CVIndependent

Fri03222019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The weekend of April 5 and 6 was going to be big for Debra Ann Mumm and local lovers of public art.

The owner of Venus Studios Art Supply had joined renowned local muralist Ryan“Motel” Campbell to launch PLANet Art Palm Springs. The project brought four renowned mural artists to downtown Palm Springs’ Arenas Road area to paint four large-scale murals.

Proper funds had been raised; the city’s Public Arts Commission had even endorsed the week long project. Everything was ready to go.

Except it wasn’t.

As the artists started to paint, the police showed up and told Mumm and Campbell that their project was not authorized—it was illegal. Police reportedly threatened arrests if the artists continued to paint.

Campbell took to Facebook and other social media to vent his frustration. He even posted a picture of the police arriving and shutting down the project.

“ART IS NOT A CRIME,” Campbell wrote.


Today, out-of-place white paint can be found along the edges of some of the walls where the murals were intended to be—Lulu California Bistro, Eddie’s Frozen Yogurt, Clinic and StreetBar—illustrating the sudden stoppage of the project.

“I wish I could explain what exactly happened,” Mumm said. “The news articles that came out about it didn’t say a lot, because there wasn’t a lot of explanation for the actions the city took. We showed up to paint, and the police came and said they were told to cite us if we began to work.

“It came as a bit of a surprise to us. We had followed all the procedures that we had to follow for the area we were painting in. There were no permits needed for that area as far as using the sidewalk and everything like that.”

However, Palm Springs City Manager David Ready told the Independent that what Mumm and Campbell had planned was not allowed—despite the endorsement of the city’s Public Arts Commission.

“Currently, the city does not allow murals,” Ready said, adding that the Public Arts Commission lacks the authority to approve mural projects on its own. “However, the City Council had asked to create a policy that would allow murals. The Arts Commission looked at it, and the Planning Commission is currently looking at it, and the City Council will consider it on May 7.”

Mumm said she’s seen no law or ordinance prohibiting murals in Palm Springs.

“There aren’t any procedures for murals in Palm Springs,” Mumm said. “Because there are no procedures, they are taking it from the standpoint that murals aren’t allowed.

“I’m not sure exactly what happened. It was very clear about the dates we were doing this and moving forward, and that there was nothing in the city language that prevented us from doing that.”

Ready also said that property owners did not have proper permits for the murals.

“They never received a permit from the city,” Ready said. “The property owners did not receive or request any approvals.”

Mumm responded that her group did everything possible to get all the proper approvals.

"We thought we only needed use permits for the sidewalks, because all of Arenas is private, and the Arts Commission approved the project."

The confusion has cost Mumm and Campbell. The project featured out-of-town artists for whom Mumm had made accommodations; it was funded, in part, by locals to bring more arts and culture into the city of Palm Springs. (Mumm and Campbell are still raising funds, by the way.)

Mumm said she hopes a fair policy will be put in place on May 7.

“At this point, we’ve created a lot of public support,” Mumm said. “It’s clear that the city needs to move forward in making a procedure, because the public is very anxious for this project to move forward. At least we’ve created that dialogue.”

One of the artists included in the project is Los Angeles painter Saber, described by The Washington Post as one of the most respected artists in the field of murals. (The others are APEX, Jeff Soto and Chad Hasegawa.) Saber went with Mumm to the Public Arts Commission meeting after the project was halted.

“(Saber) was instrumental in helping the city of Los Angeles develop their mural policy,” Mumm said. “We brought copies of the Los Angeles city mural policy to maybe try and help them develop some kind of program.”

Mumm said the plan is to continue work once the city enacts a mural policy and approves the project.

“We’re still on board,” Mumm said. “The artists came here to paint, and they still want to paint, so we’re just going to continue to move forward. It’s just an extreme delay. … At the very least, it’s created the dialogue and created the conversation, especially after the illegal mural activity.”


“Illegal mural activity” is a reference to the mural that James Haunt painted at Stewart Fine Art, 2481 N. Palm Canyon Drive, and the mural at Bar, 340 N. Palm Canyon Drive, painted by Fin DAC and Angelina Christina. There was no attempt for the creators of these murals to get city approval, according to Palm Springs city officials.

“It’s my understanding from the Public Arts Commission meeting that they’ll develop the policy, and once the policy is developed, Bar’s and James Haunt’s mural will both have to go through that procedure,” Mumm said. “They’ll make sure they’re compliant with the newly formed ordinances, and it’s clear that there will be no grandfathering of existing murals. That’s the language that I heard at the meeting. But again, the policy hasn’t been developed yet.”

Mumm said the mural issue is getting caught up in the ongoing conversation about the nature of Palm Springs—and what belongs and doesn’t belong.

“The problem with art is not everyone is going to like it,” Mumm said. “Bar has a fairly controversial mural. It’s a little bit provocative. … What we were bringing to the plate was a little more palatable publicly. I’ve heard people say about the Bar mural that it looks like a strip club. We’re trying to bring internationally recognized, quality artists and experienced muralists to the valley. I love Angelina Christina’s work, but that particular piece (at Bar) got some attention, and maybe all the neighbors aren’t happy about it. There was no public forum for them to come out and say, ‘Oh, man. You can’t do that.’ There was no approval by the Public Arts Commission, either. Everyone just wants the opportunity to weigh in on the subject.”

She also points out that murals have been great for other cities.

“It has made such a big difference for Miami,” Mumm said. “They have the Art Basel event, which draws $500 million in revenue to the Miami area in one week. I know there have been a lot of surveys done that cultural tourism is beneficial. It’s beneficial for businesses. … If you keep doing it, there’s bound to be something for everybody.”

What about people who claim that murals don’t “belong” in Palm Springs?

“I grew up here, and I was born in Indio,” Mumm said. “I’ve seen a lot of changes to Palm Springs from the time when I was a teenager. … I see extreme value in preserving our history, and there’s a lot of significant architecture here. … But the new generation, there’s not a lot to attract them or newer businesses to the area. There’s a lot of clinging to the past, and there’s a certain part of that past that’s important. I’m a big fan and have a lot of respect for what Palm Springs stands for. I think this just adds to it. We’re not taking away from anything that is Palm Springs, but adding something new and creating a new dynamic that can be more than one-dimensional for Palm Springs. It doesn’t have to be just one thing.”

“Forever Marilyn,” the Seward Johnson statue that spent about two years at the intersection of Tahquitz Canyon Way and Palm Canyon Drive, was the subject of a debate over whether or not it was tasteful—or even art.

“I wasn’t a fan,” Mumm said. “But I’m a fan of what the statue did for the community. Everybody took pictures with the Marilyn. I’m a local, and I don’t like the Marilyn statue, but I have to admit: I have pictures of her on my cell phone.”

When asked whether murals are a good fit for the city, city manager Ready wouldn’t comment specifically, but he did say the city has noticed the potential.

“I think that’s why the City Council requested that we bring forth a policy on murals,” Ready said, “because they recognize murals could certainly have a place in Palm Springs.”

Mumm said that murals are also a good source of graffiti prevention.

“We’ve been invited to bring our program to Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Indio, and even Indian Wells is even interested in looking at some murals,” Mumm said. “They realize the potential for what we’re offering. It is a graffiti deterrent.

“I know if (someone) went up and tagged on a Saber mural, (the tagger) wouldn’t last long,” she said, laughing. “There is a lot of respect even in that culture for significant work like that. You do not tag on a mural unless you’re an idiot, and your whole community around you knows you’re an idiot.”

Published in Local Issues

“They were obviously loving somebody I wasn’t,” observed Norma Jeane Baker—you know her better as Marilyn Monroe—regarding the characters the actress portrayed.

However, in her show Hello Norma Jeane, photographer Elaine Sigwald shows there’s much to love about this world famous-icon—who spent a considerable amount of time in Palm Springs.

The show, presented in Archangel Gallery’s middle gallery, is especially timely, as it coincides with Modernism Week and the imminent departure of Seward Johnson’s “Forever Marilyn” from Palm Springs—and it’s especially local, as all but one of Sigwald’s images were taken in either Palm Springs or Cathedral City.

Sigwald goes beyond merely producing photographs of Norma Jeane; she titles each image with an actual quote from Marilyn Monroe. This adds dimensionality to the icon’s mystique and persona, and offers insights into the photographer’s creative process.

The show of 25 photographs includes a grouping of five black-and-white photographs. The remaining prints are in color.

“Whether or not I photo-edit my color prints, I always isolate and intensify the colors,” Sigwald told me. “My goal is to make the colors ‘pop.’

“With the black and whites, there is a balance. I strive to create a ‘warmth’ while retaining the contrast within each photograph. … Using the same technique with each black-and-white image, I ensure that the same balance exists across prints.”

Sigwald notes that she’s very particular about the printing of her photos. “I only use one fine art printer, Gary Kerr (of Fine Art Impressions), who luckily has his studio in Palm Springs. With him, there is partnership; he expertly helps me realizes my creative intent.”

In “I didn’t pay much attention …,” the photographer balances symmetry with complexity quite successfully. The composition—planned or not—contains elements of both Erté and Escher. To create the final product, Sigwald began by extracting a profile image from the “Forever Marilyn” sculpture. After creating a mirror image of the profile, the photographer then fused the profiles so that each face looks outward. A deep black background provides a dramatic contrast to a combination of satin whites, soft pinks and gold. It is Sigwald’s use of colors, attention to details and art-deco quality—especially the shape of the dress—that produce an Erté-esque feel.

In this same image, Sigwald repositions Norma Jeane’s tresses, breasts and dress to force the viewer’s eyes to move across and explore the entire photograph. The skirt balloons out to create a pedestal for the upper half of the image. This attention to detail creates a measured complexity and an elegant simplicity reminiscent of Escher.

You’ll feel like a voyeur with Sigwald’s color image, “I love doing things the censors won’t pass.” The photographer apparently created the image by lying on her back beneath the “Forever Marilyn” statue. Norma Jeane’s legs become structural pillars leading to her lace-trimmed panties.

The skirt, as presented on the top side of the image, looks like the backside of a large, deep-sea-blue fan with the ribs exposed. The bottom section—a trapezoid between Norma Jeane’s legs—has the appearance of deep-blue ink dissipating in water.

At first glance, another image—showing the entirety of “Forever Marilyn,” smiling, while the shadow of a dog approaches—seems whimsical. However, the title—“Dogs don’t bite me. Just people.”—changes the entire tenor of the print: The image becomes telling and almost tragic. The dog becomes menacing, making it difficult to determine whether Norma Jeane’s smile is real or forced. 

Most images bring to the show their own persona and unique reality. One, however, seems out of place: the image of Norma Jeane’s Palm Springs house sans memorabilia. The image does project a sense of distance and nostalgia, as well as a longing for privacy, reinforced by the photographer’s choice of title (“I don’t want everyone to see exactly where I live …”). At the same time, this photograph seems incongruent with the other images in the show. The picture is flat and lacks the personality, emotional depth and lyricism present in the other images.

Still, the show is undeniably worth seeing. Michael Fiacco, Archangel Gallery’s director, was spot-on when he told me about Sigwald: “Her technique, intensity and attention to detail make her one-of-a-kind.”

Hello Norma Jeane is on display through Tuesday, March 18, at Archangel Gallery, 1103 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. An artist reception for Elaine Sigwald will be held from 5 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 15. Archangel Gallery is open every day except for Wednesday, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment. For more information, call 760-320-4795, or visit archangel.marketinghubinc.com. Full disclosure: Archangel Gallery has exhibited the photography of this article’s author.

Published in Visual Arts

Irene Soderberg is a larger-than-life figure within the LGBT community. She’s a comedienne, a singer and an actress.

She’s suffered from health problems in recent years, but she’s back and better than ever. She’s performing at the Stonewall Equality Concert, which will kick off Palm Springs Pride on Friday, Nov. 1, at the “Forever Marilyn” statue at Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way.

A child of Finnish immigrants, Soderberg grew up in New York state.

“Even as a kid, I was always singing. We worked from the time we were 8 years old … in the fields, hard labor—people would say it would be slave labor now, but that’s all we knew. We worked from February to November every year, picking all the fruits and berries. We also worked in a cannery.”

While Soderberg has varied talents, she’s especially passionate about singing.

“I knew that singing was always my life,” she said. “When I was in fifth-grade, I was a soloist in the chorus, and all the rest of the chorus girls were sixth-graders,” she said during a recent phone interview from her home in West Hollywood. “… It was so interesting that I had a big challenge in college, and I turned away from music and quit school. I was devastated by the music director. I started bartending, moved to Hawaii, and I started belting it out behind the bar—and that’s how I got started singing again. I got an Equity contract singing behind the bar at Hamburger Mary’s in Waikiki. I got back to it just like that.”

That singing led to her appearing in a production of Godspell at the San Jose (Calif.) Repertory Theatre, a gig that she said led to the unleashing of her “inner drag queen.”

“I would get these clothes, take them, cut them up and turn them into a new outfit. We would watch Saturday movies, and I would put on a different outfit to go with every movie that would play on Saturday afternoon,” she said. “I just loved the costuming, and many people don’t know this, but I make my costumes. Drag queens approach me now and say, ‘Make my clothes!’ I say, ‘If you got the money, honey, it’s possible!’”

After moving to San Francisco, Soderberg won a Mae West look-alike contest.

“I was working on a show at the same time called Men Behind Bars, and I was playing a fairy godmother,” she remembered. “I made my entrance onto the stage from a wire 40 feet above the stage. While we were rehearsing, they said there was a Mae West look-alike contest, and ‘that you should enter.’ I made my own outfits and everything, so I said, ‘Sure, why not?’ People always said I could do Mae West better than anyone. Lily Tomlin was a judge.”

She said she managed to make the entire audience laugh with her comedy and acting talents; in fact, she said she managed to win the contest before she even sang her own parody of a song from the 1920s, “A Good Man Is Hard to Find.” 

After five surgeries in four years, she had to take a break and cut back on live appearances. She also deals with other health issues on a daily basis.

“I’m HIV-positive,” she said. “I got HIV from my ex-husband in San Francisco. I’ve been HIV-positive for about 24 years. Most people don’t know that I’m HIV-positive. I’m speaking out now, because it’s important people get inspiration and validation from whatever source they can, and who better than to give reassurance, comfort and inspiration than a fairy godmother?”

She is now returning to doing what she does best—entertaining people, making them laugh, and sharing her song parodies with audiences. She has started performing regularly at Azul/Alibi in downtown Palm Springs.

“I really respect the owner, George Kessinger,” she said. “He actually built that place. He is really kind of a man after my own heart, because my father built our house. I think the whole place is wonderful; the staff is very professional, and I can’t say enough kind, wonderful things about how great they are.”

She has recorded five albums and is currently working on a sixth.

“One has to work within one’s own budget, and the music business has changed dramatically over the years,” she said. “I recorded my first CD in 1999, and I actually was at Palm Springs Pride in 1999 selling CDs. It was so wonderful, because I sang, and people were lined up to buy my CD. My song parodies are the reason I’m booked all over the country. I can mix up beautiful songs with being funny, which makes it irresistible to people.”

While Soderberg has performed at gay-pride celebrations around the country—including much bigger celebrations—she said Palm Springs Pride is an especially wonderful event.

“First of all, it’s the last one of the year,” she said. “It also has this charm to it. I sang in San Francisco for a half-million people at gay pride; that’s a far cry from Palm Springs gay pride, but the energy of Palm Springs and the genuineness—you can’t find that anywhere else. It is just so intimate, and it’s a celebration, especially with marriage equality this year. It’s so exciting.”

The Stonewall Equality Concert takes place from 6 to 10 p.m., Friday, Nov. 1, at the "Forever Marilyn" statue, at the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs. Other scheduled performers include the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus, DJ Corey D spinning a retro ’80s mix, Doug Strahm and Arro Verse. Admission is free. Visit pspride.org/pride-2013/equality-concert for more information.

Published in Previews

On rare occasions, you’ll see Brian Wanzek make a public appearance—and while Brian is a handsome and charming fellow, his alter ego, Bella da Ball, is the bigger star—so big, in fact, that she’ll be getting her own star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars later this year.

Bella can be found all over the place—for starters, at the Ace Hotel and Swim Club on Monday nights, where she hosts both Sissy Bingo and Trivia Night; and at Azul/Alibi on Tuesday nights, where she hosts her Cabaret Variety Dinner Revue. And at 7 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 1, you can find her and her amazing legs under the amazing legs of “Forever Marilyn,” where she’ll be hosting the Forever Marilyn Palm Springs Look-Alike Contest, as part of the weekly downtown Palm Springs Villagefest.

If interested in entering the contest—in categories including pets, Miss Junior Marilyn, Ms./Mrs. Marilyn, and Drag Marilyn—register by Tuesday, July 30, at forevermarilynpslookalike.eventbrite.com. Of course, it’s free to watch the goings-on.

We recently asked Bella, who hails from a little town in Southern Minnesota, to endure The Lucky 13; here are her responses.

What was the first concert you attended?

Several county and state fair concerts, but Barry Manilow sticks out in my mind.

What was the first album you owned?

Village People.

What bands are you listening to right now?

SiriusXM radio, with a focus on Studio 54 disco, Elvis, and Broadway.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Rap.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Benny Goodman.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

I love to dance, swing, and spin the skirt.

What’s your favorite music venue?

So many: Annenberg (Theater at the Palm SpringsArt Museum) and McCallum (Theatre), and I can’t wait for the new Rancho Mirage Performing Arts Center at the high school.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

The big-band song “In the Mood.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Big band and polka bands from my young years—watching my parents dance, celebrating anniversaries and community events with family and friends.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

RuPaul: What’s your secret to looking so fab and trim?

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Lookin’ for a City” by Happy Goodman Family.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Mame.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Baby I’m a Star,” by Tina Turner. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Published in The Lucky 13

As thousands of people celebrated in 100-plus-degree heat, Rancho Mirage City Councilmember Scott Hines had sobering words.

Standing directly under the Forever Marilyn statue in downtown Palm Springs, the gay family man, military veteran and elected official explained that he was there representing not the city of Rancho Mirage—just himself. He had asked the current mayor of Rancho Mirage, Richard Kite, to issue a proclamation celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court's partial repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as the decision effectively appealing Proposition 8—therefore setting the stage for gay marriage to be legal once again in California.

But Kite refused, Hines said. Such a proclamation, or even allowing Hines to speak on behalf of the city, might be offensive to some.

Despite Hines' sobering words, thousands of people showed up to celebrate the happy events. Below are images from the celebration of this historic day.

Published in Snapshot

Student and professional artists came out to the parking area behind "Forever Marilyn" in downtown Palm Springs on Saturday, March 16, for the Third Annual Palm Springs Chalk Art Festival.

Chosen subjects ranged from turtles to angels to a image from Oz the Great and Powerful. Students competed for a $250 first-place prize, while the pros (who, unlike the students, had to pay an entry fee and/or get sponsors) competed for prizes topping out at $500.

The event was presented by the Palm Springs Sun-up Rotary Club and the City of Palm Springs Public Arts Commission. Proceeds were slated to go to the Rotary Foundation, Palm Springs Unified School District art education, and the Rotary's PolioPlus program.

The Independent stopped by to take some pictures about an hour before judging was slated to begin. Scroll down to see our pictures (please ignore the photo's shadow in one of them; he had a brain malfunction in the 90-plus-degree heat), and click on the link to go to the Independent's Flickr page to see even more images.

 

Published in Snapshot

Champagne was flowing; public officials were smiling; tourists were snapping pictures and asking what, exactly, was going on.

The answer: It was a party under sunny skies on the afternoon of Thursday, Feb. 7, to mark the beginning of the demolition of the Desert Fashion Plaza. The largely defunct mall is slated to be replaced by a new shopping center—including a controversial six-story hotel—built by Wessman Development, at the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way.

“Look at what we’ve done in the last year,” said Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, who presided over the ceremony in the parking lot near the “Forever Marilyn” statue, following his state of the city speech at the Hilton. “We brought in ‘Forever Marilyn,’ though we didn’t know she was coming. We brought this project forward. … What we’ve done in the last two years is remarkable.”

Pougnet was then followed to the stage by developer John Wessman, who discussed the evolution of the plans for the development—and specifically, the look of the proposed Kimpton Hotel, which was the subject of a recent signature drive that sought to send the hotel matter to Palm Springs voters for a yes or no vote. “We think it’s turned out really well,” he said. “… Sometimes, you have to go through some valleys before you climb the mountain, and now we’re climbing the mountain."

Wessman pledged that demolition of the plaza would take just four months, and that 90 percent of the materials would be recycled. Pougnet later said that interior demolition would take place first, with the demolition along Palm Canyon happening later, after the tourist/snowbird season concludes.

After Pougnet and Wessman spoke, Pougnet directed the crowd of 250 or so onlookers to grab champagne—which had been poured into plastic cups on nearby tables—and walk closer to the fenced-off demolition area. There, mayor and the developer, followed by various officials—all wearing yellow plastic faux hardhats featuring the logos of Wessman, the city of Palm Springs, and the city’s Chamber of Commerce—took turns poking at the Desert Fashion Plaza sign with a Volvo backhoe. However, the old sign only crumbled slightly following multiple jabs, and after a while, Pougnet encouraged the waning crowd to head to the nearby grassy area, where various downtown restaurants had set up tables with food, for what had been formally dubbed a “block party.”

 

While the overall mood was festive and celebratory, not everybody was partying.

Around 1 p.m.—before Pougnet’s state of the city audience made its way from the Hilton to the Desert Fashion Plaza—Food Not Bombs Palm Springs set up on the Palm Canyon Drive sidewalk in front of “Forever Marilyn.”

FNB member Ethan Vega stood near a plastic bin, with a stock pot on top of it. The pot and bin contained 165 vegetarian burritos—containing spinach, rice, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and green peppers—which were free to all comers.

Vega said that although FNB tries not to get too political—aside, of course, from promoting nonviolence and trying to shed a light on poverty—Food Not Bombs chose to show up during the “block party” for a reason.

“We’re just trying to show support for local businesses, smaller businesses, who may have been pushed out in this process—and to feed hungry people, really,” Vega said.

Vega was referring to the eviction of Latino Books y Mas, which is closing after losing a court battle to remain in its Fashion Plaza storefront off of Palm Canyon. The FNB Palm Springs Facebook page referred to the eviction of Latino Books y Mas as “illegal.”

FNB member Krystle Rogers handed out orange fliers to passers-by inviting them to the next free-food event (at 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 10, at Sunrise Park, at the intersection of Sunrise Way and Ramon Road). Meanwhile, Vega held a sign made of paper and wood, and handed out the food to both locals and tourists who walked by.

"Free burritos!” a young man would occasionally shout. “And they’re good, too.”

Scroll down for an image gallery of today's events.

Published in Local Issues

"Give it another chance, Lance!" Sheryl said. "The Tour de Palm Springs is coming up. You can be a star again!"

Though they were no longer romantically linked, Sheryl Crow was Lance Armstrong's biggest fan. "I'm out of shape," Lance explained. "I've been lying on the couch looking at my jerseys on the wall."

"You need to stop moping around all day," Sheryl told him.

"I'm not moping! I'm doping!" Lance insisted. "As soon as I'm done, I'm going to the bicycle shop to check out the new models."

About an hour later, Lance entered the shop and looked around. "May I help you?" the manager said.

"I need a bike with strong spokes," Lance told him.

"You'll have to speak to our spokes person," the manager explained. "Let me get him for you."

A moment later, the manager returned with a soft-spoken man. "I can have your bicycle delivered next week," the man told Lance. "But I can't speak for the spokes. There's been a spike in spoke sales at our Spokane plant. There isn't a speck left."

"Never mind," the cyclist said. "I'll find my own bike." Lance spotted one he liked and bought it on the spot.

He rode it back as fast as he could to show Sheryl. "How do you like my new bike?" he asked.

"It would help if you took the training wheels off," she told him.

Lance got a screwdriver and removed the training wheels. Then he honked the horn on the handlebars. "I'm ready for Palm Springs!" he exclaimed.

"Have a nice ride," Sheryl said as she handed Lance his helmet.

The cyclist was ready for his big comeback. After he arrived in the desert, he located his hotel, the Renaissance Esmeralda.

A man happened to be walking out of the resort just as Lance rode into the driveway. The cyclist recognized the man from TV.

"Aren't you Dr. Sanjay Gupta?” Lance asked.

"That's right," Sanjay replied. "I'm here for the Desert Town Hall lectures. I'm giving a speech on the dangers of doping. Aren't you that Armstrong guy?"

Lance tried to think of something to say. "I'm Louis Armstrong," he told Sanjay as he started singing “Hello Dolly.”

"You don't look like Louis Armstrong," the doctor said. "You must be that other Armstrong."

"You're right," Lance said. "I'm Neil Armstrong. That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

"Wait a minute," Sanjay said. "You're Lance Armstrong, the cyclist! You need to come to my lecture. I can help you."

"I don't have time," Lance explained. "The Tour de Palm Springs is about to begin. I have to get to the starting line."

Sanjay gave Lance a Slinky from his pocket. "Whenever you feel the urge to take steroids, just stretch this Slinky instead," the doctor told him. "It works every time."

Lance was grateful. He took his new Slinky and happily made his way to Palm Springs, where the race was just getting under way.

"On your mark, get set, go!" the announcer yelled. Lance sped off with the other cyclists and soon found himself in the lead.

However, the faster Lance went, the more he found he was missing his steroids. He reached into his pocket to get his Slinky, but it had fallen out!

The cyclist immediately pulled over and got off his bike. "Help! I lost my Slinky!" he screamed to the crowd.

One of the spectators spoke up. "I saw what happened," he told Lance. "You lost your Slinky when you rode your bike under the giant Marilyn Monroe statue. It bounced up and got stuck under her dress."

Lance took out his cell phone and called Dr. Sanjay Gupta. "My Slinky is stuck inside Marilyn Monroe!" he exclaimed. "I need you to perform emergency surgery!"

"I'll be right over," Sanjay said. A few minutes later, the doctor arrived, with a CNN crew who covered the event as “breaking news.” The entire nation was on the edge of their seats awaiting the outcome.

Sanjay climbed up on Lance's shoulders so he could reach up into the tall statue. The first thing he noticed was a man's leg sticking out.

The doctor pulled on the man’s leg until he fell to the ground. It was Bill Clinton! "What in the world were you doing in there?" Sanjay asked.

Bill had a big smile on his face. "I was just havin' a look around," he said with a smile.

"Let me borrow your cigar," Sanjay said. "I think I can pry Lance's Slinky out."

Sanjay carefully inserted the cigar and suddenly, the Slinky popped out. Lance caught it and stretched it as far as he could.

"There's still time to finish the race!" he said as he got back on his bike.

Lance had so much energy that he couldn't stop. The cyclist raced down the street, knocking over other riders in his path. Unfortunately, he became so erratic that he collided with an air conditioning van just as he reached the finish line.

When the driver got out of the van to assess the damage, Lance immediately knew who he was.

"Aren't you the guy who created the Tour de Palm Springs?" Lance asked.

"Yes, sir, it's Esser," Tim replied. "I know who you are, too. You're Lance Armstrong!"

"I don't allow my riders to use steroids," Tim told Lance. "I'm going to have to detain you in my van."

Lance tried to explain. "I didn't use steroids! I just stretched my Slinky!"

Just then, Sheryl arrived with a group of cyclists. "Our group is called the Free Lance Riders," she explained. "We demand his release."

A reporter approached the group to get an interview. "Excuse me," he said. "I'm a freelance writer. I'd like to ask the Free Lance Riders a few questions."

Tim finally had enough. "Peddle your pedals somewhere else," he told Lance. "You're free to go."

The cyclist was thrilled and decided to announce his plans for the future. "I'm starting my own event," he said. "It's called the Tour de Lance."

Sheryl had plans of her own. "All I wanna do is have some fun until the sun comes up over Palm Canyon Drive," she said.

"That's a good lyric for a song," Lance pointed out.

Published in Humor