Frank Bogert spread an atmosphere of bigotry in this valley and it was impenetrable.

In the late 1970s in Palm Springs, even while being a popular and respected entertainer in town with a solid local following, I was denied housing because I was known to associate with “known homosexuals.”

When I pressed the property manager about this bigotry I was told “even the mayor doesn’t like the homos. You won’t get anywhere complaining about it because you can’t fight City Hall.”

In 1980, I was booked to perform for a private function at the Spa Hotel in downtown Palm Springs where Frank Bogert was the honoree and was a speaker as well.

The attendees were primarily his cronies, his ilk. Paul DiAmico, and the like, as I personally noticed. Monied, high-profile Jewish residents and powerful organized crime types that called this town their home. Mostly hand-chosen business owners and political donors, I’d say.

During his remarks Bogert stepped from behind the podium to in front of the podium and spoke without a microphone to those assembled. As I witnessed this, he joked briefly about the “coloreds” and the “homos” in a cavalier way. His audience laughed and cheered its approval of his open bigotry as it mirrored audience members’ own thoughts.. It was fashionable in those days in this desert to put down the homosexuals and stereotype the “coloreds” as he called them.

This was a very racist Coachella Valley — full of like-minded people, as I and others experienced. I expressed my shock and horror to my agent who in turn informed me that she and her husband were long, longtime close, very close friends of Mayor Bogert and that perhaps I should “just keep your (my) lifestyle quiet” or “just take it to the nearest gay bar” because “no one in Palm Springs approves of the gays.”

I watched in horror that day as Bogart received applause and approval from this assembled group of monied Palm Springs’ self-described elite. In those days, as I recall, it was for all intents and purposes illegal — thanks to Mayor Bogart — for a gay-owned restaurant and bar to exist within the city limits. Thus, all the gay bars and restaurants were located outside the city limits in Cathedral City.

I recall when an openly gay Billy Reed wished to establish what the city feared would be a gay bar and restaurant in downtown Palm Springs, the city (mayor) quickly informed Mr. Reed of the consequences he would face from the Palm Springs Police Department.

The harassment tactics had, as I and others witnessed, always worked in the past in removing an openly gay-owned, gay-frequented business from downtown. It was later settled that Mr. Reed could open his gay business anywhere north of Vista Chino as a compromise. Thus, the first Billy Reed’s Restaurant was opened in a location that is across the street and north a bit from their current legendary location.

It was not only known, but was accepted in my experience, that the gays were not to be visible anywhere in Palm Springs for any reason at any time whatsoever. It is my view that Frank Bogert was one of those responsible for the citywide exclusion of openly gay men and women and of the city’s longstanding social policies of racism and intolerance towards those of African American descent.

Nowadays, every time I walk by or drive by that statue of Frank Bogert at City Hall, I am overwhelmed with sadness, I get a strong pain in my stomach, and am reminded quite loudly that all us homosexuals and blacks WERE NOT WELCOME IN PALM SPRINGS and of the horrible pain and suffering so many of us experienced at the hands of that man and of the culture of hatred that he and his cronies nurtured here.

Please, Palm Springs, it’s time to remove that offensive statue of Frank Bogert from the steps of our City Hall and remove it now. Sign the petition here. 

Image Sources

  • bigotry: Shutterstock