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Every year as of late has seemingly brought about a major change to the CareerBuilder Challenge, the Coachella Valley’s annual PGA Tour event. The latest big change: In early September 2017, Lagardere Sports acquired complete operational control of the golf tournament.

In some years, golf’s biggest names have not bothered to visit our backyard for the January event—even though the tournament’s lineage stretches back to the heyday of the Bob Hope Classic. This latest rendition does not even aspire to reclaim the star-studded glitz and glamour associated with its history.

That’s what Jeff Sanders, the newly appointed executive director of the CareerBuilder Challenge (and the executive vice president of Lagardere Golf Sports events) said when I spoke with him recently about the tourney, currently played on three courses in La Quinta: the PGA West’s Stadium and Jack Nicklaus Tournament courses, as well as the La Quinta Country Club.

“Forty-five years ago was the last time that Arnold Palmer won the Bob Hope Desert Classic,” Sanders said. “We’re going to honor Mr. Hope and Mr. Palmer forever. But we also need to change—and the change is our entertainment, golf-festival-event model. With all due respect, it’s time to change this thing up, make it different and make it fun.

“In our business, if you get the question, ‘Who’s playing, Jeff? Who’s playing?’ Well, let’s see. Phil Mickelson is playing. And John Daly is playing. That’s crazy. That’s good. But the problem is that if that’s where it stops, then all you’ve got is a golf tournament. What I want to have is a tournament where the golf element is the centerpiece, and everything else around it makes it an event. That’s the difference—the food, the wine and these amazing green side pavilions on the 16th, 17th and 18th finishing holes of the PGA West Stadium Course where you can go in, have a drink and watch a little football on big-screen TVs all add value for the ticket-buyer. And then you can always look out the window and say, ‘Hey, there’s Phil Mickelson out there making a birdie on 17.’ You’ve got to make it more than golf.”

This year, anyone who buys a $30 daily general-admission ticket (and most likely pays a $10 per-day parking fee) will get access to all of the best viewing stands and refreshment centers—and be treated like a VIP.

“We want this event to be fun for everyone,” Sanders said, “and at the end of the day, we want to give back as much money as we can to local Coachella Valley charities. Our theme this year is ‘Golf Fore Kids,’ and so local children’s charities will be our donation recipients. And for us, success is judged by the size of our crowds. La Quinta is one of the best destinations in the country for great weather and great activities in the winter months. There are plenty of people here in La Quinta and throughout the desert in January to have a big crowd at our tourney.”

Another part of the Lagardere formula—and included in the price of admission—is music concerts. Huey Lewis and the News headline the show on Friday, Jan. 19, and the Goo Goo Dolls will do the same on Saturday, Jan. 20. Both shows are slated to begin at 4:30 p.m., right as the day’s golf play concludes.

“This year up in Napa (at the Safeway Open tournament, which Lagardere manages as well), we had six nights of concerts, Monday through Saturday,” Sanders said. “The year before, we had only two shows. So here at the CareerBuilder, (in 2019), we’ll have more than two concerts—I can guarantee you that. Whether it’ll be three shows or six, I don’t know. … We’ll certainly add more music and other fun things each year.”

Mike Taylor, a 45-year resident of the desert, is a golf enthusiast and former bartender at famed local establishments like Lord Fletcher’s in Rancho Mirage who served many of the film, music and political personalities who frequented the valley in the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Taylor regaled us recently with a few tales of those halcyon days of the Bob Hope Classic.

“One of my fondest memories was watching Jackie Gleason playing with Bob Hope,” Taylor said. “Gleason was wearing a sweater vest and tie. He was ‘dressed to the nines.’ The Saturday I saw them, it was on Bermuda Dunes, and Gleason didn’t play well. From what I understand, he had a massive hangover, because I also understand that he was a pretty handy drinker. He stayed at the Spa Hotel for the whole week, and because the celebrities who played in the ProAm didn’t get any money (from the organizers), he did run up a pretty good tab of around $10,000. I heard he said, ‘Give it to Bob Hope,’ when he checked out. But I think he was probably worth it, because there were enormous crowds when I was out there. I mean, you could hardly walk.”

Even back then, the weekend wasn’t only about golf. “One of the fun things about the tournament experience at that time was that each night, after play ended, there’d be impromptu jam sessions at various hotels in the valley, and they’d be packed,” Taylor said. “You never knew who you’d run into having fun at one of those happenings. That was in the old days when the Hebert brothers were still playing on the PGA Tour … Jay and Lionel Hebert, and you had Jimmy Demaret from Texas. These were all fun-loving guys who liked to sing. But you could wind up seeing Arnold Palmer sing, and (Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop) Maury Wills playing the banjo and singing. There was Jack Lemmon playing the piano. It was just so much fun, like a Mardi Gras in the Desert.”

Alas, those days are gone and never coming back—and Sanders and his team aren’t focused on competing with the past or the PGA major championships.

“This isn’t Augusta National, OK? It’s not the U.S. Open or the British Open,” Sanders said. “This is a regular PGA Tour event. It’s phenomenal golf, but it’s not one of the majors, which people flock to mostly just for the golf. And by the way, why would you make the weekend only about golf when you’re in La Quinta in January? It makes no sense. There’s so much more to do here. We’ll have fun activities around the grounds at PGA West. We’re going to create autograph opportunities for the kids, and the parents, too. The fan experience will be awesome.”

The CareerBuilder Challenge takes place Wednesday, Jan. 17, through Sunday, Jan. 21. For more information, visit www.careerbuilderchallenge.com.

Published in Features

During the month of December, there are more than enough events to keep you entertained—whether you’re in the Christmas spirit or not.

The McCallum Theatre has a great list of Christmas-themed events. At 7 p.m., Monday, Dec. 5, enjoy a special Christmas presentation from the Vienna Boys Choir. One of the best known boys’ choirs in the world, the group’s various incarnations perform about 300 concerts a year. Fun fact: The boys in the choir are around the ages of 10 to 14. Tickets are $37 to $77. Locals will take the stage at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, in a show being assembled by Best of Coachella Valley radio personality Jim “Fitz” Fitzgerald of CV 104.3 called “A CV Christmas.” The show will feature Kal David and Lauri Bono, Ronnie King, Brightener, John Stanley King and others. Tickets are $27 to $67. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 16, and Saturday, Dec. 17, Johnny Mathis will be bringing his 60th anniversary Christmas tour to the McCallum. You can’t go wrong with Johnny, especially when he’s singing Christmas tunes. Tickets are $67 to $137. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has some good stuff onstage in December. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2, Celtic Woman will be performing a Christmas-themed show as part of the “Home for Christmas: The Symphony Tour.” Celtic Woman has made a name for itself by performing Celtic music that’s mixed with folk and new-age sounds. The group’s Christmas repertoire is very popular and has added to Celtic Woman’s success. Tickets are $49 to $89. If you aren’t in the Christmas music mood … at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, there will be a performance by ARW (Anderson, Rabin and Wakeman). These three members of YES hadn’t performed together in 25 years, so this is one tour you’ll want to catch if you’re a rock music fan. Rick Wakeman made the Moog what it is today in rock music, and Trevor Rabin’s guitar-playing is legendary in prog rock. Tickets are $39 to $79. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, the Goo Goo Dolls will be returning to the Coachella Valley. I’ve mentioned how annoying it was hearing the song “Iris” over and over during my junior and senior years of high school … and my high school even made the song part of my prom. Ugh! Tickets are $49 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has a couple of events worth mentioning. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9, Penn and Teller will be stopping by. Originally known for magic shows that included comedy, the duo stepped it up for a television show on Showtime called Bullshit!, which featured the duo taking on a variety of subjects, from Sept. 11 conspiracy theories to bottled water and beyond. Tickets are $45 to $65. Looking for something to do on New Year’s Eve? At 10:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 31, bring in 2017 with Huey Lewis and the News. Huey is a big part of one of my more tortured childhood Christmas memories: I once asked for a Metallica album … and received his Sports album instead. Boo, Huey! Boo! Tickets are $105 to $125. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 has a couple of intriguing December offerings. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, former Supertramp vocalist and songwriter Roger Hodgson will be performing. He wrote most of Supertramp’s most well-known hits, which have sold more than 60 million records, so this should be a pretty good show. Tickets are $45 to $65. At 7 p.m., Friday, Dec. 91 and 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10; and 1 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 11, Spotlight 29 will be hosting its Winter Gathering Pow Wow. This Native American custom includes dancing, singing, visiting and the renewing of old friendships. This event is free and family friendly.Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566www.spotlight29.com.

After an epic summer, Morongo Casino Resort Spa’s entertainment schedule has slowed down just a bit—but there are a couple of great December shows worth mentioning. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3, Morongo will be opening the Drum Room, a new bar and lounge on the 26th floor of the hotel. The grand opening will feature some great cocktails and appetizers in the venue, which has great leather seating and huge windows offering stunning views of the desert. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9, there will be a performance by the Charlie Daniels Band. If you’ve never seen the Charlie Daniels Band, trust me: Mr. Daniels puts on one hell of a show, even though he’s 80 years old and has survived prostate cancer—with a pacemaker installed in his chest to boot. He was a highlight of Stagecoach in 2013. Given this is Christmas, you can expect some Christmas tunes mixed into his Southern-rock set. Tickets are $25 to $35. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace has some events in December you shan’t miss. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9, Hanni El Khatib (upper right) will be returning to Pappy’s after a stunning sold-out show earlier this year. Hanni El Khatib denied being a blues man when I interviewed him last year, but blues and hard rock are definitely part of his sound. This show is a must-see. Tickets are $15 to $20. At 8:30 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 22, it’s locals’ night when The BrosQuitos and Yip Yops play Pappy and Harriet’s. This is a much-deserved gig for both local bands—groups with bright futures ahead of them. Admission is free. After the presents have been opened, and the holiday hangover has set in, get yourself to Pappy’s at 8 p.m., Monday, Dec. 26, for the Evangenitals. The Evangenitals is one of the best bands to see when you’re sad—because you’ll enjoy a lot of laughs at the no-holds-barred humor. Oh, and be sure to stay until the end when the band does its own personal rendition of Prince’s “Purple Rain.” Admission is blessedly free. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room has a fine December schedule. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 9,and Saturday, Dec. 10, the Kinsey Sicks will be bringing a holiday show, “Oy Vey in a Manger!” to the Purple Room. The Kinsey Sicks is known as “America’s Favorite Dragapella Beautyshop Quartet” and is named after the Kinsey scale—with six meaning “exclusively homosexual.” Formed in 1993 in San Francisco, the group has earned a reputation as one of the LGBT community’s most entertaining and hilarious groups. Tickets are $30 to $45. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 16, the Martini Kings will be performing. Back in October, when I was at Pappy and Harriet’s for Paul McCartney’s show, I had the pleasure of meeting Anthony Marsico of the Martini Kings. He was once a sideman for Bob Dylan, and he told me some fascinating stories from those days. The Martini Kings have a sound that modernism fans will love—and the group should turn in a great Christmas show. Tickets are $25. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

The Hood Bar and Pizza has announced a December show you’ll want to mark down on your calendar. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 10, Dali’s Llama will be performing, along with other great bands such as Supersonic Dragon Wagon; an old group including Zach Huskey of Dali’s Llama, Hot Beat Pussy Fiend; and Sleazy Cortez. Admission is free! The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220; www.facebook.com/thehoodbar.

The Date Shed has one event in December worth mentioning. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 2, there will be a performance by Too Short (below). During the ’90s, when the whole East Coast-West Coast rap thing was going full-force, one man worked with both 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G.—and that was Too Short. While his lyrics are about pimping not being easy (Has it ever been easy?), and “bitch” is nothing but a word to him, he’s a legend of the genre. Tickets are $25. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe Street, Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews

Happy November! Both the holiday season and the end of the year are approaching, and there are some fantastic events to talk about this month.

The McCallum Theatre is back in full swing. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21, jazz, pop, and R&B vocalist Al Jarreau will be stopping by. Jarreau has won seven Grammy Awards and has released 15 studio albums. Tickets are $37 to $77. At 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 22, The Kingston Trio will be appearing. While none of the three current members are originals, they all have contributed over the years to the trio’s legacy as one of the best-selling and most-popular folk acts of all time. Tickets are $32 to $67. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a busy month full of great events. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 6, San Francisco alternative-rock band Train will be performing. The three-time Grammy Award-winning band started in the ’90s opening for acts such as Hootie and the Blowfish, Barenaked Ladies and Cracker; today, the group is headlining shows all around the world. In 2010, the single “Hey, Soul Sister” climbed the charts. As of 2012, it had sold 6 million copies! Tickets are $69 to $129. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, Art Garfunkel will be returning; he also performed at Fantasy Springs in 2014. While he’s known mostly for being half of Simon and Garfunkel, he’s released music on his own—as well as poetry. Tickets are $29 to $59. If you’re into puppets and comedy, you’ll be pleased to know that at 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21, Terry Fator will be bringing his act to Fantasy Springs. After his 2007 victory on America’s Got Talent, he took the comedy world by storm. Tickets are $49 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has an impressive November calendar. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, alternative band Goo Goo Dolls will be performing. I was a teenager when the Goo Goo Dolls hit it big with “Long Way Down” in 1995. A few years later, “Iris” was played over and over again on mainstream radio—and became the theme song for every high school prom. It never seemed to go away. In fact, I think our rock station in the Coachella Valley is still playing it. Tickets are $75 to $105. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, get ready to re-live the ‘80s, because The B-52s (above right) will be performing. The B-52s consistently released albums that sold well, and the band had its first mega-smash hit with “Love Shack” in 1989. However, I recommend listening to the 1979 self-titled debut album. It’s one of the greatest albums of all time, in my opinion. While almost the entire original band remains intact, guitarist Ricky Wilson passed away in 1985, a victim of the AIDS epidemic. Tickets are $65 to $95. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a couple of fine events this month. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21, The Cult will be performing. The Cult’s hard-rock sound has earned the band a great deal of success; “Fire Woman” and “She Sells Sanctuary” are rock staples. Did you know frontman Ian Astbury also performed with original members of the Doors as Manzarek-Krieger, or “The Doors of the 21st Century”? Tickets are $45 to $65. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 28, Damon Wayans will bring his standup comedy show to Spotlight 29. He was part of In Living Color with his brothers and his sister, and was best known for his character Homey D. Clown. Recently, Wayans found himself in hot water after he questioned statements by Bill Cosby’s rape victims, saying, “It’s a money hustle.” Tickets are $30 to $40. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has one very notable event worth mentioning: At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, Melissa Etheridge will take the stage. Etheridge became a hit singer-songwriter in the ’90s and has long been open about her sexuality as a lesbian. Etheridge provided her song “I Need to Wake Up” to Al Gore’s 2006 documentary An Inconvenient Truth, and won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Tickets are $49 to $59. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace continues to book great shows. At 7 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, Patty Griffin (below) will play. Griffin is known for performing folk and Americana music, but she also recorded a gospel album called Downtown Church, for which she won a Grammy Award. Tickets are $25. At 7 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin with the Guilty Ones will be performing. Both Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin have had extensive careers as roots rockers and alt-country performers. Dave Alvin was also a member of the punk band X for a brief period of time. Tickets are $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Date Shed is in full swing and is offering some interesting shows. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 7, The Kottonmouth Kings will be there. Since forming in 1994, the Kottonmouth Kings have been an oddity, performing “psychedelic hip-hop punk rock.” The subject matter of the band’s songs is all over the map, including conspiracy theories and a love for David Icke. Tickets are $20 to $30. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 13, it’ll be a ladies night to remember: DJ Kristina Sky will be appearing. The Los Angeles DJ is a big name in the EDM world and has performed all over the world. Also appearing on the bill are DJ Femme A, DJ Ivanna Love, and DJ Sugarfree. Tickets are $10 to $15. At 8:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 20, get ready to party with Metalachi. It’s a mariachi band that performs metal music in the mariachi style. Sounds like fun, right? Also on the bill are Aphrodisiac Jacket, and former Machin’ violinist Bri Cherry. Tickets are $15 to $20. The Date Shed, 50725 Monroe St., Indio; 760-775-6699; www.dateshedmusic.com.

Published in Previews