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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

The 2013 Palm Springs Pride Festival, held at Sunrise Park on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 2 and 3, drew tens of thousands of people over two days.

Temps in the low '80s greeted attendees, who perused booths offering everything from underwear to animal adoptions to newspapers (including more than 1,600 copies of the Coachella Valley Independent), and enjoyed performers ranging from Richard Simmons to Berlin.

When we had more than one person manning our booth, Independent editor Jimmy Boegle wandered through the festival to take some pictures of the goings-on. Check out the photo gallery below.

Published in Snapshot

As thousands of people celebrated in 100-plus-degree heat, Rancho Mirage City Councilmember Scott Hines had sobering words.

Standing directly under the Forever Marilyn statue in downtown Palm Springs, the gay family man, military veteran and elected official explained that he was there representing not the city of Rancho Mirage—just himself. He had asked the current mayor of Rancho Mirage, Richard Kite, to issue a proclamation celebrating the U.S. Supreme Court's partial repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as the decision effectively appealing Proposition 8—therefore setting the stage for gay marriage to be legal once again in California.

But Kite refused, Hines said. Such a proclamation, or even allowing Hines to speak on behalf of the city, might be offensive to some.

Despite Hines' sobering words, thousands of people showed up to celebrate the happy events. Below are images from the celebration of this historic day.

Published in Snapshot

When I was growing up in Los Angeles, my parents came to Palm Springs almost every weekend. It wasn't surprising that they decided to eventually retire here. They lived in the same house for more than 35 years, and I continued to visit them as an adult.

I decided to move here permanently 10 years ago to help out my mother after my father passed away. I took care of her for eight years until she passed away in 2011, at the age of 91.

Looking back conjures up a lot of memories and makes me realize just how much the Coachella Valley has changed over the years. As a kid back in the ’60s, I can remember how excited I was whenever it was time for another Palm Springs weekend. As soon as we reached the desert, the first thing I noticed was how clear the sky was compared to all the smog back in Los Angeles. However, by the time the ’70s had arrived, there were days when even the desert had a cloud of pollution hanging over it.

I could always tell when we reached town by the abrupt change of scenery. One minute, it was nothing but barren desert. Then suddenly, there was lush greenery, as well as the hustle and bustle of small shops.

I can actually remember when Palm Canyon Drive and Indian Canyon Drive were both two-way streets. When you're a kid, everything looks bigger. Now these streets seem so narrow. I can't imagine how two-way traffic ever existed on them.

We used to stay at some of the historic hotels in the area, including the original Riviera and the Howard Manor. I noticed that every hotel's TV set had a closed-circuit station that broadcast nothing but weather information. There would be a series of dials that would show temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure and wind speed. A camera sitting on a track would slide back and forth showing these various dials with music playing in the background. I remember watching this channel for hours, hoping the camera would fall off the track. It never happened!

My father was an avid golfer, and sometimes, he would take me along with him. That would give my mother the opportunity to go shopping. Back in those days, none of the streets that crossed washes had bridges built over them, so in the rain, those streets would become flooded very quickly. My mother was quite a daredevil when it came to driving and felt she was adept enough to navigate the rough waters. Somehow, she always made it across, apparently determined to take advantage of the big sales going on at the stores.

Sometimes, we would come to the desert in the summertime. I remember one visit when we heard on the weather report that it was 122 degrees. But that didn't stop my parents. They would occasionally go to Las Vegas for a change of pace, but Palm Springs always remained their favorite destination.

When she was in her prime, people used to tell my mother she looked like Marilyn Monroe. She used to be a fashion coordinator, and her passion was shopping in department stores for clothes. She had so many outfits that she rarely wore the same thing twice. My mother was outrageously funny, and I think I got my sense of humor from her. There was never a dull moment when she was around.

In her later years, though, she didn't go out much. She preferred to stay home and watch TV. You could always find her sitting on the couch watching Regis Philbin, The View, Judge Judy and her favorite channel, HLN. She also enjoyed reading the National Enquirer and believed every word of it!

In its heyday, Palm Springs was a vibrant and exclusive getaway. Now revitalization efforts are underway to recapture that energy.

My mother's energy and vitality still live on inside everyone who knew her. The two-year anniversary of her passing is this month. To my mother, Lillian: I love you, I miss you, and your sunny outlook will always be synonymous with Palm Springs.

Like the song says, "Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." So true.

Published in Humor

The Palm Springs Convention Center was awash in white Saturday night and Sunday morning (March 30 and 31) at White Party 2013.

Chippendales dancer/The Amazing Race alum Jaymes Vaughan joined forces with the great Madame to interview celebrities (such as White Party performer Carmen Electra) on a "white carpet" outside of the convention center. Inside, many thousands of men (and a few women) danced, snapped pictures and enjoyed themselves on a dance floor that got increasingly crowded—and sweaty—as the night went on.

Scroll down to see pictures snapped at the event by the Independent's Jimmy Boegle and Linda Ray.

Published in Snapshot

Champagne was flowing; public officials were smiling; tourists were snapping pictures and asking what, exactly, was going on.

The answer: It was a party under sunny skies on the afternoon of Thursday, Feb. 7, to mark the beginning of the demolition of the Desert Fashion Plaza. The largely defunct mall is slated to be replaced by a new shopping center—including a controversial six-story hotel—built by Wessman Development, at the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way.

“Look at what we’ve done in the last year,” said Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, who presided over the ceremony in the parking lot near the “Forever Marilyn” statue, following his state of the city speech at the Hilton. “We brought in ‘Forever Marilyn,’ though we didn’t know she was coming. We brought this project forward. … What we’ve done in the last two years is remarkable.”

Pougnet was then followed to the stage by developer John Wessman, who discussed the evolution of the plans for the development—and specifically, the look of the proposed Kimpton Hotel, which was the subject of a recent signature drive that sought to send the hotel matter to Palm Springs voters for a yes or no vote. “We think it’s turned out really well,” he said. “… Sometimes, you have to go through some valleys before you climb the mountain, and now we’re climbing the mountain."

Wessman pledged that demolition of the plaza would take just four months, and that 90 percent of the materials would be recycled. Pougnet later said that interior demolition would take place first, with the demolition along Palm Canyon happening later, after the tourist/snowbird season concludes.

After Pougnet and Wessman spoke, Pougnet directed the crowd of 250 or so onlookers to grab champagne—which had been poured into plastic cups on nearby tables—and walk closer to the fenced-off demolition area. There, mayor and the developer, followed by various officials—all wearing yellow plastic faux hardhats featuring the logos of Wessman, the city of Palm Springs, and the city’s Chamber of Commerce—took turns poking at the Desert Fashion Plaza sign with a Volvo backhoe. However, the old sign only crumbled slightly following multiple jabs, and after a while, Pougnet encouraged the waning crowd to head to the nearby grassy area, where various downtown restaurants had set up tables with food, for what had been formally dubbed a “block party.”

While the overall mood was festive and celebratory, not everybody was partying.

Around 1 p.m.—before Pougnet’s state of the city audience made its way from the Hilton to the Desert Fashion Plaza—Food Not Bombs Palm Springs set up on the Palm Canyon Drive sidewalk in front of “Forever Marilyn.”

FNB member Ethan Vega stood near a plastic bin, with a stock pot on top of it. The pot and bin contained 165 vegetarian burritos—containing spinach, rice, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and green peppers—which were free to all comers.

Vega said that although FNB tries not to get too political—aside, of course, from promoting nonviolence and trying to shed a light on poverty—Food Not Bombs chose to show up during the “block party” for a reason.

“We’re just trying to show support for local businesses, smaller businesses, who may have been pushed out in this process—and to feed hungry people, really,” Vega said.

Vega was referring to the eviction of Latino Books y Mas, which is closing after losing a court battle to remain in its Fashion Plaza storefront off of Palm Canyon. The FNB Palm Springs Facebook page referred to the eviction of Latino Books y Mas as “illegal.”

FNB member Krystle Rogers handed out orange fliers to passers-by inviting them to the next free-food event (at 2 p.m., Sunday, Feb. 10, at Sunrise Park, at the intersection of Sunrise Way and Ramon Road). Meanwhile, Vega held a sign made of paper and wood, and handed out the food to both locals and tourists who walked by.

"Free burritos!” a young man would occasionally shout. “And they’re good, too.”

Scroll down for an image gallery of today's events.

Published in Local Issues

Boosters and opponents of the planned high-rise hotel in downtown Palm Springs are sharpening their blades for battle, after a group of residents delivered a petition to City Hall on Tuesday, Jan. 22, seeking to quash those plans by forcing a citywide vote.

Members of Citizens for a Sustainable Palm Springs, the group behind the petition, said that if the City Council doesn't reconsider the look and height of the six-story Kimpton Hotel at the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Tahquitz Canyon Way, the city may face a referendum on the issue in November.

The petition's 2,775 signatures are now being vetted by county officials. Should it qualify and come to a successful vote, other aspects of the revitalization—which, all told, would create several blocks of office, retail and restaurant space—would likely not be impacted, according to City Attorney Doug Holland.

Meanwhile, demolition on the project, which would raze most of the moldering Desert Fashion Plaza, is scheduled to begin in about two weeks.

Tuesday's turn-in set the stage for continuing clashes between business owners, residents and, most important, friends, some of whom have known each other for decades. The fight has been waged in public hearings, on Facebook walls and in newspaper comment sections, with both sides admitting that it has occasionally gotten personal.

For their part, opponents of the hotel rattle off a number of problems they have with the development, starting with aesthetics.

"People don't come here to see high-rises and concrete," said Frank Tysen, owner of the Casa Cody Country Inn and one of the most vocal members of the anti-hotel group.

Manny Montoya, a spokesman for Citizens for a Sustainable Palm Springs, added that the hotel's design "isn't conducive to the brand of Palm Springs" and would muck up the skyline. Unlike painting a building or naming a street, he said, "this is something that's going to have an impact on quality of life forever."

But Joy Meredith, owner of downtown's Crystal Fantasy shop and president of the Main Street Palm Springs merchants’ association, said "fear of change" is at the core of the opposition.

"Palm Springs has a great history, but we have to grow, too," she said. "We can't keep living in the past."

Things got a little testy in recent weeks, when a flier issued by redevelopment proponents (and signed by business leaders including Meredith) was circulated, and went to customers of at least one restaurant. In addition to projecting that redevelopment would add hundreds of jobs, it accused paid signature gatherers of lying about their identities.

"Please also warn your neighbors," read the flier, which urged residents not to sign the petition. "This obstructionist scheme will result in keeping our downtown blighted."

Meredith said that she herself had encountered a signature-gatherer who implied that he was working for the city. "People felt like they were being misled into signing it," she said.

Montoya dismissed the claims.

"We feel we've satisfied the burden of proof in this area," he said. "We did not overstep any legalities to do what we did."

Tysen, meanwhile, has accused his "fanatically involved" opponents, in the throes of redevelopment "hysteria," of spreading rumors to undercut his group's message. He said the hotel's proponents are so fed up with the void in downtown Palm Springs that he wouldn't have been surprised if they had voted for a grain silo to take its place.

"The whole thing is an insane idea, driven by the developer, who doesn't care," he said. "It's beyond rational decision-making."

Tysen's group has also taken issue with the way local government "fast-tracked" the redevelopment in December, when the City Council agreed to plans put forward by developer John Wessman. That approval came after two large-scale reviews, open to public comment, were conducted in November.

"They bent all kinds of rules and regulations and codes that need to be followed," said Tysen, who did not give specifics. "It wasn't a good democratic process."

According to Meredith, however, there were ample opportunities to contribute input before December's approval. She said having a group of hotel opponents try to make an end-run around the process was like being "stabbed in the back."

"It was a very lengthy process, and they were all open meetings," Meredith said. "And I know, because I was at those meetings, and I'd like to know where they were."

She also bristled at the notion that exactly how private property should be developed would be decided democratically.

"I did not vote for Frank Tysen," Meredith said. "Is this how they'd want their private-property rights being treated?"

With county officials due to report back to the city on the petition's legitimacy within 30 days, both sides have little to do for now but wait—and try to keep things civil.

"I hope this doesn't become the way people decide things should be done around here," Meredith said. "It can only get more chaotic." 

Published in Local Issues

With a menu of traditional Latin America-inspired fare and an interior filled with colorful Mexican folk art, one of Palm Springs’ newest restaurants strives to offer a dining experience that’s as vibrant and authentic as the artist it’s named after.

Casa de Frida, which takes its name from well-known Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, deals largely in homemade dishes from regions across Mexico, but there’s cuisine from Cuba, Venezuelan and other countries to be had as well. One dish is even described as "a Latino version of the French classic beef bourguignon."

The restaurant itself is somewhat of a shrine to Mexican art, with hand-painted tiles adorning many surfaces. Visitors are greeted at the entrance by a large papier-mache skeleton straight out of a traditional Day of the Dead celebration. Wooden masks, a huge stylized glass portrait of Frida Kahlo and other decorations complete the south-of-the-border vibe.

The food, however, is a far cry from what many diners think of when Mexican food comes to mind. There are no chimichangas covered in cheese and red sauce, nor are there quesadillas. At Casa de Frida, the focus is on dishes with items like rich mole sauce, or chile en nogado, a dish that hails from the city of Puebla and features pasilla chiles, walnut-cream sauce and pomegranate seeds.

"What we do here is a combination of recipes that my grandmother and my mother and basically all the women in my family have been making for years," says chef and part-owner Victoriano Rodriguez, who is originally from Sinaloa, Mexico. "Because of our heritage—French, Mexican and Spanish Castilian—the dishes are both traditional and, at times, unique."

Other dishes like tortilla soup, ceviche, enchiladas and several salads and starters are also available, as is a full bar and a medium-sized, yet ample, wine list.

Chef Rodriquez says the menu will change every three months and that he will be bringing in dishes from Peru, Brazil and other Central and South American countries.

"We’re trying to give American diners a chance to see how we really eat in Mexico," said Rodriguez. "We aren’t a restaurant with piñatas or tequila shots and beer signs. We try to be a little more gourmet and a little more aristocratic, without being pricey."

Casa de Frida, located at 450 S. Palm Canyon Drive, also has a weekday happy hour with drink specials and $6 small plates. Brunch is available on Sundays. For more information, call 459-1681, or visit www.casadefrida.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

What: Gypsy veal schnitzel

Where: Johannes Restaurant, 196 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $25

Contact info: 778-0017; http://www.johannesrestaurants.com/

Why: Because of the variety and intensity of flavor.

Johannes, located just a wee bit off the beaten path in downtown Palm Springs, offers a variety of Continental cuisine, especially Austrian/Viennese favorites—and while the restaurant celebrates its 13th anniversary, included is an entire menu of schnitzels (mostly made with veal, of course, but some made with organic chicken).

While the schnitzels offer a variety of ingredients and, therefore, flavors, the gypsy is the one that has the most flavor. On top of the nicely crunchy schnitzel is a flavorful green peppercorn-brandy sauce, capers, baby pickles, onions and roasted fingerling potatoes. This is not a dish for people who like nuance; this is a dish for people who like a full-throttle taste-buds assault.

The mix of intense flavors makes this dish a real winner. All dishes come with a ewer of yogurt with dill and cucumber, which makes a nice contrast to the schnitzel.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

On Saturday (Nov. 3), a decent-sized crowd "braved" 90-degree temps at the Palm Springs Pride Festival.

Attendees browsed the booths for local businesses, nonprofits, political organizations and lubricant companies, while a variety of entertainers crooned from several stages.

Here are some pictures from the event (scroll down) , which also takes place on Sunday, Nov. 4. Enjoy!

Published in Snapshot

What: The fish tacos (Baja fried or grilled)

Where: Shanghai Reds, inside of Fisherman's Market and Grill, 235 S. Indian Canyon Drive, Palm Springs

How much: $3.95, or $2.95 during late-night happy hour (8 p.m. to close)

Contact info: 322-9293; www.fishermans.com/shanghaireds.php

Why: Because of the tortilla. Trust us.

These tacos aren't exactly a secret around these parts--they're perennial honorees in the Desert Magazine Best of the Valley competition (not that you should necessarily value such honors all that much)--but we're surprised at how many valley residents don't know about the delights at Shanghai Reds, the bar/casual area tucked behind Fisherman's (which also has a location in La Quinta).

The taco's ingredients are not that unusual: The taco includes white fish, topped with pico de gallo, shredded cabbage, citrus and a tasty white sauce. What makes these fish tacos special is the wrapping--namely, the tortilla. It's a thick corn variety that spends a moment or three on the grill before meeting its contents, and that maize/char/yummy flavor ties the whole package together.

Somewhere along the line, far too many Americans settled for tortillas that are mere packaging--flavorless vessels to deliver flavor to one's mouth. Shanghai Reds reminds us that it's not supposed to be that way--and proves that a good tortilla can make oh so much difference.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

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