrived, there was a long line outside. I was so scared but forged ahead and entered. It was a Friday night, and disco was at its height. It was such an amazing and freeing experience. Everyone was just having fun, and no judgement. There were a number of celebrities there, many of whom I became friends with over the coming years, and they didn’t have to worry about being outed or followed by the paparazzi.

“I lived the rest of my adult life that way, never forgetting that first experience. I was always me, never trying to hide anything. When I started my career in retail, where I spent the next 30 years, I had a supervisor who told me I would never succeed in a straight-male-dominated industry. To prove him wrong, I just worked harder and better and proved my abilities. To that end, I became the youngest buyer ever given the position at Bullock’s department store, now Macys.

“I built the staff up from scratch. I negotiated all the leases, and we set up three websites that generated millions of dollars in sales. I traveled a lot, and had an East Coast office in Manhattan, and a West Coast office in Las Vegas. I alternated between the two for two-week periods. … (After) my grandchild was born, I bought a home here in the desert so I could come visit him every other weekend from my Vegas office. Two years later, I moved here full time.”

Coming from a strong business background, it’s no surprise Guth was able to improve The Hood, which, when he purchased it, was nowhere near as neighborly as it is now.

“The Hood was somewhere that I would go from time to time, because I saw a lot of opportunities to improve,” Guth said. “I’d go every day and sit on the back patio and think of new ideas to enlarge it and make things bigger and better. I looked at two other locations to purchase over a few months, one being Schmidy’s Tavern. The deciding factor was when I asked the landlord of Schmidy’s where they saw (the center where Schmidy’s was) in five years, and he said ‘exactly the same.’ That’s when I really set my sights on The Hood.

“I knew that I could improve the environment and the service, and grow the business by creating a comfortable hangout spot. I basically wanted to create an environment where I would feel comfortable hanging out. It was also a much-different crowd back then. We wanted to keep that crowd by adding more events, and making the place a destination in Palm Desert. We also wanted to attract new people with the expansion of the patio and cosmetic changes.”

Those changes didn’t all happen at once.

“We achieved everything over time,” Guth said. “My first weekend, we opened the back-patio bar and added new furniture, and that became the place to be. It’s a fun hangout place, and it’s one of the best patios for our type of venue in the valley. While we did these changes outside, we started adding events … seven nights a week. Each event is geared to different types of clientele so that we could provide a lifestyle environment.

“When people visit The Hood, I want them to feel like they’re visiting my house. It’s important that people feel really comfortable and safe.”

The Hood’s weekly schedule has something for virtually everyone.

“We added a game night on Monday that’s geared toward younger people,” he said. “Tuesdays, we added Drag Queen Bingo and all-day, all-night happy hour. It was a scary proposition, but it has become very big. We added an open mic to our beer-pong nights on Wednesdays, which has been a huge success. That attracts people from all walks of life—poets, singers, songwriters and comedians. People come in from around the valley and even different states. That and beer pong really bring in a younger crowd.

“We kept doing Karaoke Thursdays, which is always fun, and many people look forward to it. Fridays and Saturdays are always either bands or DJs. It used to be primarily metal bands, but we’ve successfully introduced different genres of music: cumbia, metal, soft rock, hard rock, etc. We try to mix it up and not have every weekend be the same. Sundays are comedy nights, which started a year ago and have been really successful. We’ve booked some really famous comedians like Pauly Shore and Jamie Kennedy.”

I asked Guth what obstacles he faces running such an active venue.

“The entertainment is very time-consuming,” Guth said. “People may not realize it, but it’s a lot of collecting fliers and posting them every single day, and adjusting to last-minute changes or cancellations. We try to book a month or two out and look at what our competition is doing to stay ahead. It’s a difficult process and sometimes very frustrating.”

The Hood personally means a lot to me: It helped kickstart my career, as both a musician and a writer, because of the community fostered there. Guth said it’s this sense of community that keeps him going.

“There have been some nights with bands that have been absolutely fantastic,” Guth said. “When Empty Seat won the first round of the CV Weekly competition (late last year), we immediately booked them. It was great to see new talent in the valley, and it’s been exciting seeing them grow to be very popular. It’s always good to know you were part of someone else’s success. There’s a concert for kids that we do in June, which many people don’t know that we do: There’s a music school that comes to The Hood and has their students perform in the afternoon hours. We’ve actually gone on to book those kids’ bands, like Silver Sky, who we just had a single-release party for. It’s really gratifying to be a part of growth like that.”

The Hood stands as one of the most diverse and accepting places to be in the valley—and that is due to the leadership of Brad Guth.

“I think today, The Hood is likely the most-inclusive place to hang out, welcoming folks of all races, ages and sexual orientations, where everyone can come and hang out and feel welcome.” said Guth. “I am super-proud of that accomplishment. It really was what I always set out to do.”

The Hood Bar and Pizza is located at 74360 Highway 111 in Palm Desert. For more information, call 760-636-5220, or visit facebook.com/HoodBarAndPizza.

DJ Sugarfree is one of the valley’s top DJs—a regular at Bart Lounge and Chill Bar Palm Springs. Over the years, she’s played at virtually every club in the valley.

However, DJ Sugarfree—her given name is Noemi Rodriguez—wants more. Specifically, she wants to take things underground.

With friends and fellow female DJs Femme A and Aylex Song, the queer DJ from Indio is trying to provide the desert with an authentic rave experience—and the group is planning an underground electronic event that recalls the spirit of the famous “desert raves,” which Sugarfree and others would organize off Dillon Road in Indio around this decade’s start.

But creating a scene is easier said than done.

“Nowadays, most people listen to mainstream EDM music, and only care about events with big popular names on the lineup,” Rodriguez said. “Many people’s music listening is limited to what’s on the radio. They will drive out of town to go to a big rave, but they are uninterested in local underground events.”

However, things are beginning to change. Sugarfree said she has noticed an increase in local appreciation for electronic music thanks to Coachella pre/post-parties and Splash House—but that appreciation is removed from the authentic/original rave experience, and it doesn’t compare to the current popularity of underground electronic music in Los Angeles. Sugarfree theorized that people in the desert today are conditioned to experience dance music at events that are limited by space and time—such as parties at clubs.

“When people go to a bar, the party is over at 2 a.m., but oftentimes, people aren’t ready to go home,” she said. “Raves, on the other hand, are supposed to go until the sun comes up. Going to a rave used to mean you were staying out until 6 a.m. At clubs and venues, the party has to end—and we want to create an event where it doesn’t have to.”

Sugarfree—a nickname long ago given to her by raver friends, because she abstains from sugar due to her diabetic condition—also wants to change the conception of what it means to be a DJ.

“A lot of people think being a DJ is just like being a jukebox,” she said with a laugh. “But that’s not true, because a real DJ will take the listener on a journey. The DJ will blend songs together so that multiple songs seem like one song which happens to be hours long. The goal is to take the listener on a memorable journey and make her feel good.”

When you combine the magic of a DJ with the right setting, the experience can be moving. For Sugarfree, creating the perfect sonic adventure starts with asking the promoter what he or she is looking for.

“I like to know ahead of time what they’re expecting, and then I try to find songs that have similar BPMs (beats per minute), have similar melodies or styles, and are in the same key,” Rodriguez said. “This is how you get the songs to flow smoothly. How the songs are going to sound sequenced together is very important.”

Sugarfree started working with turntables in 2006, the year after she graduated from high school, but she was curating listening experiences for people as far back as middle school. “Everybody would come to me to make them mix CDs,” Rodriguez said, again with a laugh. “I was always talking about music, and I was into different kinds of music. I started making mix CDs, and I would take them to school and ask people to listen. After that, people started asking me to make CDs for them.”

During her senior year in high school, Sugarfree’s mother passed away rather suddenly from lupus complications and an encounter with an aggressive tuberculosis—a loss which still affects Sugarfree significantly. She struggled to complete her final year of high school, and though she did graduate, she was in a dark place.

“It was the worst thing that ever happened to me,” she said.

The opportunity to express herself via music saved Sugarfree. “After high school, I befriended a girl who had DJ equipment, and I started messing around with it, and it felt like I was born to do that,” she said. “I had always wanted to be a DJ.”

Her DJ career began to blossom at a critical time in her life, and it created an opportunity for her to express herself and distract herself from her grief. It is no coincidence that many of the most-requested dance songs revolve around heartbreak, like Cher’s “Believe,” Alice DJ’s “Better Off Alone,” Haddaway’s “What Is Love?”, The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me Baby,” and so on.

Equipped with a cheap controller and CDs, Sugarfree learned how to DJ quickly, improving by talking to other DJs and listening to mixes. She soon acquired better equipment and started playing at friends’ parties in backyards; her first gig was at a quinceañera. As she became more well-known, she moved on to clubs, where she continues to perform frequently today.

However, Rodriguez admits she’s become disenchanted by the demand to play just popular songs; she prefers music from the more-obscure electronic genres she was becoming acclimated with as her career progressed. Today, she enjoys playing techno, trance, tech house and progressive house—music that would be more welcome at an underground event.

“I can’t really play trance music out here,” Rodriguez said. “Nobody really knows it, and nobody really likes it. I’ve tried to play it, and people don’t really feel it.”

The sight of an empty dance floor is not a good feeling for a DJ. As a result, she generally succumbs to what the crowd wants.

“When I first started, I did have hostile crowds. It feels like you’re not doing something right,” she said. “It made me not want to play what I was playing. (Later), I tried to please the crowd more and get them leaving happy. It’s important to leave the crowd wanting more.”

Sugarfree said she and her fellow DJs are continuing to work on developing more underground events, although no plans have been finalized; follow her social media for updates. In the meantime, she’s continuing to enjoy her monthly Bart residency—and continuing to learn as well.

“I’m still working on developing perfect pitch, and the ability to instantly tell what key a song is in,” Sugarfree said, laughing.

For more information on DJ Sugarfree, visit www.facebook.com/9sugarfree9, or i_am_sugarfree on Instagram.

Cinema Diverse, Palm Springs’ LGBTQ film festival, is celebrating its 12th anniversary this year as it returns over two September weekends, featuring dramas, documentaries, themed sets of sorts and even web series.

The festival, a production of the Palm Springs Cultural Center, is being presented a little differently this year, according to Cultural Center spokesman Tim Rains.

“(In the past), we had a second weekend for the Best of Fest, where we’d show some of the films again at the Mary Pickford Theatre, but this year, we did all original content,” he said. “It allows us to show a lot more films.”

During the first, extended weekend—Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 19-22—screenings will take place at the Cultural Center. During the second weekend—Friday and Saturday, Sept. 27 and 28—the festival will move to the Mary Pickford Is D’Place in Cathedral City.

This year’s festival features a number of trans stories and filmmakers, Rains said, as well as a particularly strong slate of films by and about women. Other films touch on hot-button topics such as immigration and gender non-conformity, through humor and drama alike.

Opening the festival on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 7:30 p.m. is For They Know Not What They Do, an unflinching examination of the impact that some religion can have on the lives of LGBTQ people. From Daniel Karslake, the director/producer of renowned 2007 documentary For the Bible Tells Me So, the new documentary shows how conservatives are using religion to fight LGBTQ rights.

“It reminds a lot of us that we’re in a bubble here in Palm Springs, and there are a lot of issues going on out there,” Rains said of the film.

Two of the four stories told in the documentary center on trans individuals. “It speaks directly to how the trans community has become the new target,” Rains said.

Another central topic of the film is reparative or conversion therapy—and the immense damage it causes.

“The film has hope in it, but it is also a hard film,” Rains said. “We wanted to put it at the forefront of the conscience of the community here.”

Other highlights of the 2019 festival lineup (with the synopses as provided on the festival website):

Last Ferry (3:15 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21): “When a young gay lawyer arrives on Fire Island to explore his sexuality, he becomes witness to a murder after being mugged, and then drugged. A stranger helps him to safety, but he soon discovers his savior may be friends with the killer.”

Spider Mites of Jesus: The Dirtwoman Documentary (5:45 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 21): “When he was an infant, he suffered from the ‘Spider Mites of Jesus’ (his mother couldn’t pronounce spinal meningitis). This caused mental challenges that resulted in his lifelong illiteracy. At 13, he began selling his body on the streets as a drag prostitute. When he was arrested, he took a dump in the back of the police car, leading the cops to give him the moniker: Dirtwoman.”

Del Shores’ Six Characters in Search of a Play (7:30 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 22): “Shores is inspired by Pirandello’s classic play to bring you six characters inspired by his real-life encounters that haven’t quite made it into one of Shores’ plays, films or TV shows. In 90 minutes, the audience will hear the truth behind how he collected these eccentrics, then he will portray them in classic Shores’ monologue style.”

The Ground Beneath My Feet (7:45 p.m., Sunday, Sept. 22): In this drama, “Lola controls her personal life with the same ruthless efficiency she uses to optimize profits in her job as a business consultant. But when a tragic event forces the past back into her life, Lola’s grip on reality seems to slip away.”

Scream Queen: My Nightmare on Elm Street (7 p.m., Friday Sept. 27): “Campy and homoerotic, A Nightmare on Elm Street 2 has often been called the gayest horror film that Hollywood's ever made. For Mark Patton, a young actor, it was a true nightmare, as the homophobic backlash effectively ended his film career—and banished him into Garbo-like exile. This defiant documentary tells the triumphant tale of the ‘revenge of first male scream queen,’ while also cautioning today’s LGBTQ community that the nightmare isn’t over.”

Cinema Diverse takes place Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 19-22, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road; and Friday and Saturday, Sept. 27 and 28, at Mary Pickford Is D’Place, 36850 Pickfair St., in Cathedral City. Tickets for individual films are $13.50; a “six-pack,” allowing admission to six films, is $75; all-access passes are $179. For tickets or more information, including the complete schedule, visit psculturalcenter.org/filmfest.

Published in Previews and Features

“Nature doesn’t care if you’re gay,” I’ll often hear in reaction to articles by myself or my outdoorsy LGBTQ peers. And it’s true: Nature doesn’t care if I’m gay.

But people do.

A few ago, I finished a world-record journey to all 419 National Park Service sites. For three years nonstop, I lived in a van, hiked trails everywhere from American Samoa to the Arctic Circle, and accomplished an outdoors journey no human had ever done before. But comments about the trip have included things like, “Well now I need to be careful in the bathroom at national parks,” and, “Why do you have to shove your lifestyle down our throats!” A sponsor terminated our partnership halfway through the project, saying over the phone and in writing that I was doing too much LGBTQ outreach.

A camping website called The Dyrt posted an interview with me on Facebook featuring a thumbnail photo in which I’m holding a rainbow flag in front of Yosemite’s Tunnel View. The comments were so inflammatory that the publishers decided just hours later it was inappropriate to leave it up. They later denounced the hateful comments and reposted the story with a call for civility—which was unheeded. A rainbow flag incited such anger from a community of nature-lovers that they ignored what so many outdoor enthusiasts have told me is their “dream trip.”

This happened in June, of all months, the one month when my social media feels like an explosion of rainbows due to worldwide Pride festivals. When historic anniversaries like the Stonewall uprising and marriage-equality decisions are remembered. And when seemingly every corporation, from Listerine to Disney, is releasing products that celebrate these culture-changing moments.

Yet, as the rest of America chases this “Pink Dollar,” the outdoor recreation industry seems less interested in the near $1 trillion in purchasing power of the U.S. LGBTQ community. Or the shift in culture evidenced by the fact that the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 2019 “Pride Night” was the team’s highest attended game in seven years. Or—as I can attest after seeing Tinder photos from every corner of the United States during my parks journey—the vast market of gay men hoping to look cute in athletic clothes on top of a mountain.

Some in the LGBTQ community argue that corporate Pride promotions are simply “rainbow washing” to increase profits. But as someone who didn’t meet an openly gay adult until I left my home state of Nebraska at age 19, while 14 years later can get married in any state across the U.S., I’ve seen the progress our culture has made. And I believe companies had a large part in it.

In an age when corporations are afforded some of the same rights as individuals, financial power plays a significant role in our society, from politics to cultural acceptance. When Marriott, a company started and owned by Mormons, is willing to sponsor Pride festivals and has an entire annual #LoveTravels campaign aimed at making LGBTQ travelers feel welcome, even people in so-called “flyover states” are influenced by ideas more progressive than they might see at home.

In the same way, the outdoor recreation industry has the power to help build a future where LGBTQ outdoors fans are seen the same as everyone else. In that world, other nature enthusiasts’ reactions to a photo of a flag-bearing hiker would be the same whether it was an American flag or a rainbow one. If outdoor companies follow the example of the rest of corporate America, they could use their influence in a way that both helps their bottom line and improves the lives of outdoor lovers.

As civil rights leader Marian Wright Edelman said, “It’s hard to be what you can’t see.” The backing of inclusive values by outdoor brands will help nature enthusiasts like the Eagle Scout who wrote me via Instagram to share that he’d never had an outdoorsy gay role model until learning about my national parks record. Better representation will invite more people to experience our great outdoors. While LGBTQ discrimination still causes vastly higher rates of suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth than their straight peers, this moment in time gives me hope.

When I started my national parks journey in 2016, the outdoor recreation industry had never had a Pride Month ad. Now, several companies and nonprofits sponsor an annual LGBTQ Outdoor Summit; an outdoors-themed drag queen is commanding attention from brands, and REI (which I work with to help promote LGBTQ inclusion in the outdoors) received the Kenji Award at 2019’s Outdoor Retailer tradeshow in part for their “Outside With Pride” apparel.

This promotions and inclusion work of the past three years has expanded the tent of who sees themselves in outdoors culture, meaning we’ve come one step closer to a goal: A hope that one day, the readers of an article about a gay man visiting all of America’s national parks won’t care about the sexual orientation of the adventurer. After all, if nature doesn’t care that I’m gay, why do people?

Adventurer Mikah Meyer was recently named one of NBC’s “Pride 50” for groundbreaking work with LGBTQ communities. He is a regular speaker on topics ranging from epic outdoors experiences to the benefits of inclusion for businesses and individuals. He is based in Minneapolis. This piece originally appeared in High Country News.

Published in Community Voices

In the past decade, California has adopted more than a half-dozen laws intended to prevent bullying, strengthen suicide prevention and cultivate inclusive learning environments for LGBTQ students in the state’s public schools.

But the state’ school districts are implementing these new laws inconsistently, according to a sweeping report-card-style analysis from the Equality California Institute.

As an emotional, hours-long hearing last week on statewide sex-education guidance underscored last week at the state Board of Education, California has been slow in general to fully embrace new laws aimed at deterring discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students, along with those questioning their sexual identities.

Public middle and high schools were required to follow the sex-ed laws in the California Healthy Youth Act beginning in 2016, but the state Board of Education just last week approved a new framework for teaching sex education. The state board came up with the framework—teaching recommendations educators are not required to follow—after two years of public deliberation.

Equality California’s analysis, published earlier this week, used a 90-question survey covering school climate, curriculum, teacher training, suicide prevention and transgender students to rate school districts’ LGBTQ policies on a three-tier, color-coded scale.

Of the 130 K-12 school districts that participated in the years-long survey effort, 22 school districts were given “top tier” ratings; 80 were considered “middle tier”; and 28 districts were labeled “priority districts,” the lowest rating.

The two valley school districts that participated—Palm Springs Unified and Desert Sands Unified—were given middle-tier ratings. The Coachella Valley Unified School District is not listed as participating.

Advocates and legislators have heightened their focus on policies that are more inclusive of LGBTQ students, as research generally shows that these students are more likely to drop out. They also experience bullying and attempted suicides at rates higher than the rest of their peers.

“We have worked tirelessly over the last two decades to enact laws and policies that create safer, more supportive learning environments for our LGBTQ students,” said Rick Zbur, executive director of Equality California, a nonprofit LGBTQ advocacy group. “But our work cannot—and does not—stop in the Capitol. For these laws to be effective, they must be implemented.”

Among the survey’s other highlights:

• All of the 130 school districts that responded to Equality California’s survey said they had anti-bullying policies in place, and most explicitly prohibit bullying based on sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.

• 118 school districts said they require students to take sexual health and HIV prevention classes, and three-fourths of those districts said their curriculum “incorporates discussions of relationships other than cisgender heterosexual relationships.”

• 113 school districts said all of their schools allow kids to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond with their gender identity.

• The report identified 45 school districts that don’t give employees training “that even generally covers diversity, anti-bias, cultural competency and/or equity and inclusion.”

• A majority of school districts in the survey do not appear to be including LGBTQ-inclusive textbooks in their social studies curriculum, which goes against a 2011 law mandating that schools include “the role and contributions of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans” in their history teachings.

Notably, many of the local school systems identified as “priority” districts are located in rural or conservative-leaning areas that have pushed back against the new requirements, specifically the California Healthy Youth Act, which requires middle and high schools to teach “medically accurate” comprehensive sexual health education.

“We recognize that even the most well-intentioned school districts may feel impeded by a lack of resources, limited staff capacity, difficult local social climates and other barriers, all of which can slow the journey toward a safe and supportive school climate,” Zbur said.

There were 213 K-12 school districts that didn’t respond to the survey, a participation rate that Zbur called “deeply disappointing.”

The Independent’s Jimmy Boegle contributed to this story. CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Local Issues

In October each year, a trailer pulls up in front of a gallery at the north end of the design district in Palm Springs. It’s packed full of art.

Behind the wheel is gallery owner Woody Shimko (right). He’s just completed what he calls his 3,000-mile bridge between two of the most iconic gay destinations—Provincetown, Mass., and Palm Springs, Calif.

Shimko has galleries in both towns. During the fall and winter, the art is here in Palm Springs. In the spring, it will cross back over that figurative bridge and spend the summer in Provincetown. Having just endured another blistering desert summer, I thought this sounded like an ideal lifestyle. I asked Shimko how it all came about.

“Provincetown has been an art colony for over 100 years,” Shimko said. “Palm Springs has been a creative design location for decades. What I try to do is show work that will appeal to designers, other artists and anyone else interested in buying work for their homes.

“The biggest difference, really, is the time of year. That is really why I opened both spaces. Provincetown is so quiet in the winter, and Palm Springs certainly slows down in the heat of the summer.”

Shimko opened his first gallery in Provincetown in the 1990s.

“After opening it, I took a job in Tokyo. Having both the job and the gallery was a little … OK, way too much,” he said. “I bought a house in Palm Springs as a stop-over. After being in Japan for 15 years, I decided to open the gallery in Palm Springs. The following season, I opened the gallery in Provincetown, hence (the gallery’s slogan), ‘3,000 Miles of Art.’

“The gallery in Palm Springs is about the same as in Provincetown. I show local artists and also artists from the East Coast. In Provincetown, I show local artists and artists from the West Coast. I don’t really show ‘regional’ art—no palm trees in Palm Springs, and no fishing boats in Provincetown.”

The Woodman/Shimko Gallery here is not one of the spacious, spare, minimalist galleries for which Palm Springs is known. Instead, it is packed full of an astonishingly varied collection of paintings, sculpture, metal work, prints and ceramics. In the rear is a section of vintage glass and dinnerware, including pieces from Tiffany and Lalique. There are even some old Lionel trains and tongue-in-cheek Japanese souvenirs. My favorites are the artfully packaged “sushi sox,” a pair of socks folded and presented as sushi.

The gallery also displays some of Shimko’s own creations, accent tables constructed out of discarded tools.

“The way I choose the work is: If I want to hang it in my home, I’ll show it at the gallery,” he said. “And yes, I do have a few pieces that I have shown that are not entirely my style, but that’s where showing a range of work comes in.

“I am always open to seeing new work. If it jumps out at me, then I’ll likely show it for a time. Work that is in conflict with artists that I already represent is art that will not work for me.”

I’ve heard Woodman/Shimko Gallery referred to as a “gay” or “homoerotic” gallery before. Shimko had his own take on these labels.

“There are some people who come in and say they love the ‘gay’ gallery, but that is not a term I use to describe the spaces,” he said. “I do show a number of male images, but I don’t focus on them. My most popular artist, Cassandra Complex, paints only men. There is nothing erotic about the images, but when people see them, they assume it’s a gay man painting the images. That’s most likely why I am termed a gay gallery. But if that’s what people think of the space, cool—I’m happy with that. The only real homoerotic art I have shown—and have had to warn families about if they came in with their kids—was the Tom of Finland collections I have shown. There’s no fig leaf on the statue of David, so I’m OK with showing male and female nudes.”

Shimko said he will be focusing on Cassandra Complex’s art during this Pride season.

“Her work is truly an icon for gay men,” Shimko said. “The second-biggest buyer for her work is lesbians. Even our straight customers are drawn to her. The Kennedy family bought three of her pieces over the years. Cassandra lives outside of Boston. She is self-taught and paints men’s faces that she makes up in her head. None of the faces are real people. After her father died 10 years ago, she went through depression, and his was the first face she painted. He was a rugged man, so she keeps that look going through for her father.”

Complex has an unusual painting technique: She applies paint to the canvas with a deck of playing cards.

A couple of other artists stood out to me. Christopher Sousa’s portraits of young men evoke a surrealistic, dream-like character.

“Christopher Sousa is based in Provincetown and is one of the most sought-after artists,” Shimko said. “Before becoming a successful artist, he worked at a coffee shop in town and would draw images on coffee cups that he would give to his customers. He is represented by another gallery in Provincetown, so I can only show him in Palm Springs. Many of his models are friends of his or people he knows in town.”

Another artist, Robert Rainone, creates male nudes—not with paint, but by cutting through different colors of matte board.

“Robert Rainone is an architect in New Jersey,” Shimko said. “His precision in drawing has led him to create some truly amazing matte-board cutouts,” Shimko said. “Many of his pieces are between six to nine layers of matte board. You can see him do a number of his pieces on YouTube.”

I asked Shimko about his favorite elements of Palm Springs.

“The views and the design element,” he replied. “The architecture is amazing. There are many people that not only buy art, but live in art.”

Woodman/Shimko Gallery is located at 1105 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. It is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., daily. For more information, call 760-322-1230, or visit www.woodmanshimkogallery.com.

Published in Visual Arts

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