(Dan Gore, Oscar’s Owner Photo credit: Matthew Mitchell)
Palm Springs, CA
In November of this past year, Oscar’s signed a 20 year lease with Grit Development, marking a significant milestone for the iconic venue. Now plans are underway for its expansion and transformation.
While what the future holds for Oscar’s is exciting, its past makes for a very interesting story, one marked with trial and tribulation but, satisfying success. It all began when Dan Gore, Oscar’s owner, was first asked to open a drag show at the venue almost a decade ago.
“In the late 1990’s to early 2000’s, I established myself in the world of drag queens. I had an agency where I would book major drag casting for stars like Dolly Parton, Michael Jackson, and Madonna,” Dan Gore said as he began to tell me the story of Oscar’s. He went on to describe how Dolly Parton hired drag talent on multiple occasions including one time as a body double for a magazine cover photoshoot the singer couldn’t attend herself. Another time, the country music legend hired six of her own Dolly Parton drag queen look-alikes for a huge opening in the early days of her hit musical 9 to 5. Gore was shopping Drag Queens everywhere, even landing one of his talents in the movie Miss Congeniality 2.
It was during this time, while also running drag shows at casinos between 2000 and 2014, that he was approached while in Lake Tahoe to open up a show at Oscar’s Palm Springs with the former owner.
In 2016, after producing many shows and seeing and feeling Oscar’s potential, Gore started negotiations with founding owner Jeffrey Schmitz to purchase and takeover the venue. This ended in a dueling law suit. However, ultimately Dan Gore along with landlord Grit Development took over Oscar’s in 2017 and the lawsuit ended in 2019.
Today, Gore describes Oscar’s as having a very strong community connection with the LGBTQIA community in major part because of its Sunday 4pm T-Dance, which is celebrating it’s 10th Anniversary this Sunday March 26th.
(Oscar’s Sunday T-Dance)
The origins of a t-dance date back to the 1950’s and 1960’s where the US gay community would organize a place for singles to meet outside of traditional bars. You see, back then in places like New York, it was illegal to sell alcohol to people who were known to be gay.
“People are overwhelmed with the energy, excitement and passion that is created every Sunday at Oscar’s. The Tea Dance historically is about the overcoming of bigotry our previous gay men and woman had to struggle with to get to this point in history. It’s great to be recognized as equal,” says Dan Gore, Oscar’s owner.
In addition to its Sunday t-dance, Oscar’s offers a variety of entertainment and dining options. The venue has hosted Q and A sessions with big named celebrities like Priscilla Presley, to comedy shows from the infamous Sandra Bernhard.
Oscar’s also hosts the very popular Bitchiest Brunch with host Anita Rose. When asked what attracts people to the bitchiest brunch, Ms. Rose says, “Oscar’s attracts a lot of people who don’t want to go to the hustle and bustle of the bar scene, but who want to enjoy a cocktail and relax.” She goes onto say, “people enjoy a snappy drag queen and are ready for the ultimate in sass the entire time.”
When asked what she believes the biggest misconception about drag is, Anita Rose didn’t mince words. She said, “The biggest misconception is that we are trying to indoctrinate children, which is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.” She continues joking, “most drag queens don’t even like children. Who has time to indoctrinate children? I don’t even have time to groom my own hair, I have it to put into a pony tail half the time.”
(Drag Queen Anita Rose Pictured In Her Current Oscar’s Advertisement For The Bitchiest Brunch)
As far as charity work is concerned, for the past 7 years, Oscar’s has a tradition of feeding anyone in need of good food, good cheer, or good company on Christmas morning from 8am to 11am. It’s this work that has earned Oscar’s and its owner Dan Gore the Palm Springs Human Rights Commission recognition along with several other local individuals.
(Oscar’s Venue Owner Dan Gore, Photo Credit: Matthew Mitchell)
Events like the Bitchiest Brunch, Q and A Sessions, Musical Performances, Comedy shows, and more is what has attracted Mike Termini, General Manager of Oscar’s and restaurant industry veteran for over 30 years to work for the venue. Termini gets satisfaction from providing unique full dining experiences to the patrons of Oscar’s paid or charitable. He’s getting prepared for the next chapter of Oscar’s expansion saying, “Palm Springs is a one of a kind brand and I’m looking forward to continuing to work with Dan Gore” who he credits with “continuing to come up with interesting ways to entertain people.”
As the story of Oscar’s continues, the world was thrown into a deadly pandemic, Covid-19. In mid 2020, Gore realized his lease was expiring in the fall of 2021 and was worried he may not have a space anymore. Grit development, the landlord of Oscar’s in April of 2021 had submitted plans to the Palm Springs Architectural Advisory Committee to build a 7 foot wall for a construction of a pool area to reuse the existing building to a suite hotel.
This is where negotiations began and ended with Oscar’s agreeing to pay a higher lease rate but for an expanded space. Grit Development also followed through on their promise to pay for and build a 7 foot wall while demolishing the bar structure.
(Current Construction at Oscar’s Palm Springs, Former Bar Structure Demolished)
The result will be a new expanded courtyard at Oscar’s which will be showcased with a grand reopening on Tuesday, June 13th during Oscar’s upcoming Dallas Cast Reunion. The Dallas Reunion will feature KESQ ABC Moderator Sandie Newton interviewing the members of the TV cast including Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray, Steve Kanaly, Charlene Tilton, Audrey Landers, and Joan Van Ark. TV clips will be shown of past and present along with audience members getting to ask questions of the cast at the end of the program.
(Oscar’s Dallas Reunion Featuring Patrick Duffy, Linda Gray, Steve Kanaly, Charlene Tilton, Audrey Landers, & Joan Van Ark)
What To Expect From The Future Of Oscar’s
Future patrons of Oscar’s will be greeted with a more elaborate and spacious courtyard setting surrounded by a 7 foot wall, giving the space more privacy. The larger outdoor space will allow Oscar’s to finally reach its potential as a nightly restaurant. To that end, a new chef was hired three months ago and a revamped more upscale menu is in the works.
(Courtyard Entrance Rendering With 7 Foot Wall)
A new bar will also be completed and ready to serve patrons at the former Cafe Jasmine space to the southwest of the courtyard.
(Rendering of Future Oscar’s Bar at the Former Cafe Jasmine Space Southwest Of The Courtyard)
In addition, included in the new lease is a 5000 square foot event space upstairs that will be built out and completed sometime next year to host parties, weddings, and more.
And there’s more…
A new nightclub, Privado Palm Springs, will begin at Oscar’s run by Victor Mendez, a former club promoter of Moxie and a veteran in the industry with over 10+ years of experience. Privado Palm Springs will make its entrance onto the Palm Springs night life scene mid April beginning Saturday nights and eventually expanding into additional nights. The nightclub will be taking over both the inside cabaret and outdoor courtyard space.
Mendez is excited to bring value and something different to the Palm Spring’s nightlife scene saying, “We want to give the city a bigger show, something apart from what we have already have. Not only do we want to give the locals something interesting to do, we want to provide a premier space to go for celebrities and visitors. We want Privado to be a go to spot for everyone in town and out of town.”
Last but not least, Oscar’s hopes to do more business with the Plaza Theater, it’s neighbor, going through it’s own revitalization efforts. The two buildings are physically connected. In the past, performers at the Plaza Theater had their dressing rooms at Oscar’s. Dan Gore hopes Oscar’s will be able to work with its close neighbor to offer pre parties, after parties, and catering.
The future looks bright for Oscar’s Palm Springs.
For more information on Oscar’s located at 125 E Tahquitz Canyon Way, Palm Springs, click here.
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