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BHC - Frances Allen

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    PEGASUS BENEFIT—Much of the Desert social community turned out for the Easter benefit for the Pegasus Riding Academy for the handicapped. Pictured (top photo from left) are: Diana Budd, Shellie Reade and Diane Marlin-Dirks. In the photos above are Jim and Jackie Lee Houston while on their right is Virginia Waring. On the right are Barbara and Bill Marx. The event has been under the direction of Lori Sarner for more than 20 years and provides equine therapy to children and adults of all ages and handicaps. Photos by Maile Klein




    Desert Roundup

    By: Frances Allen

          It was the perfect storm; a series of divergent forces that combine to create a monstrous occurrence. Only it wasn’t the weather that brought the disparate energy together in Palm Springs last weekend, it was the confluence of three otherwise stand-alone events which, about once every three years, happen at the same time.
          Gone are the days when Easter recess could be counted on to deposit hordes of drunken college kids on Desert streets. But since former Palm Springs Mayor Sonny Bono made the city less kid-friendly over a decade ago, the number of college students finding their way back to the Desert for Spring Break has steadily increased.
          Last weekend marked the conclusion of the week-long Kraft-Nabisco Championship, a major LPGA golf event that yearly attracts golf-groupies from across the country and Europe as they join the galleries supporting their favorite woman golfers. But, golf is not the only attraction. The final two days of the tournament is Dinah Shore Weekend, named after the celebrity who founded the tournament held at Rancho Mirage’s Mission Hills Country Club for the past 34 years.
          Although named for lady golf’s greatest supporter, the Dinah Shore weekend is less about golf than it is about partying. This year the primary venue was the large pool at Palm Springs’ Riviera Hotel. There the girls showed off body paintings (‘tattoos’ are for men), bared skin and, unlike at Beverly Hills luncheons, did not complain that it’s hard to find a good man these days.
          Meanwhile, back on the course, there was plenty of drama of a different kind. Defending champion Grace Park relied on acupuncture, Advil and a back-brace to get through the tournament, refusing to pull out of the tournament despite persistent back pain.
          Other LPGA legends did leave the tournament, only not voluntarily. Favorites such as Nancy Lopez, Patty Sheehan and Pat Bradley failed to make the cut that would have placed them in the last two days of play. And, while the final score put the world’s top golfer, Annika Sorenstam, solidly in the lead and in possession of the $270,000 winner’s check, there was drama for a while as local crowd-favorite Rosie Jones, who has never won a major LPGA event, tied with Sorenstam for the lead after two rounds.
          I don’t think Connie Francis had the White Party in mind, but that definitely was where the boys were Easter Weekend in Palm Springs. About 20,000 of them—from young and lean to bald and squishy—gathered at the Wyndham Hotel and a nearby park. They formed the third element of the Desert’s Easter Weekend’s perfect storm.
          The White Party is a 15-year-old, premier gay party event and features non-stop music, entertainment, cruising and parties. It’s also very easy to dress for. You can wear white—after all, the Greek gods wore white—or you can wear something see-through—to better show off tattoos and the results of hours in the gym buffing-up your body. Those just not sure what to wear, or wanting to cover all bases, wore something white and see-through.
          Lest you think that all this is, as Shakespeare said: “Sound and fury, signifying nothing,” think again. Retailers in downtown Palm Springs report a ten-fold sales increase over the pre-Easter week, March is the busiest month at the Palm Springs Airport and the city of Palm Springs receives an additional $1 million from its hotel bed tax. Those are major reasons why the Dinah Shore weekend and White Party will be back for years to come…only perhaps not at the same time.
    *****
          We chose a no less boisterous approach to celebrate the advent of spring by catching a rousing, tow-tapping, song-studded performance of the Broadway-theater hit 42nd Street at the fabulous McCallum theatre in Palm Desert.
          Each season, under the direction of its President/CEO Ted Giatas, performances at the McCallum gets better and more accessible…and the public has responded. While nationwide the average attendance for performing arts centers hovers abound 60% of capacity, the McCallum is currently running ahead of last year’s record 84% pace.
          Tickets for the new 2005-06 season have just gone on sale and if you’ve missed out in the past, you’ll be pleased to know that dozens more acts have been added to the coming season for sale as individual events, not part of a series. However, all indications are the McCallum will continue to sell out quickly, so book early.
    *****
          The bunny rabbit may be the secular symbol of Easter, but here in the Desert the horse is a close runner-up, especially the horses and activities of Pegasus Riding Academy for the handicapped.
          For more than 20 years Pegasus, under the direction of Lori Sarner, its founder and president, provides equine therapy—full body range of moxercise on horseback—to children and adults of all ages and handicaps.
          The motion of the horse’s body against a person’s legs massages all the muscles used in human walking and helps prevent atrophy. In addition, the psychological and emotional benefits derived from horseback riding give disabled riders a sense of empowerment and self esteem.
          For the past decade, Pegasus has held an Easter Sunday luncheon and silent auction in conjunction with a championship polo match at the El Dorado Polo Grounds in Indio.
          Joining Pegasus supporters Jackie Lee and Jim Houston for the catered luncheon, but passing up the champagne divot-stomp, were Earl Greenburg and David Peet; Palm Springs’ first mayor, Frank Bogart and his wife; Jerry and Diane Marlin-Dirks; and Shellie Reade.
          Other notables, in addition to Lori Sarner, winner of last year’s Jefferson Award for outstanding community service, were Lori’s husband, Harvey; event chairs Lori and David Garthwaite; The Thalians’ Barbara Proctor; Connie Schivarelli; Marilyn Jones; Eleanora Laub; Jerry and Marilyn Blue; and radio personality/actress Joey English.
          Pegasus’ motto is, “Soaring above our limitations,” and it does that; but imagine how much higher it can rise with your help…and then make that thought a reality.

      
     
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