Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

A Chorus Line—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The legendary musical about a group of performers auditioning for a Broadway show takes place at 7 p.m., Thursday; 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 23, through Sunday, Feb. 8. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123;

CV Rep Luminary Luncheon: Theodore Bikel

Two-time Tony nominee who created the role of Captain von Trapp on Broadway opposite Mary Martin in The Sound of Music is also well-known for portraying Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway and elsewhere more than 2,000 times—more than any other actor. He is interviewed by Don Martin at noon, Wednesday, Jan. 28. $45; includes lunch catered by Lulu California Bistro. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966;

Duck and Cover—From Dezart Performs

This play about 1962 America—and specifically the trials and tribulations of 12-year-old Stevie Whitebottom—makes its West Coast premiere at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2:30 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 30, through Sunday, Feb. 8. $22 to $25. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-0179;

Esperanza: The Musical of Hope—From Desert Ensemble Theatre Company

A concert reading of this brand new musical takes place at 7 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 24. $22, with discounts. At the Pearl McManus Theater in the Palm Springs Womans Club, 314 S. Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs. 760-565-2476;

Having Our Say—From CV Rep

The Delaney sisters—Sadie, 103 years old, and Bessie, 101—take the audience on a journey through the last 100 years of our nation’s history, from their perspectives as African-American professionals, at 7:30 p.m., Wednesday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Wednesday, Jan. 21, through Sunday, Feb. 8. There are also 2 p.m., Saturday, matinees on Jan. 31 and Feb. 7. $45 regular; $55 opening night on Friday, Jan. 23; $40 previews on Wednesday and Thursday, Jan. 21 and 22. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966;

An Ideal Husband—From Theatre 29

Blackmail, political corruption, intrigue, romance and razor-sharp wit all abound in equal measure in this piece of satire by Oscar Wilde, performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, from Friday, Jan. 9, through Saturday Feb. 7; there are also matinee shows at 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 18 and Feb. 1. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151;

Lost in Yonkers—From Desert Theatreworks

Neil Simon’s tale of two boys stuck at their grandmother’s house in 1942 is performed at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 16, through Sunday, Jan. 25. $25 regular; $23 seniors and students with ID. At the Arthur Newman Theatre in the Joslyn Center, 73750 Catalina Way, Palm Desert. 760-980-1455;

Love! Valour! Compassion!—From Desert Rose Playhouse

Terrence McNally’s Tony Award-winning play about a group of longtime gay friends is performed at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Jan. 16, through Sunday, Feb. 15. $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000;

McCallum Theatre

Night Fever: A Musical Tribute to The Bee Gees takes place at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 9; $30 to 55. Palm Springs Legends II gathers performers playing the stars that made Palm Springs the place to be, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 10; $25 to $65. The Peking Acrobats perform at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 13; $20 to $35. Broadway legend Tommy Tune performs Taps, Tunes and Tales with the Desert Symphony at 8 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 15; $55 to $105. Tangos Buenos Aires arrives from Argentina at 8 p.m., Monday, Jan. 19; $25 to $75. The Alberta Ballet dances at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 27; $25 to $85. Rain: A Tribute to the Beatles takes the stage at 8 p.m., Friday, Jan. 30; and 2 and 8 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 31; $35 to $85. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787;

Published in Theater and Dance

Itzhak Perlman has captivated classical-music audiences as a violinist, conductor and teacher for more than five decades. He’s easily one of the world’s most-recognizable classical musicians, and easily sells out venues around the world. In fact, he did just that here in the Coachella Valley: He’ll be performing a sold-out show at the McCallum Theatre on Tuesday, Jan. 20.

Born in Tel Aviv, in the British Mandate of Palestine (now Israel) to Polish immigrants in 1945, he showed an interest in music as early as the age of 3.

“I just remember a specific violinist who inspired me—Jascha Heifetz,” Perlman said during a recent phone interview. “The sound just drove me to say, ‘I want to do this!’ but I don’t remember the specific piece.”

He said an oft-told story—about how he was supposedly rejected by the Shulamit Conservatory at the age of 3 because he was too small to hold a violin, and then went on to teach himself how to play—is untrue.

“I didn’t teach myself,” he said. “When they decided that I was a little too young, we stopped it. I entered the conservatory when I was about 4. I had teachers from the very beginning.”

At the age of 4, he contracted polio, but recovered, albeit with the diminished use of his legs. Later in his childhood, he immigrated to the United States and entered the Juilliard School. He was introduced to American audiences by performing on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1958; he played on the show a second time, in 1964, appearing on the same episode as the Rolling Stones.

“At the time, I didn’t know anything about the Rolling Stones,” he said. “On The Ed Sullivan Show, I had my own dressing room, and I didn’t really mix with anybody until it was time for me to make the appearance. Now, I’m quite amazed that I was on the same show. At that time, I was just concerned about doing the best I could on the program.”

Since then, Perlman has performed in just about every important classical music venue in the world. He’s played with renowned orchestras and other classical musicians, appeared at the White House, and even performed at President Barack Obama’s 2009 inauguration.

“I’m going to be 70 soon, I’ve been playing music for almost 50 years, and I’m still loving it,” he said. “If there’s anything you ask me that I want to do, I want to stay connected with what I’m doing, and so far, I’m still connected. For me, that’s a goal I always think about, and the minute I think that’s enough for me, and I don’t want to do anything, I’ll stop. I play concerts; I conduct; and I teach. I’m having a great time, and I’m very happy with that.”

When asked about the difference between playing and conducting, he spoke passionately about the experience of conducting.

“It’s different when I play, because I’m in control of what’s going on,” he said. “When I conduct, I’m in control of what goes on musically, but I actually can’t make the people who play an instrument play a certain way. I can just coax them to play a certain way. In some ways, there’s a little bit less control, but I love conducting, because it gives me the opportunity to be exposed to a different repertoire. I play the Tchaikovsky violin concerto; I play the Beethoven violin concerto; and (I play the) Brahms violin concerto many times. When I conduct, I can do Brahms symphonies, Tchaikovsky symphonies—and it’s a different repertoire. It’s a great experience for me.”

Perlman said teaching is also a big part of his life.

“Teaching is very rewarding, and second of all, it’s very important for any performing artist, in my view, to have some experience teaching. I keep repeating the answer to this question with, ‘If you teach others, you teach yourself.’ I feel that one of the most important reasons I’m playing a certain way is because of my experience in teaching others, and I’m very lucky, because the level of my students is pretty high. To teach students who are very talented is more challenging, because you really have to dig deep in what you want to tell them to help them perform better, and so on. It’s extremely rewarding, and I love it.”

The cuts to public schools have affected music programs across the country—especially since the Great Recession. Perlman sees these cuts as a dangerous thing.

“I think we need more awareness as to how important the arts are to our society,” he said. “Without art, it will just not be as good. So we need to make sure politicians and people who are in charge of funding are aware of the importance of the arts. I think the fact that the arts is on public television is extremely important, because you want to bring this to everybody. You want to make sure that everyone is aware that the arts are there for us. Why bother to have schools if the schools are only going to be partly educating the kids? It doesn’t make any sense to me.”

The advances in technology have brought young people more ways with which to get involved in music. Perlman offered some fine advice to anyone who wants to pursue a musical instrument.

“First, you have to do what you like. The other thing is you need to study what happened before electronic music or other kinds of music,” he said. “What about composers like Bartok? What about Shostakovich? We’re talking about 20th-century composers. In order for people to be aware of what people like or don’t like, they have to be aware of what came first, which is basically like studying history—music history, and music history can go way, way back. It’s very important not to have blinders on and just see what’s going on today. You have to see what went on before. That’s part of the reason why today is what today is. It’s all evolved.”

Itzhak Perlman will perform at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 20, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are sold out. For more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit

Published in Previews

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

When John Waters took the stage Tuesday night at the McCallum Theatre, his raspy voice made it obvious that he was a bit under the weather. (Later in the night, he mentioned fighting an ear infection.) However, his illness didn’t stop Waters from delivering a fantastic spoken-word comedy show—most of which was related to Christmas.

Waters often spoke about his favorite leading lady, the late, great Divine (Glenn Milstead). He mentioned that the recent documentary I Am Divine didn’t include the fact that Divine loved Christmas decorations, to the point of overcharging his parents’ credit card to buy them—and then lying about. He also affirmed a story about how Divine bounced checks, lied to the authorities about it, and still managed to pass a lie detector test.

Another amusing story involved a young Waters and his lady friends getting high on a combination of LSD and amphetamines, and driving around and stealing Christmas gifts from cars. Waters earned laughs as he said that mediocre gifts would often get thrown out the window, and that the ladies would “return” other gifts for cash.

Waters addressed a quote attributed to him that’s circulating around the Internet: “If you go home with somebody, and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ’em!” He conceded that the rule doesn’t apply if that somebody happens to be cute enough. (The same goes for racists, he admitted.) He also told an amusing story about how he once took home a carnie, and that Waters didn’t know the carnie had a fake leg until he saw the man remove the leg and perform fellatio on himself.

This was Waters’ Christmas show, of course, so he discussed in detail what he hates about Christmas, such as getting e-mail based Christmas cards, and receiving gift cards as presents. He affirmed that the best gifts are books—and mentioned various strange and rare (and even nonexistent) editions of books he would like to receive.

At the end of the show, he gave the audience the opportunity to ask some questions. The first question came from a woman who asked if he was Daniel Tosh’s father; he replied that he didn’t have kids, and didn’t want any kids—although he’s a great uncle, and would help the kid do a number of amusing things, up to and including “getting an abortion.” One woman told him that her brother showed her Pink Flamingos when she was 12 years old. An interesting moment came when someone asked him about Manson family member Leslie Van Houten, who is a friend of his. Becoming serious for a moment, Waters explained that although Van Houten did bad with the Manson Family, he feels that she deserves clemency, because she’s reformed and has done amazing things with her life, despite being behind bars.

The last question he took involved what he would want on his gravestone. He replied he would only want his name, date of birth, and date of death, explaining that gravestones aren’t a good place for jokes.

Fortunately, the McCallum was indeed a great place for jokes and laughter on Tuesday night. The Pope of Trash didn’t pull any punches during a raunchy, vulgar and downright hilarious night of stories and comedy.

Published in Comedy

The Coachella Valley has finally cooled off, and it’s time for the holidays! Per usual, December is one of the slower non-summer months in terms of entertainment, but there are still some great local events to consider.

At 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 6, The Festival of Lights Parade will take over Palm Canyon Drive in downtown Palm Springs, with lighted floats, equestrians, cars and celebrities. One suggestion: Dress warm. Get more information at

The Ace Hotel and Swim Club has some great events worth noting. At 10 p.m., Friday, Dec. 5, the Amigo Room will host Katie Burden. Originally from Colorado, she moved to Los Angeles in 2012 and formed a band which released its first EP in June. Admission is free. At 10 p.m., Friday, Dec. 12, the Fullerton psychedelic band Cosmonauts will stop by. Again, admission is free! Ace Hotel and Swim Club, 701 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-325-9900;

The McCallum Theatre is bringing the yuletide cheer this December. At 8 p.m., Friday, Dec. 12, and Saturday, Dec. 13, the Irish Tenors (right) will be bring their Christmas-themed show to the McCallum. They are one of the most successful Irish touring acts, and their Christmas shows have been well-received—so you should definitely consider this one. Tickets are $35 to $85. At 7 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 17, the Moscow Classical Ballet will be performing the Christmas staple The Nutcracker. It’s a treat for the whole family! Tickets are $25 to $85. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787;

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, per usual, has some great offerings this month. Singer-songwriter Phillip Phillips will be stopping by at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 6. Phillips’ unique folk-music sound helped him win American Idol’s Season 11, despite his struggles with a painful a kidney condition. Tickets are $49 to $69. Celtic Woman will be stopping by for a special Christmas show at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 13. Despite the singular name, there are actually four members. After a decade of performing in America, these Irish women managed to gain the attention of PBS, which led to a rush in album sales. Tickets are $49 to $89. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 800-827-2946;

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa will host some fun shows during December. At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 5, Mr. Universe, Jim Gaffigan, will be stopping by. The successful comedian, actor and author is known for his hilarious jokes about laziness. Tickets are $65 to $85. Country-music singer-songwriter Gary Allan will be performing at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 13. California native started his career by playing older country-music covers in honky-tonks. He’s gone on to release 11 albums since 1996. Tickets are $55 to $75. Frances Yip will perform a special Christmas concert at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 27. The Hong Kong Cantopop singer has made a name for herself by singing in English, Indonesian, Thai, Mexican-Spanish and many other languages. After beating breast cancer in 2012, she’s back and touring around the world. Tickets are $58 to $118. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995;

Morongo Casino Resort Spa has an interesting schedule this month. Indie-pop sensation Ingrid Michaelson (below) will be stopping by at 8 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7. After busking in Manhattan, she recorded her first album, Slow the Rain, and released it independently in 2005; today, she sells out venues around the world. Tickets are $29; A Great Big World will also perform. Sublime With Rome will perform at 9 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 18. After the death of frontman Bradley Nowell in 1996, Sublime was pretty much over. However, in 2009, surviving members Eric Wilson and Bud Gaugh revived the band with Rome Ramirez, who was only 21 at the time. Gaugh left the group shortly thereafter, and the remaining members now perform as Sublime With Rome. Tickets are $45 to $65. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499;

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is hosting some fine shows in December—and many of them are free! Check the website for details. A sneak preview of a January event: At 7 p.m. on New Year’s Day, you can celebrate with Pappy’s regulars The Palominos. The San Diego honky-tonk outfit is known for its West Coast country sound and is a delight to experience live. Admission is—you guessed it—free! Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956;

The Hood Bar and Pizza was still working on the December schedule when we went to press, but one great event is already on the books: At 9 p.m., Friday, Dec. 5, Sean Wheeler and Zander Schloss will perform; local band Waxy will also play an acoustic set. Admission is free. The Hood Bar and Pizza, 74360 Highway 111, Palm Desert; 760-636-5220;

Published in Previews

Annenberg Theater Events

CK Dance Presents: The Nutcracker takes place at 7:30 p.m., Friday, Dec. 5; and 3 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 6. $20 to $30. The Dance With Miss Lindsay Holiday Showcase, including dancers from age 3 to adult performing holiday classics, is at 2 and 5 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7. $15 to $20. At the Annenberg Theater at the Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-325-4490;

Cinderella—From Palm Canyon Theatre

The Rodgers and Hammerstein version of the classic fairytale takes place at 7 p.m., Thursday through Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, from Friday, Dec. 5, through Sunday, Dec. 21. $32 to $36. At 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123;

Happy Hour—a Staged Reading From CV Rep

This in-development play by George Eastman stars Michael Shaw and Gavin MacLeod, at 7 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 6; and 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7. $20; a dessert reception follows both shows. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966;

Holiday on Broadway

The CV Rep cabaret show of holiday stage favorites stars Julie Garnyé and Ashley Fox Linton, with accompanist James May, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 12 and 13; and 2 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 14. $25. At the Atrium, 69930 Highway 111, No. 116, Rancho Mirage. 760-296-2966;

The Madcap Underground—From COD Theatre

The annual sketch-comedy offering from the College of the Desert Dramatic Arts Company returns with holiday bells, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, Dec. 12 and 13. $15. At Theatre Too at College of the Desert, 43500 Monterey Ave., Palm Desert. 760-773-2565;

McCallum Theatre

Oh What a Night, a tribute to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, is performed in concert with the Desert Symphony at 8 p.m., Thursday, Dec. 11; $45 to $95. Colors of Christmas stars Peabo Bryson, Taylor Dayne, Jennifer Holliday and Ruben Studdard in an evening of pop hits and holiday favorites  backed by a 12-piece band and a choir, at 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 14; $55 to $95. Mariachi Sol de Mexico de Jóse Hernández presents Merri-Achi Christmas at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 20; $25 to $75. At the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787;

Scrooge in Rouge—From Desert Rose Playhouse

The play has a cast of 20—but 17 of the actors get food poisoning. Of course, the show must go on, so the three remaining actors do the best they can; at 8 p.m., Friday and Saturday; and 2 p.m., Sunday, through Sunday, Dec. 21. $28 to $30. At 69260 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage. 760-202-3000;

Shakespeare in Hollywood—From Theatre 29

It’s 1934, and famous Shakespeare fairies Oberon and Puck have suddenly materialized on the Warner Bros. set of A Midsummer Night’s Dream; a hilarious farce ensues, at 7 p.m., Friday and Saturday, through Saturday, Dec. 20, with 2:30 p.m., Sunday, matinees on Nov. 30 and Dec. 14. $12 regular; $10 seniors and military; $8 children and students. At 73637 Sullivan Road, Twentynine Palms. 760-361-4151;

A Starry Christmas Concert

This benefit show for a Layne family star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars features 13 singers performing Christmas music, at 7 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7. $15. At the Palm Canyon Theatre, 538 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-323-5123;

Published in Theater and Dance

It was on a gorgeous night last September at the Los Angeles County Arboretum that I first heard Patti Austin sing live.

A friend had invited my partner and me to the Pasadena Pops’ summer-season closer, and she was one of conductor Michael Feinstein’s guest vocalists. Although I had heard of Patti Austin before, I didn’t know a thing about her or her music. Well, on that lovely night, we learned one thing about Ms. Austin: Man, can she sing.

After she knocked our figurative socks off that night, we wanted to see more of Patti Austin, so we made a point to check out her show at the McCallum Theatre last Saturday night.

We expected a night of great vocals—and we certainly got just that. The 64-year-old R&B/pop/jazz singer was simply stunning as she took the too-sparse audience on a journey through the life of Ella Fitzgerald, backed by a tight three-piece band (piano, drums, upright bass).

What we didn’t expect was the hilarious, irreverent aspect of the show: Austin is a fantastic storyteller, and she kept the audience in stitches with her between-song banter about Fitzgerald’s life, the plight of being single, and the evils of Diana Krall.

She kicked off the show with “Too Close for Comfort,” immediately showing off her scat-singing skills. After adjusting the position of a stool with two large mugs atop it (and musing out loud: “Does Barbra Streisand have to go through this crap?”), and telling the story of how she finally won her first Grammy after eight previous nominations in the Best Jazz Vocal Album for Avant Gershwin (because “that bitch from Canada, Diana Krall, finally got out of my way”), she began her tribute to Fitzgerald with “Honeysuckle Rose.”

Austin—wearing an oversized, shining silver blouse, with grey pants and heels—would tell an anecdote from Ella Fitzgerald’s life, and then sing a Fitzgerald song that corresponded to that period of Ella’s life. The most amusing moment came after Austin sang “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” and explained how Fitzgerald finally started to embrace the Great American Songbook with that song. Austin said all great artists eventually sing the Great American Songbook to cement their legacies—and wondered out loud what would happen when Snoop Dogg finally did so. Austin then rapped several lines of “Our Love Is Here to Stay,” earning an ovation from the audience. She transitioned back to Fitzgerald by stating: “Speaking of drugs, Ella never did them,” before speculating Fitzgerald may have had a contact high when she wrote “A-tisket, A-tasket.” Of course, Austin then knocked the song out of the park.

Austin said she’d be returning to Cologne, Germany, next month to again record with the WDR Big Band; this time, the music of Cole Porter will be the focus. She’s made a number of albums with the WDR Big Band, including 2002’s For Ella, the aforementioned Grammy-winning Avant Gershwin, and a yet-to-be-released Ellington collection. “They play their asses off, and their government pays for it,” she said of her German collaborators. Austin then hoped out loud that Elvis Costello, Diana Krall’s husband, would perhaps clear the way for another Grammy award by “jacking her (Krall) up with another set of twins.”


“Miss Otis Regrets” (my favorite song of the night) and “Hard Hearted Hannah” led Austin to discuss Fitzgerald’s constant problems with the romantic interests in her life. After a couple more songs, Austin “concluded” the concert with “How High the Moon,” featuring Austin’s exact replication of Fitzgerald’s singing/scatting to the Charlie Parker song.

Of course, this wasn’t the real conclusion; after walking off the stage and then returning for the encore, Austin joked about the “obligatory fake ending.” She then sent the delighted and amused audience off with a gorgeous version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”—a perfect way to kick off the holiday season in the Coachella Valley, thanks to one of the most amazing under-the-radar singers working today.

Published in Reviews

Welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2014-2015!

Here’s how these results came to be: Between Aug. 29 and Oct. 3, Coachella Valley Independent readers voted at in an open ballot in the categories listed below.

No finalists were selected in advance; readers had to write in their selections.

We then took the top three to five finishers in each category and put them on a final-round ballot, which ran at from Oct. 8 to Nov. 7. 

Readers had to provide an email address, and were allowed to submit only one ballot in each round. We sent an email to each voter; if the email bounced, we did not count the ballot associated with that email address.

Here are the results of this first-ever Coachella Valley Independent readers’ poll.



Best Art Gallery

Coachella Valley Art Scene


Runners up:

2. Gallery 446

3. Heather James Fine Art

4. Archangel Gallery

5. Stewart Gallery


Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre


Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. The Show at Agua Caliente

4. The Hood Bar and Pizza

5. The Date Shed


Best Local Arts Group/Organization

Palm Springs Art Museum


Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre

3. TIE

Coachella Valley Art Scene

Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre

5. Backstreet Arts District


Best Local Band

Queens of the Stone Age


Runners up:

2. Machin’

3. The Rebel Noise

4. TIE


Slipping Into Darkness


Best Local DJ

Alf Alpha


Runners up:

2. All Night Shoes

3. House Whores

4. TIE


Femme A


Best Local Musician (Individual)

Jesika von Rabbit


Runners up:

2. Mark Gregg

3. Giselle Woo

4. Charles Herrera

5. Gene Evaro Jr.


Best Local Visual Artist

Elena Bulatova


Runners up:

2. Ryan “Motel” Campbell

3. Michael Weems

4. Jennifer Stern

5. Lon Michels


Best Movie Theater

Camelot Theatres


Runners up:

2. Cinemas Palme d’Or

3. UltraStar Mary Pickford

4. Regal Palm Springs

5. Century Theatres at The River


Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum


Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley History Museum

3. Children’s Discovery Museum

4. Cabot’s Pueblo Museum

5. Palm Springs Art Museum Palm Desert


Best Outdoor Venue

The Living Desert


Runners up:

2. Empire Polo Club

3. Pappy and Harriet’s

4. Rock Yard at Fantasy Springs

5. The Palms Restaurant

Life in the Valley

Best Alternative Health Center

Stroke Recovery Center


Runners up:

2. Nature’s Health Food and Café

3. All-Desert Wellness Centers

4. Live Well Clinic

5. Palm Springs Healing Center


Best Farmers’ Market

Palm Springs VillageFest


Runners up:

2. Camelot Theatres

3. Old Town La Quinta

4. Palm Desert (Chamber of Commerce)

5. Joshua Tree Certified


Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

Palm Springs Animal Shelter


Runners up:

2. Desert AIDS Project

3. Coachella Valley Rescue Mission

4. Shelter From the Storm

5. LGBT Community Center of the Desert


Best Gym

Gold’s Gym Palm Springs


Runners up:

2. World Gym Palm Springs

3. World Gym Palm Desert

4. Palm Springs Fitness Center

5. 24 Hour Fitness


Best Public Servant

Congressman Raul Ruiz


Runners up:

2. Mayor Steve Pougnet

3. County Commissioner John Benoit

4. Assemblyman V. Manuel Perez

5. Assemblyman Brian Nestande


Best Yoga Studio

Bikram Yoga University Village


Runners up:

2. Urban Yoga

3. TIE

Coachella Valley Art Scene

Power Yoga

5. Evolve Yoga


Best Bowling Alley

Fantasy Lanes at Fantasy Springs


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Canyon Lanes at Morongo


Best Sex Toy Shop

Not So Innocent


Runners up:

2. Skitzo Kitty

3. Q Trading Company`

4. Gay Mart

5. Red Panties Boutique


Best Auto Repair

Desert Classic Cars


Runners up:

2. Performance Plus Automotive

3. TIE

Chuck’s Automotive

European Auto Service

Palm Springs Tire and Automotive


Best Car Wash


Airport Quick Car Wash

Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash (pictured)


Runners up:

3. Desert 100 Percent Hand Car Wash

4. Executive Car Wash

5. Red Carpet USA Car Wash


Best Plant Nursery

Moller’s Garden Center


Runners up:

2. Vintage Nursery

3. Bob Williams Nursery

4. Cactus Mart

5. Moorten Botanical Gardens


Best Pet Supplies



Runners up:

2. Petco

3. Bones ’n’ Scones

4. Cold Nose Warm Heart

5. Exotic Birds


Best Annual Charity Event

Evening Under the Stars, by the AIDS Assistance Program


Runners up:

2. Desert AIDS Walk, by the Desert AIDS Project

3. Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, by the Desert AIDS Project

4. Paint El Paseo Pink, by the Desert Cancer Foundation

5. Center Stage, by the LGBT Community Center of the Desert


Best Place to Gamble

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa


Runners up:

2. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

3. Spa Resort Casino

4. Spotlight 29

5. Augustine Casino


Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3


Runners up:

2. CBS Local 2

3. KMIR Channel 6


Best Local TV News Personality

Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2


Runners up:

2. Gino LaMont, KMIR Channel 6

3. John White, KESQ News Channel 3

4. Brooke Beare, CBS Local 2

5. Thalia Hayden, KMIR Channel 6


Best Radio Station

Mix 100.5


Runners up:

2. Big 106 (KPLM)

3. KDES FM 98.5

4. TIE

KWXY FM 107.3

K-News 94.3


Best Local Radio Personality

Jeff Michaels, Big 106 (KPLM)


Runners up:

2. Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

3. Bill Feingold, K-News 94.3

4. Joey English, K-News 94.3

5. Dan McGrath, EZ-103


Best Bookstore

Barnes and Noble


Runners up:

2. Just Fabulous

3. Revivals


Best Retail Music/Video Store

Record Alley


2. Palm Springs Vinyl Records and Collectibles

3. Best Buy

4. Barnes and Noble

5. Video Depot


Best Comics/Games Shop

Desert Oasis Comics


Runners up:

2. Hoodoo

3. Barnes and Noble


Best Video Game Store



Runners up:

2. TIE

Video Depot



Best Hotel Pool

Ace Hotel and Swim Club


Runners up:

2. Riviera Palm Springs

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. Saguaro

5. Renaissance Palm Springs

Fashion and Style

Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Bobby G’s


Runners up:

2. Glossy Boutique

3. R&R Men’s Wear

4. Fine Art of Design

5. Wil Stiles


Best Resale/Vintage Clothing



Runners up:

2. Resale Therapy

3. Angel View

4. The POP Shop

5. Fine Art of Design


Best Furniture Store



Runners up:

2. Ashley Furniture HomeStore

3. Marc Russell Interiors

4. Mor Furniture for Less

5. Erik’s Furniture


Best Antiques/Collectables Store

The Estate Sale Co.


Runners up:

2. Misty’s Consignments

3. Gypsyland

4. Pioneer Crossing Antiques

5. Sunny Dunes Antique Mall


Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

El Paseo Jewelers


Runners up:

2. Smoke Tree Jewelers

3. Leeds and Son

4. Hephaestus Jewelry

5. ASC Jewelers


Best Hair Salon

J Russell! The Salon


Runners up:

2. Heads Up Hair Designs

3. Brien O’Brien Salon

4. Turquoise A Salon

5. Revive Salon Spa


Best Spa

DHS Spa Hotel


Runners up:

2. JW Marriott Desert Springs

3. Studio M

4. The Canyon Spa

5. Revive Salon Spa


Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop


Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Florist

3. Rancho Mirage Florist

4. Jensen’s

5. Blooming Events


Best Tattoo Parlor

Strata Tattoo Lab


Runners up:

2. TIE

Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

Bloodline Tattoo

TG Tattoo

5. Flagship Tattoo


Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer



Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. TIE

Elegant Eye Optometry

Oh La La de Paris Eyeware

5. Desert EyeCare Center


Best Urban Landscaping

El Paseo


Runners up:

2. Downtown Palm Springs (general)

3. College of the Desert


Best Public Garden

The Living Desert


Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. Moorten Botanical Gardens

4. Ruth Hardy Park

5. El Paseo


Best Place for Bicycling

Palm Springs (general)


Runners up:

2. La Quinta (general)

3. Frank Sinatra Drive


Best Recreation Area

Joshua Tree


Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons

3. Mount San Jacinto State Park and Wilderness (Top of the Tram)

4. Salton Sea State Recreation Area

5. Tahquitz Canyon


Best Hike

Bump and Grind Trail


Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons

3. Mount San Jacinto

4. Tahquitz Canyon

5. Mission Creek Preserve


Best Park

Whitewater Park


Runners up:

2. Demuth Park

3. Ruth Hardy Park

4. Wellness Park

5. Dateland Park


Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Big 5


Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Off the Grid

4. Second Amendment Sports

5. Walmart


Best Bike Shop

Palm Springs Cyclery


Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Cyclery

3. BikeMan


Best Sporting Goods Store

Big 5


Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Sports Authority

4. Lumpy’s

5. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis


Best Public Golf Course

Desert Willow


Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Creek

3. Indian Wells

4. Eagle Falls

5. Escena

For the Kids

Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park


Runners up:

2. Demuth Park

3. Ruth Hardy Park

4. La Quinta Park

5. Whitewater Park


Best Place to Buy Toys

Mr. G’s for Kids


Runners up:

2. Toys “R” Us

3. Target

4. Walmart

5. Goodwill


Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Old Navy


Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Janie and Jack

4. Goodwill

5. Justice


Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese


Runners up:

2. Red Robin

3. Ruby’s

4. Islands

5. Dickie O’Neal’s


Best Place for Family Fun

Wet ’n’ Wild


Runners up:


2. Boomers!

Rock-N-Roll Mini Golf

4. Palm Desert Aquatic Center

5. Chuck E. Cheese


Best Place for a Birthday Party

Children’s Discovery Museum


Runners up:

2. Chuck E. Cheese

3. Boomers!

Food and Restaurants

Best Casual Eats

LuLu California Bistro


Runners up:

2. Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

3. Sherman’s

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Bongo Johnny’s


Best Caterer

LuLu/Acqua Pazza


Runners up:

2. Lynn Hammond

3. Fusion Flair

4. Dash and a Handful

5. Savoury’s


Best Diner



Runners up:

2. Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

3. Sunshine Café

4. Rick’s

5. John’s


Best Organic Food Store

Clark’s Nutrition and Natural Foods


Runners up:

2. TIE

Sprouts Farmers Market

Whole Foods

4. Nature’s Health Food and Café

5. Harvest Health Foods


Best Delicatessen



Runners up:

2. Manhattan in the Desert

3. Appetito


Best Custom Cakes

Over the Rainbow


Runners up:

2. Pastry Swan Bakery

3. Sherman’s

4. Exquisite Desserts

5. Jensen’s


Best Desserts

Over the Rainbow


Runners up:

2. Sherman’s

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Crave (now Plate | Glass)

5. French Corner Café


Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Cold Stone Creamery


Runners up:

2. Great Shakes

3. Lappert’s Ice Cream

4. Lique at Fantasy Springs

5. Ben and Jerry’s


Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden


Runners up:

2. Great Shakes

3. Hadley Fruit Orchards

4. Palm Greens Café

5. Lappert’s Ice Cream


Best Frozen Yogurt


Eddie’s Frozen Yogurt

Tutti Frutti


Runners up:

3. Beach House

4. Yogurt on Tap

5. Cactusberry + Frozen Treats


Best Bakery

Over the Rainbow


Runners up:

2. Aspen Mills

3. Frankie’s Old World Italian Bakery

4. Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café

5. TKB Bakery


Best Barbecue

Pappy and Harriet’s


Runners up:

2. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

3. Cowboy Way

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Big Willie’s Catering


Best Burger



Runners up:

2. Grill-A-Burger

3. Woody’s

4. Tyler’s

5. Smokin’ Burgers


Best Veggie Burger



Runners up:


2. Woody’s

Ruby’s Diner

4. Palm Greens Café

5. Nature’s Health Food and Café


Best Sandwich



Runners up:

2. Manhattan in the Desert

3. The Sandwich Spot

4. Aspen Mills

5. L’Atelier Café


Best Pizza

Bill’s Pizza


Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza

3. Piero’s PizzaVino

4. Giuseppe’s

5. Ciro’s


Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings


Runners up:

2. Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge

3. LuLu California Bistro

4. Bar

5. Village Pub


Best Bagels

New York Bagel and Deli


Runners up:

2. Panera Bread

3. Sherman’s

4. Townie Bagels

5. Bagel Bistro


Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar


Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. Juice It Up

4. Jamba Juice

5. Luscious Lorraine’s


Best Buffet

Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs


Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet at Agua Caliente


Café 54 at Augustine Casino

Oasis Buffet at Spa Resort Casino

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo


Best Coffee Shop for Coffee



Runners up:

2. Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

3. Old Town Coffee Company

4. Ernest Coffee

5. Ristretto


Best Coffee Shop for Hanging Out



Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. Ernest Coffee

4. Ristretto

5. Espresso Cielo


Best Tea



Runners up:

2. Teavana

3. Ristretto

4. Old Town Coffee Company

5. Espresso Cielo


Best Breakfast



Runners up:

2. Cheeky’s

3. Sunshine Café

4. Keedy’s Fountain Grill

5. Louise’s Pantry


Best California Cuisine

LuLu California Bistro


Runners up:


3. Acqua Pazza California Bistro

4. Jake’s

5. POM—The Bistro at Fantasy Springs


Best Brunch

Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge


Runners up:

2. Tropicale

3. Pinocchio’s

4. Escena Lounge and Grill

5. Las Casuelas Nuevas


Best Chinese

Wang’s in the Desert


Runners up:

2. China Wok

3. JOY at Fantasy Springs

4. New Fortune

5. Supreme Dragon


Best Greek

Greek Islands Restaurant


Runners up:

2. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

3. Miro’s Restaurant


Best French

Le Vallauris


Runners up:

2. TIE

Clementine Gourmet Marketplace and Café

Pomme Frite

4. La Brasserie

5. L’Atelier Café


Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine


Runners up:

2. India Oven

3. Naan House


Best Japanese

Shabu Shabu Zen


Runners up:

2. Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

3. Gyoro Gyoro

4. Otori Japanese Cuisine

5. No Da Te


Best Italian



Runners up:

2. Giuseppe’s

3. Il Corso

4. Johnny Costa’s Ristorante

5. Mimmo’s


Best Sushi



Runners up:

2. Gyoro Gyoro

3. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

4. Edoko Sushi

5. The Venue


Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market and Grill


Runners up:

2. Ruben and Ozzy’s

3. Shanghai Reds

4. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

5. Oceans Seafood Restaurant


Best Steaks/Steakhouse

LG’s Prime Steakhouse


Runners up:

2. Chop House

3. Mastro’s

4. The Bistro at Fantasy Springs

5. The Steakhouse at Spa Resort Casino


Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs


Runners up:

2. Thai Smile Rancho Mirage

3. Peppers Thai

4. Le Basil

5. Thai Kitchen 1


Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu


Runners up:

2. Pho 533

3. Bangkok Noodles


Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Native Foods Café


Runners up:

2. Palm Greens Café

3. Nature’s Health Food and Café


Best Upscale Restaurant



Runners up:

2. Tropicale

3. Le Vallauris

4. Johannes

5. Figue Mediterranean Cuisine (no longer in business)


Best Outdoor Seating

Jackalope Ranch


Runners up:

2. Tropicale

3. Spencer’s

4. Las Casuelas Terraza

5. The Falls


Best Late-Night Restaurant

LuLu California Bistro


Runners up:

2. Village Pub

3. Bar

4. Alicante

5. King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel


Best Mexican

El Mirasol


Runners up:

2. El Gallito

3. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

4. La Tablita

5. Tlaquepaque


Best Salsa

Las Casuelas Nuevas


Runners up:

2. Rincon Norteno

3. Maracas

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Margaritas


Best Burrito

El Gallito


Runners up:

2. TIE

La Tablita


4. El Taco Asado

5. Jalisco Restaurant

Spirits and Nightlife

Best Beer Selection

Yard House


Runners up:


2. The Beer Hunter


4. Village Pub

5. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse


Best Local Brewery


Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

La Quinta Brewing Co.


Runner up:

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse


Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards



Palm Springs Lanes


Runners up:

3. Pappy and Harriet’s

4. The Beer Hunter

5. Sharky’s Family Billiards


Best Cocktail Menu



Runners up:

2. Purple Room

3. Eureka!

4. Zin American Bistro

5. Workshop Kitchen and Bar


Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club



Runners up:

2. Hunters

3. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

4. Score

5. Digs


Best Happy Hour

Twin Palms Bistro and Lounge


Runners up:

2. LuLu California Bistro

3. TIE


Stuft Pizza

5. Village Pub


Best Dive Bar

Neil’s Lounge


Runners up:

2. Bar

3. Score

4. Toucan’s Tiki Lounge

5. The Hood Bar and Pizza


Best Margarita

Las Casuelas Terraza


Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

4. Maracas

5. Blue Coyote Grill


Best Martini

The Falls


Runners up:

2. Tropicale

3. Zin American Bistro

4. Copley’s

5. Workshop Kitchen and Bar


Best Nightclub



Runners up:

2. Copa

3. LIT at Fantasy Springs

4. TIE

Schmidy’s Tavern

Village Pub


Best Sports Bar

Burgers and Beer


Runners up:

2. Yard House

3. The Beer Hunter

4. TIE

Tilted Kilt

Village Pub


Best Wine Bar

3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro


Runners up:

2. TIE

12th Floor Cocktail Lounge and Wine Bar at Fantasy Springs

Zin American Bistro

4. Wine Bar Bistro

5. Fame Lounge


Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More


Runners up:

2. BevMo!

3. 3rd Corner Wine Shop and Bistro

4. Fame Lounge

5. LQ Wine


Best Bar Ambiance



Runners up:

2. Bar

3. Melvyn’s

4. Schmidy’s Tavern

5. Copa

Staff Picks

Best Story From an Annual Festival

“The Moneymaker”

A woman who appears to be about 65 and who is here for the American Heat Bike Weekend event in downtown Palm Springs comes in to Crystal Fantasy and wants to use some tape, because her “moneymaker” is broken. I give her some packing tape, and she takes something out of her pocket she is trying to fix.

After a few moments, she says, “OK, I’ll see if it works”—and proceeds to swallow a foot-long (now-taped) all-beef hot dog down her throat; she then pulls it out of her mouth. The tape wasn’t really sticking, and all I had otherwise was some purple duct tape.

That seemed to do the job. She very professionally deep-throated the hot dog, thanked us and left.

—Joy Brown Meredith, as told to the Palm Springs Neighborhoods Group on Facebook, adapted with permission by Jimmy Boegle

Best Band Militia


I first met David Macias of Machin’ for an interview at Starbucks in Desert Hot Springs, and I was rather surprised when he told me about what he called the “Machin’ Militia”—the band’s loyal fans who turn up for their shows.

Well, I’ve seen Machin’ perform several times over the last year—and I’m not surprised that the Machin’ Militia is growing rapidly.

Perhaps David’s military background explains his terminology. He was born in Mexico and completed two deployments to Iraq as a Navy corpsman. When he gets together with classically trained violinist Bri Cherry and upright-bass-player/accordionist Andy Gorrill, they make attention-grabbing music that combines Latin, hip-hop and rock sounds. Their sound is instantly recognizable wherever they go.

Crowds of all sorts adore Machin’. They have a weekly residency at the Purple Room in Palm Springs; they busk on street corners in various places while on tour. Wherever Machin’ is, people can’t help but clap or dance along when the group performs.

Machin’ is truly what the name means in Spanglish slang—supremely excellent.

—Brian Blueskye

Best Food and Drink Trend That’s Finally Arrived in the Valley

Craft Cocktails

Tucson, Ariz., the city in which I used to live, is the home of one of the leaders in the craft-cocktail revolution. Scott and Co.—a speakeasy-style bar that’s received national attention for its amazing and innovative drinks—was perhaps the place I missed the most when I moved to the desert several years ago.

Look at the Best Cocktail finalists here, and you’ll see why I used to miss Scott and Co. so damned much: When I first started making preparations to move here, four of the five finalists picked by our readers weren’t yet in existence.

Today, however, I don’t miss Scott and Co. all that much—because over the last couple years, the craft-cocktail revolution has belatedly arrived in the Coachella Valley. In addition to our readers’ five Best of Coachella Valley finalists (great picks, readers!), you can find fantastic hand-crafted beverages at locations all across the valley, from Indian Wells’ Vue Grille and Bar, to retro-tiki newcomers Tonga Hut and Bootlegger Tiki in downtown Palm Springs, to Citron at the Viceroy (pictured), also in Palm Springs.

Cheers, folks. The local craft-cocktail scene is getting better by the month.

—Jimmy Boegle

Best Local Social Trend

The Increasingly Busy Summer

Let’s face facts: The business and tourism cycle in the Coachella Valley will always have seasonal highs and lows. The power of the weather is undeniable: Temps in the 70s and 80s will always draw people to the valley during the winter, and temps in the 110s will always push people out during the summer.

However, that seasonality is beginning to lessen—just a little.

I live in downtown Palm Springs, and last summer, the streets near my home weren’t as lonely as they used to be in years past. In fact, on some summer weekend nights, Palm Canyon Drive foot traffic was even something approaching busy. (Not April busy, but still.) The reason? More people are starting to brave the toasty temps to come to the valley, thanks to great events like Splash House (which was so nice, they did it twice during the summer of 2014; pictured), fantastic deals (like those offered during Restaurant Week) and the realization that the slower summer pace here has its benefits. (No snowbirds on Highway 111?! YES!)

Can one argue that the Best Season here in the Coachella Valley is, in fact, the summer? No … we won’t go that far. But the summers here are certainly not as dead as they used to be—and that’s something worth celebrating.

—Jimmy Boegle

Photo credits: Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash courtesy of The Living Desert courtesy of Greater Palm Springs CVB. Machin’ courtesy of Chris Miller via Machin’ Facebook. Splash House by Guillermo Prieto/IROCKPHOTOS.NET.

Published in Readers' Picks

Before there was rock ’n’ roll, pop music topped the charts—and Neil Sedaka was one of the biggest pop stars in the world.

Then came the British Invasion and a decline in Sedaka’s career. However, he eventually found his way back to the top—and Sedaka will be stopping by the McCallum Theatre for two shows, on Saturday, Dec. 6, and on Sunday, Dec. 7.

Sedaka’s musical roots go back to his childhood in Brooklyn, N.Y. His father was a cab-driver, and his mother eventually took a job in a department store so she could pay for a piano, after his music teacher sent a note home suggesting he had an obvious musical gift.

“My parents never had to force me,” Sedaka said during a recent phone interview. “I practiced six hours a day as a child. I loved the piano.”

He eventually won a scholarship to the Juilliard School of Music’s Preparatory Division for Children. He said he had every intention of becoming a classical concert pianist—but then he found pop music.

Sedaka had his first hit single in 1958, when “The Diary,” an original song written with Howard Greenfield, reached No. 14 on the U.S. Billboard chart. In the early ‘60s, numerous songs of his were hits—most notably “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do,” which reached No. 1.

However, soon after The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, pop music was essentially over. Sedaka said it was a total shock.

“I had five years of Top 10 records, and that was kind of a natural progression,” Sedaka said. “The Everly Brothers, Fats Domino and others, we had about five years. The Beatles came in, and they certainly did change the face of American music, but, of course, it’s a very trendy business. I thought they were very talented, and perhaps it was the end of Neil Sedaka. But I still had a lot of hits in me, a lot of drive, and a lot of ambition.”

During his decline in American popularity the ‘60s, Sedaka remained big in places like the United Kingdom, Australia and Italy; he even released three hit records in Italian. In the early 1970s, Sedaka moved his family to the U.K. Not too long after that, Sedaka met Elton John at a party.

“I was living in London, and I figured if the Beatles were going to come to New York, I was going to go to London,” he said. “I met Elton John, and he was starting (The Rocket Record Company). If it wasn’t for him, I would not have had that incredible comeback in 1975. Sedaka’s Back was the LP, and ‘Laughter in the Rain’ was the first single.

“Laughter in the Rain” became Sedaka’s second No. 1 hit.

“After 13 years off the charts, it was a remarkable comeback,” Sedaka said. “If not for Elton, it wouldn’t have happened.”

Sedaka and his family lived in the U.K. for four years. He explained why many pop entertainers like himself remained popular over there.

“They have a lot of respect for the original American rock ’n’ rollers,” Sedaka said. “I just finished a sold-out three-week tour there at the Royal Albert Hall.”

Sedaka remains a music-industry powerhouse because he’s such a gifted and prolific songwriter. In fact, he’s written more than 500 songs, including many hits for others.

Is there one song he wrote for someone else that he wishes he’d have kept?

“‘Love Will Keep Us Together,’” he said. “I had it in an album, and I never put it out as a single. But thank goodness, a new group at the time, Captain and Tennille, put it out. It was my first Grammy, and it was the song of the year. I never really wrote for anybody, and I always did the first version. I was fortunate that the great singers always covered my songs, but ‘Love Will Keep Us Together’ is one I certainly should have put out as a single. But their record was better than mine.”

At the age of 75, Sedaka still has a golden voice. While many performers from his era are still performing, their vocal skills have declined. Sedaka explained what keeps his voice intact.

“I don’t go into any smoky rooms, or any loud rooms where I have to shout. I don’t drink iced drinks; I find that cold drinks will affect me. I get enough sleep and enough exercise,” he said. “The more you sing, the better you are.

“If I stop for a few weeks, the first concert is very difficult. It’s like an athlete—you have to keep in shape. If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.”

Neil Sedaka will perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 6; and 3 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 7, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $59 to $99. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit

Published in Previews

The career of John Waters has spanned five decades, during which he’s seemingly done and seen it all.

He’s had cult film success, followed by mainstream success. Earlier this year, he released the book Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America, about his personal journey hitchhiking across the United States. And on Tuesday, Dec. 2, Waters will show locals his skills as a spoken-word performer, when he brings A John Waters Christmas to the McCallum Theatre.

John Waters made his first short film, Hag in a Black Leather Jacket, in 1964. The 17-minute film featured a black man and a white woman getting married on a rooftop in a ceremony led by a Ku Klux Klan member. Waters followed that up with films including Roman Candles, Mondo Trasho and The Diane Linkletter Story, but it was his 1972 film Pink Flamingos that launched Waters and his childhood friend, Glenn Milstead, aka Divine, into fame. Pink Flamingos, made for about $10,000, was an unexpected hit that went on to become a cult classic.

During a recent phone interview, Waters wouldn’t say whether he was surprised by the following he gained thanks to Pink Flamingos and the films that followed.

“My audience has always been technically minorities who didn’t even get along with any other minority,” Waters said. “They were gay people who didn’t want to be accepted—but that’s changed completely now. A lot of my audience now is smart people who are in prison. I’m always amazed now; for my Christmas show last year, my sister was there, and asked, ‘How do you get away with saying all of that shit?’ And no one ever gets mad at me anymore. I think it’s because over the past 50 years, I have never changed that much. I’m not (now) as angry as I (was) when I made Pink Flamingos, (now) at the age of 68, thank God.”

John Waters has usually had to raise the money himself to make his films over the years, which has led to long periods between films. As far as fundraising goes, don’t expect him to start asking for money via sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo any time soon.

“I’m not going to be asking people to send me $100,” Waters said. “If I was young, that’s definitely how I would have made a movie. I’m all for it—God knows it works for other people. I could get the funds now to make a movie that costs $1 million or $2 million very easily. But my movies don’t cost that; they cost $6 million or $7 million because of the movie stars; I have music in them; and all the unions I work with.

“If you’re young today, it’s much easier to get a movie made. First of all, it’s cheaper to make movies now, and you can make a movie on your cell phone, which is like 8-milimeter when I was young, only it’s a lot better. I think the big Hollywood studios are looking for a 25-year-old who makes the next film that makes people crazy. They weren’t looking for it when I made it, but right now, they are!”

While Waters at first made films primarily starring friends and colleagues from Baltimore, as the years progressed, his movies began featuring Hollywood stars including Kathleen Turner, Tab Hunter, Edward Furlong, Johnny Depp and Johnny Knoxville. He’d love to work with yet other big names, too.

“I’ve always said Meryl Streep, because I’ve loved her in anything,” he said. “I’m also a big fan of Isabelle Huppert, and I think she would make a movie with me, but the problem is I can never figure a way to put someone with a French accent in a movie set in Baltimore. I would have to think of a story where we kidnap someone at the airport.”

During our 10-minute interview, the subject of Edward Furlong came up. The Terminator 2: Judgment Day actor, who was a child star in the ‘90s and who appeared in Waters’ 1998 film Pecker, not too long ago spent two months in prison due to domestic-violence charges.

“We all have our bad days and nights,” Waters said. “He’s not the only one who’s been in one of my movies who’s been in prison. Actually, I think many of them have.”

In 2012, John Waters decided to hitchhike across America. Waters said he never had a moment during which he felt in danger, and he managed to have a number of surprising adventures. He was picked up in Ohio by the indie-band Here We Go Magic, and got a ride from Myersville, Md., Councilman Brett Bidle.

“I didn’t get any creepy rides,” Waters said. “I thought up creepy ones, definitely, or that I’d get murdered. But no one was creepy. I had a cop. I had a truck driver. I had a minster’s wife, a single black woman taking her kid to a daycare center, and a coal-miner.”

I asked him what he has planned for his show at the McCallum.

“I’ve always wanted to do the Christmas show in Palm Springs,” Waters said. “Mostly, because it’s never cold, and I always have to bring the right kind of outfit. My idea of Christmas is the same everywhere: It makes people crazy; it makes people happy; you can’t ignore it; and it’s a steamroller coming at you, so you might as well have fun with it and celebrate the extremes of it—the good parts and the bad parts. I talk about all of that.

“I’ve always wanted to smoke crack and do Christmas carols where I just knock on people’s doors and start shrieking ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’ in their faces. I’ve never smoked crack, but that would be the only time I would.”

What’s the worst Christmas gift John Waters has ever received?

“I remember one year, I got the soundtrack to Rocky, and I threw it out the window. I did live in a high-rise at the time, so that was probably dangerous.”

A John Waters Christmas takes place at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 2, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $25 to $55. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit

Published in Comedy