What is the alure of living in Palm Springs for gay men let alone anyone?

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by earllogjam, Sep 3, 2009.

  1. earllogjam

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    More than a few of my gay friends have bought vacation property in Palm Springs. I don't get it.

    Honestly, I can't see living there or vacationing there for more than a few days after experiencing the oppressive heat and dearth of activities outside golf and gay retiree dinner parties. I guess it could be nice if you are into gay socializing and thrive on gay "culture". I think after you hit all the Mid Century Modern consignment shops you'd be out of there.

    I suppose they have a gay mayor but is it that much of a wonderful place to buy a vacation house and jet down from San Francisco every month to be in oppressive heat and be around gay guys? Is it cheap?

    What's the allure? It's not like Provincetown, Fire Island or Key West in that it's not a cute town - there's just a whole lot of empty boring sprawl out there and that heat. ugh.
     
  2. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    Keep in mind this is from someone who has never been there in his life:

    My uncle moved to San Francisco right out of the navy and immediately after his disastrous 3-month marriage to a ketchup heiress. That was in 1963, just as San Francisco was beginning to get a national reputation as a gay-tolerant place. He did very well there, and was one of the founders of the Victoria Station restaurant chain. We visited him twice out there and he always ensured we had a good time. Uncle Ben was immensely happy in San Francisco, and actively worked for gay rights on the municipal and state level. He endured a lot of shit for that including receiving death threats and boycotts of the restaurant. At one point he had to hire a security guard service (unheard of in those days) as someone tried to set fire to his home while he was asleep. The police wouldn't lift a finger. He was a big supporter of Harvey Milk too.

    Right after the Milk assassination Uncle Ben moved to Los Angeles, perhaps disillusioned by the assassination itself, but he found LA to lack a social and cultural life on par with San Francisco. I don't know why he stayed in LA so long. When he came out to my family in 1976, my grandmother and father cut him off. They returned his cards and presents to me and my sister, telling him he wasn't permitted to speak to us. My grandmother was so upset that she moved from San Diego here to New York to be near her last remaining son. I didn't speak to him again until 2006 when my father needed a quadruple bypass. He and my father had recently begun to speak to each other again and he wanted to come here to New York to help take care of my father. He never got the chance as he was killed in a car accident just a few days before his arrival.

    In that last conversation with Uncle Ben, I discovered he was living in Palm Springs and had been since the mid 80s. He loved Palm Springs as it was full of mature gay men, had great weather, and a vibrant cultural scene. It had declined, in his opinion, but many of his friends were there and he thought it would eventually begin to recover because the core group of gay men there were trying to make it into a truly gay town in a way that San Francisco could never be. Clearly, Uncle Ben was all for segregation. He had not expected that gay rights would become the national issue it was. In his view, it was safer for gays to stick together in their ghettos where they could live relatively freely. He, and others like him, believed that Palm Springs could be a place that they could eventually turn into a Galt's Gulch of gaydom. They actively worked to get gay people to move there. The weather was great for seniors, unlike San Francisco which he found too damp and clammy in winter to be tolerable as he got older, and he also thought that senior gay men really had no social life outside of their age group because of rampant age discrimination in the gay community. Palm Springs could attract retirees who had the time, money, wisdom, and inclination to make, "the Springs," the perfect gay ghetto. That sounds naive to me but I didn't say that. Initially Uncle Ben welcomed the various gay resorts that popped-up though he felt the town had become a place to party and then leave. He wasn't happy with that or the drugs or the fact that Palm Springs never really appealed as a place to live among younger gay people, but he was very happy that it seems the gays had taken over the town from what he said were very conservative people who had tried to keep them out. That was his mentality and if I had lived his history, maybe I would have it too.

    I would have liked to talk about his early life more because he was exactly the right age to have witnessed the entire gay rights movement in California. He knew many prominent gay activists and supported them generously despite the threats and boycotts. From what I can piece together, he seemed an idealist. For him, and the early gay pioneers of his day, Palm Springs was an experiment in creating a gay Eden. They really worked to make it a gay-friendly place where gays could be open and safe. What happened was that the times changed before this vision could be fulfilled. First there was overcoming the local opposition, then HIV appeared and decimated the ranks of gay men, then suddenly gay people were everywhere demanding equal rights and tolerance in a way that people like my uncle never expected. They thought gay ghettos would be necessary forever. They believed equality could only be achieved in homogeneous environments.

    So yeah, I understand Palm Springs is not exactly everything it should be, but that it's anything at all is due to some gays who saw its potential and wanted it to become a happy and safe place for all gay people. I think it ironic you point out all the mid-century modern stores out there because those are likely largely the possessions of gay people who spent their last days of old age in Palm Springs. That's the detritus of American gay history being sold out of those shops. In some ways that's sad, in others it's completely understandable. I hope other gay men will buy those items and that they might remind them of the men who came before who made places like Palm Springs gay-friendly if not exactly the Disneyland of gaydom they were supposed to be.
     
  3. justmeincal

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    I could never live full-time in PS. I find the heat in the summer unbearable.
     
  4. D_Harry_Crax

    D_Harry_Crax Account Disabled

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    ditto.
     
  5. earllogjam

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    For someone who lives on the fringes of gaydom and can only take gay culture in very small doses, whose social life does not revolve around other gay men and gay activities, and someone who finds gay ghettos not a bastion of brotherly love or community - Personally, I don't see what Palm Springs offers me. I do have some acquaintances who are the stereotypical gay urban ghetto dweller whose entire life circles around the company of gay men and their gay urban culture, I am not one of them. It's great if you feel at home among gay men but unfortunately most of the time I do not.

    I suppose it comes down to anywhere can be "home" as long as your friends are there.

    I don't think I'll be taking a trip out to Palm Springs as those MCM shops have become to froo froo chic for my pocketbook. Those heirloom scratched up Eames chairs will have to stay in the shops.
     
    #5 earllogjam, Sep 4, 2009
    Last edited: Sep 4, 2009
  6. lvsxy808

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    I visited for about four days one time. It was in March, and it was already too hot to walk outside. Because it was off-season there was practically no-one else in the entire town. But even if there had been, I couldn't actually much to do other than, as you say, shop and sunbathe. And I'm not the type of guy for either of those, really.
     
  7. nudeyorker

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    I have always had a nice time in PS. I like climate with dry heat. But if you are going to play tennis or golf you have to do it early. I've been going there since I was a child and never really thought of it as a gay destination. The only exception was I once was there during the "White Party" and I absolutely hated it.
    I don't know... I stay with friends there and we eat and drink and play cards and hang out at the pool and go out to dinner once an a while. I do there what I do on most of my vacations...relax! I thought about moving there a few times, I feel really good in the climate there.
     
  8. FuzzyKen

    FuzzyKen New Member

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    I now live on a rural horse ranch in New Mexico. Prior to living here I lived in Palm Desert which is an even more expensive area just east on Hwy 111 and is also one of the more expensive Desert Resort Cities.

    I called that area my home for over 10 years.

    A number of factors happened to give birth to the transformation of Palm Springs from a retirement place to a gay ghetto. The first thing was that the prices in Northern California escalated into the heavens. Property in the San Francisco Bay area and in Guerneville went so high as to be idiotic and worse the little geniuses from Silicon Valley were willing to pay these outrageous prices.

    In the late 1960's parts of San Francisco had been kind of destroyed by the "Haight-Asbury" generation. One could at that time buy properties in San Francisco very reasonably. Many of you here are simply too young to understand the totality of what happened to make this go. Prices escalated to where renting a studio could cost you $1,200 per month. Gay men attracted to the great potential of all of these older turn of the century homes started buying because they could purchase these properties cheaply. San Francisco also became an area where gay people could feel at least more safe and to be less of a target than many other areas, this of course caused even more immigration of GLBT to that area. While other parts of California had it's cycles of up and down the San Francisco Bay area continued to rise because of the computer related industries and electronics in the San Jose area nearby. The Bay area never took the hit.

    In the middle part of the 1980's the Coachella Valley took a very hard hit on home prices. Several things had happened. Many of the very conservative straight people simply became too old and began to die off. This compromised home values even more. At the time I bought there, the crash had been so bad that I could buy a 3 bedroom or 4 bedroom home with a pool for less than $100,000.00 At the same time the gay community began to get a really strong foot hold. Meyers Jacobsen who owned the Wolfs Bar Chain invested a great deal and made the new Wolf's in Cathedral City. At the same time a rather well to do former real estate mogul who was a great friend of mine brought in "The Tool Shed" on Sunny Dunes Road. Other men began to invest money and brought in really great gay bars. In the beginning these were men who were not the greedy, but were men willing to take their profits and invest it back into the gay community. Meyers Jacobsen and Sean Newman did a great deal of advertising in other places which brought in many people.

    As the HIV crisis deepened in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and other East coast areas the medical care began to dwindle because of simple budget constraints.

    Many MD's who were gay also saw and opportunity from their own visits and moved their practices to the area. This made a plethory of MD's to treat those dealing with HIV and some of these people were well above the average in knowledge.

    What then happened was many of the men in the Bay Area were living in homes with market values exceeding a million dollars. They could go out and sell these homes easily at those prices and then go down to the Coachella Valley and purchase a different but nice home and pocket the rest. This made it possible for many of these men to maintain their standard of living and even raise it a great deal in some instances.

    Many of the men leaving the smaller and more expensive gay ghettos in Los Angeles and the Bay Area were also looking at something else. They were dealing with HIV and they could see a time when they might have to sell their homes to pay what was needed on their medical bills. Sell now, buy in Palm Springs and go out in style was a part of all of this as well.

    As time progressed and the gay population grew, the diversity increased. The sad part was that so did the problems within the community. Last I heard most of the MD's treating HIV had waiting lists and closed practices simply because there was not enough medical professionals to meet demand.

    Individuals who had no respect for the concepts of safe sex or anything other than the pleasure of a moment also came in and in big numbers. This took and skyrocketed the STD rate in that area to record levels.

    When the economic crash hit it impacted the gay community severely and the straight community even worse. The Cities which had depended on incomes that were secure and fixed based on retirements now was dealing with incomes that were not so secure. This impacted businesses badly.

    I have many friends still there. Many of the shops along Palm Canyon in Palm Springs are now empty. Many of the part time jobs and other employment in that area is gone because of the economy. Homes in Desert Hot Springs have fallen so badly that there are now properties that have been on the market for over a year and have not had a single showing. Prices have fallen very badly and the gated communities have so many foreclosures in them that there is a great deal of litigation against the banks by Home Owners Associations because they are allowing those properties to deteriorate badly, and with green swimming pools mosquitos are a problem.

    Palm Springs is now finished as a gay community. People are now looking to other areas and trying to find the latest trend.
    - - - - - - - - - -
    Now with regards to living there. My family history goes back in that area to the late 1960's. My Mother and Stepfather had a weekend home there. It was at that time an incredible place. It was also far different than it is now.

    The Coachella Valley became a monument to the "idle rich" who want everything and do nothing to earn it. There are over 150 golf courses in the Coahella Valley sucking down water at an incredible rate. Of the 150 golf courses there, less than 1/3 of those are open to the public, the rest are private and require memberships in the country clubs costing incredible sums of money. The eco-sytem has been horrifically impacted by all of this green. The humidity has escalated to the heavens in the past 30 years because of this kind of thinking. A "swamp" cooler is no longer effective and one must now run refrigerated Air Conditioning in the hottest months of the year. Those run from about the late part of May to the 15th of October. To make matters worse the predominating power company in that area is Southern California Edison. Electric rates are on a sliding scale, and to air condition a home down to 80 in the summer can cost you 28 cents per kilowatt hour. It is not uncommon to see electric bills in that area for $700 for a single month.

    Living in that area is very different and people adapt to it. Las Vegas is the same way. What people do is to literally do everything before 10AM and or after 5 PM. When the worst part of the heat would hit we usually referred to it as "Awful August". Some of us even did some of our yard work at night under artificial floodlights. My other half and I were quiet and we re-roofed a house between 1AM and 6AM on weekends. We also dug and laid a new sprinkler system using exactly the same tactic. It can be 105 degrees at 1AM there and that is no lie.

    The other thing that many do is to spend hours in their pool at night. In that area most homes have pools.

    The lower deserts can have extreme weather and there has been snow in that area too. It happened a couple of time in the 1970's and it happened to me several times when I had my first condo near Shadow Mountain there as well.

    I had many great times in the Coachella Valley and Palm Springs area. By 2001 the place had morphed into a gay ghetto with all of the squabbles, gossip and strife often present in those areas. I had married and found out that the new rule of gay life was that there was nothing as attractive as a married man. I tied the knot in 1999 and by 2002 the only time we went to a gay bar was if there was some special event we wanted to support. Gay Pride had morphed into a dog and pony show for a bunch of people trying to sell something and the parade was not much better.

    When I left there I was somewhat sad to see what the place had become. I had many good memories there, but they were just that, memories.

    What I discovered was that it took getting away from that place for me to have the family life that I wanted.

    Right now I still have some final loose ends to tie up in that area and I absolutely dread heading back there at all. I would far rather have the good memories than the current reality of what it has become.
     
  9. Meniscus

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    I have a friend who enjoyed Palm Springs and recommended that I take my vacation there, but when I asked him why and what there was to do there, I didn't get much of an answer--nothing that sounded appealing, anyway. This same friend was not impressed by his trip to San Francisco.
     
  10. B_am12388

    B_am12388 New Member

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    I'd die. I couldn't live there ever.
     
  11. BobLeeSwagger

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    I live fairly close to Palm Springs and have been there many times, although not for the gay scene. The main answer to your question is that winter is the vacation season there, not summer. No one in their right mind (well, maybe, River people) would want to vacation there on a regular basis. Winters are cool at night and mild during the day, and there are quite a few snowbirds that winter there.

    As for what to do, you're right. If you aren't into the gay nightlife or golf, there isn't much to do there. But a lot of people like the vibe there. It's laid-back even by Socal standards. There are some nice resorts there and a lot of people like visiting, but I can understand why someone wouldn't want to live there. I once had a job interview there on an August afternoon and I walked in thinking that their offer would have to completely blow me away to get me to work there. It didn't.

    I've dated a couple of women from the Palm Springs area in the past. Needless to say that the women there are desperate to meet a guy that isn't old, gay, or both.
     
  12. Principessa

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    I've been there twice for business and LOVED it! :smile: The people were nice. I was there in the spring of the year so it wasn't overbearingly hot. Great shopping, restaurants, nice hotels, good schools. I actually considered learning how to golf while I was there. Though admittedly that was because there isn't much else to do there.

    I'm not really a desert person and so never considered living there, but I wouldn't hesitate to do a 5 day vacation in Palm Springs, CA. :cool:
     
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