From Page 1 have worked on Broadway, in films and on television. The youngest of the showgirls is 58, the oldest 84. In feathers and sequins and leotards, they look fabulous, though it probably helps that I am seated 10 rows back. It perhaps also helps that Palm Springs is the cosmetic surgery capital of the universe, the place where LA matrons come to lounge around poolside bungalows until the bandages come off.
But the surprise of Palm Springs is not the vitaminassisted old people: it is everybody else. The seniors were having such a ball that now all sorts of people are getting in on the act. Golfers come for some of the best courses in the US. Serious shoppers come for the designer boutiques. Spa hounds come for the mud packs, the celestial showers, the deep-tissue massages. Hikers come to trek in some of the most exhilarating landscapes this side of the Grand Canyon.
At spring break, boys in surfer shorts and girls in thongs take over the town to drink beer and swap saliva. In January, at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, the celebrity count soars. In early May, music heads arrive for the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, one of the hottest gigs of its kind in California. In April the gay community is out in droves for the White Festival.
Nothing says more about Palm Springs’s status than this influx of gay visitors. In the gay world, where antennae are so acutely tuned to what is hip and what is not, Palm Springs is a few notches above Barbra Streisand, and almost up there with Kylie Minogue on the pop-culture pedestal. There are now more than 40 gay-friendly resorts and hotels in the valley.
Perhaps it was the gay guys who started the clothing optional thing. Palm Springs has an active sideline in hotels where guests are able to strip off. I check into one with my toothbrush. I don’t mind getting naked but I’m not sure I need to see a lot of other people naked.
Everyone a star: Performers from the Fabulous Palm Springs Follies kick up their heels There seems to be a golden rule about naturist resorts: the people you would like to see naked are never there but the people you don’t want to see naked are there in droves.
In the end it is midweek and there is almost no one there except the minister and his wife. In the hot tub, they put me right. It is all about body acceptance, the reverend explains.
‘‘ We don’t judge, we accept.’’ He gives nudity a vaguely spiritual air. ‘‘ It is not about seeing the body but about ignoring it and seeing the person.’’
I am busy ignoring his wife’s free-floating breasts. But I realise he is right. The desert is about acceptance. From the early shenanigans at the Racquet Club to the latest spring break weekends, Palm Springs has always turned an indulgent eye on its visitors.