CVIndependent

Fri08072020

Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Make no mistake: SARS CoV-2 is ravaging the Coachella Valley, with highs in cases, deaths and hospitalizations.

In fact, hospitalizations are so high in the Coachella Valley that a federal medical team has arrived at Eisenhower Medical Center to ease the burden on the hospital’s overwhelmed staff.

Now is the time to take action: Stay home if you can. Wear a mask when you can’t. And wash your hands.

We’ll get through this (again?) (still?); really, we will. But it’s bad right now. So take care of yourself, OK?

More news:

• After that depressing introduction, let’s start off with some good news: More testing facilities are coming—specifically, to RiteAid, including Coachella Valley locations in Indio, Coachella and Desert Hot Springs.

• More good news: After multiple lawsuits and furious university officials spoke out, the Trump administration reversed a mandate that foreign students must return to their home countries if their schools are only holding classes online.

• Yet more good news: The county is reopening applications for its rental-assistance program. Residents who have been unable to pay their rent can receive up to $3,500. Learn more from KESQ, or just head straight to the application website; the deadline for this round is July 25.

Even more good news: Some common antiviral drugs used to treat people with hepatitis C may help patients with COVID-19.

• Let’s keep the good news coming: A scientist writing for The Washington Post offers up these six reasons for optimism as we battle COVID-19.

• And here’s some more: Moderna says its vaccine produced strong antibodies in all—yes, ALL—of the patients who received it. We’re only talking about 45 people—but the news could not be any more encouraging.

• Related and also good: Oxford’s vaccine candidate is ahead of all others, schedule-wiseand, in fact, it could be through human trials by September.

• And more: Walmart is making masks mandatory in its stores. This should have been done three months ago or so, but hey, we’ll take it.

• Oh, and so is Best Buy.

• And more good news! The Palm Springs Cultural Center is now scheduling drive-in movies for Fridays, Saturdays and some Sundays for the foreseeable future. Get the schedule here.

• From the Independent: Our resident cocktail columnist thinks y’all should be cut off after packing bars and causing them to close again so soon—so here are some tips and tricks on how to use fresh herbs and spices to make delicious and even healthy non-alcoholic drinks at home. (Editor’s note: I ain’t cutting myself off, and you should know fresh herbs and spices are yummy in boozy drinks, too.)

Wear. A. Mask. The evidence keeps coming in showing that this one thing, if people did it, could stomp down this pandemic.

More on testing, from our partners at CalMatters: Due to supply shortages, California yesterday announced new guidelines for testing, giving priority to the vulnerable and people with symptoms. The fact testing has come to this is NOT good!

How effective will a vaccine need to be to stop this damn pandemic—considering a disturbing number of anti-vax Americans say they will refuse to be vaccinated? The Conversation crunched the numbers, and here’s what they found.

The possible implications of this are horrifying: The Trump administration has ordered hospitals to stop sending COVID-19 patient info to the CDC—and has told them to instead send it to a Health and Human Services Database.

For the first time since World War II, the New Year’s Day spectacle/tradition that is the Rose Parade has been cancelled.

• If you ever needed more proof that journalism is important: The Washington Post looked at the cases of eight people who were blinded in one eye during the Black Lives Matter protests on May 30—and videos of the incidents often contradict police accounts of what happened. Same goes for The New York Times, which just published an online package proving that even though the NYPD says it used restraint during the protests, it often did not.

Much of Twitter is down as of this writing, after a whole bunch of big-name Twitter accounts were hacked—indicating that the social-media company has a serious security flaw.

Methane levels in the atmosphere are at an all-time high. Great. Just great.

The pandemic has helped revive the market for single-use plastics—which, of course, is bad news for the environment. The Conversation examines whether or not this trend will continue.

At a time when dependable, inexpensive mail delivery is more important than ever (because, you know, we’re all broke and stuck at home), the Trump administration is making yet more moves to hobble the post office. Sigh.

• Another sigh: The Wall Street Journal reports on large companies that are making employees return to the office—even if that may not exactly be the safest thing to do.

• A first, and not a good one: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has become the first governor to announce he has COVID-19. Key quote: “He resisted calls to roll back Oklahoma’s reopening plans, which are being tested by a viral resurgence.” Ugh.

The federal government is offering up to 13 weeks of extra unemployment once state benefits run out—but people may need to reapply to receive them, according to this CNBC report.

American Airlines has given 25,000 employees a heads-up that job cuts may be coming.

Apple just released a six-minute sorta-comedy video about what it’s like to work from home these days. It’s … amusing, if you don’t mind product placement.

Seeing as there are more than 30 links in this Daily Digest, that’s enough for the day. If you value this digest and the other things the Independent does, and you’re fortunate enough to have a buck or two to spare, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent. Stay safe, all!

Published in Daily Digest

Happy (?) July, all. The news of the day:

The reopening process is moving further backward: Gov. Gavin Newsom today announced that restaurants, movie theaters, family-entertainment centers and other businesses in much of the state—including Riverside County—must shutter all indoor operations for at least three weeks. Bars must completely shut down, and parking lots at state beaches will close for the weekend.

• The governor is also imploring people NOT to have personal gatherings—and threatening to withhold some state funding from counties that disregard the state’s mandates and requests.

He also took a veiled swipe at casinos. The state does not have regulatory power over them, but he said the state is “in deep conversations and will be making public the fruits of those efforts to at least get a rationale of understanding between partners in our sovereign nations and the state of California.”

• The city of Palm Springs is tightening up the mask mandate, making them mandatory when someone is near any business or in any business district; at restaurants when servers or other employees are near a table; and while working out in gyms.

• While the state is rolling back the reopening process, it’s also no longer funding new testing sites, and is closing underutilized sites, according to the Los Angeles Times. What the hell, California?

Apple is temporarily closing another 30 stores, including a bunch in the L.A. area—but for now, the Palm Desert location is remaining open.

• News that a small trial study of one vaccine candidate yielded promising results got the stock market all excited this morning.

CNN took a look at the mess in Imperial County, where Americans who live in Mexico are crossing back over the border for COVID-19 care—and overwhelming the small county’s medical system.

• It’s official: The European Union is allowing travel again—but those of us from the U.S. aren’t allowed in.

• The coronavirus situation has gotten so dire at San Quentin State Prison—more than 1,100 inmates have the virus—that about 20 prisoners have gone on a hunger strike, according to The Appeal.

The virus is spreading among detainees in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, too.

Along other guidelines, the FDA says a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine will need to be at least 50 percent more effective than a placebo in order to be approved for use.

A study at Stanford University is looking into the possibility that Apple Watches, Fitbits and other wearable technology could let people know that they may have the coronavirus before they start to feel sick.

• The Conversation looks at what went wrong in Texas—and what needs to happen for that state to get out of its current COVID-19 spike.

• The Seattle Times reports on yet more evidence that the widespread Black Lives Matter protests have NOT led to spikes in the diseaseoffering pretty convincing evidence that the disease does not spread well among people who are outside and wearing face coverings.

• One of the biggest mysteries of this damn virus: Most people don’t seem to spread it—but a select few REALLY spread it. The New York Times talks to experts who are trying to solve this mystery.

Autopsies are helping scientists better understand the damage being done by COVID-19—and that’s helping doctors and researchers develop better treatments.

• The fight between insurers and pissed-off business owners who want business-interruption payments are heading to the courts. The Wall Street Journal looks at hundreds of lawsuits that have been filed—and explains why some business owners may have precedents on their side.

United Airlines thinks people are in the mood to travel again—and as a result, it’s adding hundreds of flights to its August schedule.

I did not predict this side effect of the pandemic: Pissed-off otters are biting people.

• OK, now for some good news: The Palm Springs Cultural Center is launching a drive-in movie series—and kicking it off with free showings of Hamilton this weekend.

• One activity that’s free and will always be open: skywatching. Independent astronomy columnist Robert Victor explains what the heavens have in store for us this month.

Finally, we all have something to live for: New episodes of Beavis and Butt-head are coming.

That’s the news of the day. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Be kind. Become a Supporter of the Independent, please, if you have the funds and you value what we do. The Daily Digest will return on Friday.

Published in Daily Digest

Welcome to May 2020—which should be one of the most fascinating months in American history.

April was horrible, in terms of deaths and economic calamity—but for the most part, the country hunkered down and sheltered in place. But now that May is here, the figurative wheels may be starting to come off.

Many are states starting to reopen—despite an increasing number of COVID-19 cases. Some local governments in California are taking steps to reopen, in defiance of the state orderProtests seem to be getting angrier—including those close to home in Orange County, over Gov. Newsom’s surprising decision to close the beaches there, and only there, this weekend. 

Here in the Coachella Valley, some are getting restless, too. The Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce yesterday asked county supervisor V. Manuel Perez to do what he can to “start opening back up the Coachella Valley economy.” Meanwhile, Gov. Newsom said the first steps toward reopening California are days, not weeks, away … but has not been specific on what that means, exactly.

How is this all going to play out? I have no idea. All I know is that the next 30 days are going to be a wild ride—and that the Independent will be here to help make sense of it.

Wash your hands. Be kind. Be safe. And hold on tight, folks.

Today’s links:

• The big local news of the day: College of the Desert announced today that all summer AND fall classes will move online. More or less, this means the campus will be closed for the remainder of 2020.

• As expected, the government has announced that remdesivir may be used as an emergency treatment for COVID-19.

• Related: This opinion piece from The Washington Post does a good job of putting Dr. Anthony Fauci’s remarks on Wednesday regarding remdesivir in the proper context: They gave us real hope.

• Also related: The House wants Dr. Fauci to testify next week. The White House isn’t going to let him.

• From our partners at CalMatters, via the Independent: Gov. Newsom’s program that would pay restaurants to make meals for seniors in need has a lot of problemsand as a result, not a single meal has been delivered yet.

• Here’s a holy-cow-that’s-awful stat: More than 4,000 workers at 115 meatpacking plants in the country have tested positive for the virus. More than 900 of those are at a single Tyson plant in Indiana.

• Related: It turns out the much-touted executive order by the president for meat plants to reopen isn’t going to do much of anything.

• Not only is the race on to develop a new vaccine; some scientists are studying whether old vaccines, for polio and tuberculosis, can help fight the coronavirus. How’s that possible? It involves something called “innate immunity.”

• The Palm Springs Cultural Center this week has added two films to its watch-at-home lineup. Get the details on Crescendo and Saint Frances here.

• The Atlantic takes a mostly depressing look at how the pandemic is going to change retail business in the country.

• The U.S. Bartenders’ Guild fund has only dispersed $1.5 million of the $7 million it has in its emergency aid fund—with up to 90 percent of applicants being rejected. The San Francisco Chronicle gets some answers on why that is.

• Omar Tate, the proprietor of a popup restaurant experience called Honeysuckle, wrote a powerful essay for Esquire; this one line sums things up masterfully: “When America gets a cold, Black America gets pneumonia.”

• The headline on this piece from a HuffPost political reporter gets straight to the point: “Tribes Were Supposed to Get $8 Billion In COVID-19 Aid. They’ve Gotten $0.”

Former Pennsylvania governor and Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge has a message for the people protesting stay-at-home orders: You’re being selfish, and you’re disrespecting America’s veterans.

• Related: Elon Musk is getting some Silicon Valley execs on the “reopen now!” bandwagon—while others are decidedly in disagreement.

• The consistently excellent Texas Tribune breaks down the battle in that state over unemployment benefits—and as that state reopens (prematurely, perhaps), many fearful people are being forced to go back to work.

If you’re one of the people who somehow believes COVID-19 is no worse than the flu, either you’re ignorant, or you don’t know how numbers work.

• When it’s time for Las Vegas to reopen … it’s not going to reopen all at once, as the MGM Resorts acting CEO pointed out during a call yesterday.

• Some people are starting to get an email from the Census Bureau asking questions about how they’re faring during the pandemic. Here’s a story from NPR, from a week or two back, on why that’s happening.

That’s enough for today. Be safe. Wash your hands. Check in on a loved one and see how they’re doing. Get details on our fantastic coloring book here, and becoming a Supporter of the Independent here. Barring anything major, we’ll be off tomorrow, but back on Sunday, in honor of World Press Freedom Day.

Published in Daily Digest

I have a slight bone to pick with Dr. Cameron Kaiser.

I say “slight,” because overall, the public health officer for Riverside County has done a fantastic job of handling what is, most certainly, an unprecedented health crisis. He was quick to declare a public health emergency. He’s been ahead of the figurative game on many moves—like a mandate to wear masks when leaving home. And the county health system has been good about updating the COVID-19 case numbers on a daily basis, and even including city-by-city breakdowns—something that’s not being done in many places.

So, to repeat: He’s doing a fantastic job overall—but when it comes to keeping the public informed, in some ways, he and his staff could be doing better.

On April 7, his office released some information that was well, scary as hell: a projection that the county, at current capacity, would fill up all 131 ICI beds by April 14; we’d run out of hospital beds by April 23; and we’d run out of ventilators by April 26.

The county also projected that by early May, the county would need 3,000 ICU beds. Again, the county’s current capacity, 131.

Excuse my language … but holy shit! The graphic made it clear that the projections would change based on reported cases, bed availability and resources, but still, there’s a huge difference between 131 and 3,000.

As April 14 has come closer—that’s four days from now, AKA TUESDAY—I’ve been watching for an update to the information. But … there has been no update. Yes, the main counts have been updated daily, but not the pants-wetting ICU-bed projections. Given that we are hearing better things on both a Coachella Valley-specific level and a statewide level, I’d really like an update.

A footnote: It’s also worth noting that one of our writers reached out about a week ago to Dr. Kaiser’s office for an interview. Our writer received a two-sentence response: “I'm sorry. Dr. Kaiser is not available.”

I have no doubt that Dr. Kaiser is bonkers-busy right now. I can’t imagine how busy he is right now. I understand.

But there aren’t that many functional news operations these days in Riverside County—sad, but true—and all we need is 15 minutes, tops. So on Monday, I am going to personally call Dr. Cameron’s office and ask for an interview. I’ll let you know how that goes.

And hey, if Dr. Cameron or someone on his staff is reading this: Can we get an update on those ICU beds, please?

Today’s links:

• I have mixed feelings about this: According to The Verge: “Apple and Google announced a system for tracking the spread of the new coronavirus, allowing users to share data through Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) transmissions and approved apps from health organizations.” At least there are fewer privacy concerns with this method than the methods used in other countries’ tracking apps.

• The Riverside County mobile app has been updated to allow people to report people and businesses who are not complying with health orders.

• Important, if you didn’t file taxes for 2018 or 2019, and/or you don’t receive various federal benefits: The IRS has set up a website for you to sign up to get your stimulus payments.

• One of the biggest unknowns in this pandemic: How many people may have had COVID-19, but never knew it? A test in Los Angeles County of 1,000 people will help us start to figure out how much the coronavirus has really spread.

• Remember the jackass biotech exec who was sent to prison after jacking up the costs of HIV/AIDS medications? Martin Shkreli wants to be furloughed from prison to help with the fight against COVID-19.

• Even though nursing homes have been the sites of some of the worst coronavirus outbreaks, the federal government isn’t doing a great job of tracking them. So NBC News did their best to fill that gap.

• The Greater Coachella Valley Chamber Commerce is having a call-in legislative and COVID-19 update with Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia at 11 a.m., Wednesday, April 15. Details here.

• KESQ News Channel 3 talked to Coyote StageWorks founder Chuck Yates about the financial havoc the pandemic is causing for local arts organizations. You can read about the week when local theater came to a halt in this Independent piece.

Confused about face coverings, and good practices when it comes to using them? Eisenhower Health has some answers.

• I found this piece fascinating: You know which groups are doing a fine job at combating the spread of the coronavirus around the world? Some militant and criminal gangs!

• The pandemic has ripped a hole in the budgets of many LGBT pride organizations. They’ve banded together to create a Pride Operational Support Fund—and they need donations.

• It’s undeniable: Some people have been hit harder than others by the pandemic and the resulting health and financial crises. But, as this Wall Street Journal piece eloquently points out, this has been hard on almost all of us, in some way.

• The Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center have joined other art-house theaters in offering a curated selection of indie films that you can purchase tickets for to watch at home! Not only can you watch great films; you can support the Palm Springs Cultural Center while doing so!

• Yesterday, we talked about the new Palm Springs Zoom backgrounds being offered by the local tourism bureau. Well, if those aren’t your cup of tea, Nickelodeon is offering some backgrounds that are a little more, well, cartoony.

• You know things are tough when the Hilton corporation, in a lovely gesture to help us feel better (if perhaps a bit fatter), releases what was heretofore a fiercely kept secret: The recipe for the famous DoubleTree chocolate-chip cookies.

• Wiping down food containers after going to the grocery store? Good idea. Washing your fruits and vegetables with soap? Not so much.

• Stressed? Well, calm down by getting together, for free, with the immortal Bob Ross, and paint some happy trees.

• By the way, if you wanted to submit art for our Coloring Book project, but haven’t gotten around to it yet, good news: A couple of artists asked us for more time, so we have extended the deadline to Tuesday, April 14. Get all the specs and details here.

That’s all for the traditional work week! Wash your hands. If you have a virtual event—a Facebook live concert, or a drag show, or a story time, or whatever—add it to our online virtual event calendar. Then go wash your hands again. Then if you value local, independent journalism, and are fortunate enough to have the means to do so, please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent, so we can keep what we’re doing, and making it free to all—at a time when most of our advertisers have had to go on hiatus. Now make sure you’ve properly washed your mask, and make sure you wear it out in public. Tomorrow’s my sanity day off; we’ll return Sunday.

Published in Daily Digest

Ron Celona looked weary as patrons entered the CVRep Playhouse in Cathedral City for the Saturday, March 14, matinee performance of The City of Conversation.

This was supposed to be a bustling, packed weekend of theater in the Coachella Valley. At least four theaters were opening new productions, while two more companies continued successful shows.

But as of that Saturday afternoon, The City of Conversation was the only show still open. Before we entered the theater—not even one-third full—Celona confided that after the Sunday show, CVRep, too, would be going dark.

Barring a miracle, we were watching the last play to be performed in the Coachella Valley by our fantastic theater companies in quite some time.

The production of The City of Conversation was a fantastic. Thanks to a great cast, led by Martha Hackett as old-school liberal activist/socialite Hester Ferris, the play showed how political differences can rip a family apart. It was compelling and riveting—so much so that it managed to make at least some theater-goers temporarily forget the unprecedented weirdness going on outside.

That is, until one of the characters made a joke about an expired toilet-paper coupon.

Celona’s angst over whether or not to let the show go on encapsulates the dilemma our valley’s producers faced heading into the weekend: On one hand, out of an abundance of caution, they could do societal good by closing the theater doors and having people staying home. On the other, they could take precautions and let the amazing, expensive work they’d rehearsed, built sets for and toiled over for weeks and months be seen and enjoyed by people who badly needed a distraction from the outside world.

As of Thursday, March 12, when the Independent started reaching out to local theater professionals, all six shows were slated to go on as scheduled—with the aforementioned precautions.

“We are offering hand sanitizer to people who have bought tickets,” said Chuck Yates, whose Coyote StageWorks was set to open The Velocity of Autumn the next night in the company’s new home at the Palm Springs Cultural Center. “For those who haven’t bought tickets yet, we don’t know if they will come.

“It’s a huge financial impact. Theater is never easy, and this is particularly hard. … There are a lot of people who don’t know what to do. All of the small theaters here, like us—nobody is in a financial situation to handle this, so we are opening The Velocity of Autumn. … It’s got heart; it’s funny; it’s beautifully written. It’s perfect for our community.”

The play—about an 80-year-old artist who’s barricaded herself in her Brooklyn brownstone with Molotov cocktails (!) to keep her family from removing her—would have been a lovely distraction for people who needed it. But these are unprecedented times.

Yates called back later in the day on Thursday to let us know he’d changed his mind.

“Of course I’m disappointed,” he said. “But we will try to figure out alternative dates. Right now, we’re biding time, waiting to see what the news brings. Maybe we can do it in a few weeks or months, or maybe next season.”

Robbie Wayne, the producing artistic director at the LGBT-themed Desert Rose Playhouse, told us on Thursday he intended to continue the run of Beautiful Thing, which had opened to rave reviews the weekend before.

“You’re not given a class on how to do this. Nobody knows how to handle this, so we are learning as we go,” he said. “I’m trying to be as informed as possible about this—everyone’s trying to figure it out. We haven’t had a large number of refund requests, but we are trying to figure out how to do this—it’s a dilemma. We don’t want it to be about the money, but that has to be taken into consideration for the venue. As of right now, we are removing snacks; we offer hand sanitizers; we are scrubbing the place down; and we are telling people stay home if you don’t feel well. But we also want to keep some normalcy in our lives.

“We want to be responsible for helping to curb this outbreak … It’s a hard place to be in. I have the TV on all the time. I go with whatever my gut tells me at the end of the day, because 24 hours can change everything. It is minute by minute now, because there is so much to consider.”

Wayne’s words were spot-on: The next day, he made the decision to suspend the weekend’s shows.

“We have staff members and patrons with compromised immune systems, so I went with my conscience. There are no winners in a situation like this, unfortunately,” Wayne said.

Over at Desert Ensemble Theatre Company, the same dilemma played out: After announcing on Wednesday that the “curtain will go up!” on the weekend’s opening of—yes, really—How to Survive an Apocalypse, the next day, executive director Shawn Abramowitz and artistic director Jerome Elliott announced the show would not go on, at least for opening weekend.

“We are so proud of our team for their magnificent work on this play,” they said. “This was a hard decision, but we feel it is the right call during this unsettled and confusing time.

That meant that as of Friday night, three of the six shows were still open: Palm Canyon Theatre’s The Pajama Game, and the opening night for Desert Theatreworks’ The Producers went on as scheduled, along with CVRep’s The City of Conversation.

“We have scrubbed the theater down,” Celona said on Thursday, March 12. “We have a cleaning crew coming in after every performance. We have purchased professional wall-mounted sanitizing dispensers for the lobby and the theater area. Our theater is 208 seats, so we are less than the 250-seat gatherings that are being cancelled, and we are about 50 to 60 percent of capacity. The bottom line is, when our accountants say we have to close, we close, and when the county of Riverside says we have to close, we close.”

The morning after those Friday-night shows, both Palm Canyon Theatre and Desert Theatreworks announced they would go dark. CVRep followed two days later.

“I hope if someone has a ticket to a live theater event, and the show is closed due to the virus, that they would consider donating the money to the theater instead of asking for a refund,” Coyote StageWorks’ Yates said. “This is the kind of thing that kills arts organizations.”

Published in Theater and Dance

Welcome to the first-ever Coachella Valley Independent Daily Digest. The goal for this Daily Digest is to round up reliable, vetted news related to COVID-19 and the accompanying societal changes. There’s too much unreliable information floating around on social media (and even coming out of some elected officials’ mouths)—and in this space, we'll sort through it all to get to truthfulness and sanity.

In addition to news updates, we’ll also highlight good things happening—specials from local businesses (that REALLY need your support right now), enlightening comments from members of the community, and so on. Please email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you have anything you think should be included.

And with that ... here's the news.

• As we were getting close to clicking send on this, the Palm Springs Unified School District announced it would be closing schools the next two weeks. They're moving up Spring Break, essentially. Parents are receiving this message right now: "Hello PSUSD families. This is Supt. Sandy Lyon. I wanted to provide you with an update on the coronavirus situation as it relates to our District. You may be aware that over the past day, there has been an increase in the number of confirmed cases here in the Coachella Valley, and there are a number of tests pending that could result in several other confirmed cases. Additionally, both the Riverside County Department of Health and Governor Newsom issued a directive to suspend gatherings of over 250 people. As a result, Palm Springs Unified School District is moving its two-week spring break. It will begin on Monday, March 16."

• Eisenhower Medical Center announced earlier today that visitors will no longer be allowed at EMC for the time being. More on what EMC is doing to protect the community can be found here.

• As of this writing, local theaters have made a split decision on whether to stay open or not. While Desert Ensemble Theatre Company, Coyote StageWorks and the Desert Rose Playhouse have cancelled or postponed shows this weekend, Palm Canyon Theatre, CVRep and Desert TheatreWorks are letting the shows go on. Read more about this in the second installment in the Independent's Pandemic Stories series tomorrow (Saturday).

As for that first Pandemic Stories installment: Kevin Fitzgerald talked to the owner of Piero's PizzaVino about the cancellation of the BNP Paribas Open tennis tourney, and how that devastated her and her staff. Piero's is one of the few local restaurants to have a pop-up location at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, alongside big names like Nobu and Spago.

• As for closures and cancellations: The Palm Springs Gay Softball league has suspended practices and play through March, and the national NAGAAA Cup tourney the league was hosting at the end of March is cancelled. Other recent cancellations/closures include the Palm Desert Food and Wine fest, all Certified Farmers Markets through at least March 30 (though the Palm Springs Cultural Center remains open for now), the Palm Springs Library (though the Palm Desert Library remains open), and shockingly, The Abbey down in West Hollywood.

• From our partners at CalMatters: As the coronavirus toll rises, so do concerns about health-care workers' safety.

• Earlier today, President Trump declared a national emergency. The press conference was ... well, fascinating. At one point, after Trump said he didn't take any responsibility for the pandemic, a reporter from PBS asked him about his firing of the national pandemic response team. His response was that he didn't do it, and that this was a "nasty question." As for that firing, Snopes says it's true that it happened.

• Support local businesses! If you're comfortable with going out (while taking all the precautions that you should be), local bars and restaurants need you right now. If not, order food from a local restaurant on GrubHub or one of the apps!

• Alternately, consider buying gift cards from local businesses. Some places are offering 20 percent bonuses.

• If you found this email helpful, forward to a friend, or have them email us and we'll add them to the list. Please consider supporting the Independent, too ... we could use it!

Until tomorrow ... stay safe; support local business, and wash your hands!

Published in Daily Digest

The Palm Springs Dance Project has burst onto the scene as a new and exciting dance program that merges professionals with local students—and the public will get to see the fruits of the program during a series of events taking place Thursday through Saturday, March 5-7.

Darcy Carozza, the founder and executive director, started dreaming up the Palm Springs Dance Project in 2015, when she was the managing director of the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

“At that time, I noticed that dance was lacking at the theater, so I created a series of events that included dance,” she says.

A breakthrough moment came, she says, when around 40 local students were performing onstage at the theater.

“The event went so well—and it was inspirational,” she says. “I wanted to create more events—and that, basically, is where the Palm Springs Dance Project came from.”

Carozza produced an event called the Palm Springs Dance Festival over the last several years.

“In 2019, I listened closely to what our community was looking for—and that was dance education for our local students,” Carozza says. “We were able to develop a program where all of the students that we brought in would be covered under a grant and receive intensive dance training. It’s really been a grassroots effort between local donors and local collaborators.”

Those collaborators in the Palm Springs Dance Project include the Palm Springs Unified School District and FIND Food Bank, which provides free lunches for the students.

The upcoming events will not only help fund programming costs; they’ll also help introduce the project to the community. First comes Dancin’ in the Streets, a flash-mob performance, set to take place at Village Fest in downtown Palm Springs from 6:30 to 9 p.m., Thursday, March 5.

“It’s going to be a great event for the community. Everyone can get some flavor of the program, with some entertainment, because we’ll have our students performing alongside some professional dancers,” says Carozza.

Deborah Brockus, the program’s artistic director—and an acclaimed dancer in the Los Angeles dance scene—is the choreographer.

“What Deborah has done and is doing now is creating customized choreography based on our dancers’ strengths,” Carozza says. “You’re going to see some classical contemporary dance, hip hop and jazz. It will be energetic and entertaining; they’ll be running out with spotlights and loud music.”

At 7:30 p.m., Friday, March 6, students will be given their moment to shine in the Community’s Finest Showcase, a “pre-professional” variety show at the Annenberg; tickets are $25 to $28.

“Our scholarship students will be performing for the community, but we have invited many of the dance studios (in) Palm Springs. … That will showcase the training and education that is available right here in Palm Springs,” Carozza says. “Students will dance to genres like lyrical, modern, hip hop and jazz, among others.”

At 7:30 p.m., Saturday, March 7, all eyes will be on The Main Event: An Evening of Extraordinary Dance, a professional concert dance program. BrockusRED, founded by Brockus, is set to perform alongside Luminario Ballet and Lula Washington Dance Theatre at the Annenberg. Tickets are $55 to $130.

Carozza says the audience can expect an “energetic, powerful and uplifting program of dance. We’re very excited, because we will also be staging the first-ever aerial dance at the Annenberg Theater.”

The dance will be performed by Luminario Ballet, but the Palm Springs Dance Project had the hang point permanently installed to be used in the future.

Carozza says she’s trying to expand the reach of the program through different mediums—and the Palm Springs Dance Project has partnered with the Palm Springs Cultural Center to show dance-oriented films, including a Sunday, March 1, screening of Billy Elliot, with a post-movie discussion centered around #BoysDanceToo. Panelists will include former Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo member Howard Sayette, musical choreographer/director José de la Cuesta and choreographer/director Douglas Graham.

“We want to grow and broaden our programming for events year-round,” Carozza says. “Really, our goal is to build a thriving dance community in the greater Palm Springs area. We want opportunities to really engage and give back through the staging of these events.”

For more information, visit www.palmspringsdance.org.

Published in Theater and Dance

David Graves is really passionate about horror films—so passionate, in fact, that he has convinced the Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center to present horror-film double-features most Friday nights through the end of the year.

The Art of Darkness series debuts this Friday, Oct. 11, with The Innocents at 6 p.m., and A Tale of Two Sisters at 8 p.m. I had to ask Graves: Why so passionate about horror?

“Well, I’m basically a very fearful person,” he said with a laugh. “My passion for horror films started very early, and it may be because that’s just a familiar space for me, but I find that (horror) sharpens all of your senses. … You know, fear is the oldest, deepest emotion that we have; it’s a lizard-brain thing. It was part of our survival. Watching horror movies is sort of the modern equivalent of cavemen setting around a fire telling each other spooky stories. … It’s a safe way to experience fear and (learn to) understand what you fear.”

Graves spent much of his career in film production—he was the assistant costume designer on a little film you may have heard of called Titanic—and considers himself a “huge movie buff.” He said he’s dreamed of doing a horror-film series for years, and it came to fruition after he discussed it with Rick Seeley, a longtime friend.

It turns out Seeley is the president of the board of the Palm Springs Cultural Center. Seeley loved the idea, as did Michael Green, the center’s executive director. Thus, Art of Darkness was born.

“I feel like this is an element that’s missing in the cultural life here,” Graves said. “There are horror-film festivals everywhere all over the country and all over the world; on any given week, and you’ll find one somewhere. It was something that I wanted to bring to the community—and to deepen people’s understanding of what horror is.”

Graves pointed out that horror isn’t just a genre—it’s an emotion. He said the Art of Darkness series goes beyond slasher films and explores horror at a deeper level.

“Many films that aren’t, strictly speaking, horror films still have horrific elements and have various different moods on that spectrum,” he said. “The critical sphere has been taking horror films much more seriously over the last 20 years. This is great, but I want to bring some of this to the local audience and say, ‘Look deeper at these things. Look at the substance and what they are about instead of looking at the surface, and let go of the idea that a horror film equals a slasher film’—because it doesn’t.”

Series-opener The Innocents, with a screenplay by William Archibald and Truman Capote, came out in 1961 and is described thusly on IMDb: “A young governess for two children becomes convinced that the house and grounds are haunted.”

“It’s really visually stunning, but it’s also very creepy and unsettling—and ultimately, it’s ambiguous,” Graves said. “It’s first movie that really, truly scared me. I was about 10 or 11 years old. My parents put it on, and everyone—my sister and my parents—fell asleep. I was watching the whole thing sort of by myself, and it really, really, unsettled me. And I loved it.”

While tickets to individual films in the series are $10, attendees who want to see both portions of the double-feature get in for $15. I asked Graves why he decided to present the Art of Darkness series via double-features.

“It’s a more interesting way to present these films thematically,” he said. “The whole idea was to present films that, on the surface, aren’t necessarily related, but that resonate with each other. … A Tale of Two Sisters, the second film on (the first) double-feature, is a stunning, hauntingly beautiful, really creepy Korean ghost story from the early ’00s. Both it and The Innocents are ambiguous, because they’re ghost stories—but is the ghost real, or is it the person imagining it or projecting it?

“(On Nov. 1), we’re showing remakes of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing, which are interesting, because the original films from the ’50s were both products of post-war, Cold War paranoia. The fact that they were remade in the late ’70s and early ’80s … (gives them) different context in a different thematic background. One of the great things about horror films is that they really are a mirror of the time that they were born in.”

Graves said he hopes the Art of Darkness series becomes a regular fall occurrence at the Cultural Center.

“I’ve got at least three years’ worth of these pairings that I’ve plotted out,” he said. “I’ve been ruminating about this for years, and it was just a question of choosing what we wanted to launch it with.”

The Art of Darkness series takes place most Fridays through the end of December at the Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets to the individual films, at 6 and 8 p.m., are $10; admission to both films costs $15. For tickets or more information, call 760-325-6565, or visit psculturalcenter.org.

Published in Previews and Features

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

Writer/director Petra Haffter first visited Palm Springs in 1981, on a publicity tour for one of her films. She moved to Los Angeles from her native Germany not long after, and she often enjoyed getaways to the desert—even though the area, she says, had lost most of its former Hollywood sheen.

But that turned around—Haffter credits the arrival of gay couples with dual incomes and “great taste”—and a few years ago, she bought a house and moved to the Coachella Valley full-time. She’d planned to move here after retirement—she and her partner continue to commute to Los Angeles for work—but she decided to make the leap in part because of the area’s enthusiasm for high-culture elements like film and architecture, and its commitment to abundant and diverse cuisine.

“First of all, I’m a filmmaker. Second, I’m a foodie,” Haffter said in an interview.

When she moved to the desert full-time, she knew she wanted “to do something for the community, giving back with the experience I have—and the experience I have is filmmaking.”

She set out to develop an event “that includes dinner and a movie, but not as it usually is—connected to a festival or short event.” She found a partner in the Palm Springs Cultural Center, which produces the Certified Farmers’ Markets that operate at three locations across the valley, and happens to occupy the classic Camelot Theatre building, with its three screens and full restaurant and bar.

Thus, Culinary Cinema was born. The monthly series, each pairing dinner by a local chef with a food-related film on the third Wednesday of the month, launches Aug. 21 with the 2014 movie The Hundred-Foot Journey, directed by Lasse Hallström and produced by Oprah Winfrey and Steven Spielberg. Helen Mirren stars as proprietor of a Michelin-starred restaurant in a small French village who goes to battle when an Indian family opens a competing establishment across the street.

“It’s one of my favorites of all time,” Haffter said. “It deals with two of the major cuisines of the world, French cuisine and Indian. So I thought it would be a very good entrée, to show that we are embracing diversity, and that we are accepting everyone at our table.”

Following each screening, guests will enjoy a dinner inspired by the accompanying film. The venue for the post-screening dinner will vary; for the inaugural event, the dinner will take place on the Camelot Theatre stage, prepared by Chef Daniel Villanueva of Daniel’s Table.

“I thought for the very first one, it would be great when the film is over, as the curtain is closing, that we have this long table there, and we just can come have a glass of champagne and then walk to the table like we’re a family,” she said.

Family is a recurring theme in the films that have been announced thus far. September’s selection will be the German film Mostly Martha, about a bullheaded chef whose orderly life begins to unravel when her young niece is suddenly placed in her care. Chef Teresa Attardi is known for her authentic family-style Italian food, which guests will enjoy after the screening at her Palm Springs restaurant, Il Giardino.

In October, private chef and recently repatriated Coachella Valley native Amanda Escamilla will bring her farm-to-table approach to Mexican cuisine to accompany the 2001 comedy-drama Tortilla Soup, about three sisters and their aging father, a veteran chef slowly losing his sense of taste.

In November, the Vietnamese film The Scent of the Green Papaya (described in a press release by the Cultural Center as “so placid and filled with sweetness that watching it is like listening to soothing music”) accompanies a dinner by chef Chad Gardner at his restaurant, 533 Viet Fusion.

The international scale of the first four selections speaks to another theme Haffter hopes to infuse into the Culinary Cinema program: travel. After starting out in feature films, Haffter spent the better part of the past decade directing documentaries around the globe—an experience she values while acknowledging that for many people, extensive travel is not possible. But Haffter thinks some elements of foreign cultures can be imported through food.

“What is really original to a country is the taste of it,” she said. “Food means embracing the entire world.”

Tickets to the initial screening are free, and will cost $10 in the following months, while screening-and-dinner packages will cost between $85 and $120. Haffter is grateful for the early support of local businesses—Savory Spice, Hot Purple Energy and Ferguson Bath, Kitchen and Lighting Gallery are sponsors—and hopes that others will follow.

“When local sponsors believe in us and help us, then the price (can) go down, and that would serve the people,” she said.

Haffter said she’s happy the series is beginning in August, generally considered the quietest month of the year in the Coachella Valley.

“It may be a little risky, but we want to proclaim we’re not doing this just for snowbirds,” she said. “We are doing it for the Coachella Valley. We are doing it for moviegoers; we are doing it for foodies; we are doing it for people who want to travel without traveling.”

Culinary Cinema kicks off at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 21, with a free screening of The Hundred-Foot Journey. After the film, a dinner prepared by Chef Daniel Villanueva will take place, and costs $120, at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. For tickets or more information, visit palmspringsculturalcenter.org.

Published in Previews and Features

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