If you spent this week, like me, watching “When We Rise,” the powerful, moving and star-studded ABC TV docudrama miniseries about the LGBT rights movement–from the 1960s until today–you noticed that Palm Springs, California played a significant supporting role.
The series was directed by Gus van Sant, written for the screen by Dustin Lance Black and based on the book “When We Rise: My Life in the Movement” by gay activist Cleve Jones.
In one scene, Cleve’s character says something like, you can’t change the world or start a movement from Palm Springs, so he moves back to San Francisco. He had a point. Palm Springs is where most LGBTQ home owners come for the weekend or to retire. But just because we’re retired doesn’t mean we don’t support those still actively involved on the front lines, through networking connections, fund raising and in other ways.
Just one of the many celebrities and notable individuals to have called Palm Springs home, Cleve’s former Palm Springs home was located in the Warm Sands neighborhood. If you’re ready to call this city–rich in gay history–home, please contact me today at the number listed above.
In the late 1940s, Frank Critzer, a prospector and desert dweller, excavated under the seven-story boulder known as Giant Rock, in Landers, California and constructed a dwelling consisting of several small rooms. A wooden structure, on a cement slab was built above ground and lead to the rooms below. The cement foundation is still there today. The underground rooms where filled in a number of years ago. Critzer was killed when the dynamite he kept in the rooms exploded. In the early 1950s, George Van Tassel built an airport and a small cafe on the site and lived in Critzer’s former structure. Van Tassel conducted weekly meditation sessions in 1953 in the rooms underneath Giant Rock and claimed that the sessions led to UFO contacts and finally to an actual encounter with extra-terrestrials. In August of that year he reported that a saucer landed from the planet Venus and invited him onto the ship.
In 1954, Van Tassel began building his now famous Integratron, after he says he received the instructions from the Aliens, during their visit to Giant Rock. George Van Tassel was one of the leaders in the UFO movement in the 1950s and held annual “Spacecraft Conventions” at Giant Rock for 25 years.
OVERNIGHT STAYS: While many visitors camp at Giant Rock, The Integratron is available for overnight stays. It can be rented by the hour, day, week or longer, for individuals or groups.
LOCATION: Giant Rock is located approximately 40 miles and an hour from downtown Palm Springs.
DIRECTIONS: To find Giant Rock, begin at the Integratron, which is located at 2477 Belfield Boulevard, in Landers, CA 92285. Giant Rock is 3.5 miles north of the Integratron by dirt road. The Integratron is on the corner of Belfield and Linn Road. Make a right on Linn Road and a sign will point you in the right direction.
Photos: The people on the left, pictured under the rock, are standing on the cement foundation of the former UFO house (above).Below is the Integratron.
The late Mervyn LeRoy called Palm Springs home for 30 years. Determined to turn Frank L. Baum’s book into a movie, in 1937 LeRoy convinced Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio head Louis B. Mayer to put up the money to finance his dream.
In 1938, the city of Palm Springs was incorporated and The Wizard of Oz was filmed. They were both conceived in the same year.
The film had it’s premier in 1939 and received multiple Oscar nominations. 75 years later, it’s still one of the most loved and most popular movies of all time.
Leroy lived at 166 W. San Marco Way, Palm Springs (next door to the famous Racquet Club). The neighborhood is known as Racquet Club West.
INTERESTING FACT: In 1914, film pioneer Jesse Lasky produced Hollywood’s first feature-length film, The Squaw Man. Lasky was Mervy LeRoy’s cousin. At one time LeRoy was also married to Doris Warner, the daughter of Harry Warner, oldest of the four Warner brothers, and also a Palm Springs resident. Warner lived at 591 Stevens Road in the Old Las Palmas neighborhood of Palm Springs. Jack Warner, the head of Warner Bros. studio, lived at 1050 Cahuilla, just a few blocks away. Jack died in 1990 while playing tennis at this home.
The historic “Palm House” was built by Alkali Thornburg in1905, directly on top of the San Andreas Fault. The home, which is now used as the Visitor Center, is part of the 80-acre Coachella Valley Preserve and Palm Oasis in 1000 Palms. You can visit the home and learn more about the history of the early desert pioneers and the San Andreas Fault. In addition to the home tour, you can enjoy picnicking, walking, hiking and bird watching.
LOCATION: 29200 1000 Palms Canyon Rd, Thousand Palms, CA, 92276
HOURS: Visitor Center Hours are approximate:
September and May 8 AM – 12 Noon
October through April, 8 AM – 4 PM
June, July and August, CLOSED
Visitors and groups are welcome. Commercial groups should call ahead because of limited parking.
For additional information, call 760-343-2733 or 760-343-1234.