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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Before I dive in to all of the great February goings-on around the Coachella Valley, I want to pay tribute to two big names in music we just lost.

Rest in peace, Lemmy Kilmister and David Bowie.

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club will be holding a Modernism Week-themed event at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13: There will be a screening of Visual Acoustics in the Commune. The film is a celebration of modernist architecture and a joyful portrait of renowned architecture photographer Julius Shulman. Admission is free. Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900; www.acehotel.com/palmsprings.

The McCallum Theatre is fully booked with great stuff in February. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 5 and Saturday, Feb. 6, Frank Sinatra Jr. will be performing. The son of the Chairman of the Board is a great singer and will be singing in celebration of his father’s 100th birthday. Tickets are $61 to $111. Continuing with the Sinatra centennial celebration: At 7 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 14, crooner Steve Lawrence will take the stage. Lawrence was a close friend of Sinatra—in fact, when Sinatra retired, Sinatra gave Lawrence a book of his arrangements. Tickets are $67. At 8 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 24, get ready for a night of awesome country music: Wynonna Judd will be performing. After starting out as part of a smash-hit duo with her mother, Wynonna has been quite successful on her own. Tickets are $47 to $77. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa obviously made a wise choice when it booked with Johnny Mathis, considering his Feb. 13 show is sold out—but cheer up, because at 9 p.m., Friday, Feb. 12, you can rock out to Air Supply, or whatever it is crazy fans of Air Supply do. The Australian duo of Graham Russell and Russell Hitchcock has been soft-rocking since the ’70s and recently had a hit with “Desert Sea Sky,” which was remixed and played in dance clubs. Tickets are $40 to $60. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a fine slate of February events. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, the original Jersey Boy himself, Frankie Valli, will be performing. He was a member of the Four Seasons, and he had a spectacular solo career, so you won’t want to miss this one. Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 27, there will be a double bill with The Commodores and The Jacksons. Both groups have continued on without their famed frontmen, and to an extent, it’s worked for them both. The Jacksons’ reunion since Michael Jackson died in 2009 has come with mixed live reviews, though. Lionel Richie is currently not joining The Commodores, and it doesn’t look like he will anytime soon. Nonetheless, if you’re a real fan, you will enjoy both. Tickets are $39 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Spotlight 29 has a couple of great events worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 6, easy-listening superstar Engelbert Humperdinck will be coming back. The ballad singer has spawned numerous legends, including one that claims he’s bagged an impressive number of women—a number that puts Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead and Gene Simmons of KISS to shame. Whether or not that’s true, there’s one thing he gave to us millennials … Fly with me, lesbian seagull! Tickets are $45 to $65. Are you a fan of the ’70s? Did you live through the ’70s but don’t remember it? Either way, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 20, the ’70s Time Machine Tour will take you back. Featuring performances by Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad, Chuck Negron of Three Dog Night, and Denny Laine of Wings, the show will happily invoke the decade of leisure suits, pet rocks, shag carpet, van living and waterbeds. Yay! Tickets are $35. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

As for Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace: I’m sure we’ll be hearing some very big announcements soon regarding outdoor shows for the spring and summer, especially with Coachella right around the corner. But in the meantime, the February schedule is wonderful. At 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 5, Joshua Tree locals Gene Evaro and the Family (right) will be appearing. Gene is one of the most talented musicians in the Coachella Valley; Alf Alpha has told me stories about Gene’s production skills in the studio as well. Tickets are $10. At 8 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 14, it will be time for local rock fans to rejoice and celebrate Eddie Spaghetti’s victory over throat cancer, because The Supersuckers are back! Funny story: I saw The Supersuckers in 1995 in Cleveland; the band was opening for White Zombie and the Ramones. Let’s just say The Supersuckers didn’t get a welcome reception that night—and I was one of the hecklers. But over time, The Supersuckers grew on me; they’re an excellent rock ’n’ roll band. Also worth mentioning: My friend Charlie Overbey will be opening. His new record The California Kid is awesome. Tickets are $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has one event we know about worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 13, celebrate Valentine’s Day weekend—at a prom out of a John Waters film, that is—with Shannon and the Clams (below). Desert Hot Springs’ finest, Slipping Into Darkness, is also on the bill. Shurpadelic, dude! Admission is $10 at the door. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

Published in Previews

I moved to the Coachella Valley some four years ago from Los Angeles, where I had worked in the media and entertainment industries for roughly 30 years. “Jaded” was my middle name.

Not long after my wife, Linda, and I took up residence in Palm Desert, we were invited to a "desert drink the night away" party where I first met Mike Taylor. He regaled all listeners with stories of his “salad days,” as he would say, bartending for many of the celebrities who roamed the Palm Springs-to-Rancho Mirage range back in the ’70s and ’80s.

To say that Mike is “an original” would be an understatement—and his storytelling skills have been honed to a glistening point over his years behind the bar.

In this video, longtime area bartender to the stars Mike Taylor recants some of his favorite tales of serving drinks to, and hanging around with, Ol' Blue Eyes himself. Saturday, Dec. 12, marked Frank Sinatra's 100th birthday, so kick-back, watch and enjoy just a few of Mike Taylor's funny moments with Sinatra and friends, and brace yourself for some heavy duty celebrity name-dropping in this four-minute ode to Mr. Sinatra.

Published in Snapshot

It’s been a fine year for the McCallum Theatre.

“This is one of the best seasons we’ve had in terms of artists—and financially, as well,” said Mitch Gershenfeld, the president, CEO and longtime booker of the McCallum. “Ticket sales have been very, very strong this year, considerably stronger than last year.”

The McCallum is winding down its wildly successful 2014-2015 season this month with just a handful shows, most notably the theater’s popular Open Call local talent competition (Thursday through Saturday, April 14-16). But all this leads to a question: How can Gershenfeld and the McCallum raise the bar next season?

The answer came over the weekend, when the McCallum released the schedule for the 2015-2016 season. Tickets went on sale today, and to raise that figurative bar, Gershenfeld looked east—specifically, all the way to Broadway.

The McCallum’s new season features eight Broadway and Broadway-style shows, with musical comedy classic 42nd Street (Nov. 24-29) and newly revived hit Pippin (Jan. 12-17, 2016) leading the way, followed by the ever-popular Jersey Boys (Feb. 16-21) and Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (March 25-27).

Joining those shows are shorter runs of the 20th anniversary tour of Riverdance (Jan. 23 and 24), one-man comedy show Steve Solomon’s Cannoli, Latkes and Guilt (Feb. 12), the now-legendary The Producers (Feb. 27 and 28), and a brand-new McCallum production, Tribute to the Follies (March 10-11).

“This one of the strongest Broadway seasons we’ve ever had,” Gershenfeld said.

In particular, Gershenfeld said he was proud to nab Pippin, on its first national tour after winning four Tony Awards—including Best Revival of a Musical—in 2013.

“The production is so brilliantly done,” he said.

As for that Tribute to the Follies: Gershenfeld said the folks at the McCallum wanted to pay tribute to—and not imitate—the legendary Palm Springs Follies. Therefore, they assembled a show honoring not only the Palm Springs Follies, but theatrical revues including the Folies Bergère and the Ziegfeld Follies. Performers from the Palm Springs Follies will play a big part in the show.

“We’re doing three performances,” Gershenfeld said. “If people like it, we’ll do more next year.”

For a second year, Gershenfeld is offering his series of “Mitch’s Picks.” These are his personal selections of shows featuring unfamiliar or under-the-radar artists. (For what it’s worth, several of his picks for the soon-to-conclude season ended up being wildly successful: Tickets for 2Cellos and the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain sold out well before show time.)

In something of a contradiction, his first pick features a fairly familiar name: Jane Lynch, who will be taking the stage on Nov. 14. The Glee star, known best for being a comedic actor, will be bringing to the McCallum stage her new solo-concert show, “See Jane Sing!”

“She has a wonderful cabaret act,” Gershenfeld said. “People don’t know her as a cabaret performer.”

Mitch’s other picks: Rebel organist Cameron Carpenter (Feb. 3); the Pasadena Roof Orchestra, a long-performing ensemble that plays songs from the 1920s and 1930s (Feb. 10); The von Trapps (yes, those von Trapps; March 2); and comedy violin-and-piano duo Igudesman and Joo (March 18).

Gershenfeld compared Carpenter to 2Cellos, but in reverse: While the 2Cellos guys look traditional, and use traditional instruments to play non-traditional (read: rock) music, Carpenter looks non-traditional, and uses a (sort of) traditional instrument (a souped-up organ, in his case) to play traditional (read: classical) music.

“He is known for his technical brilliance,” Gershenfeld said. “He plays Bach on an organ—but he is kind of a rebel and a bad boy. He’s very flamboyant. He’s … developed an organ that has electric elements to it. It’s like an organ on steroids.”

All of the usual McCallum staples are back for another year, including five shows as part of Fitz’s Jazz Café (curated by Easy 103’s Jim Fitzgerald), four “Keyboard Conversations With Jeffrey Siegel,” and McCallum’s season-opener, the Fourth Annual Family Fun Day, starring lots of animals and ventriloquist Kevin Johnson, on Sunday, Oct. 18.

Something new this year: Frank Sinatra would have turned 100 in December, so the McCallum is celebrating the legend with several shows, including Frank Sinatra Jr. in “Sinatra Sings Sinatra” (Feb. 5 and 6), and Steve Lawrence paying tribute to his longtime friend on Feb. 14.

“More than any other singer alive today, Steve Lawrence is the personification of the Great American Songbook,” Gershenfeld said.

Of course, Gershenfeld is not done with the 2015-2016 schedule; in fact, he’d booked another show on the day we spoke to him, he said.

“I’ve pretty much filled the calendar,” he said. “There will probably be another six to 10 shows added to the season.”

In other words … stay tuned.

Tickets for the McCallum Theatre’s 2015-2016 season are now on sale. Visit www.mccallumtheatre.com for details.

Published in Local Fun

After close to a century, Allene Arthur finally came out about her age.

I’d driven Miss Arthur to numerous social events over a period of 15 years. We covered those posh events together—and until recently, I had no clue that she started writing her column before I was born. That’s how good she is at keeping secrets.

Well, now we know her age: About 100 people showed up at Seven Lakes Country Club recently to help her mark her 90th birthday.

This seasoned journalist started writing her lifestyles/scene column in 1959—and has no intentions of stopping anytime soon. Yes, she’s been covering big events for a long time—including the royal wedding of the (20th) century, of Prince Charles and Lady Diana, in 1981.

‘‘I phoned the story in from London, and it appeared on the local daily’s front page the same day as the wedding,” she told me during our one-on-one at her Palm Springs home.

In the media business, things can change in a heartbeat, sometimes tragically, after a story is published. In 1994, Arthur experienced such a moment following an exclusive with DinahShore for a local magazine.

Palm Springs Life printed my feature interview with Dinah in which she spoke in present tense!” she said. “Unfortunately, she died just about as the magazine was to hit the stands. There was no time to change her quotes into past tense.”

As the decades went by, Arthur experienced various changes in technology—which, of course, changed the way she did her job. One of the biggest changes came while she was working at the local daily as a society editor.

“I was 55 when computers came around, so here at the paper, we went to the classes to learn about it,” she recalled. “Soon, the classes split into advanced and slow ones. I ended up in the ‘dumb’ class—as did the publisher and editor-in-chief, who were my generation.

“The younger reporters got into the computers faster, and I bet you the fifth-graders would beat us all to it!”

Arthur’s personal story is that of a strong-minded woman who raised her son (after a divorce) while working as a single female in a tough corporate environment. The long hours, multiple events to cover and many pages to write—all on deadline—may have left a small impact on her health.

“I did have a minor stroke a few years back, but it did not hamper my column-writing in the slightest,” she said. “It was not a downer in that way.”

Here, Arthur paused. She smiled, remembering something. “Well, Kirk Douglas had a stroke, too,” her hazel eyes flashed, “but he was so charming and engaging when I was taking his quote, you couldn’t tell.”

Allene Arthur has written more than 2,500 columns so far—and that’s just locally! Twice, she said, she quit writing her column. “After both of these interruptions, I’m told there was a considerable letter campaign from The Desert Sun readers that my column be restored. Once again, editors asked me to return to my regular column.”

On this rare occasion, Arthur offered an exclusive: She revealed who the hardest celebs were to quote.

“Frank Sinatra was, by far, the worst one!” she said. “I’d been at his Palm Springs home several times, covering events he and Barbara hosted. Sinatra was always cold and distant. He hated journalists! Also, another former local resident, novelist Harold Robbins, was so blunt and rude!”

President Gerald Ford was just the opposite, according to Arthur.

“I was so impressed by Ford!” she said. “He and Betty were at several social events I covered. At one, where he was the guest of honor, we were introduced during the pre-dinner cocktail hour and fell into conversation. He was a gracious gentleman. And I was seated next to the first lady during the dinner.”

How does Allene Arthur keeps going? What keeps her feeling young?

“I love porn flicks!” she joked with a bright smile. “I never run out of material; there’s just not enough space to publish everything I want!”

We talked about the place of columns in American journalism, and Arthur mentioned that her idols were Erma Bombeck and Ogden Nash. That’s when Arthur pointed out an ingredient of the master columnist: “I write for the reader—not the advertiser or the people being written about, but the reader!”

It would take up a whole story just to list all of the awards Arthur received for her “first century” in journalism. Instead, I took a picture of her by her “vanity wall.” They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but there’s always another word to be written—until the final column, that is.

That leads to my last question for Allene Arthur: When’s the time to quit for good?

She answered without hesitation.

“I’ll end it when I run out of something to say, or when publishers decide to eliminate me—whichever comes first!”

Published in Features