CVIndependent

Thu09192019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

November is my favorite month of the year. The summer heat is finally fading; more and more snowbirds are clogging Highway 111 (OK, that part is a mixed blessing, at best); and I get to enjoy a turkey dinner or two with friends and family while watching football. Oh, and there are shows galore!

The McCallum Theatre has some great events in November you won’t want to miss. At 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 5, comedienne Paula Poundstone will be performing. If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, you remember her numerous appearances in film and television. Today, she’s best known as a regular on NPR’s Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me! Tickets are $22 to $47. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17, CV 104.3 radio’s Jimi Fitz will be performing as part of Jimi Fitz and Friends, which will feature local acts Faults of Andreas, John Stanley King, Kal David and Lori Bono, and many others. Tickets are $27 to $67. There are a lot of other fine shows taking place this month, so be sure to peruse the McCallum website! McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a fantastic November schedule. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11, country superstars Alabama will be performing. I am not the biggest fan, but even I have to admit that the band features great songwriters—and that Alabama’s material in the early-to-mid-’80s was impressive and occasionally flawless. Tickets are $49 to $109. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17, rapper Ja Rule and R&B singer Ashanti will share the Fantasy Springs stage. It should be a memorable night of music following an especially memorable year for Ja Rule, after his Fyre Festival left many rich millennials—who paid thousands of dollars for tickets—stranded on an island in the Bahamas crying over their “luxury” cheese sandwiches and begging to be rescued over social media. The best part of the story: There is supposed to be Fyre Festival 2018, so get ready to ride this awesome train again! Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 18, get ready to live the ’90s all over again when Third Eye Blind performs. If you were alive back in the ’90s and didn’t want to punch your radio every time “Semi-Charmed Life” came on, you weren’t really there. Also: Does anyone remember that whole scandal involving author JT LeRoy back in the ’00s, when it came out that JT Leroy was fake? Well, frontman Stephan Jenkins was in the middle of it all, given he moved in with both of the culprits—and even posed for pictures and videos in which he was cuddling with them. Tickets are $29 to $49. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has some notable November shows. At 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 5, actress Sophia Loren will be bringing her national tour of “An Evening With Sophia Loren” to the Coachella Valley. The actress will be speaking on subjects including her childhood in Italy, her family life and her career. Tickets are $65 to $175. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11, Latin pop-rock band Reik will be performing. Reik is kind of a big deal in Mexico—and in the United States, too. The group’s self-titled first album went platinum in both Mexico and the U.S.—while Reik’s fifth and most-recent album, Des/Amor, went platinum in Mexico and gold in the States. Reik won a Latin Grammy award for 2009 album Un Dia Mas. Tickets are $65 to $85. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 25, standup comedian and Comedy Central personality Daniel Tosh will be returning to the Coachella Valley. Tosh is best known for his hilarious show on which he takes Internet videos and provides commentary. Tickets are $80 to $100. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a couple of events on the calendar that should be a lot of fun. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 3, multi-generational Mariachi band Mariachi Vargas De Tecalitlán will be performing. Five generations going back to 1897 (!) have kept this amazing group going. This is Mexican roots music—and it’s history. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11 comedienne and MADtv cast member Anjelah Johnson (upper right) will bring the funny. You might remember her from MADtv as Bon Qui Qui, the King Burger employee who hated complicated orders and would say, “Have it your way, but don’t get crazy.” Tickets are $35 to $55. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa continues to sell out shows, including a Friday, Nov. 3, Chaka Khan performance—but as of this writing, tickets remain for the month’s other events. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 9, Fitz and the Tantrums will take the stage. The Los Angeles-based pop/soul band has found a lot of success by licensing music to various films, commercials and video games—including Madden NFL 17, of all things. Tickets are $39. At 5 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 12, musical-theater great David Pomeranz will bring his show to Morongo. He’s written songs for and performed with everyone from Barry Manilow to the Muppets! Tickets are $35 to $75. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17, crooner Neil Sedaka will again perform in the desert. If you missed his show at the McCallum Theatre last year, you’re in luck! Tickets are $59 to $69. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is the place to be in November. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 2, fresh off an appearance at Desert Daze, Allah-Las (below) will be performing. Allah-Las is a psychedelic-rock fan’s dream come true. With a little bit of soul thrown into the mix, Allah-Las’ jams sound like some of the best records to come out of the ’60s rock ’n’ roll scene. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 9, have you herd that Donna and the Buffalo is coming back? This band plays rock, reggae, country and everything else under the sun—and has a smaller, friendlier Grateful Dead-style following. When I interviewed band founder Tara Nevins back in 2013, she told me she always insists on a show at Pappy and Harriet’s when the booking agent maps out tours. Tickets are $17 to $20. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 25, the eccentric alternative rock band Meat Puppets will be returning. The Meat Puppets has a fascinating history of starting as a hardcore punk band and then incorporating elements of cowpunk and psychedelic elements into the music. The band members were close friends of Nirvana and appeared at the band’s Unplugged performance in 1993. Tickets are $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room Palm Springs will be hopping in November as the season heats up. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 10,and Saturday, Nov. 11, singer and actress Marilyn Maye will take the stage. After 76 appearances on the The Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson era, as well as a Grammy nomination, she’s still going strong. Tickets are $70 to $90. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Published in Previews

Twenty years ago, I covered my first Palm Springs International Film Festival.

The PSIFF was a much more modest event back then, and that year, the star of the festival was Sophia Loren. I remember it well—since she kissed me before a sea of cameras! She did it after I publicly asked her to send a message of peace to my country, the war-torn Yugoslavia.

Then and there, I fell in love with Sophia—and the festival, too.

In 2002, I was invited to a special event celebrating the 90th birthday of Loren’s husband, famed producer Carlo Ponti, with their son, Carlo Ponti Jr., conducting a symphony; their second son, director Edoardo Ponti, was also in attendance. I believe Spencer’s Restaurant owner Harold Matzner underwrote the event.

Matzner’s a Jersey fellow and a longtime PSIFF chairman. Following the event, I went to see him at his office, and we came up with an idea for the next PSIFF: Matzner was going to pay to bring an entire symphonic orchestra, with conductor Ponti Jr., to the fest! The orchestra was going to perform “Lara’s Theme,” from Dr. Zhivago, a movie produced by Ponti Sr. The idea was that Sophia Loren would give a lifetime achievement award to her hubby, and Edoardo Ponti would show his new movie at the fest.

It didn’t happen, because Ponti Sr. fell ill.

It takes a lot to run a film festival, including loads of money, and the PSIFF has long depended on the hefty help of its wealthy supporters. The Palm Springs International Film Society’s grand dame, the late Jackie Lee Houston, hosted so many events for the fest that it’s hard to count them all. The city of Palm Springs has pitched in, too; hey, the mayor, Steve Pougnet, has even been employed by the festival to assist in bringing in the dough!

Aside from money, the growing film fest needed star power—and, again, a lot of it. The fest’s most connected publicist, Ronni Chasen, steadily delivered the stars to the fest for a decade. Shockingly, Chasen was shot to death in 2010. According to the reports, Chasen was shot four times by a convicted felon while she drove her Mercedes on Sunset in Los Angeles. Later, the man who allegedly shot her killed himself during a standoff with the police. (There are many conspiracy theories about her tragic end, of course.) The festival offered a $100,000 reward for information leading to the capture and conviction of the perpetrator. The PSIFF is run by a nonprofit organization, so Chairman Matzner, once again, footed the bill.

But, as they say, the show must go on. Nowadays, the PSIFF—going into its 25th year—appears to be a well-oiled machine, with exclusive sponsors and record attendance. Still, by film-festival standards, the Palm Springs fest is fairly young; after all, the Venice Film Festival just celebrated its 70th year.

Though the PSIFF often has some Best Foreign Language Film Oscar buzz attached to its image, when it comes to popularity, the PSIFF lags behind the Tribeca fest, founded by Robert De Niro, as well as Robert Redford’s Sundance fest. The fact is, the star-power of the movie icons serves their festivals well. Here, the PSIFF was founded by the late Sonny Bono, in order to bring movie glamor back to Palm Springs. I’ve covered film fests in destination cities such as Rio and Bangkok, and little Palm Springs can’t match them in terms of glamor and image.

The tradition and reputation of a film fest matters. The legacy of a film fest matters. But what matters most are the films: Despite the tycoons and the big stars, a film festival is really about the movies being presented—and the PSIFF always offers a top-notch selection of films. And those films are what attendees will remember the most.

That’s a wrap!

The Palm Springs International Film Festival takes place Jan. 3-13, 2014. Most films are $11 or $12. For more information, including pass information and a complete schedule, visit www.psfilmfest.org.

Published in Previews and Features