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Palm Springs

Palmsprings

Live it up in gay Palm Springs

Old-time Hollywood luminaries such as the Rat Pack and Bob Hope made Palm Springs, Calif., a celebrity haven, and retirees who enjoy the hot dry desert air made it a senior citizens' paradise. But for the gay traveler, there are many resorts, bars, and restaurants aimed directly at him--no matter his age. Palm Springs has many clothing-optional resorts, which can be either a locale where you can feel comfortable doffing your duds around the pool or--for all intents and purposes--a bathhouse. You can take your pick, but I find the most charming resort to be Indianola...A Tiki Resort (Indianola-Tiki.com, 866-hot-tiki), owned and operated by business and life partners Michael Glenner and Steven Rockwell. Indianola, built in 1955 and located in the heart of the classic movie colony, has a kitschy Polynesian-style glamour with its kidney-shaped pool surrounded by handcrafted tiki gods, bamboo fountain, koi pond, thatched umbrellas, and tiki torches. Glenner and Rockwell provide leis when you check in, and there are grass skirts and sarongs in each room. (If you're lucky, you may even be lodged in room F, where it is rumored Doris Day used to escape to from the old Mirador Hotel when things got too hectic.) Indianola provides continental breakfasts and on the weekends a cocktail hour with the owners, who also provide '50s Schwinn bicycles for touring town. There are several restaurants and bars nearby, with downtown minutes away. The Uptown Grill (150 E. Vista Chino, 760-320-6116), owned and operated by partners Eric Laurie and Steven Foresman, offers fairly reasonable prices (the most expensive entree is the New York Strip "Escoffier" at $24.95) and large portions. The Angel Hair "Neptune" is particularly good, with chunks of sauteed salmon filet and artichokes in a white wine cream sauce for only $16.95. The Rainbow Cactus (212 S. Indian Canyon, 760-325-3868) is affordable (lunch for under $10), and despite being situated in a strip mall, the restaurant is enormous, with lots of seating and a piano bar. More Than a Mouthful Cafe (134 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, 760-322-3776), is located in the main downtown shopping area and offers overpriced yet mediocre food and inattentive service. Unfortunately, a nearby bar or restaurant opened up on an early Sunday afternoon I was there and started blasting middle-of-the road music into the street, which only made the experience that much less enjoyable. If you're looking more old-time glamour, in nearby Cathedral City you can locate graves for such celebrities as Sonny Bono, Busby Berkeley, William Powell, and Ol' Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, along with many others. You can also take a tour of the haunts of past and present residences of stars and learn the history of the city with the Palm Springs Celebrity Tour (720-770-2700). And of course there is abundant shopping around Palm Canyon Drive, the heart of the city. There are plentiful knickknack shops, bookstores, and art galleries in addition to bars and restaurants. Lining Palm Canyon is the Springs' own walk of fame, with over 69 stars immortalizing important residents and entertainers such as Sophia Loren, Clark Gable, Elvis, Elizabeth Taylor, and Shirley Temple. Gay nightlife is easy to find in and around town. In the South Canyon Plaza Shopping Center in Cathedral City, above Upper Crust Pizza, is Sidewinders (67-555 E. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-328-9919), a leather bar with three outside patios, a pool table, dance floor, and cheap drinks. The night I was there was karaoke night, heavily slanted toward contemporary country songs. If you're looking for cowpokes, this is your spot. My friends and I then stopped at Toolshed (600 E. Sunny Dunes, 760-320-3299), a dark and musky Levi's/leather cruise bar. I got an offer for a threesome five minutes after arriving, so if you're looking for easy sex, this may be the place to check out. You don't even have to come prepared. There's a "boutique" called Tuff Stuff inside the bar that sells leatherwear in addition to Crisco. If you're looking for something younger and poppier, Toucans (2100 N. Palm Canyon Dr., 760-416-7584) has a Polynesian-style atmosphere including a waterfall, bamboo, and lots of plants. There were lots of shirtless boys, pop music was blaring, and the dance floor was throbbing. The attitude quotient was low: It was more like a big party where everyone was into everyone. I even met two cute boys, one of whom I'm still seeing. When to visit depends largely on how much heat you can handle. In the summer months, Palm Springs has highs in the low 100s with lows in the mid 60s. In the winter months, you get more temperate highs in the 70s with lows in the 40s. Autumn or spring may be your best bet. Check out PalmSprings.com for details and tips.

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