Any­thing goes

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

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.


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