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.