Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Know Your Neighbors

21 Mar 2018
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Palm Desert resident John Peters, 66, came from a confused family background—which, in anyone else, might have led to dysfunction, insecurity and/or any number of psychologically traumatic results. But this ebullient man has not only prevailed—he has triumphed. Peters was born the youngest of four children in Intercourse, Penn. (Yes, that’s really the name.) His father died 6 months before he was born—and his mother remarried and moved, leaving behind the four kids. His two brothers were sent to an orphanage school; his sister was placed in a similar school. “There were no social programs back then for a young mother like there are today,” Peters says gently. Peters was too young for a placement and was adopted and raised by his great-aunt and great-uncle in an Amish community. “The (Amish) kids were all the same (as ‘normal’ kids), just wearing different clothes,” he says. “Intercourse had a population of…
07 Mar 2018
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Most of us live our lives within the boundaries and expectations set for us by our families and society. Some of us are lucky enough to discover our calling—like a bolt out of the blue. I had a friend who was something of a ne’er-do-well in his youth, but late one night while standing on the deck of a ship, he had what he could only describe as a revelation: His calling was to preach the gospel. He pursued that career for the rest of his life. I met Coachella Valley resident Kate Zenna at a Palm Springs Women in Film and Television event. She is smart, articulate, personable and enthusiastic—and like my aforementioned friend, she found her calling via what she describes as an epiphany. Zenna was born in Montreal and lived for a time in Newfoundland before she and her younger brother (“I make him tell people he’s…
21 Feb 2018
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Can a man ever accurately create realistic, legitimate female characters? Palm Springs author David Hamlin thinks he knows the secret. “I’m a good listener,” he says. “I’m a great admirer of women who break glass ceilings. There are barriers to be taken down and not accepted, so I write about strong women who fiercely fight for what they want. Throughout most of my adult life, my good friends (have been) women.” Hamlin’s first two works of fiction, Winter in Chicago and Winter Gets Hot, feature a female protagonist, Emily Winter, a clever and determined reporter working for a Chicago paper at a time when women are just beginning to fight entrenched sexism and reach beyond writing about fashion and entertainment. Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Bethesda, Md., Hamlin grew up in a household where there was always a daily newspaper, and where dinner conversation included the political realities…
07 Feb 2018
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When you meet Marc Saxe, your first impression will be that he’s calm—and always ready with a smile. He doesn’t fit the stereotype of someone who sells timeshare properties—and perhaps that’s because his background is also not what you would expect. Saxe is 70 (“Telling you that is like being shot in the head—it’s a big number!” he says) and a Palm Desert resident; he was born in Indianapolis and grew up in Dallas. He spent a large chunk of his life shuttling back and forth between Texas and Colorado before finally settling in Southern California. Saxe and his older sister were born into a family of Lower East Side New York Jews. His parents had been high school sweethearts, yet subsequent marriages combined two families so that, as Saxe claims, “My aunt is also my cousin!” Saxe’s father was in the fur business when the family moved to Dallas,…
10 Jan 2018
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This is a personal column, about me, Anita Rufus, one of your neighbors, and my holiday-time trip to the island of Samoa. My cousin, Barry Rose, with whom I’ve been in love since I was 16, and my very best friend, Barbara, whom I met when she was 19 some 54 years ago, just got married at Barry’s resort, Coconuts Beach Club, an idyllic slice of paradise some 12 flying hours from Southern California. Barry and Barbara met through me, more than 50 years ago, so I was asked to walk them down the aisle. What took them so long? Timing is everything: Through marriages and deaths, Barry and Barbara finally were ready to be happy with each other. Coconuts is the result of years of work, begun when Barry and his late wife, Jennifer, wanted to find paradise. They left Beverly Hills in 1984 and traveled the world over,…
27 Dec 2017
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Don Cilluffo found his calling in his native Michigan. “It wasn’t business or accounting, which is what I was supposed to be good at,” he says. “It was when I did an interpretive reading from The Godfather and got an ‘A’. When you do something really well, you just know. It was so rewarding—that feeling of gratification out of communicating a character, the passion of that character. I knew I wanted to share my talent.” The actor and director comes from St. Clair Shores, near Detroit. He has been in the Coachella Valley for the past eight years. “It was the weather,” he says. “I was tired of shoveling snow and wanted to get to a warmer place.” Cilluffo and his long-time partner, Tom Hipp, live in Palm Desert. Born into an Italian-Catholic family as the middle child—with an older brother and younger sister—Cilluffo calls himself “a late bloomer.” “I…
13 Dec 2017
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I first met Deanna Bogart when I saw her playing saxophone and sitting in with the band at The Nest in Indian Wells. I was struck by the joy with which she played—which makes it seem as if the music is coming through her rather than the instrument. Bogart, 58, a Palm Desert resident for four years, has been making music since she began playing piano by ear at the age of 2. She went on to the guitar, to the saxophone, and to writing and singing her own songs. Whether it’s blues, boogie, jazz, rock or country, she does it all. “I was born in Detroit, the middle of five sisters, and raised in New York and Arizona,” says Bogart. “I remember what it felt like to always be the new kid in school. When it came to music, I just knew it was something I could do, in…
29 Nov 2017
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He’s a champion wrestler, a medal-winning runner and a concert pianist. One other thing about Mike Zorick: He’s blind. Zorick, 70, has been an Indio resident since 1980, and has overcome obstacles that would surely have stopped others. Shortly after his premature birth, in Hartford, Conn., a medical technique used at that time led to an overdose of oxygen and left him blind. Zorick’s parents, wanting him to escape discrimination, sacrificed and saved to afford him the best possible opportunities to overcome his disability. “People would look at my eyes and see nothing else,” he recalls. He was educated at Oak Hill School for the Blind through high school. In the fifth-grade, Mike began wrestling. “I was kind of forced into it by the recreation coach,” Zorick says. “He said, ‘If you don’t wrestle, you can’t come to PE anymore.’ I ended up beating an undefeated champ and won the…
15 Nov 2017
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Cathedral City’s Lynne O’Neill has been in the Coachella Valley for only a year and a half—but in that small amount of time, she has already made a large difference. Born in New York, the middle child in a family with four brothers, O’Neill moved here from New Jersey, where she practiced family law. A graduate of Springfield College in rehabilitative counseling, she also had a stint with an all-girl band, Lilith. O’Neill, 63, came out as gay two years after the Stonewall riots in 1969. “I spent the 1970s driving around talking about politics,” she says. “Then I was in an auto accident and broke my back. I knew I would never be a rock star. My dad was a lawyer, and he wanted me to go into law. I was third in my class in my first year and became editor of the law review. I was lucky…
01 Nov 2017
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Why is a standup comedian pawing through boxes of old family letters—and being so serious as he does it? Why does his wife say she’s the funny one in the family? And how do two Los Angelenos adjust to living in the desert full time? Meet Tom and Casi Parks. Tom Parks, 67, was born in Washington, D.C. The eldest of three kids, he went to grade school in South Carolina and high school in New York before spending time in Texas, and ending up in Los Angeles. He studied journalism at the University of Florida—and before long was hosting Not Necessarily the News on HBO. “To my mom,” he laughs, “doing comedy about the news was doing the news, so I hadn’t totally wasted my education.” How did Tom end up with a career in comedy? “My mom loved broad slapstick. She roared when my brother hit me in…

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