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On Feb. 9, Desert AIDS Project will be celebrating in a big way at its 25th Annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards gala.

To celebrate the silver anniversary edition of D.A.P.’s biggest fundraiser of the year, Barry Manilow will be performing a full concert. While virtually all of the attendees know about Barry Manilow, some of them may not know much about the man for whom the event is named—a man whose generosity is, in part, responsible for the success D.A.P. has had over the years.

Steve Barrett Chase, who passed away in 1994 at the age of 52—himself a victim of the AIDS epidemic—was a designer to the stars. His clients, according to the Los Angeles Times, included Rona Barrett, Dyan Cannon, Farrah Fawcett, Gene Hackman, Johnny Mathis and Joan Kroc, the owner of McDonald’s.

“He was a bigger-than-life character,” said Steve Kaufer, a friend of Chase’s who has been on the D.A.P. board of directors since 2007; Kaufer was also on the board from 1987-1997, and currently serves as the board president. “He was a very successful interior designer. I think his love for design and making things pretty started when he was really young in his life, and he pursued that.”

Chase came to Palm Springs to work with famed designer Arthur Elrod, and stayed in the Coachella Valley after Elrod died in a traffic accident in 1974.

“Steve was very talented and became very, very successful,” Kaufer said. “I had a subscription to Architectural Digest, and I think he was featured in Architectural Digest more than any other designer that I ever saw. 

“I always thought that maybe he had compromising pictures of (Architectural Digest editor) Paige Rense,” Kaufer said with a laugh. “In all seriousness, he was always in the magazine because his designs were literally all over the world. Of course, he designed in Palm Springs and in the desert area, but he designed internationally. He designed yacht interiors, airplane interiors—so he kind of did it all.”

Kaufer said Chase was someone who didn’t enjoy just sitting around.

“One of my early recollections is going over with a couple friends to his house, and everybody wound up playing croquet out on his lawn, and it was fun,” Kaufer said. “He was traveling. He was doing things. He was an avid jogger, and he was always very active.”

Kaufer said that when Chase became involved with D.A.P., one of the first things he did—not surprisingly—was lend his design talents to the fledgling organization.

“DAP started in 1984, and we had a small office, and then we moved to a facility on Vella Road in Palm Springs—but it was an industrial building,” Kaufer said. “I don’t know what it had been used for before we moved in, but it was pretty rough around the edges, and Steve became involved. He used his talents and his firm, and he also leaned on a lot of his vendors to donate services and products that could be used in his work at the DAP to make it look pretty. 

“He felt that, just because we were a charity, and we were dealing a lot of times with people who lived below the poverty level, we didn’t have to have an office that looked horrible. He wanted people who came in to have a nice environment in which to be in, to receive their care, and to work.”

In the 1980s and early 1990s, it was difficult to raise money for HIV- and AIDS-related service organizations like D.A.P., because the virus and disease such carried a huge stigma.

“It wasn’t popular to be a corporate sponsor of an AIDS program, and many people in the area of normal philanthropy didn’t look at AIDS as an area that they wanted to get involved in,” Kaufer said. “Steve recognized that, and he used his celebrity and his contacts with major stars and big people like Joan Kroc, and President and Mrs. (Gerald) Ford, to try to expand the giving that D.A.P. received from groups that we normally wouldn’t get funding from.”

Those contacts paid huge dividends, as did Chase’s personal generosity. Not only did Chase lend significant support to D.A.P.; he also gave major support to the organizations today known as The Living Desert and Gardens, and the Palm Springs Art Museum.

In the case of D.A.P., the organization Chase championed is now in the midst of its biggest period of expansion to date—a $20 million project, slated for completion in 2020, that will more than double the organization’s patient capacity. The expansion, called vision D.A.P. Vision 2020, is necessary in part because D.A.P. is now a Federally Qualified Health Center—meaning anyone in need of primary medical care can walk in D.A.P.’s doors and become a client. When the expansion is complete, D.A.P.’s 60,490-square-foot campus will be able to serve 8,000 patients, up from 3,900 in 2017. The dental clinic will be able to help 1,700 people, compared to 814 in 2017, while the behavioral-health-patient capacity will rise from 583 to 1,200.

I asked Kaufer what Steve Chase would think if he could see where D.A.P. stands today.

“He would be very proud—very pleased,” Kaufer said. “Steve was a big personality, and he did things in a big way, and he would be very pleased to see what was going on at Desert AIDS Project and the expansion of our mission to provide health care for not only people with HIV and AIDS, but a community that really needs quality health care, and has no other source for it. He’d be very proud. 

“He’d also probably start looking at the plans and saying, ‘No, we can’t have that wall there. We need to do this, and the lobby has to be a little bit different, and we need some different furniture,’ Kaufer added with a laugh. “He would want to put his mark on it, and ensure that it looked good, so that people, when they came there for treatment, would feel special.”

To donate to the D.A.P. Vision 2020 expansion, call Christopher Ruetz, D.A.P.’s Director of Major and Planned Giving, at 760-656-8450, or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information on Vision 2020, visit dapvision2020.org.

Desert AIDS Project has started construction on the largest expansion since it moved into its current campus in 1998—a $20 million project, slated for completion in 2020, that will more than double the organization’s patient capacity.

This news about the expansion, called D.A.P. Vision 2020, may make some people wonder: Why such a large expansion? And why now?

Darrell Tucci, Chief Development Officer for D.A.P., says one word can answer these queries: Need. Specifically, there’s a huge need for quality health-care services in the area—and D.A.P. is stepping in to fill that need.

“This expansion is vital, because more than half of our neighbors in the Coachella Valley live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level (or about $24,000 per year, per person), and many of those people live without access to quality health care,” Tucci said. “We will be able to serve more people, regardless of their HIV status, without compromising our original mission of ending the epidemic of HIV in the valley. We’re not exchanging one for the other.”

While helping men and women dealing with HIV and AIDS has always been at the core of D.A.P.’s mission, the organization today serves everyone and anyone in need of quality medical care, regardless of HIV status, because it is now a Federally Qualified Health Center. Anyone in need of primary medical care can walk in D.A.P.’s doors and become a client—getting access to doctors, prescriptions, dental care and behavior-health care. In fact, roughly half of D.A.P.’s clients today are not living with HIV.

With the existing facilities, D.A.P. is struggling to fill this massive need—hence the expansion, which includes purchasing the county health care building next door, and joining it with the current main D.A.P. building. When the expansion is complete, D.A.P.’s 60,490-square-foot campus will be able to serve 8,000 patients, up from 3,900 in 2017. The dental clinic will be able to help 1,700 people, compared to 814 in 2017, while the behavioral-health-patient capacity will rise from 583 to 1,200.

The expansion will also include a 76 percent increase in the number of apartment units for low-income individuals on the D.A.P. campus, from 80 to 140 units. There is currently a three-year waiting list for such housing.

While the scope of the current Desert AIDS Project expansion is unprecedented, the organization has a long history of adjusting to meet the needs of both its clients and the entire Coachella Valley:

• In 1994; D.A.P. opened a satellite office in Indio to offer HIV and hepatitis C testing; D.A.P. also offered, and continues to offer, intervention and case-management services to the east valley’s underserved, largely low-income and Latino communities via its Indio facility.

• In 2001, recognizing that many people living with HIV were suffering from nutritional challenges due to a lack of steady employment, D.A.P. opened the Morris and Lila Linsky Food Depot to provide healthy food, grocery-store vouchers and nutritional guidance to clients in need.

• Due to the lack of affordable housing for people living with HIV and other chronic conditions, D.A.P. in 2007 opened the Vista Sunrise Apartments on the D.A.P. campus, with the support of philanthropist Philip Caplin.

• The following year, D.A.P. opened the first HIV-specialty dental clinic in Riverside County, on the D.A.P. campus, later expanded by philanthropists Georgia and Gerald Fogelson.

• In 2012, Annette Bloch—who continues to be one of D.A.P.’s most generous supporters—provided the funding for D.A.P.’s Cancer Care Center, dedicated to HIV-related cancer research, screenings, treatment and prevention.

• Due in part to the fact that the Coachella Valley’s rate of HIV infection is more than twice the federal rate, D.A.P. in 2014 launched Get Tested Coachella Valley, the nation’s first nonprofit-led, region-wide initiative featuring HIV testing, prevention, education and linkage to care. More than 81,000 residents have been tested to date.

• Since a lack of access to sexual-wellness information was contributing to an increase in sexually transmitted infections in the area, D.A.P. in 2015 opened The Dock, a walk-in, no-appointment-needed clinic offering HIV and STI testing, as well as linkage to care, and access to PrEP—a medication which helps prevent HIV—and PEP, which helps people who have been exposed to HIV.

Construction on the $20 million expansion is under way due to the generosity of many local businesses and individuals; in fact, D.A.P. has received approximately $13.15 million in funding commitments so far. However, that means D.A.P. still needs to raise nearly $7 million in order to make the complete expansion a much-needed reality.

Tucci said it’s in the entire community’s best interests to support D.A.P.’s expansion.

“If you know people affected by HIV, you should support us as we continue to expand as the region’s largest service provider supporting those who live with HIV,” he said. “If you don’t feel like you’ve been directly affected by HIV, you should support us because of the 40,000 or so people in the Coachella Valley who are without a primary care physician, because we can offer many of those people a medical home.”

The time for the expansion is now, he said, since advances in medical care and support services have made it so people who live with HIV can not only survive, but thrive.

“Short of a cure, we can stop the spread of HIV completely by identifying everyone with HIV and getting them proper health care, including medications that make (their HIV) undetectable and therefore not infectious,” Tucci said.

For more information, or to donate to the D.A.P. Vision 2020 expansion, call Christopher Ruetz, D.A.P.’s Director of Major and Planned Giving, at 760-656-8450, or email him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. For more information, visit dapvision2020.org.

The Desert AIDS Project wants to let Coachella Valley residents know about the dangers of hepatitis C—especially baby boomers, who may have been carrying the now-curable disease unknowingly for decades.

Jose De La Cruz is a community health educator for DAP. He explained why people from one particular demographic—those born between 1945 and 1965—are especially at risk for the potentially fatal disease, which can cause liver failure and liver cancer.

“The test (for hepatitis C) didn’t really become available until 1991 or 1992,” De La Cruz said. “So you’re talking about anybody (being at risk) who received a blood transfusion before then. … You also have people who were going off to the Vietnam War; there were casualties, and universal precaution wasn’t even developed yet. There was the revolution of IV drug users during the 1960s. Before HIV came around, a lot of tattoo parlors didn’t have too many health departments going in to inspect them, (nor did) piercing parlors. There are a lot of factors that add to this, and because it takes such a long time for the symptoms to develop, because the liver can regenerate itself, you have people who could have been infected for 30 to 40 years, while no symptoms have developed yet.”

Hepatitis C can now be cured—but because of the high cost of these new drugs, some insurance companies are not willing to pay for them until serious liver damage has occurred.

“With hepatitis C, one of the things you want to be able to do is get yourself a good doctor, because a lot of the time, the insurance companies will make you wait until you’re at Stage 2 of liver damage,” De La Cruz said. “But you have some great doctors who will notice how much damage you have to your liver, and if you’re developing symptoms already. If you’re developing symptoms, that could be a reason to get you on treatment now instead of seeing how much damage of the liver you have.”

The cost per dose of these hepatitis C drugs is astronomical—potentially approaching $90,000 for a 12-week regimen—and the drugs are newly available to some lower-income Californians thanks to the state recently allocating $176 million for treatment.

“The medication is pretty expensive—it’s $1,050 per pill for Sovaldi—and the thing is … how many people can (an untreated person with hepatitis C) infect?” De La Cruz said. “Now you’re looking at even more infections. One person you allow to keep living with hepatitis C, not curing them—how many more people could this person infect, and how much more money is it going to cost? … It’s almost like HIV back in the ’80s, when the numbers started to multiply more and more due to a lack of education and lack of knowledge.”

There is another group De La Cruz and other health educators are trying to reach: people who know they have hepatitis C, but who have previously declined treatment due to questionable effectiveness and serious side effects.

“There are a lot of people who know they are infected and didn’t want to go through the treatment,” he said. “It’s because of not knowing that … doctors now have Sovaldi, and this medication can cure them. Many are under the assumption that it’s still interferon and ribavirin treatments, and there are horror stories they’ve heard about the interferon. It’s now my job to go out there and educate them, saying, ‘No, now there is a cure; you don’t have to live with hepatitis C anymore. Now, you don’t have to go through the regimen (lasting) six months to a year. Now, it’s just eight to 12 weeks and not just clearing 35 to 40 percent (effectiveness); now it’s 96 to 98 percent.’ Those are the things we’re trying to pass on to the public.”

When I asked how effective the public-awareness campaign has been, De La Cruz said it’s been positive—although it’s always a challenge to convince some people they’re at risk.

“Because of the high-risk population I work with in the recovery centers, the homeless shelters and the county jails—to me, it’s very positive,” he said. … “I try to go to the senior population, because of the baby boomers. … Many of them don’t know they are infected with hepatitis C and have passed it on to their loved ones.

“In the east valley, there isn’t a lot of knowledge about HIV and how it’s transmitted, and lots of times, you find people out there with HIV, and they’re in the hospital because they didn’t think they were at risk, and many years had gone by with symptoms developing. It’s also happening with hepatitis C. Now their livers are failing; now their skin is yellow; now they are tired and exhausted. … (Some people think), ‘You have no risk for hepatitis C if you’re a woman, you’re married, you have kids, you have a job, you don’t do any drugs, and you don’t do any of this or that.’ But people forget about the partners they’ve had, or something that might have happened 20 years ago that was just one time.”

For more information, call the Desert AIDS Project at 760-276-5097.

Published in Local Issues

Help the Desert AIDS Project by Dining Out for Life on April 26

Thursday, April 26, is one of my favorite foodie days of the year.

It’s not a day featuring a lot of great deals and food specials; instead, it’s a day during which local restaurants and their customers (i.e., you) do a lot of good for the community.

April 26 is this year’s date for Dining Out for Life, the annual fundraising extravaganza for the Desert AIDS Project and other HIV/AIDS service organizations around the country. It’s simple, really: On that day, restaurants across the Coachella Valley have agreed to donate anywhere between 33 and 110 percent of their sales to DAP.

It really is simple: All you do is go out to eat, like you probably would anyway—and DAP gets a big chunk of whatever you spend. (If you feel like you must do more than simply eat out, never fear: Many participating locations also have donation envelopes available.)

My friends at DAP tell me that even though the Coachella Valley is one of the smaller markets in which Dining Out for Life takes place, it’s one of the larger markets in terms of money raised. Last year, we ranked No. 3 in North America—and this year, the folks at DAP are keeping their fingers crossed for a jump to No. 2. Our li’l community does so well, in part, because of the generosity of some large and very busy restaurants: Lulu California Bistro (donating 50 percent), TRIO (donating 60 percent) and Spencer’s (donating 75 percent) generally rank near the top of the continent-wide list in terms of the amount of money donated.

However, it is most certainly not all about the big places: The biggest generosity, in many ways, comes from the smaller, mom-and-pop places. Rooster and the Pig and Ristretto are both donating 100 percent of their sales on April 26 to DAP—while Townie Bagels is giving a whopping 110 percent.

On Dining Out for Life day, you’ll be able to find me at a half-dozen or so—maybe more—participating restaurants throughout the day: having bagels, coffee, lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, dinner, a post-dinner snack and then probably a few drinks. Follow my exploits via the Coachella Valley Independent Facebook page.

Please join me for Dining Out for Life on April 26. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It’s literally the least you can do.

Visit www.diningoutforlife.com/palmsprings for a complete and constantly updated list of restaurants and their donation percentages.


In Brief

The much, much delayed opening of Grand Central Palm Springs, a restaurant and event space in La Plaza in downtown Palm Springs, is apparently close. Yeah, we’ve heard this several times before over the last two years, but co-owner Rita Capponi is so confident it’s actually happening this time that she gave me a “firm” opening date: May 1. More details to come; watch www.grandcentralpalmsprings.com for updates. … Alicante, the tapas-themed restaurant at 140 S. Palm Canyon Drive, in downtown Palm Springs, is gearing up for a name and theme change. Revel Public House will offer sports, great food and lots of drink, led by three new exclusive beers brewed by San Marcos’ Mason Ale Works—under the name Palm Springs Brewing Co. Visit the brand-new Revel Facebook page for details. … Draughtsman, at 1501 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, just started a new late-night menu. “Late Night at Draughtsman” takes place from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m., Wednesday through Sunday. The menu includes fare such as Cauliflower “McNuggets” ($9) and a braised pork belly banh mi ($14), along with late-night beer specials and frequent entertainment. Get more info at draughtsmanpalmsprings.com. … The owners of CCBC—a gay, clothing-optional resort and play place (*ahem*)—have announced plans to build an adjoining 2,560-square-foot restaurant, called Runway; it’ll also have a 568-square-foot dining patio. We cannot wait to see this! See plans at www.ccedd.org/project/ccbc-resort-runway-restaurant. … Try (hopefully) great chili and benefit the Cathedral City Senior Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., Saturday, April 7. The annual Chili Cook-Off takes place at the Big Lots Center at Highway 111 and Date Palm Drive; $20 gets you chili tastings and a box lunch from Aspen Mills. Yum! Find more details at www.cathedralcenter.org. … And now, in the “Why in the hell not?” category: The Village Pub Palm Springs, at 266 S. Palm Canyon Drive, has launched two new food challenges. On Wednesdays, you can try one of two challenges: Eat 10 blazing wings in five minutes ($13); or gobble down one pound of potato chips and two pounds of fish with homemade beer batter in 10 minutes ($30). Beat the challenge, and the food is free. Hmm. Learn more about the “Village Idiot Food Challenge”—and see if any idiots actually succeed—at www.facebook.com/villagepubpalmsprings.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Dining Out for Life Benefits the Desert AIDS Project on Thursday, April 27

Dining Out for Life day is one of my favorite days of the year. Why, you ask? Well, when else can you eat at one or two (or, uh, like seven?) of many, many Coachella Valley restaurants—and say you’re doing so not due to gluttony, but instead to benefit a great cause?

The great cause in this case is the Desert AIDS Project, and this year’s DOFL date is Thursday, April 27. On that day, participating bars and restaurants will donate anywhere from 33 percent to 100 percent (!) of the day’s sales to DAP.

Earning special mention are the four (as of our press deadline) restaurants giving their entire days’ sales to DAP: The Barn Kitchen at Sparrows Lodge, Pho 533, Ristretto and Townie Bagels.

You must participate in this. I mean, you dine out anyway, right? We’ve said it before, and we’ll say again: It’s literally the least you can do.

For more information, visit www.diningoutforlife.com/palmsprings—and on that special day, follow the Independent’s Facebook page as we chronicle our various visits to Dining Out for Life restaurants.


New: Truss and Twine, Sister Bar/Restaurant of Workshop Kitchen + Bar

When Michael Beckman’s Workshop Kitchen + Bar restaurant opened in the historic El Paseo building at 800 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, in 2012, it earned a lot of much-deserved buzz thanks to its innovative menu, its stark industrial décor and its fantastic craft-cocktail offerings.

Now Beckman has a second buzz-worthy restaurant in that building. Truss and Twine opened March 13, offering “classic cocktails broken down by era, alongside a desert-inspired menu using ingredients from the Coachella Valley,” according to a news release.

Wait … cocktails broken down by era? Very cool! According to that news release, bar managers Dave Castillo and Michelle Bearden broke down their menu into five eras of cocktail culture: the “Golden Age,” “Prohibition,” “Tiki,” “Dark Ages” and “Originals” (featuring new in-house creations).

As for the food, expect upscale bar/snack offerings, including jamon iberico, the amazing ham that caused me to put on several pounds the last time I was in Spain.

We had not checked out Truss and Twine in person as of our press deadline—but trust me, we will soon.

Truss and Twine is open at 4 p.m. daily, and stays open late. Details at trussandtwine.com.


In Brief

Early readers of this column, here’s an event you won’t want to miss: The lovely Purple Palm Restaurant and Bar, at the Colony Palms Hotel, 572 N. Indian Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is hosting the Pink Party. It takes place from 6 to 9 p.m., Wednesday, March 29. The event, featuring chef Nick Tall’s cuisine and a variety of rosé wines, is a benefit for the Annette Bloch Cancer Care Center at the Desert AIDS Project. Admission is $50; call 760-969-1818 for reservations. … Pete’s Hideaway, at 665. S. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, is the home of the new Club Rouge. The “secret underground nightclub and showroom” is a joint product of PS Underground, the group that puts on various themed dinners at top-secret locations around the valley. Club Rouge is currently hosting the Lost Cherry Cabaret every Saturday at 10:30 p.m.; $47 will get you “gourmet appetizers and sinful desserts” as well as the show, featuring performers Francesca Amari, Robbie Wayne and Siobhan Velarde. A full bar is available, of course. Get tickets and info at www.rougepalmsprings.com. … Coming soon to Rancho Mirage: Haus of Poke, a restaurant serving the raw-fish salad in various forms. It’ll be at 42500 Bob Hope Drive, Suite B; info at www.hausofpoke.com. … The old Café Europa space at The Corridor, at 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs, will soon be the Mod Café. A menu at ToastTab.com shows it’ll offer all three square meals, with salads, stuffed pitas, burgers, melts and bowls as the main lunch and dinner fare. Visit www.toasttab.com/mod-cafe for more. … The Noodle Bar, our favorite place to eat at the Spa Resort Casino, 401 E. Amado Road, in Palm Springs, has closed. … Coming soon: Vinny’s Italian Ice and Frozen Custard, to 190 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Attendees of the LGBT Center of the Desert’s recent Red Dress Dress Red Party got to sample some of Vinny’s frozen fare; expect an opening around May 1. Details at www.vinnysitalianice.com. … The L Fund, a local nonprofit that helps out lesbians in crisis, is having its Gumbo Gala fundraiser at noon, Sunday, April 2, at the Palm Springs Pavilion, 401 S. Pavilion Way, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $75; get details at www.facebook.com/Palmspringslfund. … Blaze Fast-Fire’d Pizza has opened its doors in the West Elm building in downtown Palm Springs, at 201 N. Palm Canyon Drive. It’s the second valley location of the highly regarded pizza franchise. Details at www.blazepizza.com/locations/palm-springs. … Brunch has returned to The Saguaro, at 1800 E. Palm Canyon Drive, in Palm Springs. Outside of El Jefe, the hotel’s culinary offerings have been in flux since the departure of Tinto. People can now enjoy weekend brunch from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends on the courtyard patio; get menus and more info at thesaguaro.com/palm-springs.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

When the Pointer Sisters began performing as an R&B group in 1969, nobody would have predicted that the group’s biggest hits would eventually be electronics-driven songs in the 1980s.

Yet that’s exactly what happened, and while the group has slowed down somewhat in recent years, the Pointer Sisters continue to perform—and will headline the Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, a fundraiser for the Desert AIDS Project, on Saturday, Feb. 11.

Today’s Pointer Sisters only feature one original member—Ruth Pointer—although the group remains a family affair: She’s joined by her daughter, Issa, and her granddaughter, Sadako. During a recent phone interview, Ruth Pointer discussed how she and her sisters adapted to the technology that changed the way music sounded during the ’80s.

“I don’t recall it being very hard,” Pointer said. “We were making not only that kind of transition, but (moving) to a different record company and to a different producer who had something else in mind. We’ve always been pretty adventurous in breaking boundaries and trying new things. It’s always been exciting for us to do interesting things.”

One of the songs the Pointer Sisters are best known for is “Neutron Dance,” which played during a chase scene in 1984’s Beverly Hills Cop. Pointer said she did not like the song when it was first presented to her.

“Allee Willis co-wrote that song, and she has always been what we’ve considered a great songwriter and a fun artist,” Pointer said. “When she brought the song to us, she had me in mind to sing the lead on it, because I have a very strong gospel balance in my voice. I really wasn’t enthusiastic about playing that song, because I’ve always related neutrons to war and destruction, like a neutron bomb. She said, ‘Look, just go in there and sing that song, girl, because I know that you’re going to rock it!’ I did; it was fun, and it’s been fun to sing ever since.”

The Pointer Sisters were on tour with Lionel Richie when “Neutron Dance” became popular—rather quickly.

“We didn’t even have it in our setlist in our show. By the end of the tour, everyone was coming to our dressing room saying, ‘Do you know what’s going on with this song?’” Pointer said. “The very last show we had on the road with Lionel, he came into our dressing room and said, ‘Listen, you guys have to put “Neutron Dance” in the show. It’s going crazy. It’s in Beverly Hills Cop, and people want to hear it.’ We put it in the show, and I will never forget hearing a scream so loud and people rushing the stage. I almost forgot the lyrics to the song! I thought, ‘Oh, this is what it feels like to have a hit, OK!’”

Will the Pointer Sisters ever record a new album? After all, the group has not released a studio album since 1993.

“I really don’t know.” Pointer said. “I’ve had thoughts about it, but my thoughts about it are that it would just be an experimental thing to incorporate new sounds and new techniques, and current artists you might want to collaborate with. … I think the type of music we do is for what our generation was at the time. We still travel and do shows, and the people who remember our music are baby boomers. They get it. There are some young people in our audiences, and they come backstage and tell us, ‘My mom was always playing the Pointer Sisters.’ But the whole body of music has changed so much as to what’s accepted and what makes a hit. It’s so different than it used to be.”

I asked Ruth Pointer, now 70, if she’s ever felt like calling it a day or going off in a different direction—to make a solo album, perhaps.

“I’ve had those feelings. Sometimes, I have them even now,” she said. “I just feel like as long as it works, we’ll just keep doing it. The people who hire us, they hire us for a certain reason and for a certain reputation we had. If you’re going to change it all of a sudden, that could really throw a wrench into it. Right now, we’re going to keep it as it is. I’ve had aspirations to do solo things, and I wrote a book about my life (published last year) called Still So Excited. Who knows what the future might bring?”

When I asked Ruth Pointer about her favorite career moments, she brought up the song “I’m So Excited.”

“It’s just one of those songs. We’re so fortunate that when we wrote that song—that’s exactly what we had in mind,” she said. “We went into it thinking … that everyone, when they heard that phrase, they would think about how there was a song that said, ‘I’m so excited!’ I hear that all the time. We got exactly what we wanted from that song.”

The Pointer Sisters will perform at the 23rd Annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards Gala. The event starts at 5:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 11, at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros, in Palm Springs. Tickets start at $475. For tickets or more information, call 760-992-0445, or visit www.desertaidsproject.org.

Published in Previews

Palm Springs is home to a higher-than-normal percentage of HIV-positive residents—and a new documentary tells the stories of some of these people living with HIV.

Desert Migration will be screened at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 5 at the Camelot Theatres by the Palm Springs International Film Society.

During the 80 minutes of Desert Migration, the various subjects share their morning routines, along with bits and pieces of their stories. One of the more interesting subjects is Doc, a tattooed, pierced, muscular man who likes to do yoga in the nude, and who explains that he’s not a conventional gay man. Another subject, Will, is shown walking through his apartment and sitting in a chair reading a Bible. He explains that he’s overweight, that his penis size is inadequate, that he has poor posture, and that he is HIV positive—but it’s the sores on his back, a result of being HIV-positive, that keep him from having sexual encounters.

During a recent phone interview, director Daniel Cardone explained how the film came to be.

“I never really had a particular interest in documentaries,” Cardone said. “(I had) a general interest in film and different kinds of storytelling—so anything that would tell the story in the best way. It’s almost like the subject creates the form as to how the story is told. I thought my path was going to be in narrative filmmaking … .

“I worked with my producer, Marc Smolowitz, a couple of years prior doing a short documentary piece about living with HIV in San Francisco. I thought it might be possible to use that short piece in a longer-form feature, and that’s why I chose to do this film the way that I did it. There are no direct interviews where people talk directly into the camera, or any of those things you traditionally see in a documentary. That was me inspired by fictional narrative, but instead, I was inserting something as narrative while using a true subject. It was a hybrid between a narrative film and documentary. … I invented it as I went along, and that was the exciting part about it.”

Cardone said he’s seen the struggles that many of his friends endured due to being HIV-positive.

“Living in Palm Springs and in my own backyard, I realized that many of my friends were people who … lived through the plague years,” he said. “They lost all their friends, their whole social life, and their whole way of living was gone: They lost their jobs, houses and their health. Fortunately, everyone shown in the film managed to regain some ground to a certain degree. I was very much interested in the psychological ramifications of that.

“There have been a few films about HIV showing the terrible years and losing a lot of people in the Castro District, and How to Survive a Plague, which shows ACT UP trying to advocate to save people’s lives. I wanted to go beyond that and look at: Where are we now? And where are we now with the people who lived through all that? I wanted to dive into those aspects, especially the psychological aspect and the ongoing trauma, and how they live day after day after day, and what the medications they’re taking do their system. That was particularly important. No one really knows for sure what it’s doing to their systems.”

The issues with medications are addressed; many people don’t realize how damaging many HIV medications can be. Another topic: why some muscular HIV-positive men are maniacal about their upkeep.

“One thing about gay men is many of them are body-conscious. Another issue is when you’ve gone through HIV, and your body is wasting away,” Cordone said. “All these people you see in the film at the gym working out at some point were wasting away. They were alarmingly thin. There is one particular man in the film, Steve, who is mentioned going on steroid therapy, which promotes muscle mass and prevents his muscles from fading away. On top of that, it really does build up muscle tone—and that relates to a comment that was also made about HIV-positive men having the best bodies.”

Cardone said he wasn’t prepared for how the film changed his own perspective.

“On an intellectual level, I was sort of prepared for it, and I knew what was going to come up. You know what you’re going to find on an intellectual level,” he said. “But what surprises you is the emotional impact that it has on you. … Hearing their stories in emotional ways was really overwhelming at times. You’re sitting there re-living someone’s life with them, and they’re being completely honest and open. It’s made me a more open and emotional person and helped me put my own life into perspective—and to be grateful. Just getting into that emotional heart of the matter took me by surprise and was a really good thing about making the film.”

I wanted to hear more about some of these men’s stories—especially about a man named Ted, who mentioned he read And the Band Played On and remembered his encounter with “patient zero.” Cardone said it was hard to figure out what to use and what not to use.

“Everyone brought something to the table and was really unique in a way,” he said. “There’s a lot more to Ted … that unfortunately didn’t make it into the film. It’s where he’s been and the things he’s been through. The same with Will, the gentleman with the sores on his back, and how he feels as a result of having his skin break out like that. There’s so much there, and everyone had a complex story. The hard part was trying to fit it all into the film, because there were so many wonderful moments from everyone—joy and sadness, and everything in between. It was hard to find a balance to fit everything into the movie without shortchanging anyone, and I hope we were successful.”

The Desert AIDS Project is shown in the documentary providing health-care services to some of the subjects. Cardone said the DAP is truly unique, and no program like it exists anywhere else in the country.

“I think what they’re doing overall is extremely positive,” Cardone said. “There is nowhere else that offers what they do. No organization is perfect, but what they do for people, and how they have helped people to transform their lives, is truly magnificent. People couldn’t get access to that health care if they were living in other areas in America, and that’s sort of been the attraction for people to come to the desert. They do a lot of fundraising and raising awareness, and making sure that people with HIV who do live here don’t feel like pariahs and don’t feel like there’s no support. The dental, the checkups, the housing—there’s so many things they offer. The healthcare when you have HIV is a big deal.”

Desert Migration will be screened at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 5, at the Camelot Theatres. 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $15; the proceeds will benefit the Palm Springs International Film Society and the Desert AIDS Project. For tickets or more information, call 760-325-6565, or visit www.psfilmfest.org. For more information on the film, visit www.facebook.com/DesertMigration.

Published in Previews and Features