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Jason Tenner, a 30-something from Las Vegas, is a dead-ringer for Prince—and he sounds a lot like the legendary and often-weird musical genius. His Prince tribute act, Purple Reign, will be rocking out the Rock Yard at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway in Indio, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Aug. 31. Helicopter will also appear at the 18-and-older show, and admission is free; in fact, Fantasy Springs’ free Rock Yard shows run every Saturday until midnight through October. For more information on Fantasy Springs, visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com; for more on Purple Reign, visit www.purplereign.net. Here are Mr. Tenner’s answers to The Lucky 13.

What was the first concert you attended?

Billy Idol and Faith No More.

What was the first album you owned?

Led Zeppelin IV.

What bands are you listening to right now?

No one in particular. (I’m a) radio surfer.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Country.

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

James Brown from the ’70s.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Classical.

What’s your favorite music venue?

Don’t really have one.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

I don’t get lyrics stuck in my head. I always thought that was strange that people do. Songs will pop in, though, depending on what’s happening—like my own soundtrack to life.

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Michael Jackson. He made me want to be an entertainer.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

Prince: “What is the Purple Rain?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“I'll Fly Away,” from the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Led Zeppelin 4.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Whatever makes (people) feel best about the world and themselves.

Published in The Lucky 13

Brandon Viloria, 8, was running wind sprints in 95-degree weather at 7:30 a.m. on Wednesday (July 10) outside of the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. His mother, Shannon, was by his side.

What would possess a kid to do such a thing? Turns out Brandon is the current California boxing champion in the 8-to-10-year-old, 55-pound bantam weight class, and he was slated to compete at the 12th Annual Desert Showdown tournament at Fantasy Springs this weekend.

“He’s got to drop 1.4 pounds right now so that he can make his weight limit at the weigh-in,” explained his father, Dominic. “We’re trying to become the Desert Showdown champion now.”

Brandon’s commitment and determination is typical of the aspiring boxing champions who have converged on the Coachella Valley in July to compete in boxing coach and promoter Ralph Romero’s dream event. As the USA’s second-largest amateur boxing tournament, the Desert Showdown has become a normal step for many amateur boxers as they try to climb to the top.

Beyond the roughly 600 participating fighters’ skill level, the fact that they are learning the discipline and focus required by a boxer’s demanding lifestyle can be a valuable reward in itself.

“With this tournament, everything’s for the kids,” says promoter Romero. “They’re the ones who take the hits. I’m just here to guide them—help them do right, get through high school, go to college, make a career. School first, boxing next. That way, if they get out of boxing, they’ve got something to fall back on.”

Director of the Coachella Valley Boxing Club, Lee Espinoza—who trained the world champion brothers Julio and Antonio Diaz, and has 22 fighters competing in this year’s tourney—concurs.

“I started training kids 33 years ago, and I had just three boys to work with,” recalls Espinosa. “Today, guys I trained when they were 6 years old have 6-year-old sons. They’re doing fine, and that’s great.”

As Thursday’s weigh-in drew to a close, one happy competitor stepped off the scale. With tired smiles and “No. 1” hand signs, the Viloria family celebrated their chance to capture a Desert Showdown belt: Brandon had made his weight.

Scroll down for the photo gallery, and watch this story at CVIndependent.com for more photos throughout the weekend.

Published in Snapshot

The Legendary Purple Room Closes

Sad news for fans of the swanky, old-school Palm Springs vibe: The Legendary Purple Room, located inside of the Club Trinidad time share at 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, has closed.

When we called the Club Trinidad to learn more, a woman identifying herself only as Jackie confirmed the closure, and said it was unclear when the Purple Room would reopen. When we asked if that meant that the venue would reopen at some point, she said she didn’t know, and that we needed to talk to Club Trinidad manager/CEO Arthur Brigman—who is on vacation this week.

We’ll check in with Brigman when he’s back, and pass along what we learn.

I was fortunate enough to enjoy a cocktail or two at the Purple Room several times before it closed (although I never saw any live music there), and it breaks my heart that it’s gone. It was a unique, quirky and decidedly old-school club—a club that stunningly few people seemed to know about. My fingers are crossed that it will, in fact, reopen at some point—hopefully with a little more promotion and advertising heft behind it.

Total Wine Opening in Palm Desert

While the alcohol gods take away, they also giveth: The valley’s first Total Wine will open tomorrow (Thursday, June 13), with a grand-opening shindig from 6 to 8 p.m., featuring free tastings and live music.

The chain store, at 72339 Highway 111 in Palm Desert, boasts that it offers more than 8,000 wines, 2,500 beers and 3,000 spirits.

While the valley is already home to another big-box booze behemoth—there’s a BevMo location in La Quinta—this store will make it easier for local liquor aficionados to acquire those hard-to-find spirits.

Find more info at www.totalwine.com.

POM Changes Up Its Menu

The folks at POM, one of Fantasy Springs Resort Casino’s signature restaurants, have changed up the menu for the toasty summer months.

Lunch menu highlights include a Moroccan chicken salad (with Moroccan-spiced chicken, mesculin greens, roasted beets, goat cheese, dates, almonds and cranberries, all topped with a citrus-mustard dressing). The new dinner menu includes wild mushroom ravioli, osso bucco and pork empanadas (with yummy Manchego cheese included in the filling).

Get the full lowdown at www.fantasyspringsresort.com, or call 760-345-2450. Fantasy Springs is located at 84245 Indio Springs Parkway in Indio.

Restaurant Week Enters Its Final Days

The 17-day dining bonanza that is Palm Springs Desert Resorts Restaurant Week will come to a close this Sunday, June 16.

I have been fortunate enough to enjoy the three-course prix-fixe menus, for either $26 or $38, at a decent-sized handful of the participating restaurants, and for the most part, I’ve enjoyed the heck out of myself. It’s especially fantastic when a restaurant really embraces the concept and offers their customers, both old and new, a great deal and/or something special. The best example of this I have seen has been at Trio (707 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs), where the good people there even revamped their main menu to feature, first and foremost, their Restaurant Week offerings.

However, not all of the participants are embracing the week so fully. At least one restaurant we visited didn’t give us their Restaurant Week menu. (Thank goodness we did our research in advance.) And at yet another couple of restaurants, they’re offering smaller portions of regular menu items—without warning customers that the portions are, in fact, smaller.

I completely understand why restaurant managers may want to offer smaller portions of certain items (for example, soup) for the lower prices featured during Restaurant Week. But if they do so, they should say they’re doing so: Call the smaller portion “petite,” or say it’s a “small bowl” of whatever it is. But offering smaller portions of regular menu items without saying they’re doing so just hurts the restaurant’s image: Newcomers assume the portions are always that small, and in-the-know regulars are disappointed when the smaller portions arrive at the table.

But enough complaining. Nitpicks aside, Restaurant Week is a great event for foodies of all stripes; get out and enjoy it while you can. Find full details at www.palmspringsrestaurantweek.com.

Published in Restaurant & Food News

Despite lineup changes and a breakup, the Doobie Brothers have had a long, successful existence and have racked up a lot of hits.

They’re currently touring behind their latest album, 2010’s World Gone Crazy, and are making a stop at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Saturday, June 15.

The band came together in San Jose, Calif., in 1970. Tom Johnston (guitar, keyboard, vocals) was friends with Moby Grape guitarist Skip Spence, and Spence introduced him to John Hartman (drums), who had moved to San Jose from Washington, D.C., in hopes of collaborating with Spence. Johnston and Hartman eventually decided to form a group and recruited Dave Shogren (bass), starting out as a trio. They soon encountered Patrick Simmons (guitar) while sharing the bill with him at one of their early shows.

“We were playing a show one night in Campbell, Calif., and it was the first time we met Pat,” said Johnston. “We really liked his playing and his singing. He was a finger-picker, and none of us were doing that sort of thing. We thought it would be a neat combination to have, along with the power-rock and bluesy stuff we were doing. We asked him to come over and jam, and about a week later, he joined the group.”

Skip Spence eventually helped the band get a deal at Pacific Recording Studios in San Mateo to make their demo. The owner of the studio sent their demo to Warner Bros., who eventually signed the Doobie Brothers thanks to that demo.

The band went through a successful, but turbulent, early career. Johnston left the group in 1975 after being hospitalized with a bleeding ulcer, which led to Michael McDonald joining and taking over as the front man. During the later years of McDonald’s tenure, some of the Doobie Brothers felt they had strayed too far from their original sound, and decided to break up in 1982.

In 1987, Keith Knudsen, who had been the band’s co-drummer, convinced almost every former Doobie Brother to get together to play a concert for Vietnam veterans. The band then decided to reunite full-time with Johnston back as the front man, and they signed with Capitol Records.

“We recorded the album Cycles (released in 1989), which got everything up and running again. We recorded Brotherhood, which wasn’t as good as Cycles. Within one year, all the people we knew at Capitol that we had signed with were gone, so we left,” said Johnston.

Considering all of the lineup changes through the years, Johnston did admit that keeping the group’s sound consistent has been a bit difficult.

“I’d say that things really changed when Michael McDonald came in. And when that broke up, and when we went back to the original format when I came back, it was like playing another style of music.”

One former member has been in the news recently: Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, a guitarist who was in the band in the 1970s. Baxter is now a military defense consultant with expertise on missile-defense systems.

“I haven’t spoken to Jeff in years, but Jeff used to talk about that stuff back in the ’70s when it came to missile defense and things to do with the Defense Department,” Johnston said. “But Jeff is a very intelligent guy, and I got a kick out of seeing him on a TV news report, hanging out in the Pentagon.”

Despite all the changes, Johnston said he’s happy with where the band is at these days and says that they rehearse a lot more now than they used to. The band is also celebrating the success of World Gone Crazy, which took five years to make. Before the group began writing the album, co-drummer Keith Knudsen passed away in 2005 due to cancer-related pneumonia.

“It had a profound effect on me. For whatever reason, it just unlocked this big vault of ideas. I ended up in the studio writing songs for two or three months. I wrote about 10 songs.”

While Johnston said the band views their show at Fantasy Springs as just a normal gig, that doesn’t mean they aren’t happy to be out on the road. They do promise an entertaining show that fans will love.

“We’ve all been through a lot together, and we’ve all been doing this for a lengthy amount of time. Everybody is playing better now than they ever have. The band sounds better than it ever has; it’s much tighter and much more professional-sounding. The crowds really enjoy the shows.”

The Doobie Brothers perform at 8 p.m., Saturday, June 15, at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, in Indio. Tickets are $39 to $69. For tickets or more information, call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Published in Previews

When you examine the career of Gregg Allman and the Allman Brothers Band, one word comes to mind: longevity.

After largely taking 14 years off from his solo career, Allman, now 65, blew off the dust to record Low Country Blues, and he’s finally taking it on the road after its 2011 release, including a show at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino on Saturday, May 25.

Thanks to a career that is approaching five decades, Allman is an icon, both as the front man of the Allman Brothers Band and on his own. There have been lows as well, such as his well-documented battles with addiction, lifelong health problems, band disputes, and the death of his band mate and older brother Duane Allman in 1971.

Despite the hardships, he’s continued on, racking up hit records and playing sold-out concerts around the world.

When the Allmans founded the Allman Brothers Band in 1969, Gregg was uncertain about his future as a musician; he originally intended to become a dental surgeon, but Duane convinced him to give music a try, and he hasn’t looked back since.

When I asked Allman in a recent phone interview why it took 14 years to hear him on his own again, following 1997’s One More Try: An Anthology, Allman said it was mostly due to the death of longtime Allman Brothers Band producer Tom Dowd in 2002.

“He was more than a producer; he was a father figure,” he said. “After he died in 2002, when the idea of recording would come up, I would just change the subject.”

However, when the opportunity came to work with T-Bone Burnett in the producer’s chair, Allman decided to give it a try—although he was hesitant at first.

“Of course (Burnett) is famous for all this other stuff, and you can take all of that into consideration before you work with the guy, but it’s how the two of you get along musically and socially,” he said.

Allman was satisfied with the results.

“He was a wonderful producer. He was so much like Tommy (Dowd), but different in his own way.”

Low Country Blues became Allman’s triumphant return to solo recording, reaching No. 5 on the Billboard 200 and receiving a Grammy Award nomination for Best Blues Album. He also released his autobiography, My Cross to Bear, in 2012. The reviews for both were mostly positive.

However, Allman was too busy to celebrate: He was dealing with the after-effects of a liver transplant that he underwent before the album’s release.

“I had never dreamt that anything could be so horrendous and painful. I couldn’t play or tour,” he said about the June 2010 transplant.

In time, however, his strength returned.

“I had a tour booked the day after Christmas in 2012. When I woke up on Dec. 23, something had changed. I had strength; I had motivation. I felt like my old self, and I still feel that way. I’m so thankful to God that he gave me another chance.”

When I asked him what his future looks like, he told me that he has another solo album currently in the works, but didn’t reveal any other details. There’s also a biopic that’s in the early stages based on My Cross to Bear.

When I asked him if he’s excited about a rare appearance in the Coachella Valley, he said: “Absolutely!”

“I think that the Allman Brothers have slighted the West Coast of America terribly,” he said. “In the next three to four years, I plan to make up for all of that. I’m going to bust my ass now that I feel like the old me. I’m going to be doing some extensive touring over the next 10 years, I hope.”

Gregg Allman performs at 8 p.m., Saturday, May 25, at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio. Tickets are $29 to $69. Call 760-342-5000, or visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com for more information.

Published in Previews

This Friday at the Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino, swing will be the thing.

“Swing” is the name the ABC Recovery Center’s Annual Firestone Award Gala, starring the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, and honoring John Schwarzlose, the CEO of the Betty Ford Center.

Kate Burke, of the ABC Recovery Center, said the event is part-fundraiser, part-celebration, and part-awareness-raiser—and the fact that this is the center’s 50th anniversary makes the event even more significant.

“We want to say, ‘Look, over 50 years, we’ve become a trusted member of the recovery community,” she said. … “This work is blood, sweat and tears. There plenty of tragedies in our line of work. People don’t work here for the money; they work in recovery because there’s hope, and lives can be saved.”

The Firestone Award—named after Ambassador Leonard K. Firestone, a co-founder of the Betty Ford Center, and a major contributor to the expansion of ABC—was first given to Betty Ford back in 1999. Therefore, it makes sense to now honor Schwarzlose, a friend of the late Ambassador Firestone.

“It seems only fitting, given the 30th anniversary of the Betty Ford Center and ABC Recovery Center's 50th, that John's tireless commitment to recovery would be honored,” said ABC president and CEO J. David Likens in a news release. “ABC has had a very special kinship with the Betty Ford Center over the past 30 years; and that is something to celebrate!"

The event starts at 6 p.m., Friday, March 15, with dinner and the silent auction. (Actually, that’s only partially correct; the silent auction is already under way at abcrecoverycenter.org.) Music and dancing get going at 7:30 p.m., courtesy of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, who were at the front of the ’90s swing revival with their big hit, “Zoot Suit Riot.”

The event takes place at the Fantasy Springs Resort and Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway in Indio. Tickets are $100, and are available by calling 342-6616.

Attendees will also have a chance to participate in a “Perinatal Auction,” in which bidders can fund baby showers for new mothers who are in recovery at ABC.

“We want to embrace the spirit of Ambassador Firestone in giving out this award,” Burke said. 

Published in Local Fun

If you walk by Allan Havey on the street, chances are he’ll look familiar—but you won’t know why he looks familiar.

Here’s why: Over his long and varied career, he’s been in a TV show, in a movie or on a talk show (or three) you’ve seen.

He played himself on Louie C.K.’s groundbreaking show Louie. He was on an episode of Up All Night last year. He encountered Kramer on an episode of Seinfeld, and threatened to kick Larry David’s ass for throwing something in his trash can on Curb Your Enthusiasm. He had a non-trivial role as an FBI agent who convinced Matt Damon’s Mark Whitacre to wear a wire in the 2009 film The Informant!

You may have also seen him on Letterman, or in Will Smith’s Hancock, or as a commentator on Countdown With Keith Olbermann, or even hosting his own show, Night After Night With Allan Havey, for three years on the cable channel that would later become Comedy Central.

But despite all these varied (and undeniably cool) roles, Havey says his favorite thing to do, career-wise, has always been standup comedy.

“I really like performing live,” says Havey, who will be bringing his brand of personal, observational comedy to The Improv at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino tonight (Friday, Feb. 22) and tomorrow (Saturday, Feb. 23). “I enjoy the ease. I mean, it’s not easy, but it’s uncomplicated. I don’t have to depend on anyone else.”

The St. Louis native says he always wanted to be in show business, and went to Miami-Dade Community College to learn about acting. He says his first-ever acting role came in a musical version of Frankenstein at the college.

“I went to all Catholic, white schools growing up,” he says. “At college in Miami, the diversity was amazing.”

While Havey cites comedy as his primary love, he says he’s always tried to keep his time on the club circuit down to 12 to 15 weeks per year. For example, after this weekend’s shows at Fantasy Springs, he’ll be off for a month before his next show, at The Improv at Harrah’s Las Vegas, according to his website.

“I make less money, but I am able to audition for parts, and work on my act, and enjoy life,” he says.

He also says that these days, it’s tougher for an established-but-not-big-name comedian to get good club gigs.

“No matter who good you are, there are always younger comedians,” says Havey, 58. “And club owners—not all club owners—say, ‘Why should I pay this guy three grand when I can pay a kid $1,250?, and get the same crowd?' But the shows aren’t as good.”

Havey says he’s played Fantasy Springs before, and that he’s always enjoyed the audience there.

“It’s a great crowd,” he says. “It’s a good mix of people. Any time you’re in a casino, you get a good mix of people. There are young, old—it’s a good demographic.”

When Havey is asked what the audience can expect from him this weekend, he declines to offer any “sneak previews.”

“You’re gonna laugh,” he says. “It’s a good show.”

Allan Havey performs with Brant von Hoffman and Dylan Mandlsohn at The Improv Comedy Club at Fantasy Springs, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway in Indio, on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22 and 23. Shows at The Improv take place every Friday at 9 p.m.; and Saturday at 8 and 10 p.m., through Saturday, April 13. Tickets are $20. For tickets and a complete schedule of upcoming shows, visit www.fantasyspringsresort.com, or call (800) 827-2946.

Published in Comedy

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