CVIndependent

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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The Desert AIDS Project wants to let Coachella Valley residents know about the dangers of hepatitis C—especially baby boomers, who may have been carrying the now-curable disease unknowingly for decades.

Jose De La Cruz is a community health educator for DAP. He explained why people from one particular demographic—those born between 1945 and 1965—are especially at risk for the potentially fatal disease, which can cause liver failure and liver cancer.

“The test (for hepatitis C) didn’t really become available until 1991 or 1992,” De La Cruz said. “So you’re talking about anybody (being at risk) who received a blood transfusion before then. … You also have people who were going off to the Vietnam War; there were casualties, and universal precaution wasn’t even developed yet. There was the revolution of IV drug users during the 1960s. Before HIV came around, a lot of tattoo parlors didn’t have too many health departments going in to inspect them, (nor did) piercing parlors. There are a lot of factors that add to this, and because it takes such a long time for the symptoms to develop, because the liver can regenerate itself, you have people who could have been infected for 30 to 40 years, while no symptoms have developed yet.”

Hepatitis C can now be cured—but because of the high cost of these new drugs, some insurance companies are not willing to pay for them until serious liver damage has occurred.

“With hepatitis C, one of the things you want to be able to do is get yourself a good doctor, because a lot of the time, the insurance companies will make you wait until you’re at Stage 2 of liver damage,” De La Cruz said. “But you have some great doctors who will notice how much damage you have to your liver, and if you’re developing symptoms already. If you’re developing symptoms, that could be a reason to get you on treatment now instead of seeing how much damage of the liver you have.”

The cost per dose of these hepatitis C drugs is astronomical—potentially approaching $90,000 for a 12-week regimen—and the drugs are newly available to some lower-income Californians thanks to the state recently allocating $176 million for treatment.

“The medication is pretty expensive—it’s $1,050 per pill for Sovaldi—and the thing is … how many people can (an untreated person with hepatitis C) infect?” De La Cruz said. “Now you’re looking at even more infections. One person you allow to keep living with hepatitis C, not curing them—how many more people could this person infect, and how much more money is it going to cost? … It’s almost like HIV back in the ’80s, when the numbers started to multiply more and more due to a lack of education and lack of knowledge.”

There is another group De La Cruz and other health educators are trying to reach: people who know they have hepatitis C, but who have previously declined treatment due to questionable effectiveness and serious side effects.

“There are a lot of people who know they are infected and didn’t want to go through the treatment,” he said. “It’s because of not knowing that … doctors now have Sovaldi, and this medication can cure them. Many are under the assumption that it’s still interferon and ribavirin treatments, and there are horror stories they’ve heard about the interferon. It’s now my job to go out there and educate them, saying, ‘No, now there is a cure; you don’t have to live with hepatitis C anymore. Now, you don’t have to go through the regimen (lasting) six months to a year. Now, it’s just eight to 12 weeks and not just clearing 35 to 40 percent (effectiveness); now it’s 96 to 98 percent.’ Those are the things we’re trying to pass on to the public.”

When I asked how effective the public-awareness campaign has been, De La Cruz said it’s been positive—although it’s always a challenge to convince some people they’re at risk.

“Because of the high-risk population I work with in the recovery centers, the homeless shelters and the county jails—to me, it’s very positive,” he said. … “I try to go to the senior population, because of the baby boomers. … Many of them don’t know they are infected with hepatitis C and have passed it on to their loved ones.

“In the east valley, there isn’t a lot of knowledge about HIV and how it’s transmitted, and lots of times, you find people out there with HIV, and they’re in the hospital because they didn’t think they were at risk, and many years had gone by with symptoms developing. It’s also happening with hepatitis C. Now their livers are failing; now their skin is yellow; now they are tired and exhausted. … (Some people think), ‘You have no risk for hepatitis C if you’re a woman, you’re married, you have kids, you have a job, you don’t do any drugs, and you don’t do any of this or that.’ But people forget about the partners they’ve had, or something that might have happened 20 years ago that was just one time.”

For more information, call the Desert AIDS Project at 760-276-5097.

Published in Local Issues

Desert AIDS Project’s Dining Out for Life Breaks Records

If anyone ever needs proof that the residents of the Coachella Valley are a rather generous lot, look no further than the results of the Desert AIDS Project’s Dining Out for Life (DOFL) fundraiser back in April.

First, a recap of how DOFL works: On one chosen day per year, restaurants across the Coachella Valley agree to donate at least 33 percent of their sales—from one particular meal, or from everything—to the Desert AIDS Project.

On April 26, 75 local restaurants participated, raising a whopping $280,000 for DAP—an increase of $50,000 from last year. An estimated 10,000 valley residents went to these 75 restaurants that day.

“You couldn’t go anywhere without seeing someone wearing a ‘badge of honor’—the ‘I Dined’ stickers given to diners at participating locations,” said event manager George Nasci-Sinatra, according to a news release.

That’s impressive. However, it’s even more impressive when these numbers are put into context.

Dining Out for Life is a nationwide (plus Canada!) campaign held the last Thursday in April every year by various HIV/AIDS service organizations. Representatives of all of these campaigns gathered in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for the North American Dining Out for Life Conference in July to compare notes. Well, it turns out that even though the Coachella Valley is one of the smallest markets participating in Dining Out for Life, we rank No. 2 (!) in terms of money raised.

“Only Denver, which had three times more participating restaurants, raised more funds this year,” said Darrell Tucci, the chief development officer for DAP. “To be the smallest market in population driving the second-largest results is absolutely extraordinary and something we should all be proud of. Other markets have more participating restaurants, but no other market can boast the level of commitment shown by restaurants in greater Palm Springs.”

The main reason for the local Dining Out for Life’s success is the sheer generosity of local restaurants: In fact, the Top 3 restaurants in the country (plus Canada!) in terms of the total amount of money donated are here—Spencer’s Restaurant, Lulu California Bistroand Trio Restaurant, in that order. They raised a combined total of $61,679.

It’s also worth noting the sacrifice of some smaller restaurants that elected to give 100 percent or more of the day’s proceeds to DAP: Townie Bagels, Holiday House, The Barn Kitchen at Sparrows Lodge, Ristretto and Rooster and the Pig. Heck, the wait staff at Rooster and the Pig even donated their tips for the day to DAP.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, I should note that I’m personally a supporter of the Desert AIDS Project; the Independent does business with DAP; and George Nasci-Sinatra and Darrell Tucci are good friends of mine.)

Will the Coachella Valley be able to top these fantastic results during the next Dining Out for Life, on Thursday, April 25, 2019? Stay tuned.

For more information as the 2019 date draws nearer, visit www.diningoutforlife.com/palmsprings.


The Ace Hotel and Swim Club Celebrates Its Annual Craft Beer Weekend.

It’s become a summer tradition for Southern California beer-lovers: The Ace Hotel and Swim Club's Seventh Annual Craft Beer Weekend will take place Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 4 and 5.

The weekend’s big events are a Craft Beer Festival from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, featuring entertainment, food and unlimited tastings (!) from some of the top craft breweries from SoCal and beyond; and a beer brunch at 11 a.m. on Sunday, featuring six beer-inspired and beer-paired courses—plus starting and ending beers, too.

Passes for the Saturday festival are $35, and the Sunday brunch will set you back $55—or do both for just $70. Attendees who book a room for the weekend get into the festival for free.

Get tickets and more info at www.acehotel.com/calendar/palmsprings/craft-beer-weekend-18.


In Brief

The Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, at 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, has announced it has adopted new technology from a company called ORCA Digesters, Inc., that turns food waste into water. This will keep an estimated 624 tons (!) of food out of landfills each year. Awesome! … The Libation Room is now open at 73750 El Paseo, in Palm Desert. The new cocktail bar promises a speakeasy type of vibe; check it out Tuesday through Saturday from 4:30 p.m. on. For more information, call 877-869-8891, or visit www.libationroom.com. … The Manhattan in the Desert in Palm Desert, at 74225 Highway 111, has apparently closed. The Palm Springs location, at 2665 E. Palm Canyon Drive, is still alive and kicking. … One of the most happening outdoor-dining spots in downtown Palm Springs has been temporarily closed for a “facelift.” The patio at Tropicale, at 244 E. Amado Road, was closed on July 9 for a remodel that “should take about three weeks,” although the indoor bar and dining room remains open during construction. Depending on how that goes, and when you’re reading this, it may have reopened already! Call 760-866-1952 with questions.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Help the Desert AIDS Project by Dining Out for Life on April 26

Thursday, April 26, is one of my favorite foodie days of the year.

It’s not a day featuring a lot of great deals and food specials; instead, it’s a day during which local restaurants and their customers (i.e., you) do a lot of good for the community.

April 26 is this year’s date for Dining Out for Life, the annual fundraising extravaganza for the Desert AIDS Project and other HIV/AIDS service organizations around the country. It’s simple, really: On that day, restaurants across the Coachella Valley have agreed to donate anywhere between 33 and 110 percent of their sales to DAP.

It really is simple: All you do is go out to eat, like you probably would anyway—and DAP gets a big chunk of whatever you spend. (If you feel like you must do more than simply eat out, never fear: Many participating locations also have donation envelopes available.)

My friends at DAP tell me that even though the Coachella Valley is one of the smaller markets in which Dining Out for Life takes place, it’s one of the larger markets in terms of money raised. Last year, we ranked No. 3 in North America—and this year, the folks at DAP are keeping their fingers crossed for a jump to No. 2. Our li’l community does so well, in part, because of the generosity of some large and very busy restaurants: Lulu California Bistro (donating 50 percent), TRIO (donating 60 percent) and Spencer’s (donating 75 percent) generally rank near the top of the continent-wide list in terms of the amount of money donated.

However, it is most certainly not all about the big places: The biggest generosity, in many ways, comes from the smaller, mom-and-pop places. Rooster and the Pig and Ristretto are both donating 100 percent of their sales on April 26 to DAP—while Townie Bagels is giving a whopping 110 percent.

On Dining Out for Life day, you’ll be able to find me at a half-dozen or so—maybe more—participating restaurants throughout the day: having bagels, coffee, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, dinner, a post-dinner snack and then probably a few drinks. Follow my exploits via the Coachella Valley Independent Facebook page.

Please join me for Dining Out for Life on April 26. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It’s literally the least you can do.

Visit www.diningoutforlife.com/palmsprings for a complete and constantly updated list of restaurants and their donation percentages.


In Brief

The much, much delayed opening of Grand Central Palm Springs, a restaurant and event space in La Plaza in downtown Palm Springs, is apparently close. Yeah, we’ve heard this several times before over the last two years, but co-owner Rita Capponi is so confident it’s actually happening this time that she gave me a “firm” opening date: May 1. More details to come; watch www.grandcentralpalmsprings.com for updates. … Alicante, the tapas-themed restaurant at 140 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs, is gearing up for a name and theme change. Revel Public House will offer sports, great food and lots of drink, led by three new exclusive beers brewed by San Marcos’ Mason Ale Works—under the name Palm Springs Brewing Co. Visit the brand-new Revel Facebook page for details. … Draughtsman, at 1501 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, just started a new late-night menu. “Late Night at Draughtsman” takes place from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., Wednesday through Sunday. The menu includes fare such as Cauliflower “McNuggets” ($9) and a braised pork belly banh mi ($14), along with late-night beer specials and frequent entertainment. Get more info at draughtsmanpalmsprings.com. … The owners of CCBC—a gay, clothing-optional resort and play place (*ahem*)—have announced plans to build an adjoining 2,560-square-foot restaurant, called Runway; it’ll also have a 568-square-foot dining patio. We cannot wait to see this! See plans at www.ccedd.org/project/ccbc-resort-runway-restaurant. … Try (hopefully) great chili and benefit the Cathedral City Senior Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 7. The annual Chili Cook-Off takes place at the Big Lots Center at Highway 111 and Date Palm Drive; $20 gets you chili tastings and a box lunch from Aspen Mills. Yum! Find more details at www.cathedralcenter.org. … And now, in the “Why in the hell not?” category: The Village Pub Palm Springs, at 266 S. Palm Canyon Drive, has launched two new food challenges. On Wednesdays, you can try one of two challenges: Eat 10 blazing wings in five minutes ($13); or gobble down one pound of potato chips and two pounds of fish with homemade beer batter in 10 minutes ($30). Beat the challenge, and the food is free. Hmm. Learn more about the “Village Idiot Food Challenge”—and see if any idiots actually succeed—at www.facebook.com/villagepubpalmsprings.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

HIV is no longer a death sentence: Today, most people with the virus—as long as they receive proper medical care—will live long and productive lives.

However, the amazing medical advances that have allowed for this have led to a new challenge: an increasingly large number of older people who are living with the virus.

The Desert AIDS Project was the first HIV/AIDS organization of its kind in the nation when it was founded by community volunteers in 1984. Today, it’s a federally qualified health center that serves anyone in need, regardless of HIV status—and a lot of DAP’s clients are older people who were diagnosed with the virus in the 1980s and 1990s.

“We’ve learned a lot since 1984,” said Jack Bunting, the public relations specialist for the Desert AIDS Project. “… We all know with the advances in pharmacology that people aren’t dying of this anymore. Now, we have an aging HIV population—people who are in their 20s all the way through their 80s. It’s no longer a death sentence. What we’re trying to do is invigorate people’s lives so they can live with it and still live long, healthy and productive lives.”

Bunting said DAP’s clients today have needs that would have been unthinkable during the AIDS crisis.

“Job training and vocational training—there’s a whole gamut of services that people need to live with this disease,” Bunting said. “We’re not doing triage for dying people anymore; these people are going to be here for a long time. They’re able to be of good use, good value and live productive lives. … There’s a hierarchy of needs. You can give them all the HIV medication you want, but if they don’t have anywhere to live, they’re depressed and isolated. If they don’t have food, and if they’re lonely, they aren’t going to take their medication.”

The fact that more than half of all Americans infected with HIV today are 50 or older led a group of local medical experts, patients and activists to start the HIV + Aging Research Project-Palm Springs, or HARP-PS. The nonprofit will be holding a day-long “Reunion Project 2.0” conference on Saturday, March 31. Visit www.harp-ps.org for more information.

Due to an increasing demand for services, the Desert AIDS Project recently announced a huge expansion project. The agency, located in Palm Springs at Sunrise Way and Vista Chino, has acquired the building south of the existing campus, and is expanding beyond those existing buildings as well. Once the $20 million expansion is completed in 2020, DAP will be serving an estimated 8,000 patients in its medical clinics—up from 3,900 last year.

A lot of the new DAP space will be dedicated to services that were not needed in the days when HIV was basically a death sentence. DAP’s dental clinics will serve 1,700 patients in 2020, up from 814 in 2017. DAP-owned housing—for which there’s currently a years-long waiting list—will almost double, from 80 apartments now to 141 in 2020.

Wade Cook is a client at and volunteer with the Desert AIDS Project. Now 60, Cook was diagnosed as being positive in 1991 while living in Texas, and he said the Desert AIDS Project saved his life.

“I’ve received treatment in a few other areas of the country, and the Desert AIDS Project is really unique and pretty special,” Cook said. “I’m at the Desert AIDS Project every day, given I volunteer there, and I go to all the groups and receive my medical care, and my mental health (care). As far as medical care goes, I’ve never received such thorough care, and my health has improved so much that I’m considering going back to work again.”

Cook said living with HIV takes a toll on one’s body.

“It speeds up the aging process in a lot of ways,” Cook said. “You develop diabetes (a side effect of some medications), heart conditions, high cholesterol and other different things that might develop with older age—but you develop them a lot sooner with HIV. For me, I developed severe arthritis, which is why I went on disability, because I was in a wheelchair for four years. The fact that my body is working so hard to fight this infection—it can only do so much. I’ve had a lot of issues with my liver just because of the medications that I take.

“HIV and aging is a new field for a lot of people to begin to look at—and to evaluate people like me.”

Long-term survivors have to deal with more than the virus and the side effects of the medication; Cook said people with HIV are often overcome with anguish.

“There’s isolation, which is a huge issue for people who are long-time survivors,” he said. “Depression is another issue that people struggle with. There are a lot of us who have lived with this for a very long time who have developed PTSD symptoms, because we’ve gone through a series of very traumatic events in the process—including the loss of lots of people early on in the epidemic. As time has gone by, lots of us have gone through severe health issues.”

This is one reason behavioral health care is also a big part of DAP’s expansion: In 2020, an estimated 1,200 patients will receive such care, up from 583 last year.

Cook talked about being first diagnosed with the virus back in 1991.

“I was a school teacher in rural Texas, and I was terrified that the parents of my students would find out—that the school district would find out, and I didn’t know what the response would be,” he said. “I didn’t go to the doctor using my insurance, because I didn’t want anything to show up anywhere.”

In Las Vegas, Cook said, he received care at a medical center that stigmatized people with HIV.

“You had to go through the back alley to get to the ward,” he said. “It had a very powerful effect on me when I first walked into that ward, because I had to walk through basically where the janitors kept all their buckets—that was what was set aside for people with HIV.

“I’ve referred to the experiences of living with HIV as living through a war.”

Despite the great care he’s received at DAP, Cook said he still deals with the mental and physical toll that HIV has taken.

“Those feelings don’t go away. I’ve lost a lot of people who I’ve known through the years, especially earlier on, when there was so little help,” he said. “One of the things the Desert AIDS Project does an incredible job with is mental health and programs for people to interact and communicate with each other. I’m at a point in my life where I’m considering going into a Ph.D. program. For years, I’d lived with this idea that (HIV) was the end of my life, and I was done.”

Another challenge aging LGBT individuals are facing, regardless of HIV status, is a lack of family members to help with care. Stonewall Gardens, an LGBT retirement community in Palm Springs, often deals with the fact that many residents have no family members.

“We deal far less with family members and more with friends and the individual themselves. Often times, most of our residents don’t have family members, or they’re estranged from them,” said Lauren Kabakoff, the marketing and sales director of Stonewall Gardens. “It’s not unusual that someone will come by themselves, or maybe their niece or nephew will come to look for them. That’s a challenge we have, because it’s so easy for kids to put Mom and Dad somewhere, and deal with selling the house and selling the car. But for us, our residents need to deal with all of this themselves. They need to change their address themselves, sell their home or deal with renting their home, and wrap up their affairs before they move in. There’s no family to say, ‘We’ll put Mom and Dad in there and deal with it later.’ It’s a bit of a different dynamic.”

Kabakoff said the Stonewall Gardens staff often winds up doing more than staff members at a traditional assisted-living facility.

“By default, we do become family for so many of our residents. We are the only people that they may have,” Kabakoff said. “We end up taking on a more personalized role.”

Kabakoff said it’s important for Stonewall Gardens staff members to understand what their clients’ special needs are—much like the staff members at DAP must do.

“They already have an inclination for what it takes to be here and work with our community,” she said “They have a connection to the community, have a passion for it, and they understand it in a way to want to help the residents on a deeper level.

“You also have to be creative in what you do, because this is uncharted territory.”

Jimmy Boegle contributed to this story. Below: Artists’ renderings of what portions of the DAP campus will look like when the $20 million expansion is completed in 2020.

Published in Features

At long last … here are the results of the fourth annual Best of Coachella Valley readers' poll!

From all of us here at the Coachella Valley Independent, we’d like to thank the many, many readers who voted this year. The results, as you’ll see below, represent the amazing diversity of the Coachella Valley, with winners coming from all parts of the valley.

We’d also like you to come and celebrate with us! The Best of Coachella Valley 2017-2018 Awards Show and Celebration takes place Friday, Dec. 15, at The Hood Bar in Pizza in Palm Desert—this year’s winner for Best Dive Bar! The awards start at 6:30, and will be followed by a performance from Best Local Band winners The Flusters. The event will be followed by an after-party featuring Herbert, Sunday Funeral and Black Water Gospel.

Congratulations to all of the winners and finalists … and welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2017-2018!

—Jimmy Boegle, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Arts

 

Best Art Gallery

CODA Gallery

 

Runners up:

2. Shag

3. Melissa Morgan Fine Art

4. Hohmann Fine Art

5. J. Willott Gallery

 

Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. The Show at Agua Caliente

3. The Hood Bar and Pizza

4. The Date Shed

5. Fantasy Springs Special Events Center

 

Best Outdoor Venue

Empire Polo Club

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. Indian Wells Tennis Garden

4. Fantasy Springs Rock Yard

5. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Best Local Arts Group/Organization

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. The Coachella Valley Art Scene

3. La Quinta Arts Foundation

4. Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre

5. CREATE Center for the Arts

 

Best Local Band

The Flusters

 

Runners up:

2. John Stanley King Band

3. Sunday Funeral

4. Drop Mob

5. The Hellions

 

Best Local DJ

DJ PWee

 

Runners up:

2. Jesika Von Rabbit

3. Alex Harrington

4. Alf Alpha

5. DJ Chub Jim

 

Best Local Musician

John Stanley King

 

Runners up:

2. Lisa Lynn Morgan

3. Dan Dillinger

4. Michael Keeth

5. Dave Burk

 

Best Local Visual Artist

TIE

Sofia Enriquez

Shag

 

Runners up:

3. Ryan Campbell

4. Cristopher Cichocki

5. Marconi Calindas

 

Best Movie Theater

Century La Quinta and XD

 

Runners up:

2. Mary Pickford Is D’Place

3. Century The River and XD

4. Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 and IMAX

5. Camelot Theatres

 

Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Air Museum

3. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

4. Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

5. La Quinta Museum

 

Best Producing Theater Company

Palm Canyon Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. Dezart Performs

5. Coyote StageWorks


Life in the Valley

 

Best Farmers’ Market

College of the Desert Street Fair

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Village Fest

3. Palm Springs Certified Farmers’ Market

4. Old Town La Quinta Certified Farmers’ Market

5. Palm Desert Certified Farmers’ Market

 

Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

Palm Springs Animal Shelter

 

Runners up:

2. Desert AIDS Project

3. Boys and Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley

4. Coachella Valley Rescue Mission

5. LGBT Community Center of the Desert

6. AAP-Food Samaritans

 

Best Gym

World Gym

 

Runners up:

2. EOS Fitness

3. Planet Fitness

4. Palm Springs Fitness Center

5. In-Shape

 

Best Yoga Studio

Bikram Yoga Plus

 

Runners up:

2. Urban Yoga

3. Yoga Bliss

4. Power Yoga Palm Springs

5. Yoga Central

 

Best Bowling Alley

Fantasy Springs Bowling Center

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Yucca Bowl

 

Best Sex Toy Shop

Skitzo Kitty

 

Runners up:

2. Not So Innocent

3. Gear Leather and Fetish

4. Q Trading Co.

5. Sensuality a Store for Her

 

Best Auto Repair

Andy’s Auto Repair

 

Runners up:

2. European Auto Service

3. Cam Stone’s Automotive

4. Singh’s Automotive Repair

5. OMAG Automotive

 

Best Car Wash

Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Car Wash

3. Airport Quick Car Wash

4. Indio Car Wash

5. Desert 100 Percent Hand Car Wash

 

Best Plant Nursery

The Living Desert’s Palo Verde Garden Center

 

2. Moller’s Garden Center

3. Bob Williams Nursery

4. Vintage Nursery

5. Lotus Garden Center

 

Best Pet Supplies

Bones ’n’ Scones

 

Runners up:

2. Petco

3. PetSmart

4. Pet Oasis

5. Miriam’s Poochella Grooming

 

Best Annual Charity Event

Desert AIDS Walk (Desert AIDS Project)

 

Runners up:

2. Evening Under the Stars (AAP-Food Samaritans)

3. McCallum Theatre Annual Gala

4. A Miracle on El Paseo (Bighorn Behind a Miracle)

5. Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards (Desert AIDS Project)

 

Best Place to Gamble

Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. Morongo Casino Resort Spa

5. Spotlight 29

 

Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. KMIR Channel 6

3. CBS Local 2

 

Best Local TV News Personality

Bianca Rae, KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

3. Karen Devine, KESQ News Channel 3

4. Gino Lamont, KMIR Channel 6

5. Bryan Gallo, KMIR Channel 6

 

Best Radio Station

Q 102.3 Classic Rock

 

Runners up:

2. Mix 100.5

3. Jammin 99.5 FM

4. Mod FM 107.3

5. K-News 94.3 FM

 

Best Local Radio Personality

Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

 

Runners up:

2. Jeff Michaels, Q 102.3/KPLM 106.1

3. Jimi “Fitz” Fitzgerald, CV 104.3 FM

4. Joey English, KGX 99.1 FM/920 AM

5. Bill Feingold, K-News 94.3 FM

 

Best Bookstore

Barnes and Noble

 

Runners up:

2. Just Fabulous

3. Rancho Mirage Library Book Nook

4. The Book Rack La Quinta

 

Best Retail Music/Video Store

Record Alley

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Vinyl Records and Collectables

3. Best Buy

 

Best Comics/Games Shop

Desert Oasis Comics

 

Runners up:

2. Game Stop

3. HooDoo!

 

Best Hotel Pool

Riviera Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

3. Ace Hotel and Swim Club

4. Arrive

5. The Saguaro

 

Best Urgent Care

Eisenhower Medical Center Urgent Care

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Oasis Healthcare Immediate Care

3. VIP Urgent Care

4. MedPost Urgent Care (Desert Regional)

5. Premier Urgent Care


Valley Professionals

 

Best Doctor

Dr. Amanda Curnock

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Timothy Jochen

3. Dr. Michael Hughes

4. Dr. Michael Jardula

 

Best Eye Doctor

Dr. Albert Milauskas

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Camille Harrison

3. Dr. David Esquibel (Desert Vision)

4. Dr. Athena Brasfield (CV Optometry)

 

Best Dentist/Orthodontist

Dr. Larry Kunkle (Palm Desert Dental Center)

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Dr. Rene Dell’Acqua

Dr. Frank Hernandez

4. Dr. Maria Aguilar (Mirage Lane Dentistry)

5. Dr. Duane Nishikubo

 

Best Plastic Surgeon

Dr. Timothy Jochen

 

Runners up:

2. Dr. Mark Sofonio

3. Dr. Scott Aaronson

4. Dr. Bruce Chisholm

5. Dr. Suzanne Quardt

 

Best Attorney

Walter Clark

 

Runners up:

2. Brian Harnik

3. David Humphrey

4. Christopher Heritage

5. J. John Anderholt III

 

Best Air Conditioner Repair

Comfort Air

 

Runners up:

2. Esser

3. General

4. All Seasons

5. Priority One

 

Best Chiropractor

Dr. Jim Cox

 

Runners up:

2. Nazemi Chiropractic

3. Dr. Kristen Bohnet

4. Dr. Paul Ross

 

Best Real Estate Agent

TIE

Barbara Carpenter

Brady Sandahl

 

Runners up:

3. Valery Neuman

4. Deirdre Coit

 

Best Electrician

Desert Pro Electrical

 

Runners up:

2. Electric Man

3. So-Cal Electric

4. Wired Up Electric

5. DCH Electric and Lighting

 

Best Public Servant

Rep. Raul Ruiz

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Mayor Jan Harnik

3. Palm Springs Mayor Rob Moon

4. Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia

5. Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors


Fashion and Style

 

Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Oooh La la

 

Runners up:

2. Trina Turk

3. Grayse

4. Blonde Clothing Boutique

5. Wil Stiles

 

Best Resale/Vintage Clothing

Revivals

 

Runners up:

2. Angel View

3. Goodwill

4. Plato’s Closet

5. The Fine Art of Design

 

Best Furniture Store

Mathis Brothers

 

Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. West Elm

4. Mor Furniture for Less

5. Erik’s Furniture

 

Best Antiques/Collectibles

The Estate Sale Co.

 

Runners up:

2. Misty’s Consignments

3. Victoria’s Attic

4. Sunny Dunes Antique Mall

 

Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

Tiffany and Co.

 

Runners up:

2. El Paseo Jewelers

3. Leeds and Son

4. Robann’s Jewelers

5. B. Alsohns Jewelers

 

Best Hair Salon

J. Russell! The Salon

 

Runners up:

2. Dishwater Blonde Salon

3. Alankara, an Aveda Lifestyle Salon

4. Josef Saliba

5. Jake Turner Salon

 

Best Spa in a Resort/Hotel

Two Bunch Palms

 

Runners up:

2. The Spa at Desert Springs (JW Marriott)

3. Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa

4. Agua Serena Spa at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

5. Well Spa (Miramonte)

 

Best Day Spa (Non-Resort/Hotel)

TIE

Revive Wellness Center

Studio M Salon and Spa

 

Runners up:

3. Bighorn Golf Club

4. Massage Rx

 

Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop

 

Runners up:

2. Jensen’s Foods

3. Rancho Mirage Florist

4. Palm Springs Florist

5. Lotus Garden Center

 

Best Tattoo Parlor

Bloodline Tattoo

 

Runners up:

2. Anarchy and Ink Tattoo

3. Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

4. Iron Palm Tattoo Parlour

5. Strata Tattoo Lab

 

Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer

Costco

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. LensCrafters

4. Panache Optical Gallery

5. CV Optometry


Outside!

 

Best Public Garden

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. El Paseo

4. Moorten’s Botanical Garden

5. Desert Healthcare District Wellness Park

 

Best Place for Bicycling

Joshua Tree

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

3. Bear Creek Path (La Quinta)

4. Highway 74

 

Best Recreation Area

Tahquitz Canyon

 

2. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

3. Mount San Jacinto State Park (Top of the Tram)

4. Lake Cahuilla Recreation Area

 

Best Hike

Bump and Grind Trail

 

Runners up:

2. Ladder Canyon

3. The Cross Trail

4. South Lykken Trail

5. Art Smith Trail

 

Best Park

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

2. Ruth Hardy Park

3. Rancho Mirage Community Park

4. La Quinta Civic Center Park

5. Ironwood Park

 

Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Dick’s Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Big 5 Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

 

Best Bike Shop

Palm Springs Cyclery

 

Runners up:

2. Tri-A-Bike

3. Joel’s Bicycle Shop

4. BikeMan

5. Velo Bum Elite Cyclery

 

Best Sporting Goods

Dick’s Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Big 5 Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

4. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis

 

Best Public Golf Course

Desert Willow Golf Resort

 

Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons Golf Resort

3. Indian Springs Golf Club

4. SilverRock Resort

5. Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort


For the Kids

 

Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. Ruth Hardy Park

3. La Quinta Civic Center Park

4. Ironwood Park

5. Dateland Park

 

Best Place to Buy Toys

Toys R Us

 

Runners up:

2. Uncle Don’s Hobbies

3. Mr. G’s for Kids

4. The Lumpy Bunny

 

Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Old Navy

 

Runners up:

2. The Children’s Place

3. The Lumpy Bunny

4. JadaBug’s Kids Boutique

5. Janie and Jack

 

Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Runners up:

2. Red Robin

3. Old Spaghetti Factory

4. Shakey’s Pizza

5. Billy Reed’s

 

Best Place for Family Fun

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Wet ’n’ Wild

3. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

4. Boomers

5. Laser Oasis

 

Best Place for a Birthday Party

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Chuck E. Cheese’s

3. Boomers

4. Laser Oasis

5. Shakey’s Pizza


Food and Restaurants

 

Best Casual Eats

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. TRIO Restaurant

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

5. Blaze Pizza

 

Best Caterer

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. TRIO/Liquid Catering

4. Dash and a Handful

5. Lynn Hammond

 

Best Diner

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

4. John’s

5. Rick’s Restaurant

 

Best Organic Food Store

Whole Foods

 

Runners up:

2. Sprouts Farmers Market

3. Jensen’s Foods

4. Clark’s Nutrition

5. Bristol Farms

 

Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. Manhattan in the Desert

3. TKB Bakery and Deli

4. Real Italian Deli

5. Bristol Farms

 

Best Custom Cakes

Over the Rainbow

 

Runners up:

2. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

3. Jensen’s Foods

4. Pastry Swan Bakery

5. Exquisite Desserts

 

Best Desserts

Nothing Bundt Cakes

 

Runners up:

2. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

3. Over the Rainbow

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Jake’s Palm Springs

 

Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Great Shakes

 

Runners up:

2. Cold Stone Creamery

3. Lappert’s Ice Cream

4. Creamistry

5. Ice Cream and Shop(pe) at Arrive

 

Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden

 

Runners up:

2. Hadley’s

3. Great Shakes

 

Best Frozen Yogurt

TIE

Beach House

Jus Chillin’

 

Runners up:

3. Yogurtland

4. Tutti Frutti

5. Yogurt Island

 

Best Bakery

Aspen Mills

 

Runners up:

2. French Corner Café

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. Frankie’s Italian Bakery

5. Peninsula Pastries

 

Best Barbecue

Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. Smoke Tree BBQ

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Zobo and Meester’s

 

Best Burger

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Eureka!

3. Smokin’ Burgers

4. Tyler’s Burgers

5. Grill A Burger

 

Best Veggie Burger

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Eureka!

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

5. TRIO Restaurant

 

Best Sandwich

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. The Sandwich Spot

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Aspen Mills

 

Best Pizza

Bill’s Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

3. Blaze Pizza

4. Giuseppe’s Pizza and Pasta

5. Upper Crust Pizza

 

Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings

 

Runners up:

2. Smokin’ Burgers

3. Wingstop

4. Smoke Tree BBQ

5. Kaiser Grille

 

Best Bagels

Townie Bagels

 

Runners up:

2. Bagel Bistro

3. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

4. Manhattan in the Desert

 

Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Jamba Juice

3. Luscious Lorraine’s

4. Koffi

5. Palm Greens Café

 

Best Buffet

Café 54 at the Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet Agua Caliente

3. Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

4. Oasis Buffet at Spa Resort Casino

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo

 

Best Coffee Shop for Coffee

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. IW Coffee

4. Ristretto

5. Ernest Coffee

 

Best Coffee Shop for Hanging Out

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. IW Coffee

4. Ernest Coffee

5. Ristretto

 

Best Tea

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

 

Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. Koffi

4. Teavana

5. Panera Bread

 

Best Breakfast

Wilma and Frieda’s

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. Elmer’s

4. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

5. Cheeky’s

 

Best California Cuisine

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. TRIO Restaurant

3. Jake’s Palm Springs

4. Kaiser Grille

5. Acqua California Bistro

 

Best Brunch

Wilma and Frieda’s

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. The Tropicale

5. TRIO Restaurant

6. Jackalope Ranch

 

Best Chinese

P.F. Chang’s

 

Runners up:

2. JOY at Fantasy Springs

3. City Wok

4. New Fortune Asian Cuisine

5. China King

 

Best Greek

Greek Islands Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Evzin Mediterranean Cuisine

3. Athena Gyro

4. Koutouki Greek Estiatorio

5. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

 

Best French

Le Vallauris Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Si Bon

3. Cuistot Restaurant

4. L’Atelier Café

5. Café des Beaux Arts

 

Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine

 

Runner up:

2. India Oven

 

Best Italian

Ristorante Mamma Gina

 

Runners up:

2. Mario’s Italian Café

3. Castelli’s

4. Giuseppe’s Pizza and Pasta

5. La Spiga Ristorante Italiano

 

Best Japanese

Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

3. Gyoro Gyoro Isakaya Japonaise

4. Joyce’s Sushi

5. Shabu Shabu Zen

 

Best Korean

JOY at Fantasy Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Maru Korean B.B.Q. and Grill

3. Umami Seoul

4. Domo Sushi

 

Best Sushi

Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Dragon Sushi

3. The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Edoko Sushi

 

Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Best Steaks/Steakhouse

Ruth’s Chris Steak House

 

Runners up:

2. LG’s Prime Steakhouse

3. Mastro’s Steakhouse

4. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar

5. Suillivan’s Steakhouse

 

Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Pepper’s Thai Cuisine

3. Blue Orchid

4. My Thai

5. Thai House

 

Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu

 

Runners up:

2. Rooster and the Pig

3. TIE

533 Viet Fusion

Watercress Vietnamese Bistro

5. Fuzion Five

 

Best Vegetarian

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Luscious Lorraine’s

3. Chef Tanya’s Kitchen

4. Palm Greens Café

5. Nature’s Health Food and Cafe

 

Best Upscale Restaurant

Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Le Vallauris Restaurant

3. Wally’s Desert Turtle

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Johannes

 

Best Outdoor Seating

Jackalope Ranch

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. Copley’s on Palm Canyon

5. Mitch’s on El Paseo

 

Best Late-Night Restaurant

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. TRIO Restaurant

4. King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club

5. Alicante

 

Best Mexican

Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. El Mirasol

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Loco Charlie’s

 

Best Salsa

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Blue Coyote Grill

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Casa Mendoza

 

Best Burrito

Las Casuelas Terraza

 

Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Taqueria Tlaquepaque

4. Casa Mendoza

5. La Perlita Mexican Food


Spirits and Nightlife

 

Best Beer Selection

Yard House

 

Runners up:

2. The Beer Hunter

3. Burgers and Beer

4. Draughtsman

5. Eureka!

 

Best Local Brewery

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Brewing Co.

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

 

Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

The Beer Hunter

 

Runners up:

2. The Hood Bar and Pizza

3. Neil’s Lounge

4. Big Rock Pub

5. Red Barn

 

Best Cocktail Menu

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. TRIO Restaurant

3. Eureka!

4. Dish Creative Cuisine

5. Seymour’s

 

Best Gay/Lesbian Bar

Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

 

Runners up:

2. Chill Bar

3. Hunters

4. Streetbar

5. Blackbook

 

Best Happy Hour

La Quinta Cliffhouse

 

Runners up:

2. TRIO Restaurant

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. The Tropicale

5. Mitch’s on El Paseo

 

Best Dive Bar

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. The Nest

3. Neil’s Lounge

4. Red Barn

5. Plan B Live Entertainment and Cocktails

 

Best Margarita

Blue Coyote Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Armando’s Dakota Bar and Grill

5. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

 

Best Martini

Sullivan’s Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. TRIO Restaurant

4. Zin American Bistro

5. Kaiser Grille

 

Best Nightclub

The Nest

 

Runners up:

2. Copa

3. Hunters

4. Zeldas

5. Bart Lounge

 

Best Sports Bar

The Beer Hunter

 

Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. Smokin’ Burgers

4. Big Rock Pub

5. Playoffs Sports Bar

 

Best Wine Bar

Zin American Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Mastro’s Steakhouse

3. The Wine Emporium

4. Dead or Alive

5. La Rue Wine Bar

 

Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More

 

Runners up:

2. Costco

3. BevMo!

4. Desert Wines and Spirits (Go Deli)

5. The Wine Emporium

 

Best Bar Ambiance

The Tropicale

 

Runners up:

2. Big Rock Pub

3. Mastro’s Steakhouse

4. TRIO Restaurant

5. Mitch’s on El Paseo

Published in Readers' Picks

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


In Brief

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

Published in Restaurant & Food News

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Published in Previews

Five of the Coachella Valley's top bartenders met Thursday night, Nov. 17, at the Purple Palm Restaurant at the Colony Palms Hotel to battle for the first Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship.

The event was one of the highlights of the Coachella Valley Independent's first Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, which ends tonight (Saturday, Nov. 19). 

One week before the event, the five contestants met at the Purple Palm for a draw to determine the order in which they would compete, and which of the five sponsor liquors they would use. The sponsor—Pacific Wine and Spirits of California—is donating $500 to each of Cocktail Week's charity beneficiaries: The LGBT Community Center of the Desert's Community Food Bank, and the Desert AIDS Project's Food Pantry.

Fernando Gonzalez of Cuistot Restaurant (using Nolet's Silver Dry Gin), Kevin Helvie of Chill Bar Palm Springs and Scorpion Room (using Crown Royal Vanilla), Sherman Chan of TRIO Restaurant (using Bulleit Bourbon), Michael Phillips of FIX a Dessert House (using Ketel One Oranj) and Joey Tapia of The New York Company Restaurant (using Captain Morgan White Rum) made tastes of their drinks for all attendees, who then each turned in a ballot with their favorite cocktail circled. Then the competition began in earnest, with each bartender mixing full-size drinks for each judge live while bantering with host Shann Carr.

The judges were Jonathan Heath of F10 Creative, Darrell Tucci of the Desert AIDS Project, Mike Thompson of the LGBT Community Center of the Desert, and Brad Fuhr of Gay Desert Guide.

After all of the drinks were made and tasted, and the results tabulated, Shann Carr announced the winners: Joey Tapia of the New York Company Restaurant won the Audience Choice Award, while Trio's Sherman Chan won the Championship.

Below is a gallery of photos by Independent photographer Kevin Fitzgerald.

Published in Snapshot

If you live in the Coachella Valley, you may receive a phone call sometime early next year from a nonprofit called HARC—Health Assessment and Research for Communities.

HARC’s new board president, Bruce Purdy, says it’s vital for you to take that call, and answer all of the survey questions that follow—even if the questioning is lengthy and a bit tedious.

“The data we’ll collect will ultimately support and improve the health and well-being of the residents of the Coachella Valley,” he said. “It will provide an objective picture of the health of citizens in this community, and help create programs and policies that will help improve health of a whole lot of residents.”

It’s HARC’s job to conduct this survey of residents every three years, and then compile and release the results.

So, why’s it so important to have this data?

“We believe that in the last five years, grants have provided roughly $12.8 million in support to local nonprofits that used HARC data to justify their requests,” Purdy said.

It’s Purdy’s experience with one of those nonprofits, the Desert AIDS Project, that led Purdy—a semi-retired development economist—to get involved with HARC. Purdy sits on the Desert AIDS Project’s board, and saw how helpful HARC’s data was to DAP.

“We’ve gotten so many grants because (we) have really good, analytical data (from HARC),” he said.

David Brinkman, the CEO of DAP, encouraged Purdy to join the HARC board, Purdy said. Dr. Glen Grayman, the chief population health officer and regional medical director of Borrego Health, had been the president of HARC’s board since it was founded in 2006, and oversaw the first three HARC surveys. When Grayman decided it was time to hand over the reins to someone else, Purdy was tasked with becoming that someone else. Purdy became the HARC board president in October.

The last HARC survey, conducted in 2013, showed the Coachella Valley’s collective health badly needed improvement. It showed a third of local adults between the ages of 18 and 64 didn’t have insurance. The data also showed high rates of hypertension, high cholesterol and binge-drinking, and that cancer rates and the number of children living in poverty were on the rise.

Of course, a lot has changed in the last three years. The economy has improved, and the Affordable Care Act has given more adults access to reasonably priced insurance plans. Purdy said he’s curious what the 2016 numbers will show.

“I’m really interested to see if the increase in people covered by Obamacare has helped, hurt or not changed at all the health and wellness of people in the valley,” he said.

Purdy said HARC is “inundated” with requests from nonprofits for various questions to be included in the survey. He said the 2016 survey will include deeper questions regarding two matters on different ends of the age spectrum: childhood obesity/early-onset diabetes; and the various health issues the valley’s older snowbird population is facing.

Purdy said the survey includes about 160 questions, and that he hopes to get more responses than the 2,000-plus received during the 2013 survey. Kent State University will again conduct the survey.

“We are very proud of and excited about the work we do,” Purdy said.

For more information, visit www.harcdata.org.

Published in Local Issues

In 2005, actor Tab Hunter released his autobiography Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star. Now thanks to director Jeffrey Schwarz and Hunter’s partner, Allan Glaser, a documentary based on the book is hitting movie screens.

On Thursday, Nov. 12, Tab Hunter Confidential will be screened at the Camelot Theatres in Palm Springs, with Hunter in attendance to discuss the film at a special event benefiting the Desert AIDS Project. The film will then remain on Camelot screens for at least a week.

During a recent phone interview, Hunter explained why he decided to write the book.

“I wrote the book with a lot of hesitation, but I figured I had to do it, because someone else was going to write a book,” Hunter said. “I figured it’s better to get it from the horse’s mouth, not from some horse’s ass after I’m dead and gone, where they’ll put some spin on it. I didn’t want that. People are noted for doing that.”

Hunter, now 84, worked as a stable boy at the age of 14; that is how he met actor and agent Richard Clayton, who used to come to the barn to ride and shoot promo photographs.

“That’s where it started, where I was shoveling the real stuff out of the barn,” Hunter said. “(Clayton) discovered me there, and my career went on from there.”

Hunter’s love of films started around the same time. He said he would see films on weekend evenings after working in the barn all day.

“All those wonderful Tyrone Power films like The Black Swan and all of those things—I loved the total escapism,” he said. “I was always so locked within myself that I admired anybody who could be out there, and those films gave you a whole different vision of the world. That was really important to me when I was a kid, and you’re scared of your own shadow. Lucky, my brother helped me out a lot, but we used to go to the Arlington Theatre in Santa Barbara all the time.”

While Tab Hunter was best known for acting and his all-American good looks, he also recorded music as well.

“I was doing a chore with Natalie Wood for a film we had done, and I was singing,” he said. “Howard Miller, who was a huge disc jockey in Chicago, asked me, ‘Did you ever think of recording?’ And I said, ‘I sing in the shower, and everyone sounds good in the shower.’ He said, ‘I’d like to introduce you to Randy Wood at Dot Records.’ He put me in touch with Randy, and Randy heard me sing, and presented me with a tune called ‘Young Love.’ I recorded it on a Friday and heard it on the car radio while I was driving the following Monday, and almost hit a palm tree, I was so shocked. It knocked Elvis out of the No. 1 slot and stayed there for about six weeks.

“From there on, I went on to do an album. Jack Warner (of Hunter’s studio, Warner Bros.) called me in the office and he said, ‘Wait a minute! You can’t do that! We own you for everything!’ I said, ‘But Mr. Warner, you don’t have a recording company.’ He looked at me and said, ‘We do now!’ and started Warner Brothers Records. That’s amazing when you stop to think how huge that company is now.”

Hunter starred in both hits and films that flopped. However, Hunter insisted he has no regrets.

“I don’t ever wish I didn’t do anything, because I did them because it was called ‘survival,’” he said. “That’s what happens when you have bills to pay. Usually, the actor gets the blame if the picture isn’t any good. … They don’t realize the producers and the directors and all the money behind it is what makes the picture. I’ve done a lot of bad pictures, and I don’t look at those and forget them; that is just called experience. The best part is I got to work with good people—actors, writers and directors. That helps you grow.”

He said he is particularly proud of several films, however.

“I love Damn Yankees because it was my first musical,” he said. “I love That Kind of Woman because it was with Sophia Loren—need I say more? Also, it was with Sidney Lumet, who was a wonderful director. I liked Gunman’s Walk, because it was the first heavy I ever played in a film, and that’s a really great picture. But I think TV is what gave me more opportunity than movies, because the studio era was falling apart then.”

John Waters helped Tab Hunter enjoy a bit of a resurgence in the 1980s when he cast him in Polyester. Hunter also went on to star in Grease 2, and became a bit of a cult favorite with the younger generation.

“John was great,” Hunter said. “I was doing a play in Indianapolis, and I got a call one day, and it was John. He said, ‘Hello. I’m John Waters, I don’t know if you know me or not.’ I said, ‘John, I’m a major fan of yours! I love Mondo Trasho and Pink Flamingos.’ He said, ‘I have a script I’d like you to do, if I can send it to you.’ I said I had two weeks off before I had to do another play, and asked when he planned to shoot. He asked me, ‘Before we go there, how do you feel about kissing a 300-pound transvestite?’ I said, ‘I’m sure I’ve kissed a whole hell of a lot worse.’ He sent me the script; I read it. I had already met Divine at David Hockney’s party a little while earlier, and I thought he was wonderful. It was a great experience, and I loved doing that film for him. It revitalized my career.”

When the book Tab Hunter Confidential: The Making of a Movie Star was released in 2005, it included a confession on a subject about which members of the press and many others had speculated for decades: Hunter is gay. When he looks back, he said he feels the press is still quite cruel.

“I think, ‘How sad!’ Because everything seems to be so in your face and pushed out there from a time when things were much quieter and much simpler; people didn’t discuss those things, and the word ‘gay’ wasn’t even around,” Hunter said. “They might have said something, but it was hush, hush. It was nobody’s damn business. My touch of reality in the unrealistic world of Hollywood was going out to the barn and shoveling the real crap. … People are always going to be quick to label people. The first line of my book is, ‘I hate labels.’ People were always trying to label people, and what’s much more important is that we’re all human beings. What kind of a human being are you? That’s what’s important.”

He said he misses the relative privacy the media offered stars back in his heyday.

“Everything is discussed today, and I’m not really sure I like that,” he said. “I love what Allan (Glaser) said in an interview last week. A reporter was talking about the documentary, and Allan said, ‘Yes, Tab came out of the closet and did the documentary, then turned around and closed the door behind him.’ I thought that was funny, but it was true. The documentary is about my journey, the early years, the Hollywood years, and these golden years. We’re all on a journey—but the most important question is: What kind of journey are you on?”

Tab Hunter Confidential will be shown at 7 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 12, at Camelot Theatres. 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $20 and include a post-show Q&A; VIP tickets, which include a pre-screening reception, are $65.. For tickets or more information, call 760-325-6565, or visit the event’s Facebook page.

Published in Previews and Features

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