By Frances Allen
Festival of Lights Parade
What’s billed as the “biggest holiday event in the Coachella Valley,” attracting residents and tourists alike? According to local hoteliers it’s the annual Festival of Lights Parade, this year to be held in downtown Palm Springs on Dec. 1. The parade starts at 5:45 p.m. and begins at Palm Canyon Drive and Ramon Road, ending at Tamarisk Road.
Legendary movie producer Jerry Weintraub will serve as Grand Marshall of the parade, while a new position, that of the parade’s Guardian Angel, was created for local community leader and philanthropist, Helene Galen.
Special attractions of the parade this year will be holyday-themed floats, giant Macy’s-style balloons along with ol’ Saint Nick and his reindeer riding aboard the Jackie Lee Houston Santa Clause Express, in honor of the woman who, throughout the years, made so many days seem like Christmas for so many people.
Les Dames du Soleil
Most readers know what it’s like when the kids turn 18. They want to go out into the world and try to make it on their own, leaving behind an empty nest or at least an empty bedroom with closets containing the remnants of clothes worn in a bygone era. It’s enough to get some adults all chocked up.
Sadly, that’s the way it was earlier this month when, after 18 years, the Valley’s much-loved drag troupe, Les Dames du Soleil, gave their final performance.
Founded nearly a generation ago by two successful businessmen, Marshall Pearcy (who performed under the stage-name Dottie DuBois) and Douglas Woodmansee (better known as Maude Chapeau), the Dames raised nearly $2 million for charity by their performances in clubs, or just serving as “greeters” at Desert gals events with their brand of humorous, tasteful, drag entertainment.
It all began as a ‘party act’ engaged in by Pearcy and Woodmansee, but the founders wanted to give back to the Desert – an area they found so personally welcoming – and they expanded their troupe to include other talented performers, such as local caterer and chef Aturo Montes (Rita Del Taco) and Al Johnson (Lisa Karr), who lip-synced to the music of anyone, from pop singers to operatic divas.
Starting from small beginnings, Les Dames made Desert Aids Project the principle beneficiary of their performances, raising more than $1 million for that group, alone. However, other charities were not forgotten, and Les Dames raised nearly $1 million for various Desert children and animal charities.
It was truly a labor of love. Each Dame paid their own expenses, from designing and sewing their elaborate costumes to paying for gas to get to the varying performances. Every dime went to the charity being supported.
Les Dames final event was held before a packed ballroom of the Renaissance Hotel in downtown Palm Springs. Here guests stuffed paper money down the dresses and waistbands of the performers all in an effort to raise a minimum amount of $100,000; the amount that Tim Hanlon, president of the Wells Fargo Foundation, had promised to match dollar-for-dollar, raised at the event. (I have it on good authority that the bank balance of the Wells Fargo Foundation is about $100,000 less today than it was a few days ago).
It was a bittersweet evening, driven home by the entire cast as they repeatedly turned their backs to the audience as they performed the final song, “Stop, In The Name of Love,” signifying that Les Dames were truly their wit’s end.
HIV/AIDS is often thought of a male-borne disease, but 10 percent of the nearly 2,200 clients of Desert AIDS Project (DAP) are women who face different needs than male patients in dealing with the physical and emotional affects of the disease. Plus, women are often more reluctant to acknowledge that they have HIV, especially when children are involved.
To meet this need, DAP has inaugurated “100 Woman,” a donor program devoted to raising money for the needs of women and children affected in some way by HIV.
Currently DAP women’s program has 73 members, each of whom give at least $1,500 per year to the program. But, while this is a sizable amount for some people, you can benefit the 100 Women program, and yourself, by shopping at Desert AIDS Projects chain of Revivals thrift shops throughout the Valley. Not only will you find bargains, by shopping at a Revivals you will also be contributing to nearly 25 percent of DAP’s total funding.
This year also marks the second-annual DAP-presented “Dancing with the Desert Stars,” to be held on Nov. 16 at the Renaissance Hotel in Palm Springs. The event, hosted by Desert-living John Barrowman, star of television’s “Arrow” and “Torchwood,” will have local residents and ‘professional’ partners vying for recognition as the Desert’s best dancers.
DAP’s 100 Women program will be the beneficiary of the receipts of Dancing with the Desert Stars.
For any information on DAP and its events, please call 760-323-2118.