CVIndependent

Wed03202019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Jimmy Boegle

What: The famous truffle tots

Where: Heirloom Craft Kitchen, 49990 Jefferson St., No. 100, Indio

How much: $6; $4 when added to an entrée

Contact: 760-773-2233; heirloomcraftkitchen.com

Why: The crispiness, the seasoning and the sauces.

Andie Hubka is one of the valley’s most talented restaurateurs. More than six years ago, she opened the fun and stylish dinner restaurant Cork and Fork in La Quinta; then early last year, she opened Heirloom Craft Kitchen, a fast-casual joint serving brunch, lunch and dinner in Indio.

As justifiably acclaimed as Cork and Fork is, Hubka really outdid herself with Heirloom: It’s more accessible than Cork and Fork—and the food served there is every bit as delicious.

Heirloom offers “craft sandwiches,” “crafted salads,” starters, a handful of entrées, fun brunch items and an impressive selection of vegan offerings. Everything on the menu is thoughtful and unique—so much so that on a recent lunch visit, I had one hell of a time deciding which delicious-sounding thing to order. I finally decided on the shrimp and grits with andouille sausage ($14)—and because I have a policy of trying anything on a restaurant menu that includes the word “famous,” I added on the famous truffle tots as a side.

The shrimp and grits were excellent—elevated, surprisingly enough, by the inclusion of small pieces of pickled jalapeños, which added a much-needed brightness to the otherwise-earthy dish. However, the highlight of the meal was the add-on: The “famous” truffle tots were downright revelatory.

Truffle oil has become such a ubiquitous ingredient on menus that it’s received a not-entirely-unjustified bit of backlash from some chefs, but the way Hubka uses it here is a perfect illustration of why it became ubiquitous in the first place: The truffle flavor doesn’t overwhelm the tots, but instead just makes them more interesting. Then there are the sauces served with the tots: The fantastic homemade ketchup (lighter and fresher-tasting than the bottled stuff) and the dill aioli (which I apparently received by mistake) were perfect matches. (I got some of the sauce I was supposed to receive, too: a truffle aioli, and while it was decent, I preferred the other two.)

Heirloom Craft Kitchen is truly a special place. And the famous truffle tots are pretty special, too.

What: The Reuben

Where: Wexler’s Deli at Arrive Palm Springs, 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $17

Contact: 760-507-1640; wexlersdeli.com/wexlers-arrive-palm-springs

Why: It’s a top-notch sandwich.

When it was announced that Wexler’s—a Jewish-style deli with three popular Los Angeles-area locations—would be taking over the main restaurant space at the Arrive Hotel, I was excited. After all, there’s a serious demand here for the type of food served at Wexler’s

“Have you ever tried to get a table at Sherman’s in Palm Springs at noon on a Saturday during season?” I wrote.

Since the fall 2018 opening, however, I have neither seen nor heard much about Wexler’s. Therefore, I decided to go in for lunch one recent day to check things out—and I found a restaurant that’s wasting a ton of potential.

The food at Wexler’s is not the problem—hence its inclusion in this column. While the menu is much more limited than what you’ll find at Sherman’s or Manhattan in the Desert, the Jewish-deli staples are all there, and the Reuben sandwich I had was excellent all around, from the delicious and thick slices of corned beef, to the perfectly toasted rye bread, to the tasty potato salad and pickles on the side.

However … the sandwich costs $17. That’s about what you’ll pay elsewhere in town—but elsewhere, you can get fries, whereas at Wexler’s, if you want fries instead of coleslaw or potato salad, you’ll have to get a side for $5. And strangely enough, the Wexler’s locations in L.A. charge $2 or $3 less for this Rueben.

Also: As I mentioned, I haven’t seen or heard much about Wexler’s since it opened, and it seems to be out of mind for many locals. Advertising and/or community involvement is needed here.

I say this, because despite a gorgeous space at Arrive, and despite great food, Wexler’s was basically dead during my weekday lunch visit. When I drove by Sherman’s on my way home—after the “lunch rush,” about 1:30 p.m.—there was a throng of people waiting outside.

I was dismayed by a recent post someone made in a local Facebook group. The gist of it was that this man was lonely and unable to find a partner, decent Chinese food and enough good friends in the cliquish town of Palm Springs—and he was debating moving somewhere else.

While I am complete agreement with him regarding the Chinese food, the rest of his post … well, it bummed me out and confused me.

First, my heart goes out to him; loneliness is one of the worst feelings a human can experience. Second … I’ve had the exact opposite experience in the Coachella Valley: This is one of the most wonderful, welcoming and exciting places in which I’ve lived.

Because I was partnered when I moved here, I can’t speak to the dating portion of his experience—but I have not found the Coachella Valley to be cliquish at all. A clique is defined as “a small group of people, with shared interests or other features in common, who spend time together and do not readily allow others to join them.” While there are, in fact, many small groups of people with shared or other features in common who spend time together here, I’ve been welcomed with open arms into numerous groups I’ve endeavored to join. I’ve forged lasting friendships through my softball league. I’ve made friends and contacts through the business groups I’ve joined. I’ve made countless buddies via my work, and the nonprofits I support, and simply by being an active member of this community.

I think the Independent adequately represents the vibe of the Coachella Valley—and I can’t imagine any reasonable person would fail to be charmed and welcomed by the community reflected within these pages, online and in print. Looking at recent coverage: From Anita Rufus’ “Know Your Neighbors” columns on a young writer who overcame a debilitating illness and a young radio host who says movies saved his life, to Robert Victor’s implorations in his astronomy column to join him and the other members of the Astronomical Society of the Desert, to Stephen Berger’s exploration of the community effort that led to Desert X, to Brian Blueskye’s ongoing coverage of the amazing talent within our local music community, to our food and drink writers’ continuous tough but fair coverage of our slowly growing culinary scene … considering all of this coverage, how could the Coachella Valley possibly be the closed-minded, unwelcoming place this person sees?

I hope this man finds happiness and companionship in his next place of residence—the kind of happiness and companionship the Coachella Valley has bestowed upon me.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Independent. Enjoy, and don’t hesitate to contact me if you have questions, criticisms, compliments or comments. Also, be sure to pick up the March 2019 print edition, hitting the streets this week.

The Palm Desert Food and Wine Fest Returns

It’s March in the Coachella Valley—and that means it is time for the ritziest, fanciest food fest the desert has to offer: The Palm Desert Food and Wine Festival will take place Friday through Sunday, March 22-24.

Actually, the classes, tastings and various events start several days before that, but the biggest event of them all is the Grand Tasting, which takes place at the Gardens on El Paseo, 73545 El Paseo, from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday the 23rd. Tickets start at $100 and include tastes of food from 40 restaurants, as well as all sorts of wine and spirits samples. If you want to get in early for the VIP portion, or attend an exclusive chef demo even earlier than that, it’ll cost you a little bit more.

On Sunday, there’s another grand tasting, also from noon to 3 p.m.—this one called “North to South: Food of the Americas.” It promises “a menu of inspired dishes, influenced by the different spices and foods native to the Americas and infused with each participating chef’s signature style.” This tasting also starts at $100 and includes spirits, wine, craft beer and cocktails.

Beyond the tastings, there are a dozen or so other events featuring local talent, as well as celebrity chefs you’ve seen on TV. Best of all: The whole thing benefits FIND Food Bank and the James Beard Foundation. In other words, you can splurge and engage in a bit of high-brow gluttony with a completely clear conscience!

For tickets and more information, visit www.palmdesertfoodandwine.com.


In Brief

Coming soon to downtown Palm Springs’ La Plaza: French Miso Café, “A romantic and modern French café with wonderful Japanese influences,” according to the café’s Facebook page. It could open any day now, if it hasn’t already; look for French Miso Café on Facebook, and watch for updates. … Mark your calendars: On Saturday, April 6, La Quinta Brewing Co.’s Palm Desert location, at 77917 Wildcat Drive, will host the CountryFest 2019 parking-lot party. It’s a fundraiser for the Desert Cancer Foundation, and $15 gets you a souvenir party cup along with a day of beer, barbecue and country music from Rick Shelley and headliners Leaving Austin. The parking lot opens at 2 p.m., with Leaving Austin taking the stage at 6:30 p.m.; get tickets at the Palm Desert taproom or at lqbccountryfest2019.bpt.me. … Something very cool is coming to the city of Coachella: The Coachella Food Truck Park will set up shop at 1609 Fourth St., and is celebrating its grand opening on Saturday, March 16. The night before, Coachella Magazine will be hosting its Poets and Provocateurs party there; it’s an open-mic event featuring DJ Big Cali. Get more info and watch for updates at www.facebook.com/CVFoodTrucks. … Morongo Casino Resort, 49500 Seminole Drive, in Cabazon, will again be the spot for monthly live broadcasts of Chris Carter’s Breakfast With the Beatles radio show. The broadcasts take place along with a buffet on Sundays at the Cielo Steakhouse, located on the 27th floor of the resort. According to the news release, KLOS 95.5’s Breakfast With the Beatles is “a living encyclopedia of all things Beatles. Carter’s shows feature stories about the band, rare interview tracks with the boys, as well as loads of hit music, live performance recordings and deep tracks from the Beatles musical library.” Tickets for the 21-and-older broadcast and brunch are $45; get tickets and more info, including a schedule, at www.morongocasinoresort.com. … New to Palm Desert: Coachella Pho, serving Vietnamese food at 72286 Highway 111. More details at www.coachellapho.com. … Also new to Palm Desert: Solano’s Bar and Grill, at 37029 Cook St. It’s the sister restaurant to Solano’s Bistro in La Quinta; details at solanosbarandgrill.com. … Loco Charlie’s Mexican Grill, which has earned a lot of fans in Palm Springs at 1751 N. Sunrise Way, just opened a second location in Indio, at 42250 Jackson St. Get the scoop at www.facebook.com/lococharlies.

What: The French onion soup

Where: Bongo Johnny’s Patio Bar and Grill, 301 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite 200, Palm Springs

How much: $3.95 for a cup; $6.95 for a bowl

Contact: 760-318-3960; www.bongojohnnys.com

Why: It’s delicious, pure and simple.

Before I begin extolling the deliciousness of the French onion soup at Bongo Johnny’s, I should explain that this restaurant holds a special place in my heart.

You see, Bongo Johnny’s supports many of the same causes I do—the Desert AIDS Project, for example, via Dining Out for Life. It’s also an active member of the Desert Business Association (of which I am on the board) and even one of the primary sponsors of my softball team. (Go Palm Springs Heat!) Therefore, I was crushed when an early-morning kitchen fire on March 7 of last year shuttered the restaurant—and, due to a dispute with the landlord over the rebuild, forced it to move several blocks northwest, to the space most recently occupied by Café Europa/jusTapas.

In the nearly 10 months that Bongo Johnny’s was closed, I missed it … and I especially missed one menu item—the French onion soup.

Bongo Johnny’s isn’t known for fancy fare—it features the burgers, sandwiches and breakfast items one would expect from something called a “patio bar and grill”—but its kitchen also produces some items that go well beyond standard bar fare. For example, the macaroni-and-cheese options are among the town’s best … and then there’s the French onion soup. Served with melted cheese and a crostini, as it should, this soup is simply delicious. It’s rich, packed with fresh onions and perfectly seasoned.

On my first visit to the reopened Bongo Johnny’s—for a softball team meeting, actually—the first thing I ordered was the French onion soup. When it was brought to the table and placed in front of me, I couldn’t help but smile … because one of my favorites was back.

What: The mac and cheese egg rolls

Where: Bubba’s Bones and Brews, 68525 Ramon Road, No. A101, Cathedral City

How much: $7.95

Contact: 760-699-7231; bubbasbonesandbrews.com

Why: It’s decadent and delicious.

You know that feeling when you see something on a restaurant menu, and you think, “Holy hell, that sounds amazing, and I MUST have it!”?

Well, that’s how I felt when I saw the words “Mac and Cheese Egg Roll” on the menu at Bubba’s, the barbecue place—in a Cathedral City strip mall—that’s been winning over fans due to its delicious meats and impressive beer selection. It was my first visit to Bubba’s, and when I saw those words all together, it Just. Seemed. Right.

Not healthy, mind you … definitely not healthy. But right. And that was before I read the description and learned that these egg rolls also contained pulled pork!

Hell yeah!

Well, my friends, I am happy to report that these egg rolls did not disappoint: They were nothing but artery-clogging deliciousness.

I have but one quibble with these fried pieces of glory: They come drizzled with a delightful mango habanero sauce … and on certain bites, that was the only thing I could taste. Macaroni, cheese and pulled pork all have fantastic but somewhat subtle flavors, and those flavors were completely masked wherever the sauce was poured on heavy. My advice: When you go to Bubba’s and order these—and, really, you should go to Bubba’s and order these, as long as your cardiologist is looking the other way—get the mango habanero sauce on the side, and apply it, lightly, yourself.

This appetizer is not only splendid; it’s filling, and can stand as a meal if you’re just a party of one. I barely touched my main course (the two meat plate with two sides, $15.95; I got brisket and pulled pork, with fries and potato salad), as good as it was.

Egg rolls. With macaroni and cheese … and pork! God bless America.

A sold-out crowd of more than 100 people enjoyed nine fantastic cocktails—all made with Ketel One Botanical vodka—at the Third Annual Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Championship, held Wednesday, Jan. 30, at Moxie Palm Springs.

Carlos Argumedo, of Farm, was declared the champion of the event, earning an amazing 92 points (out of 100 possible) on the judges’ scoresheets. The tally was close—three points separated first place from fourth place. Argumedo follows in the footsteps of 2018 winner Hunter Broggi, of Lulu California Bistro (who also participated in this year’s event), and 2016 winner Sherman Chan, of Trio Restaurant.

Trio’s Garrett Spicher was the Audience Choice winner.

Nine bartenders competed in the event, which sold out for the first time in its three-year history. Each competitor made tastes of their drinks for each attendee, before making full drinks for the judges: Ketel One’s Leslie Barclay; Brad Fuhr, of media sponsors Gay Desert Guide and KGAY 106.5 FM; and representatives of Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week’s beneficiaries: the Desert AIDS Project’s Darrell Tucci, and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert’s Alexis Ortega.

The championship is the highlight of Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, a production of the Coachella Valley Independent. During the week, which continues through Saturday, Feb. 2, participating restaurants create a special drink for the week, or highlight an existing drink from their menus, and donate at least $2 from each drink sold during the week to the Desert AIDS Project and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert. A complete list of drinks and participants can be found at PSCraftCocktails.com.

Below is a collection of photos from the event, taken by the Independent’s Kevin Fitzgerald.

A confession: I’ve been in a bit of a funk as of late.

I was dismayed by, among other things, the seemingly continually depressing news from the newspaper world. To the west, the once-mighty LA Weekly is in dire straits—with print editions down to 24 pages thanks to the ineptitude of new ownership. To the north, Oakland’s East Bay Express recently laid off the majority of its staff due to an employment-related legal decision that did not go its way. And here in the valley, the owner of The Desert Sun, Gannett, just laid off a bunch of reporters, and is in the midst of a takeover attempt by a hedge-fund-owned company known for gobbling up newspapers and making deep cuts to improve profitability.

Sigh.

Then I started to assemble our February print issue … and I started to feel a lot better about things.

Yeah, the state of the journalism world still stinks (although we’re doing OK here), but it was impossible not to be inspired by all of the great things happening in our community. The aforementioned February print edition is our Art Issue, thanks to the behemoth cultural events February brings—Modernism Week and Art Palm Springs. Beyond stories on those events, which will be posted next week, we have coverage of upcoming happenings ranging from a wine event benefiting the amazing Coachella Valley Volunteers in Medicine, to the Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival (more wine!), and from the classic 1960s group The Lettermen playing at the McCallum Theatre, to the traveling HUMP! porn short-film festival (yes, you read that correctly) coming to the Palm Springs Cultural Center.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our very own Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week, which is an event I love (yes, I am biased, but I’d love it if I didn’t have anything to do with it), because it places a spotlight on amazing drinks created by the valley’s most talented bartenders—and does so while benefiting two great charities: Desert AIDS Project, and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert.

Thanks, as always, for reading the Independent—and be sure to pick up our February 2019 print edition, hitting streets this week. I hope our stories uplift you like they did me.

Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival Grows in Its Second Year

When I talked to David Fraschetti about the inaugural Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival a year ago, he promised me that the fest, taking place at the Rancho Mirage Amphitheater and Community Park, at 71560 San Jacinto Drive, would feature great food—but the primary focus would be on the wine, with no booze, beer or cooking demonstrations.

“This is a marketing event for our wineries,” he told me. “… We’re not trying to be everything to everyone.”

Seeing as Fraschetti, a Coachella Valley resident, is also the organizer of the popular VinDiego Wine and Food Festival, it should come as no surprise that he apparently knew what he was doing—and that an expanded Rancho Mirage Wine and Food Festival will return this year, taking place Jan. 30-Feb. 2.

A couple of five-course wine dinners at restaurants will happen on Wednesday, Jan. 30, with the Rare and Reserve Tasting happening at the park on Friday, Feb. 1. But the main event is the grand tasting, taking place at the park on Saturday, Feb. 2.

“When we started doing this business seven years ago in San Diego, we had a great business plan: ‘If you build it, they will come,’” Fraschetti told me recently. “Last year really proved to be the same out here in the desert.”

This year’s grand tasting will feature 18 to 20 restaurants—most, but unlike last year, not all based in Rancho Mirage—and about 45 wineries.

Fraschetti said he loves the community aspect of the festival; related to that, a portion of the proceeds will again benefit the Desert AIDS Project.

“I live four minutes from the festival site,” Fraschetti said. “The people who come are neighbors of mine. Everybody seems to know everybody out here.”

Tickets to Saturday afternoon’s grand tasting start at $85. For tickets and more information, including a complete schedule, visit ranchomiragewineandfoodfestival.comf.


Enzo’s Bistro and Bar Replaces the Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar

So it’s a good-news, bad-news sort of thing.

The bad: The Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar, which took over the old Crab Pot digs at 70030 Highway 111, in Palm Desert, has closed its doors. (It had no relation to the Fisherman’s Market and Grill locations in Palm Springs, Palm Desert and La Quinta, for the record.)

The good news: The space is now home to the second Enzo’s Bistro and Bar location.

The first Enzo’s opened at 78121 Avenida La Fonda in La Quinta last spring and has gathered a lot of great buzz. I have not yet had a chance to check out the “elegant and authentic” Italian fare at either location—but you can bet your bottom dollar I will soon.

Get more info at www.enzosbistroandbar.com.


In Brief

One of the culinary centerpieces of downtown Palm Springs’ redevelopment project is open: Il Corso, the much-liked Palm Desert-El Paseo Italian restaurant owned by chef Mario Marfia and, uh, indicted developer John Wessman has opened its second location at 111 N. Palm Canyon Drive, No. 180; get info at ilcorsocv.com. … Save wildlife “one brew at a time,” according to the news release, at the 10th annual Brew at the Zoo event, happening at and benefiting the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, 47900 Portola Ave., in Palm Desert, at 6:30 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9. Tickets start at $60 (for members) and $65 (nonmembers) and will get you access to more than 30 beer, wine, liquor and non-alcoholic beverage vendors; 10 food trucks will offer food for purchase. Designated drivers get in for just $20; call 760-346-5694 or visit www.livingdesert.org for tickets or details. … Celebrate the Academy Awards in style and support AAP Food Samaritans at the same time by heading to Trio Restaurant at 4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, for the annual “Hollywood’s Biggest Night” shindig. The event will sell out, so get your seats, starting at $125, ASAP at aidsassistance.org; you’ll get a six-course dinner and beverages with your reservation, and most of what you’ll pay is tax-deductible. Yay! … The River giveth, and The River taketh away. The Rancho Mirage shopping center, at 71800 Highway 111, recently welcomed the second location of the locally owned Apong’s Philly Steak, while the only valley location of MidiCi Neapolitan Pizza Company, which was located at The River, has shut its doors. Learn more about the yumminess at Apong’s at apongsphillysteak.com. … This announcement brings me joy: Mariscocos Culiacan, one of my favorite valley seafood places, has opened a second location: In addition to the original Coachella location, there’s now one at 16760 Palm Drive in Desert Hot Springs. Yes! More info at www.facebook.com/mariscocosymaristorresculiacan760. … Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, at 32250 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage, has recently made some nice changes—including the opening of 360 Sports, a big, beautiful sports bar and restaurant. Learn more at www.hotwatercasino.com/360-sports-bar.

For 14 years now, Dan Savage—the newspaper editor, sex-advice columnist, author and pundit whose Savage Love column appears in each edition of the Independent—and his associates have produced the HUMP! Film Festival, a traveling, curated selection of short (i.e., five minutes or less) pornography films.

Yes, you read that correctly: It’s a porn film festival. However, it’s not that kind of porn. Well, OK, it is … except when it isn’t.

Make sense? No? You have questions? So did we, and Savage graciously agreed to answer some of our queries.

Before we get to those queries, here is the back story: HUMP! started in Seattle back in 2005, and the national tour of HUMP! began several years later. Anyone can submit films for consideration, of any sort, as long as they’re related to pornography—and the HUMP! producers take extreme steps to make sure these films never make it onto the internet (unless the filmmakers decide to put them online themselves).

Tell me about bringing HUMP! to Palm Springs. This is the first time it’s going to be here, correct?

It is. It has played in Los Angeles, but it’s never played in Palm Springs—even though a couple of Palm Springs residents won the HUMP! Best in Show award a few years back, for a film called Glory Hole. (Laughs.) … I think the folks there will really dig it.

To people who are unfamiliar with HUMP!—and, I admit, to some people like me who are familiar with HUMP!—it may seem a little weird to go and sit at the Camelot, where they have all sorts of wonderful events, with a bunch of people from my community, and watch porn. Describe to me why that isn’t so weird.

Because it’s a different kind of porn. When you’re watching porn at home alone, you are clicking only on porn of, well, immediate utility, if I may put it that way.

(Laughs.) That’s a perfect way to put it.

What HUMP! is, is a collection of shorts, five minutes or less, with pornography as the theme. Sometimes the pornography is explicit and hardcore; sometimes it’s softcore; sometimes it’s animation. There’s even a documentary about pornography this year at HUMP!, with people recalling when they first encountered porn, in the pre-internet era. There’s a musical number in this year’s HUMP!. … It’s not the kind of porn where you sit with a coat in your lap, and masturbate, or sit with a roll of paper towels at the ready. It’s porn that you enjoy for its artistic merits. You also get to see what really turns other people on, and that may not be what turns you on. It’s a window into other people’s passions.

When we started HUMP! we were curious whether we would get submissions, and whether anyone, particularly when it was only in Seattle, would make a porn short to be screened in the community where they lived, even with the promise that it would never go online. We got a lot of great porn, and then the question became: Would people come and sit in a movie theater, in the dark, next to strangers, and watch pornography the way their grandparents did, when their grandparents went to see Debbie Does Dallas or Behind the Green Door? And the answer is yes—a lot of people would. Not people who wanted to masturbate in their seats; these were people who wanted to really celebrate sexual diversity, and diversity of gender expression.

Certain people express squeamishness, for lack of a better word, about types of pornography or visuals that aren’t their thing. I know a lot of gay men act squicked out by female body parts, and I know a lot of straight guys who would never in a million years watch gay porn supposedly. So, how is it that you’ve managed to put all sorts of different types of porn together in HUMP!?

That’s magic of HUMP! It really is. You have audiences full of straight guys watching gay porn, and gay guys watching cunnilingus, and vanilla people watching hardcore kink porn, and cis people watching porn made by trans people to accurately represent themselves, not made by trans people to appeal to cis people.

We watch the audience … to make sure no one’s taking out a phone and taking a photograph or a video clip. There’s this thing that we see at packed screenings where at first, everybody’s thrown back in their seats by what’s not theirs—"not my kink,” “not my preferred gender partner,” “not my body type,” “not the age range I prefer.” At first, all anybody can see is what’s different and not theirs. But about a third of the way through, everyone is clapping and cheering for every film. No one’s having the wind knocked out of them anymore. There’s this moment where you can really see the audience’s perceptions shift. … Because in each film, the passion, the vulnerability, the sense of humor—all that is the same, and the humanity is the same.

It’s really kind of beautiful. I’m a gay dude—who 20 years ago or so would have been squicked out by women’s genitals—and I sit there, with my eyes open, and I watch cunnilingus on the big screen, and I don’t flinch. … What I’m tapping into is not their bodies or their genitals, really, but their passion.

That’s another part about HUMP! that’s really great: These are films made by friends and lovers. So nothing’s faked, and no one in the audience has to worry if somebody up there on the screen was doing it just for the money, or under duress. Everyone is up there because they wanted to share this side of themselves, and it’s really kind of magic.

Over the years that you’ve been doing this, what have been the biggest surprises in terms of taking this on tour?

They tried to shut us down in, I think it was Philadelphia, by getting us kicked out of the theater that we had booked. (Editor’s note: It was actually the Pittsburgh suburb of Dormont, in 2014.) What was so hilarious about that was everyone … has a cell phone. This idea that you can take pornography out of your community by keeping pornography out of a movie theater is ridiculous. That was very amusing.

What’s great about the tour is that we get many more diverse submissions now. It was in Seattle alone for a few years, and then just Seattle and Portland, (which is) not really a racially diverse part of the country, although it is sexually pretty diverse. Now that we’re touring, we get more different types of people, which is great.

But the biggest change is, in the first couple of years, we got a lot of submissions where people were trying to ape the conventions of commercial porn, mainstream porn, and audiences just didn’t respond to that. You almost got the sense over those first few years that audiences were editing the festival, letting filmmakers know by voting for the best films from the festival what they wanted to see more of; now we really don’t get those films where people are just trying to make a knock-off of some commercial porn they saw on Pornhub.

Is there anything in this year’s festival you find particularly interesting or unique?

There is a five-minute musical comedy set in the bathroom of a gay leather bar.

Oh my.

I promise you, you’ve never seen anything like it—on Netflix, on the networks, on HBO. It’s the sort of thing you could only see at HUMP!

That sounds either brilliant or horrifying, and I’m not sure which.

Well, it’s one of the award winners this year. Audiences thought it was pretty brilliant.

The HUMP! Film Festival takes place at 7:30 and 9:45 p.m., Friday, Feb. 8; and 7 p.m. and 9:15 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 9, at the Camelot Theatres at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Road, in Palm Springs. Tickets are $24.49 (with fees included). For tickets or more information, visit humpfilmfest.com.

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