Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

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 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.



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



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


Sofia Enriquez



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


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



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)


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



Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. LensCrafters

4. Panache Optical Gallery

5. CV Optometry



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


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



Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. IW Coffee

4. Ristretto

5. Ernest Coffee


Best Coffee Shop for Hanging Out



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—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

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 … 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 … 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 shows it’ll offer all three square meals, with salads, stuffed pitas, burgers, melts and bowls as the main lunch and dinner fare. Visit 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 … 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 … 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 … 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

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

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

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

Palm Springs is home to a higher-than-normal percentage of HIV-positive residents—and a new documentary tells the stories of some of these people living with HIV.

Desert Migration will be screened at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 5 at the Camelot Theatres by the Palm Springs International Film Society.

During the 80 minutes of Desert Migration, the various subjects share their morning routines, along with bits and pieces of their stories. One of the more interesting subjects is Doc, a tattooed, pierced, muscular man who likes to do yoga in the nude, and who explains that he’s not a conventional gay man. Another subject, Will, is shown walking through his apartment and sitting in a chair reading a Bible. He explains that he’s overweight, that his penis size is inadequate, that he has poor posture, and that he is HIV positive—but it’s the sores on his back, a result of being HIV-positive, that keep him from having sexual encounters.

During a recent phone interview, director Daniel Cardone explained how the film came to be.

“I never really had a particular interest in documentaries,” Cardone said. “(I had) a general interest in film and different kinds of storytelling—so anything that would tell the story in the best way. It’s almost like the subject creates the form as to how the story is told. I thought my path was going to be in narrative filmmaking … .

“I worked with my producer, Marc Smolowitz, a couple of years prior doing a short documentary piece about living with HIV in San Francisco. I thought it might be possible to use that short piece in a longer-form feature, and that’s why I chose to do this film the way that I did it. There are no direct interviews where people talk directly into the camera, or any of those things you traditionally see in a documentary. That was me inspired by fictional narrative, but instead, I was inserting something as narrative while using a true subject. It was a hybrid between a narrative film and documentary. … I invented it as I went along, and that was the exciting part about it.”

Cardone said he’s seen the struggles that many of his friends endured due to being HIV-positive.

“Living in Palm Springs and in my own backyard, I realized that many of my friends were people who … lived through the plague years,” he said. “They lost all their friends, their whole social life, and their whole way of living was gone: They lost their jobs, houses and their health. Fortunately, everyone shown in the film managed to regain some ground to a certain degree. I was very much interested in the psychological ramifications of that.

“There have been a few films about HIV showing the terrible years and losing a lot of people in the Castro District, and How to Survive a Plague, which shows ACT UP trying to advocate to save people’s lives. I wanted to go beyond that and look at: Where are we now? And where are we now with the people who lived through all that? I wanted to dive into those aspects, especially the psychological aspect and the ongoing trauma, and how they live day after day after day, and what the medications they’re taking do their system. That was particularly important. No one really knows for sure what it’s doing to their systems.”

The issues with medications are addressed; many people don’t realize how damaging many HIV medications can be. Another topic: why some muscular HIV-positive men are maniacal about their upkeep.

“One thing about gay men is many of them are body-conscious. Another issue is when you’ve gone through HIV, and your body is wasting away,” Cordone said. “All these people you see in the film at the gym working out at some point were wasting away. They were alarmingly thin. There is one particular man in the film, Steve, who is mentioned going on steroid therapy, which promotes muscle mass and prevents his muscles from fading away. On top of that, it really does build up muscle tone—and that relates to a comment that was also made about HIV-positive men having the best bodies.”

Cardone said he wasn’t prepared for how the film changed his own perspective.

“On an intellectual level, I was sort of prepared for it, and I knew what was going to come up. You know what you’re going to find on an intellectual level,” he said. “But what surprises you is the emotional impact that it has on you. … Hearing their stories in emotional ways was really overwhelming at times. You’re sitting there re-living someone’s life with them, and they’re being completely honest and open. It’s made me a more open and emotional person and helped me put my own life into perspective—and to be grateful. Just getting into that emotional heart of the matter took me by surprise and was a really good thing about making the film.”

I wanted to hear more about some of these men’s stories—especially about a man named Ted, who mentioned he read And the Band Played On and remembered his encounter with “patient zero.” Cardone said it was hard to figure out what to use and what not to use.

“Everyone brought something to the table and was really unique in a way,” he said. “There’s a lot more to Ted … that unfortunately didn’t make it into the film. It’s where he’s been and the things he’s been through. The same with Will, the gentleman with the sores on his back, and how he feels as a result of having his skin break out like that. There’s so much there, and everyone had a complex story. The hard part was trying to fit it all into the film, because there were so many wonderful moments from everyone—joy and sadness, and everything in between. It was hard to find a balance to fit everything into the movie without shortchanging anyone, and I hope we were successful.”

The Desert AIDS Project is shown in the documentary providing health-care services to some of the subjects. Cardone said the DAP is truly unique, and no program like it exists anywhere else in the country.

“I think what they’re doing overall is extremely positive,” Cardone said. “There is nowhere else that offers what they do. No organization is perfect, but what they do for people, and how they have helped people to transform their lives, is truly magnificent. People couldn’t get access to that health care if they were living in other areas in America, and that’s sort of been the attraction for people to come to the desert. They do a lot of fundraising and raising awareness, and making sure that people with HIV who do live here don’t feel like pariahs and don’t feel like there’s no support. The dental, the checkups, the housing—there’s so many things they offer. The healthcare when you have HIV is a big deal.”

Desert Migration will be screened at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Camelot Theatres. 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $15; the proceeds will benefit the Palm Springs International Film Society and the Desert AIDS Project. For tickets or more information, call 760-325-6565, or visit For more information on the film, visit

Published in Previews and Features

Mark Your Calendars: Dining Out for Life Is on Thursday, April 30

Every year, dozens of area restaurants agree to give a chunk of one special day’s proceeds to the Desert AIDS Project, and that sacrifice makes a big financial difference: Last year, more than $175,000 was raised for DAP’s client services, thanks to about 10,000 diners and 43 participating restaurants.

This year, DAP has even higher hopes for Dining Out for Life, which will take place on Thursday, April 30: As of this writing, 47 restaurants had pledged to participate, with each giving at least 33 percent of the day’s proceeds to DAP.

That’s fantastic. Even better: Two restaurants have committed to giving 100 percent of the day’s take to DAP: Ristretto (500 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs) and Pho 533 (1775 E. Palm Canyon Drive, No. 625, Palm Springs; more on Pho 533 later).

By the way: The Independent is a sponsor of Dining Out for Life, and we have agreed to “adopt” three restaurants during the day; follow us on Facebook to watch as we eat breakfast at King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club (701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs), lunch at Alicante (140 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs), and dinner at Bar (340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs). Or better yet—join us at these great restaurants; have a great meal; and help the Desert AIDS Project surpass last year’s $175,000 take.

Go out and eat for a good cause; it’s literally the least you can do!

For more information, including a complete list of participating restaurants, visit

Dash and a Handful Owner Buys Pho 533

Chad Gardner, the brains (and the culinary talent) behind the Dash and a Handful catering company, is in the process of buying Pho 533, the Vietnamese restaurant that calls the Smoke Tree Village Shopping Center in Palm Springs home.

In a news release, Gardner said he had no immediate plans to make big changes at the restaurant; in fact, he said he is a longtime fan of Pho 533.

“I’m extremely excited to take the reins of this great restaurant and its loyal following that has been lovingly cultivated by its current ownership,” Gardner said, in the type of awkward quote that could only be found in a press release. He continued: “You may see some new specials introduced here and there, but the current menu will remain virtually intact.”

According to that news release, Gardner has long wanted to own a restaurant. “I started my career in restaurants, and I love all types of Asian food, but since I was trained as a French chef, I particularly love Vietnamese food,” he said.

Escrow is expected to close sometime in early April.

Congratulations to Gardner! Watch for updates.

In Brief

Serious Food and Drink has moved in to the space at 415 N. Palm Canyon Drive that was the longtime home of Hamburger Mary’s. The restaurant’s website describes Serious as a “new American restaurant with a fun, relaxed atmosphere that is great for all occasions,” and there is some serious talent behind the place. Expect compelling appetizers, salads, sandwiches and entrées for lunch, while dinner brings a lot of tasty stuff—with price tags topping out at $28. I personally can’t wait to try out the Quack Stack appetizer ($13.95): Take duck fat fries, and add shredded duck confit and duck-egg hollandaise. I gained four pounds just reading that—but my mouth is watering. Learn more at … With the change in seasons comes changes in menus—and such is the case at Simon Kitchen + Bar at the Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs. On Monday, March 30, the restaurant—which carries the name of celebrity chef Kerry Simon, and is led by executive chef Jeremy Saccardi—added new “social plates” (read: appetizers) that include veal meatballs Parmigana with rapini and burrata; and wok-charred edamame with togarashi. That sounds good, but it was the steak addition that got our attention: a 22- or 36-ounce bone-in rib eye prepared with marrow butter and special steak sauce. Yes, marrow butter. More info at … Finally, sad news: Michael Farber, the proprietor at Dickie O’Neal’s Irish Pub, at 2155 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, passed away due to heart problems. Following his death, Dickie O’Neal’s closed its doors indefinitely. Both Farber and Dickie O’Neal’s Irish Pub will be greatly missed.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

There were a whole lot of winners at Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge on Thursday night, Dec. 3.

Numerous Best of Coachella Valley 2014-2015 honorees joined Independent staffers, contributors and readers on the rainy evening to celebrate the results of the annual readers' poll, which were published in the December print issue of the Independent, and online at 

Photographer George Duchannes was on the scene to photograph the brief awards ceremony and other goings-on. The photo gallery is below.

Published in Snapshot

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