By Skip Descant
It was September 1998, and the movie “There’s Something About Mary” was packing movie theaters in that summer’s sleeper-hit. In only three weeks everyone on the dance floor would be taken with “Believe,” Cher’s runaway hit.
And on Arenas Road in Palm Springs a new gay bar was opening up. It was known as Hunters, and coming all the way from Chicago.
And in other ways, Hunters was a harbinger of times to come.
“When we first opened in Palm Springs we were the first non-smoking bar,” said Mark Hunter, the bar’s owner, reminiscing this week about the many changes he’s seen, as Hunters plans to celebrate its 15-year anniversary. “And I think we got a lot of business because of it. And then the law kicked in, and all the other bars went to nonsmoking as well.”
“The business has changed a lot in 15 years,” he added. “Fifteen years, to me, it doesn’t seem like a very long time.”
The bar helped to usher in an era of gay nightlife on Arenas Road, said Hunter, 60. One that continues today.
“We did kind of create a new audience, if you will, something that had never been done before,” he recalled. “Previous to us opening on Arenas Road, a lot of the gay bars were located in the Cathedral City area. And we moved to Palm Springs, and I think we kind of anchored the Arenas Road area a little bit early on, and it just kind of cemented it.
“Because it was already gay. The Rainbow Cactus was there. Street Bar was there. There was a lot of other gay businesses on the street at the time, and we just kind of cemented the fact that it’s a little gay street,” Hunter added.
The celebration begins on Friday (Sept. 27) at 4 p.m. with a special proclamation by the city recognizing the role Hunters plays in the gay community and its role as a tourism draw.
“We see a lot of tourists and a lot of visitors to Hunters Palm Springs,” said Hunter. “We get international tourists as well, which I find very interesting.”
Also on Friday evening, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Palm Springs will perform along with special guests. There will be food by Dash and a Handful Catering and confections by Over the Rainbow Cupcakes and Desserts.
Stick around because at 9 p.m. the Andrew Christian guys come out. Did stopping short of baring all ever look so beautiful?
On Saturday (Sept. 28), from 9 p.m. to close, Cazwell performs live.
Pull yourself out of bed on Sunday (Sept. 29), because starting at noon take in the game and complimentary food by Crazy Coconut Bar and Grill. At 9 p.m. it’s the FlamBOYance Drag Revue hosted by Jayla D Foxx and Libra. This week’s special guests will be Chad Michaels, winner of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars,” and Shannel from Season 1 of “RuPauls Drag Race.”