Posted: Monday, February 13, 2017 – 8:17 PM
“Car 54 where are you?” If you can remember when television was broadcast in two colors: black and white, then the theme music from this early ’60’s police sitcom is probably still rolling around in the recesses of your mind.
But times have changed in the half-century since bumbling cops were the bases of a TV show, and their lives are in danger as much as the members of the community they have sworn to protect and serve, and no one knows this better than the Desert’s premier fund raiser, Harold Matzner.
Best known in the Valley for his successful and long-tenured reign as chairman of the Palm Springs International Film Festival, Matzer once again stepped up to the plate and this time hit a quarter-million dollar-plus home run.
What Matzner did was buy half a police car, with the city of Palm Springs matching the cost of the other half. But, this is no ordinary black and white police car; instead the “police car” is a BEAR (Ballistic Engineered Armored Response Counter Attack Truck), that can hold 18 fully armed police officers or 20 rescued civilians. It can also serve as an incident command center.
While it is hoped that the BEAR will never be used in a violent confrontation, the relatively recent terrorist murders in San Bernardino hit close to home. Supporters of the new acquisition say that it will go a long way in providing additional protection for police officers in an armored standoff. In the meantime, the BEAR will be used to provide a presence for Coachella Valley events and local festivals.
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It all started 37 years ago when Joanna Hodges, a classical pianist and music teacher at College of the Desert, devised a competition designed to give gifted young pianists performance opportunities, with the winners receiving recital and concerto dates at prestigious concert venues throughout the United States and Europe.
By the turn-of-the-century the competition had become moribund. That’s when the musical talents and organizational acumen of Desert resident and internationally renowned pianist, Virginia (Mrs. Fred) Waring, took over the reigns of the competition and reorganized it into what is now known world-wide as the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition.
While most competitive events are held every year, the actual performances of the Virginia Waring International Piano Competition occur in every odd-numbered year.
However, the costs of transporting contestants and housing them are substantial; hence the organization’s major yearly fundraiser … its annual Black & White Gala, this year honoring Jan and Richard Oliphant, will be held on Sunday, Feb. 17 at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Hotel in Rancho Mirage.
Most of the competition’s performances are free of charge. For more information, call 760-773-2575.