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Frances Allen’s Desert Roundup…

The fact that temperatures topped out in the triple digits didn’t deter a boa-draping, cape-wearing, crystal-encrusted crowd of Liberace fans from lining up to see a sneak preview of the film Behind The Candelabra, a bio-pic of the last years of the musician/showman’s life. The sneak preview was offered to the city of Palm Springs by HBO Films and the picture’s executive producer Jerry Weintraub (also a Desert resident), in honor of the city’s 75th anniversary.

The response, even though the preview was free, was greater than the organizers anticipated. Originally planned for two separate showings in the Palm Springs Convention Center, each screening seating 400 moviegoers, the demand quickly exceeded expectations causing the addition of a third screening and the doubling of attendance at each screening.

A lot of the film, which features Oscar-winners Michael Douglas as Liberace and Matt Damon, as Scott Thorson, Liberace’s troubled, much younger lover with whom he had a clandestine, five-year relationship, was shot in Palm Springs, where Lee had one of his many homes and where the devotedly-religious performer (each home had its own shrine) partied before he became ravished by AIDS.

He died here in 1987, three years after the death of his mother, Frances, brilliantly played in the film by a nearly unrecognizable Debbie Reynolds–also a former Desert resident.

I wonder what the real Liberace—who won libel judgments in England from two newspapers for reporting that he was gay —would say about his on-screen portrayal. You can make your own judgment. Behind The Candelabra is currently playing on HBO, which means it will be around forever.


First came a formation of World War II T-34 training aircraft in a “missing man” formation; then, the lumbering bomber approached and it was “bombs away.”

The white carnations looked liked snowflakes, but they were too large. The red flowers evoked images of blood, but they were far too many. However, there was a deeper meaning as some 3,000 carnations were dropped from a B-25 World War II Mitchell bomber as part of the Palm Springs Air Museum’s annual Memorial Day tribute.

The white carnations are in recognition of the veterans who died in World Wars I and II, in Korea and Vietnam. The red flowers were to honor those who died in the Persian Gulf, Desert Storm, Iraq and Afghanistan. It’s a tribute begun by the museum 15 years ago. Then, only white flowers were dropped. We appear to have learned very little since.

Voted the second-best tourist attractions out of 65 in the Desert area, the Palm Springs Air Museum is home to one of the world’s largest collections of flyable WWII aircraft—kept in pristine condition in spotless, air-conditioned hangars where there are no ropes to keep visitors from interacting with the exhibits.

There is also a theater on-site, an extensive library and period models and memorabilia, plus the staffed of trained volunteers provide details on the aircraft and a sense of the experience of flying them.

For information, call the museum at 760-778-6262.

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