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Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Know Your Neighbors

04 Oct 2017
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Ron Celona got bitten by the acting bug in the first grade. “I played a spider in Little Miss Muffet … and refused to take off my costume afterward,” he says. “I walked all the way home from school in my spider costume, and have been on the stage ever since.” Celona, 59, the founding artistic director of the Coachella Valley Repertory theater company, is a Rancho Mirage resident, along with his husband and partner of 32 years. Celona was born and raised in Philadelphia. He and his older sister lost their mom when Ron was just 7. “My father was a tenor-sax player,” he recalls, “and although he gave up his career to have a family, he always encouraged me to follow my dreams.” Celona’s professional career began when he was in the sixth-grade, after he had already performed in many theater projects at school and at his local…
20 Sep 2017
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The Coachella Valley is a place where retired celebrities, in some ways, are taken for granted. Among us are retired movie and television stars, business tycoons, writers, NASA scientists and sports professionals—including Shirley Spork, one of the 13 original founding members of the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA), and a renowned sports-education professional. Spork, 90, is a long-time resident of Palm Desert. The red-haired girl from a working-class family would go on to, through personal determination, break ground and help make a lasting contribution for women in a sport that had never been friendly to females. Spork was born and raised in Detroit, the only child of parents who did not play golf. At one point in her early childhood, the family lived next to a golf course. “There was nothing much to do in the neighborhood,” she says. “I saw the boys caddying, but I wanted to play the…
06 Sep 2017
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Dana Saks was born in Palm Springs, and raised in Cathedral City, where she graduated high school. “I’ve always loved the desert,” says Dana, now 37, and always upbeat and vivacious. “There’s something about it. It’s quiet here. My soul is at peace here, in a way that it isn’t anywhere else.” I first met her at a pro-choice rally when she was 14. She wanted to make a difference, even at that young age. “Politics and activism were always discussed in my house,” she recalls. “My cousin, Anita Richmond, was very active in local politics, serving on the Rancho Mirage City Council. My mom was pretty liberal in her attitudes, my dad less so, so we used to have lively discussions whenever the family got together. “I guess I had an innate sense of justice, and I didn’t like it when things were unjust. My first letter to the…
23 Aug 2017
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Photographer Arthur Coleman has lived in the Coachella Valley for more than 50 years, and his stunning work is known throughout the area and the world. He’s also known for helping develop the tantalizing dining section of Palm Springs Life. “This is the place with the best light in the world,” he says. “I call it ‘sweet light.’” Born in Seattle, Coleman—he prefers not to disclose his age (“The number is too big now!” he says)—had what he calls “an interesting childhood,” albeit a good one. Coleman’s father ran a hotel, while his mother was “a true housewife.” “She was involved in Scouts, coaching, everything I did,” he recalls. “She was charismatic and knockdown beautiful—kind of Betty Boop beautiful. My dad worked nights, so (my younger brother and I) got him during the day. “You know, I’ve had all these people in my life with horrendous childhoods. Not me. If…
09 Aug 2017
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Rose Mallett is known for her singular voice, her striking appearance, and her frequent appearances in local clubs and theaters. The Moreno Valley resident has entertained throughout Southern California, in Las Vegas, and onscreen, and she can be seen locally at both Woody’s and the Purple Room in Palm Springs, and will be at Vicky’s of Santa Fe in Indian Wells once season begins again. Born and raised in Chicago, Mallett, 70, knew from a very young age that she could sing—although there was concern that she would make it at all, after she was born two months premature. She weighed just 2 pounds, 7 ounces. Her parents owned a tavern in Chicago, so Mallett grew up around music. “Music just filtered in,” she says. “I first got interested in the stage from watching puppet shows when I was young. I started singing in the fourth-grade in the school chorus,…
26 Jul 2017
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They say you should write about what you know—and I know that as I age, a lot of my friends are beginning to worry that they have Alzheimer’s disease. A few of my friends have talked to their doctor about their fears, or taken a test. Two friends have been diagnosed; they are being treated and so far have not lost control of their lives. I can relate. I’ve given up on remembering names, constantly make lists, forget the word I’m looking for in the middle of a sentence, and occasionally can’t find things that I always keep in the same place. Memory lapses can be both aggravating and frustrating—but they may only be due to the overwhelming amount of information that is being taken in by an aging brain, and not a brain disease. Some people I know assume the inevitable because of a family history: a grandparent, father,…
12 Jul 2017
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When you meet Palm Springs resident Dan Waddell, you immediately get the impression of someone who is gentle, affable, pleasant and relaxed—but the quintessential pianist will definitely confront you if necessary. I met Waddell when I was producing Palm Springs Confidential, a comedy/musical revue, in the early 1990s. He came on board as musical director on the recommendation of Bill Marx, the noted local pianist and composer who had written the show’s music. As the producer of the show, I had to keep the peace when Marx was at odds with Waddell over how some piece of music should work. There is an expression that comes over Waddell’s face when he doesn’t get his way—yet he is a consummate professional, and things always end with a harmonious result, “as long as the result is the best it can be.” Waddell, 75, was born and raised in Tacoma, Wash., as the…
28 Jun 2017
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The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is a program offered at both the Cal State San Bernardino and the University of California-Riverside campuses in Palm Desert. Osher offers noncredit courses targeting the 50-plus population “interested in learning for the pure joy of it” at more than 100 universities in all 50 states. Osher instructors include college professors and experienced professionals, and subjects cover a wide range of subjects, from movie-making to blogging to financial planning to philosophy. But not just anyone can join the Osher faculty; some prospective teachers “audition” with a one-day presentation, to determine whether a proposed course will meet Osher’s standards. That is how I met Vinny Stoppia. Vinny is the author of The Austrian Woman, aka Marie Antoinette, Queen of Versailles. Most of us know little about the infamous French queen beyond, “Let them eat cake!” Stoppia has culminated a lifetime obsession with this fascinating woman in…
14 Jun 2017
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When you approach her house, you realize it’s the only one on her gated-community block with a different front yard—stone and desert plants, rather than repetitive squares of grass. Then she answers the door wearing a “NASTY WOMAN” T-shirt. At 87—“almost 88, in September”—Dorys Forray is my new role model for how to age, not only graciously, but also powerfully. Dorys is a woman who laughs easily, suffers no fools, and has what seems like boundless energy to devote to the things that interest her. A 14-year resident of Indio, Dorys moved to the Coachella Valley from Los Angeles, but still proudly proclaims, in an authentic accent, “I’m a Brooklyn girl!” Her father, who sold plastic pencil sharpeners, was lucky enough to meet and become friendly with Walt Disney. As a result, her father was allowed to use Disney cartoon characters on his items. “But my dad got sick soon…
31 May 2017
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“Mid-century modern” refers to a collection of architectural designs and styles built from the early 1940s to around 1970. What they all share, according to Elaine Stiles, an architectural historian, is “an emphasis on lifestyle, a new way of modern living centered around family and home. … This was the era of the patio.” Those of us who grew up in post-war Southern California don’t always realize the impact of mid-century modern homes, while people from other parts of the country often have no frame of reference for what we take for granted: low-slung homes with lots of floor-to-ceiling windows and exposed beams, as well as open-space floor plans, and indoor-outdoor orientations. Steven Keylon lives in a Herbert Burns-designed mid-century modern house in the Deepwell Estates neighborhood of Palm Springs. He and his partner, John De La Rosa, a metal sculptor, came to the desert about a year ago from…

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