Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Oddly, this is why Palm Springs is a gay Mecca

First, not sure if I should capitalize "Mecca" here. I mean it in a retreat kind of way, not in the pilgrimage way, so I don't know. Let's assume yes.

Palm Spring was not always a gay city / resort / retirement center , as it is now. 

In fact, it wasn't very gay at all. But Spring Break Partiers drove the city crazy for 6 weeks every year. And, in the USA, spring break is given to different people / schools at different times. Not like other countries where everyone goes on spring break at the same time (although they often call it something else).

Now when I was young, oh so long ago, in California the "spring break" at public K-12 schools was called "Easter Break" and everyone got the week before Easter off.*  But, even then, the colleges had varying schedules.

Palm Springs, warm with lots of inexpensive hotels as well as resorts, was overrun year after year by rowdy funsters.

And PS was mainly inhabited by older folks. Particularly annoying to residents was the cruising up and down Indian Canyon. It is a great cruising place because the road is one way in the center of town, with dedicated U turn areas at each end. 

Cruising, if you are not from Americana, is the practice of driving up and down (although in PS, it was "around" because both sides are one way with a block of restaurants in between). As you drive, you honk at friends or just hotties. Cruising usually brings traffic to a stop, at which time riders may change to a different car, or friends would race out, get cocktails, knowing that the car had barely moved.

On the other hand,  Palm Springs summer was crowded with many bartenders, waiters and retail workers. They could handle the heat and had various week-days off. And happily paid much reduced prices to spend the day at a resort - many of whom gave huge discounts mid-week in the summer, when these employees got days off. 

In fact, when I was a bartender, pre-Palm Springs being a Mecca, I got comp'ed at the few gay hotels, and huge discounts from the Hyatt and other resorts to stay. This would, hopefully for them, give them advertising that Palm Springs was open and fun, particular during the week. I mean, since it is routinely above 105 F in summer (40 C) you needed some built in markets in the summer.

Seeing the difference between "bad" spring breakers and the "good" gay clients, City Major Sonny Bono, yes - of Sonny & Cher Fame, decided it was time to cut out the cheap, loud drunk spring breakers and queue up the gays.

So the city outlawed cruising, public drinking and noise. AND they enforced this a lot. It only took 2 years for the Spring Breakers to move to the Colorado River area for break. And the welcome from city leaders, restaurants and hotels was extended to the gays - the good tourists who would stay AND gentrify the place.

And we did. Gays starting moving into the city (it was losing population to nicer cities like Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells) and fixing up the old Alexander Homes - they were going for less than $100,000 and now routinely sell for over $850,000. Restaurants opened and flourished. Mid-century modern antiques, furniture and art started booming in the city.

A restored Alexander home

Now, not every place troubled by spring break can do this. In fact places like Cancun and, previously, Miami went out of their way to get the college kids. But once a site becomes HUGE, it is hard to turn off.

*Let's face it, California didn't need a "spring break" for good weather. Hence, Easter Break.

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