Oscar's: A Tale of Two Drag Shows

Oscar’s gets upscale - then down and dirty - with cabaret fit for a queen

Posted By: Friday, April 26, 2019

By Kevin Perry

It was the best of times… and it was even better with a mimosa in your hand, honey! Charles Dickens (pause for giggles) ain’t got nothing on the decadent dichotomy (giggle anew) of Oscar’s Café & Bar.

Owner Dan Gore dresses it down like this: “The diversity of the entertainment, like the drag brunches, definitely attract a different type of audience than the Oscar’s Cabaret.”

Oscars Cabaret

There’s a lot to untuck in that statement, so let’s start with the main attraction. “The majority of people that come to our main shows, Oscar’s Cabaret on Fridays and Saturdays,” Gore explains, “they want to partake of that art form without having it be really something threatening. I still have control on that. We don’t want to push the envelope so far that we scare people. Sometimes, our drag brunches may do that. Our main shows have a higher ticket cost, so we may attract people who are more conservative.”

Oscar’s knows upscale, but they can also let their hair down. “The art form of drag is based on the beauty of the female, so it still has to be protected in a sense. We’re honoring females without it being a joke. So there still has to be someone, which is myself, who is monitoring that at Oscar’s.”

Oscars

So how did Dan build his résumé of R-E-S-P-E-C-T? “I’ve always been involved in the impersonator world, so that’s what brought me out to the desert: shows that involved people impersonating celebrities. Eventually, that evolved into men impersonating female celebrities, or female impersonators, if you will.”

Oh, we will – with relish! Gore and his crew filled the void left by the departure of the Palm Springs Follies and vowed to fill that gender (bending) gap. “From my experience producing shows, the general public likes something they can relate to. Going to see someone dressed up as Cher or dressed up as Madonna or dressed up as Bette Midler, it’s relatable to them.”

Though his stars shine brightly, Dan is careful not to blind his audience with their wattage. “The art of drag, for me, needs to be done under controlled lighting, so to do drag outside in sunlight is a bit challenging. For some people, it might be frightening!”

Oscars Dining

Gore punctuates his statement with a hearty laugh before explaining the method to his mirthful madness. “On Sunday morning, we do something called the Bitchiest Brunch,” he narrates. “Weather permitting, we do the drag brunch outside. Once it heats up, we go inside. It’s more of a fun-filled, casual moment for them to just widen their creativity and have a good time performing in drag. I’m more of a theatrical person, so this came as a request from the performers. They really wanted to have the chance to do things differently and more creatively out of the spectrum of impersonating people.”

The performers are in your face, literally and figuratively, giving you an up-close and interpersonal experience with a side of spicy. “It’s their chance to do stuff that may push the envelope, which attracts a different type of audience. Hence the name Bitchiest Brunch. Most people that come there have an understanding that it’s probably gonna be something a little more crass.”

And now that Dan has lowered your inhibitions, he’s ready to build up your Pride. “We’re best known in the gay community on Sundays for Oscar’s Tea Dance. That particular event is supported by 80% locals, and they love their outdoor Tea Dance.”

Oscars Tea Dance

But don’t take Gore’s word for it; let’s get municipal! “Some of the city council members have called it a Palm Springs institution, that weekly Tea Dance outside. It’s something that the majority of the community has come to comment on as their church. Their weekly church outing is the Tea Dance. A lot of customers look at that as their weekly day to come and worship the sun and fun and relive that disco era.”

Indeed, this weekly ritual is a juggernaut, as evidenced by the line of eager attendees snaking around the block every Funday afternoon. Dan Gore is breathlessly grateful for his guests, and gives sizable contributions back to causes close to their collective hearts. “Being involved with Dining Out for Life, I’m one of only eight other restaurants that are donating 100% of our receipts to DAP (Desert AIDS Project). The main reason for doing that is because if it wasn’t for the community that’s so involved in Tea Dance, we probably would not still be here.”

He embraces the passion and compassion of his clientele, welcoming them eternally. “They continue just to celebrate life every Sunday at Oscar’s, rain or shine! They’re always there. And a lot of those people are DAP community members, and DAP does incredible things for our customers. It’s like full circle, y’know? When DAP approached me to get involved in a bigger way, that’s what I said I would do because of the Tea Dance support that I get every week.”

Oscars

Speaking of support, it’s more than just an ode to his performers’ Spanx. Gore praises his Oscar’s team for creating a safe-space-supreme. “They truly love working with the customers we have at Oscar’s. Most of our customers feel that energy when they’re there and they feel the love. Specifically at Tea Dance. That stands alone. That community really, really has a love for us. That comes from the love that the bartenders have for the community.”

Poised at the intersection of camaraderie, disco, and adult beverages, Dan’s glorious gathering place is a beacon of belonging. “People should walk into Oscar’s if they’re looking to have a good time and a good feeling. It’s always been my goal, with shows or otherwise, to make sure when the customer leaves, they leave with a better attitude than when they came in. That’s something that I strive for every day.”

Job well done, Dan. Cheers to life, love, and lookin’ damn good under any lighting.

Oscar’s Café & Bar | 125 E Tahquitz | 760.325.1188

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